Dateline: Competa, Spain
When Jill moved to Competa some 40 years ago, her home backed onto olive orchards and goats. Today, the picture to the right is what she sees. In truth, her view is no different from the views of her neighbors because Competa has grown and then grown some more. The town spreads up between hills that nearly defy construction.
I try to imagine the bleating of the goats – perhaps I hear the tinkle of their bells. Does the goat-herd whistle? Perhaps he calls. I wax nostalgic. When Jill bought her house in Competa, a white village northeast of Malaga, she was among the first of the foreigners.
Standing on what is now her patio, the goat shed (with 14 milking parlors) was to the back wall. The chickens roosted straight ahead, and the pig slumbered in their sty to the left. The stable was beneath the sty in what is now the basement.
Today, several rows of trophy homes tower over Jill’s house. Walking up the hill, I see a sign erected by a local developer who promises both indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Someone has indicated his displeasure by spray-painting over the text.
It is a tough call. Part of me wants to freeze time, actually not today’s time, but time as it was 40 years ago. A romantic at heart, I want to put time in a bottle. Like Marie Antoinette, I want to play at peasant life.
But Spain has moved on. Cheap travel and the promise of sun lured a host of Ex-pats and tourists. Building boomed. Construction was king. EU money bolstered agriculture, and then the bubble burst with the global recession.
Today, half-completed hulks of highrise condos stand windowless and doorless – open to the elements. Development is on-hold. Houses are for sale. Tourism is down. According to the Jan. 1, 2010, New York Times, unemployment in Spain was a whopping 42.9 percent.
Given those numbers, development may not be such a bad thing afterall.