One thing I’ve learned as an integrated outsider in a foreign community is that most people despise having their culture generalized and reduced down to three or four attributes that are printed on every souvenir, in every tourist shop, around every corner.
America as explained to me by far too many foreigners feels like the setting to a bad LSD trip that’s always on the brink of turning out alright but never does: trucks, palm trees, that weird creamy nut spread, guns, hot lifeguards in red bathing suits, tornadoes, skateboards, fast food, and sixty-two million-nine-hundred-eighty-four-thousand-eight-hundred-twenty-five people who voted for Trump.
WTF, are you kidding me?
I’m here to say that it’s not fair to leave out farmer’s market and high school sports. And eggs benedict.
I’m also here to say that Spain is much more than paella, tapas, sangría, fiesta, siesta, & flamenco. But can we compare the two lists of generalizations? I can live without eggs benedict, I mean, I have for 10 years. I’d choose Spain over that cluster f*ck any day.
Ok, disclaimer: I love my home country for so many reasons. I also feel extremely obligated to declare this at every chance because otherwise I’m pegged as an unpatriotic liberal hippie with anti-American values. (um, healthcare, education and opportunity for everyone? I know, how dare I so openly bare my progressive, ignorant disposition.)
Back to generalizations. Spain lives off of tapas, paella, sangria and flamenco. The number one industry here is hospitality and tourism. And flamenco is freaking beautiful. Please, let’s not discredit its artists.
So, everyone I know asks me, “Where’s the best place to see flamenco in Barcelona?” Wrong question. Don’t see a flamenco show in Barcelona. You have to go to the south. Flamenco is so much more than a show and an instagram video. It’s a 400 year old art native to Southern Spain. It’s the Spanish history of Gypsies, Muslims and Jews, preserved and revered so many centuries later, not just in the stomping but in the clapping, the body language, the agony, the joy, the wailing, the spotlights, the rock walls adorned with ceramic plates, the hair gel, the goosebumps, the Atlantic breeze that rolls through the cobblestone streets of Cádiz or the chilled, smoky caves of Granada.
I’ve seen all types of Flamenco shows. To be honest, most will not disappoint. Live shows are spectacular, flamenco is thrilling. But if you want some bomb, southern flamenco for CHEAP, keep reading:
On a tiny, dead end street called Calle Concepción Arenal, there is a white and clay-red building whose paint is losing the battle to the humidity. Spaniards might describe it as “cutre,” so you know it’s good. If the OG hipsters have taught us anything (I’m talking my parents who were born in the 50s), it’s that divey = good. Here you will find PEÑA FLAMENCA LA PERLA – CÁDIZ. The word “peña” has no translation to English. It took me half a decade to understand this concept. It kinda means ‘club’ or ‘society’ or ‘group’ even, but still, those words don’t quite grasp the concept. They will however, suffice. Here you get some good ol’ fashioned flamenco at a super discounted price. I think the tickets cost 4.50 euros each BUT maybe there were 10 euros each. Either way, it’s a steal. It is:
First come, first served!
A dinner show!
That’s right, back to Spanish basics restaurant offer all the frittes (bravas, croquetas, calamari and shrimp maybe even) plus gazpacho or salmorejo, ham and cheese plates or bocadillo and cheap drinks.
I know. Here look at these (I did not take pictures during the event!):