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DON QUIJOTE AND THE BEACHES OF TARIFA

In 2005, the Hispanic world was celebrating the fourth centenary of the publication of Don Quixote, a book emblematic of Spanish literature, and the work of Miguel de Cervantes. There are so many events planned for this year (public lectures, conferences, reprints, TV) that we are in danger of becoming tired of a book as famous as it is unread. Many know several passages of the novel (in part thanks to numerous movies) but few have fully read both parts of this immense work of art.

However, the Spanish school in Spain Hispalense, a centre dedicated to spreading the Spanish language and Hispanic culture, will not miss the opportunity to pay tribute to such an important Spanish novel. We will do so quoting the connection Tarifa enjoys with Don Quixote. But how? Some might say, if the history of this ingenious gentleman from La Mancha never cites the name of Tarifa? True, but in the latest film version (directed by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón) Tarifa was used as a backdrop (at the beach at Bolonia) to shoot the scenes in Cervantes's novel that in the book take place on a beach in Barcelona and where a fight takes place between Don Quixote with another gentleman. Of course, the virgin dunes at Bologna served well to recreate a beach from the seventeenth century. In addition, the actor who embodied the gentleman from La Mancha, Juan Luis Galiardo (well known in Spain), was born a few miles from Tarifa and, of course, in those scenes he is accompanied by many local extras.

Back to the original novel, this is not the place to recall his many literary achievements, but we can try to remember some. For example, its universal appeal, which is the key to his character and who has become one of those rare literary myths that transcends borders and who readily assumes himself as on being on his own in the most diverse of cultures, something unthinkable in the case of the story of a crazed old man who lives in an unnamed town.

In fact, his strength is that Don Quixote has become the symbol of an uncompromising idealist, able to stand alone against an army of evil giants (really windmills) on behalf of his beloved (who doesn't even know the existence of a knight so platonically in love), and so altruistic, that after freeing some prisoners the first thing they will do is give him a beating. Hence the Spanish expression: 'Ser un Quijote' applied to those who are more concerned with others than defending themselves. This knight is as bold as he is blind, accompanied by his squire Sancho Panza, faithful and good-natured, and, lacking the madness of his master, and who becomes the symbol of practicality, the prudent and lucid, yet never leave to his travelling companion despite the atrocities to which it bears his delirium motivated by his readings of errant knights.

We can find couples such as Quijote and Sancho frequently in the later literature, and even in today's cinema, inseparable companions, as different as they are complementary, enriching the story with their different views of life. And, Cervantes uses a comic tone, a ruthless irony, that prompts sympathetic laughter from the reader, as well as tenderness, with the misfortunes of this pair of anti-heroes who travel across Spain in a kind of humorous and disastrous roadtrip set 400 years ago (but in this instance riding on a skinny horse and donkey!).


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