The Tribe Above Madrid

Letter From Spain

The sun was low as the luxurious chartered bus labored up the steep dirt track to the wedding reception in the hills above Madrid. We walked up the last of the slope from the buses to the lawn in front of the hunting lodge, where we looked down on the distant city. Middle-aged men and young girls circulated among us in uniforms, carrying trays with sliced Spanish ham streaked with fat, drinks, canapés, and small sliced sausages in hollowed-out bread. As the sun set, the groom explained that the half-finished house on the hilltop behind us—the highest point in sight—was a weekend retreat for Franco that was never completed because of the dictator's death. We stayed on the lawn until dark, then we moved into the tent attached to the side of the lodge for the formal dinner.

There was a hint of the evening's message when I heard that the priest who presided at the wedding had officiated at the weddings of the bride's mother and grandmother. Surely, it should have been clear to me when the men of the tuna, friends of the groom wearing medieval short pants and mantles, threw their cloaks on the ground at the church door and sang to the bride and groom. During supper, the tuna—half fraternity, half glee club, each man a member for life—periodically burst into ribald or romantic song, the members seated at their table, playing guitars and small instruments similar to mandolins....

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