On Sunday, we drove two hours to Zahínos, the town where my future father-in-law grew up. The main objective was meeting the newest member of the family, the daughter of Marga's cousin, Ana. She had a harrowing premature birth back in January, and all the doctors were 100% sure that the child would not survive her first week and repeatedly told the family so. But, through what the family no doubt considers a miracle, the little creature that started out about the size of my foot pulled through. The only lasting scar from the ordeal will probably be her name, Valle de Gracia, which means "Valley of Grace" or possibly "Valley of Thanks".
There was something creepy and robotic about this bathroom symbol at a gas station we stopped at that made me take this photo. It seems to be illegibly vandalized, too. M x G?
We visited Marga's paternal grandfather's house, which has pretty much been closed since his death a few years ago. This "hallway of chairs" is very typical of houses in rural Spain.
I found this cool little handmade leather horse on top of a wardrobe.
Belén poses with her parents in front of Grandpa's old house. The way you open these old doors is to unlock the little door within the door, and then reach inside and lift the huge bar that's across the door. Pretty effective.
There are no flat streets in Zahínos. And most of the hills are extremely steep.
The town's annual week-long festival had just finished. This angry blond was on top of one of the spin-you-around rides that I can't stand. I can only assume that they had removed whatever he was straining to told up. A globe or the name of the ride or something?
Some sort of creepy Phoenix thing guards the Children's Park.
Yep, this is pretty much what life is like in the Western US. Cowboys riding crazy bulls while huge-breasted Native American and white cowgirls in mini-skirts compete for their attention.
Feather? Check. Face paint? Check. Little to no clothing? Check. Mohawk? Check. Tomahawk? Check. Making funny noises with mouth? Check.
I think we've pretty much nailed the ignorance-based stereotype.
El Toro Loco again.
Ice cream cone cannibalism. Does he have hair? Gross!
Invisible chess tournament.
Translucent Flags (click the image to see notes about each one).
More flag shadows.
Stringing flags around like this is very typical in Extremadura. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Look, Erik! Your flag!"
After our walk, I figured I should get some pictures of Valle.
Gorka, Belén, and Valle de Gracia. She's still pretty tiny for a 7-month-old, but she's growing fast, they say.
She's really attentive and will stare at you and wave her arms around. She's gonna have to grow into those ears.
Gorka's huge basketball-gripping paws and Valle's little baby feet.
Marce and Valle.
Grandpa Ramón watches his son-in-law's neice's baby.
A Piglet bobble-head doll. There should be a law against these things.
A tiny headless rooster.
Our evening walk took us up to the town church, where we saw the priest just getting out of his car, and he let us in to see the recently renovated church.
A scary stairwell in the town church.
Even scarier with a crucifix in front of it, isn't it?
Hey, how'd you guys get out there?
These prayer vending machines disgust me in a way I can't explain. Way to ruin the beauty of a flickering candle.
I love this pig statue. You may recall photos of it from my previous trips to Zahínos.
I got a chuckle out of the idea that now seems obvious, that there are companies that specialize in making "religious articles" to furnish churches. Perhaps you can guess from the foot wounds who this is a statue of.
It struck me as odd that there should be a skull and crossbones (the symbol for pirates and poison) on a crucifix. Wikipedia to the rescue:
Actual skulls and bones were long used to mark the entrances to Spanish cemeteries (campo santo). The practice, dating back many centuries, led to the symbol eventually becoming associated with the concept of death. Some crucifixes feature a skull and crossbones beneath the corpus (the depiction of Jesus's body), in reference to a legend that the place of the crucifixion was also the burial place of Adam or, more likely, in reference to the New Testament statement (King James Version: Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, and John 19:17) that the place of his crucifixion was called "Golgotha" (tr. "the Place of a Skull").
I thought this shadow was cool.
The domed naves peaked in these little windowed nipples.
When I saw this tree, I had to photograph it. This could be a postcard from rural Extremadura. It's so typical of the landscape and colors.
Shadowed stone wall.
The tree above with some mossy sprouts in the foreground.
What can I say? I love the shape of that tree.
This elderly canine (we'll call him Squinty) was also enjoying the last rays from the sun that evening.
Go on to Part 3.