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The Curse of Too Much

More than 20 centuries ago, Aristotle wrote that ethics and therefore happiness lie somewhere in the middle of extremes...where that somewhere exactly is has been debated since his Nicomachean Ethics came out, but few people would dispute that, to a certain extent, some truth lies in his premise.

The Iberian peninsula and Spain in particular has literally been the crossroads of Europe for time immemorial. From prehistoric man fleeing the advancing glaciers during the last ice age to the 8th century Arabs and Berbers crossing the straight of Gibraltar from Africa and now the millions of Nordic Europeans who today flee the stress, gloom and rain endemic to their homelands.

This movement of peoples has obviously left its mark on the land. Drive 100kms from here and you find stone age tombs buried under Roman ruins. Arabic castles dot the mountaintops and Visigoth churches lie lost in age old olive groves and we can't forget the scenic German men wearing socks and sandals.

The fact that the Spanish civil war was only a trial run for the Nazis and their fascist allies also means that Spain did not suffer the massive destruction that both France and Germany endured when fighting the World Wars.

All of this means that at every turn it can seem that there are castles clinging to each cliff side and even more beautiful medieval churches lording over every whitewashed village.

It also means that there is too much to keep up. A closer look at those castles shows that some are indeed made of sand and are crumbling. Step closer to that fantastic church and notice the growing cracks that spider up the bell tower. There is just too much to keep up.

And here lies the problem, in a country so dependent on tourism, just how much money should be spent on conservation and should that money only be spent along the coast where 97% of all the tourists head? An even deeper question could be asked, are we conserving for the tourists' benefit, or for history's sake?

This problem has stuck very close to home recently, uncomfortably close in fact. Here in my refuge in the shadow of the Almohad-era wall in Caceres a crime against Spain and the world's patrimony is being committed, and what's seems the authorities either could care less or are unable to act.

Just down the street from me, the Adarve del Cristo, lies an abandoned 12th century tower. Years ago when survival was at the forefront and conservation in the background, the tower was converted into a dwelling. For years it served a second life but has now been abandoned for years. The roof that once sheltered families now lies half caved in and even has cacti growing from the tiles.

Its abandoned state was sad enough, but over the Easter celebrations, local junkies decided to break down the door and use the place as a shooting den. Since then, homeless people and scrap dealers have been stripping the building of anything valuable and in the process damaging valuable archaeological remains, a modern day sacking. Repeated calls to the police lead to nothing, for under Spanish law they are powerless to act without an order from the owner. Articles and pleas in the local newspapers have also led to nothing as the tower dies a slow and painful death with its new tenants.

The disinterest and inaction only makes me wonder, is there a curse of too much?


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