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Fear of Change

 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.

As I write this, a constant hum drifts up to my fourth floor vigil from the busy Rua Mayor below. I’ve been to Salamanca many times and in many different guises. My first visits were made on day trips from Madrid and more recently I have been coming here to explore the hollowed out basement bars from behind a guitar. This time it’s different. This time, I’ve been invited to go behind the beautiful orange stones that make up the University buildings here for an international language conference. While the hum may be constant, it is in no way uniform. Down below I can hear the languages of Cervantes mix with those of Shakespeare and Goethe. People come here from all over the world in search of the frog and the astronaut on the baroque walls of this homogenized core, yet end up staying for the life that flows through it. Tradition runs as deep here as it does down the Cuesta del Marques in Caceres but it seems to me that Salmantinos aren’t afraid to adapt these glorious renaissance buildings to suit the needs of today. Numerous parking garages feed into the medieval core and the ten minute stroll from your car to your destination is far from a chore, no matter how many times you see those shells on the side of the Casa de las Conchas. Museums and galleries are needed and indeed serve their purpose but in rare cases to they reflect the here and now of a city. No matter how modern the exhibition, there is always a sense of the past, a sense of emptiness in the quiet rooms. Listening to the life below my window, the knee-jerk resistance of many Cacereños to rejuvenating ideas like moving the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas to the lifeless Palacio de Godoy in the equally moribund barrio de Santiago confuses me. In fact, local resistance to change at all costs totally bewilders me. Absentee owners in Madrid and Rome are free to do what they want to do with their palaces that stand empty in the Old Town but this particular palace belongs to the state, to everyone. In this monument in stone we can choose life because without life, without use, without a sense of now, the monumental old town and the surrounding area will remain just that, old.


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