Down the Coast

The other night I was talking to Pedro Martín-Almendro about the unfortunate relationship between the cultural life of the capital and the international population of "foreigners" up and down the coast. There seems to be a lot of mutual looking away. The Costa del Sol is certainly an interesting habitat. Known, obviously, for its sunny climate, it is in reality an immensely complex area that seems to be defined by a few persistent stereotypical images. One of the realities of the coast is the presence of organized crime, usually described as "mafias". The mafia mafia has a presence, but over the course of the past ten or fifteen years the arrival of criminal groups from Eastern Europe has accelerated. Just a brief sampling of the crazy mix of stock figures we imagine here: young Brits in for a weekend of obnoxious drunkenness, tourists from anywhere in Europe looking for a little sun, Spaniards in search of a cheap getaway, Arab elites looking for Western decadence, Russian mobsters, third rate glamour people, Bulgarian hitmen, etc. Major professions: real estate developer, corrupt politician, jeweler, prostitute, drug dealer, paparazzi... In any case, this morning two stories from the coast, one kooky and the other tragic. The tragic: some soulless hacks kidnapped a local businessman and held him briefly for a million euro ransom. For whatever reason, they didn't wait long and this morning his body was found along the side of the highway. A brutal, cold-blooded murder. I read about the poor victim and his story and tragic end provide several metaphors for the recent history of this area. But that's another story. The kooky: a frenchman was arrested yesterday for trying to organize an exhibition of works by Dali in a hotel in Fuengirola, an ugly coastal town between here and Marbella. Yes, a hotel in Fuengirola is a likely place for a serious art exhibit. And of course it's pefectly normal for the works to be thrown into a truck sent here from France. And naturally you'd store over sixty Dali originals in one of the hotel's rooms with no special security. Right. And exactly who did this guy think was going to buy these valuable pieces of art? Dali is one of the most forged artists in the world. I guess the guy figured he'd find plenty of suckers here who wanted to launder some money. And probably a very reasonable supposition. (In the photo, Fuengirola's main beach.)

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