Meditation on la Siesta

People think the siesta is just about the greatest thing in the world. I happen to agree, though people are wildly mistaken on why Spaniards have siesta or what they really do.

In all small villages across windswept Castilla, along the expat enclaves of the Costa del Sol and on the sun-drenched streets of Triana, the hazy afternoon heat makes people run for their homes. Between 2pm and 5pm, time stops and villages become ghost towns.

I’m reading Roads to Santiago, a novel on the Camino de Santiago that has nothing to do with the actual pilgrimage, by a celebrated Dutch travel writer, Cees Nooteboom. As he travels throughout Spain by car, he often arrives to the paradores, government run luxury hotels in small towns, during this dead time, often greeted by empty plazas, cloudless skies and seemingly abandoned towns. While the regurgitation of four millenia of Iberian history and careful (yet excruciating) detail of every single medieval church in Castilla is a little drab, I love his only mention of the siesta in the book:

The dreams of the siesta are not the same as those of night, there’s a different, false night embedded in the siesta, the deception of awakening not to a fresh start but to a repeat performance. The day has already been soiled by life and food, by the words of the news and of the world, sunset is nearer than sunrise, and everything has to happens second time, there is a certain lassitude, a hint of death, shadows in the late afternoon, the slow approach of darkness. I recognize the room but not the sounds” (p 279).

I actually remember my siesta dreams better than those nighttime ones because I often feel that, though I’m asleep with my eyes shut and cuddling Rafa la Girafa (the stuffed giraffe I got at a chino for a few euros), my brain isn’t fully asleep and is taking in what goes on around me. I don’t wake up feeling refreshed, but often more drained and with a feeling of dread. This may come from the anticipation of giving private classes, or of the day really dying and knowing it’s one less or what. But as much as I love to lay down to a siesta, I hate waking up from one!

And the siesta isn’t just for sleeping – some of the best TV shows and all the news programs are on at this time, as families often eat in front of the TV. With my host family, we ate lunch every Sunday in the family room, watching the weekly news review. Or families simply spend time together. I myself use siesta to catch up on lessons and American TV shows (MTV puts new shows on at 3pm Spain time everyday!)

With that, I am returning to Spain this afternoon and planning on echaring a siestita on the way to the airport. Unless Don Gaa buys me Baja Fresh.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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