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As most of you already know, when we are not travelling around the world for a few months each year, we live near to the mountain village of Cómpeta, on the south coast of Andalucía, Spain.
Almost anyone with a passing interest in southern Spain knows that the villages in this area are usually referred to as the “white villages”, and the Spanish translation is almost as well known, “pueblos blancos”. Our home village of Cómpeta is no exception.
One of my favourite places in the village is El Paseo de las Tradiciones (The Walk of the Traditions), which is just off the main square, Plaza Almijara. Completed in 2009 on the site of the old municipal market, El Paseo de las Tradiciones is annexed to La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption).
As you stroll from the busy square, through the archway into the Paseo de las Tradiciones, you will discover an oasis of calm. The floor is decorated with an intricate Moorish pattern of terracotta and white tiles, alongside a series of ceramic murals celebrating the lives of generations of the ordinary working people of the village.
One wall of the Paseo de las Tradiciones pays testament to the trades and deeply rooted traditions of the people of Cómpeta through the ages. The beautifully modern, brightly coloured tiling in each of the alcoves was developed in the workshop of potter and sculptor, José Antonio Rivas.
The nine alcoves, each 3 metres high and 2 metres wide, not only depict the history of the collecting of the local vines, the muleteers and village smithy, old olive oil factory and the public laundry, but also recognize the contribution made by the Muslims, who for 800 years did so much to improve the cultivation of the summer-dry, winter-wet sierras, bringing the first prosperity to the village.
The past 500 years since the building of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption have not been easy for the people of Cómpeta. The expulsion of the Moors, two great earthquakes followed shortly afterwards by a cholera epidemic, and the vine disease phylloxera,which devastated crops all over Europe in the mid-19th century, have all taken their toll, but the spirit of the villagers continues to thrive, as epitomized throughout the Paseo de las Tradiciones.
Where is your “oasis of calm”?