Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mixing It Up: Spano-American or Ameri-Spanish?

Aall black and white
One of the things I love about living here in this area is that I can fully integrate myself into the Spanish lifestyle here, and also get a kick out of being an American.  There are multiple venues where the Spanish and Americans intersect, and for the first time in my life I can navigate pretty fluently between two worlds, and also enjoy fully these convergences.

Another great intersection: Alejandro is the son of our friends Mati and Ignacio, both very Spanish!

One of the most obvious places of overlap is the Base Naval de Rota.   This base belongs to Spain; they fly the Spanish flag, it is guarded by the Spanish Navy, and it houses a large Spanish fleet, including their aircraft carriers.  The United States leases part of the base and operates there under the SOFA (Status of Forces) agreement between Spain and the U.S., which was first signed by Francisco Franco in 1953 in exchange for economic and military assistance. 

Franco and Eisenhower in 1953, when the first American presence in Spain was felt

This year’s U.S. Navy Ball was held in the gorgeous Jerezana bodega Gonzalez-Byass.  The crowd was a good mix of both Spanish and American, as the CO of the American side of the base, Greg Pekari, and his wife Ebru have been very successful at strengthening ties with the Spanish.  

Practicing our new moves

As Spanish as I can manage

Then there was the smooth arrival of four U.S. ships now permanently stationed in Rota (a first), which almost doubled the U.S. population on the base, sending even more Americans out into the nearby communities of Rota and El Puerto. 

Strolling off to the ball

The setting was fabulous, as was the food, catered by the famous Portuense restaurant El Faro.  I couldn’t resist dressing as Spanish as possible, and a friend announced to me, “Oh, when I told my sister that you were American, she said she thought you were from Sanlúcar!”  Ah, sweet success of at least looking Spanish, as long as I keep my mouth shut!

Mixing it up at the bodega

Another think I love is making friends with other like-minded Americans who love nothing more than to explore this region, culture, and foods.  Kell Killian is one of those, a chef by profession who is here (like me) as a ama de casa while his wife works as the head OR nurse up at the base hospital.  Kell has made it his mission to discover everthing—and I mean everything—cool about the surrounding area.  

Kell and friends in the kitchen

From visits to the local honeybee farmers to checking out the local goat cheeses, to visiting his farmer friend to take part in the carrot harvest, to making himself an expert in the private small bodegas, Kell knows more about at least the culinary part of Andalucía than I ever will!  (And he even learned how to dance bulerias!)  

And Kell has a sense of humor, too.

And so it was natural for him to host a Pulpo contest one bright sunny September Sunday.  Everyone had to make a dish that used pulpo—octopus—in some way.  There were judges and prizes, and all-around good eats.  

Pulpo of all kinds!  Chris's third-place Thai curry pulpo at the bottom middle.  Fabulous!!
With some 20-odd entries, the judges had it tough, but my friend Mati’s traditional Pulpo a la gallega won second place, with the first place going to some very creative and non-traditional pulpo-mango skewers from Eileen!  

Mango avocado pulpo kebabs, yum!

The winners: Eileen, Chris, and Mati

Again, there were about the same number of Spanish and Americans, with plenty of Spanglish spoken.  Todd felt right at home.

Very traditional but absolutely delicious Pulpo a la gallega

Mati making magic in the cocina

One thing that amazes me is that the Spanish have taken a real liking to the very American Halloween holiday.   I bemoaned the spread of Halloween in Spain to my Spanish friend Carmen, saying how crass and commercial a takeover it was.  
Carmen looooooves Halloween

She came right back at me with a cellphone full of photos of her cousin’s Halloween party, saying what a great time she had, and how fun she finds this celebration!

They strictly follow the spooky theme...

...and have a great time with it!
And indeed, this is another fiesta where Spain and the U.S. overlap.   Our kids love to Trick-or-Treat up on base, and they take their Spanish friends with them.  

All treats, no tricks.

Celia learns how to carve a pumpkin!
We went to a Halloween party on the American side of the base which was well-attended by the Spanish military folks, with plenty of crazy costumes.   This year we re-invented our theme used two years ago at Carnaval, the Runners of Pamplona, with a Halloween twist (but the same old Bullrilla).  

Get ready to run...some more...
Todd had to be a nurse this time, along with Brent and Scott.   The rest of us needed nurses, badly, to treat our road rash (courtesy of the Bullrilla and Montse the makeup artist). 

Definitely the ugliest nurse ever...

...but he had some good competition from other lovely ladies

So in the end, I get to have the best of both worlds—my roots and homeland, and my beloved Spain, all mixed up together!

Help...socorro...I think...

Las guapas

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