In Granada, you cannot avoid “la cultura de los hippies.” It permeates the area. Even if you don’t pass by a dreadlock-sporting or rainbow apparel-clad individual, you will inevitably hear about the hippie caves in the mountains surrounding the city. A tour through Granada will almost always lead to a conversation about these hippies, who live on the outskirts of the city. They have lived in the caves of the Granada mountains for the past 25 years. “Hippie,” by the way, is a term used frequently in Spain, with the same meaning in Spanish as in English.
Hippies, however, haven’t always been a part of Spanish culture. In fact, during the regime of dictator Francisco Franco – who was in power from 1939 to 1975 – nothing resembling hippie-culture existed. The Franco mentality was nationalist, threatening and invasive, leaving would-be hippies to suppress their free-spirited thinking. Public displays of affection were severely reduced, essentially non-existent, and the concepts of free love, communal anything and equality were actively devalued.
After Franco’s death in 1975, however, norms changed. Limitations on sex and media were lifted, abortions were more frequent (although still illegal) and affiliations with the predominant Catholic Church were less extreme. In general, Franco’s death gave birth to a new Spanish way of life that, although always rooted in many Spanish traditions, was more progressive than Spanish life had ever been before. These drastic changes in the everyday Spanish life are known as “La Movida” (The Movement).
More and more of the Spanish youth say they do not attend church services. A student I met a few weeks ago in Seville said in Spanish, “Well, all of my older relatives go to church almost every day. Everyone is Catholic, and I definitely consider myself a Catholic – but neither I nor any of my friends go to church.” She continued, “Even though my name may be Mar?a Jes??s, I rarely go to church.”
I chuckled at the irony.
The cave communities in Granada are interesting, though possibly not entirely comfortable for an extended period of time. One former hippie named Borja now gives free tours around the city of Granada and spoke of his experiences, explaining, “I lived in one of my friend’s caves for about six months. I don’t think I could tolerate it for much longer than that … It is a life of movement because oftentimes, owners of the caves will leave to travel or do something else and come back to their cave.”
After walking around the path of a section of the hippie caves, I saw what he was talking about. Sofas double as makeshift lawn chairs, and it is difficult to dispose of garbage (granted they do not have much of it). There are no functioning bathrooms and a variety of other issues make it a relatively challenging lifestyle, albeit a unique one. From the mental and physical liberation that so many of the Granada hippies talk about experiencing after integrating themselves in the caves, it appears that the cave living would be interesting for a few months, even a few years. But with a new lifestyle comes adjustment, and sometimes you just want an actual toilet.
Dani Bennett is a junior who is majoring in English and spending this semester abroad in Spain. She can be reached at Danielle.Bennett@tufts.edu.