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IKEA Pilgrims

Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

Once upon a time, long before the giant Shanghai Bazaars arrived with their low-cost, low-quality plasticy imitation rags, legend has it that Cacereños would drive down across the border to Elvas to buy towels and then take advantage of the trip to have a cheap bite to eat there in Portugal. Times have changed and people don’t seem to need as many towels as they used to, though more than a few locals still nip across the border for lunch. That’s not to say that Cacereños no longer jump in the car for a bit of shopping tourism. Trips to the DYI meccas in Sevilla and Madrid still constitute Saturday pilgrimages for those who enjoying puzzling over the multilingual instructions needed to put together their furniture. Now, a new addition to Saturday drives down EX-100 has appeared. A giant Leroy Merlin now draws us south for a hammer or two before nipping over to take a stroll among Portuguese shoppers in the El Faro mega mall. But if you stop and think for a minute, what drives other Extremeños to come to Caceres? Sure, it’s hard to find a day when you don’t hear Portuguese in the old town but how often do our regional neighbours bother to come to us for a visit? Other than bringing the odd family visitor to risk twisting an ankle in the potholed streets of our crumbling UNESCO jewel, what brings people to our city? For those in nearby villages, it’s to give birth, see a specialist, get a paper stamped or take part in the springtime migration of plastic bags and tetrabrics for the WOMAD festival. But what more? For many, one of the great faults of Caceres is the lack of an El Corte Ingles department store. But nearby Badajoz already has one and the chance of IKEA opening here in seems about as likely as the high-speed AVE train reaching Caceres before little green men from Mars visit and make land travel irrelevant. If we don’t want the mock obituaries of Caceres found on the empty shop windows in Pintores Street to come true, it’s going to take some creative thinking beyond fluffy towels and cheap screwdrivers to lure visitors beyond the Almohad walls.


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