In Spain, El Paseo Marches On

November 13, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Cultural historians today might tell you that the paseo, as it once existed in the Spanish world, has disappeared. And perhaps they're right. The traditional paseo, or promenade, was encrusted with antiquated customs. Respectable families dressed up and took walks along selected boulevards during selected afternoons and evenings. They greeted their peers. They introduced their sons to their neighbors' daughters, or vice versa, in a carefully chaperoned environment. 

When I was in Spain recently, I saw no sign of formal dress. I saw no chaperones. But on two weekends, one in Madrid and one in Ronda, I did see thousands of Spaniards out for a walk, in couples and in families, seeing and being seen. So I would submit that anyone suggesting that the paseo has disappeared is wrong.

The 21st Century version of the paseo is doubtless a more inclusive event. I don't think the Madrid couple at the top of this post would have been tolerated a century. Now, no one particularly notices them.

On the other hand, the woman in the pants suit, above, might have welcomed the presence of a chaperone to help her fend off unwanted advances.

The modern paseo is still a family event.

The elderly participate, but they may break up the walk with a stop for juice or ice cream.

If there is anything that threatens the existence of the paseo nowadays, I think it is the cellphone. The couple above were only carrying their phones. But countless people I saw were absorbed in their phones rather than their companions. This, of course, is nor peculiar to Spain. I see it all the time in the United States. But why go for a walk with someone, or sit down at a cafe with them, if you're going to be absorbed by your cellphone? You could stay in bed and do the same.

 


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