Think-Act, Locally-Globally: Alfaz, Spain
Alfaz del Pi, located between Mediterranean beaches and a couple of majestic mountains, Campana-Aitana (Man and Woman) 1500 meters high. Today this small town generously accommodates 21,500; surrounded by fertile soil, orange and olive trees, vines. Benidorm–the famous tourist resort–and Altea–more for artists–are at hand-stretching distance; on the Costa Blanca–white seen from the sea–in Spain.
So far nothing special. But that little town is home to close to one hundred different nations; 57% are foreigners. The English and the Norwegians are the most frequent; the Norwegians arriving already some 45 years ago. Close to half a century of peaceful coexistence; and not only absence of violence but also positive, cooperative peace.
We, a Japanese-Norwegian couple, arrived June 1969. First time in Spain was in 1951, hitchhiking to understand fascism better. Franco had evolved from dictadura, dictatorship, after a brutal civil war, to dictablanda, the softer version. But the basic aspect of dictatorship was there like a nightmare draped over the country: fear, fear, fear; so many listening, so few talking. But some said, if you only come for the beach stay at home. Bring books; we are isolated, not knowing what happens. Franco will not last forever, we must be prepared.
Books were brought. Customs people hardly knew how to read but quickly identifying more copies than one; hence, one of each. Books were handed over, to the right–in this case left–people, for instance at a conference in Madrid in June 1969. And books were read.
The summer heat was unbearable. We drove to the coast to visit a friend, officer in the Norwegian army, with years of dialogues behind us. They lived in an “urbanización” that looked like a Scandinavian ghetto, making us exclaim: Never for us! In the evening we had made the downpayment for a house. How come? The beach, the mountains, the roof terrace, a depository for books in transit; yes!
Alfaz at the time was a tiny village with dirt roads; four women dressed in black were the rush-hour traffic. Flies would fall down, legs up, victims of the afternoon heat. No doubt the influx of foreigners had a dynamizing impact: some money and mores, in exchange for sun and smiles and some mores. And no doubt Alfaz managed this well.
In the shadows of the deep evenings women pulled out the chairs, sitting in the narrow streets for a tertulia, a meeting, handling that new resource, the foreigners, in need of a gardener, a handyman, a painter. The distribution was masterly done. The village grew and grew, very few really rich or poor. Money was invested in huertas, fields, growing vegetables, whatever; shops; services; mini-industries. 300 days of sunshine per year was indeed attractive for people from the foggy North Sea and the stormy Atlantic. 365 days of smiles and charm, friendliness, warmth, that extra glimmer in the eyes, the human climate, proved even more attractive.
Alfaz became more than a summer house for rapid beach access. Alfaz became home. The story repeated itself; coming to visit a friend, parents, whatever; and the downpayment followed. Some made mistakes, underestimating the role of friends and family left behind between fog and storm, and the time needed to build new relations.
Close to half a century without serious incidents; doing what people often do by intuition, building peace. It took time to understand that “in Alfaz behave as the alfazinos do”. Talk Spanish for instance (well, some are still waiting for the Spanish to speak their language). Unfreezing, thawing, smiling. It took less time for Alfaz to pick up some informality and Nordic love mores. And inter-marriages produced ever more bilinguals.
Cooperation spread from the economy to culture. Norwegians took courses, held seminars, studied Spanish history; an institute for the study of Norway is coming; Alfaz transformed, cosmopolitan, polyglot.
And it spread to politics. Norwegians voted, they entered town council and administration; accepted as equals. Norwegians built their own institutions soon to blend with the Spanish, for instance socially for the less privileged. Conflicts, over land and/or money, jealousies were handled or faded out leaving little or no trauma.
Both quickly learnt what the world looks like to the other. Food and clothes, music and art in general, serve as great openers to other cultures. National holidays follow. Alfaz respected, even celebrated the Norwegian May 17, that pioneer democratic constitution from 1814; the Norwegians took to fiestas, indeed more frequent, as keys to the Spanish soul. Accompanied by the siesta–by prejudiced eyes seen as Spanish laziness–only to discover how to make two days out of one. Soon the Spanish became more punctual than the Norwegians themselves.
What happened to books? They became summer courses in subjects Spain had missed during the isolation. Like peace and women studies: international courses in Benidorm, with the University of Alicante. Many early participants are today professors all over Spain.
Came 22 July 2011, the monstrous terrorist act; Oslo, Utöya. The mayor of Alfaz, Vicente Arques, immediately expressed the compassion of Alfaz with a country in the deepest distress-how come!-and sorrow. It is easy to celebrate together when the going is good; to share sorrow requires the deep humanity of Alfaz under those friendly skies.
Cooperation for equal benefit, empathy, conflict resolution and trauma reconciliation: key peace tasks anywhere, in the family, at school, at work, in a village-town like Alfaz, as example for a country, for the West-Islam.
And symbolized on 15 June 2013 in a wonderful sculpture by the famous Agustín Ibarrola; against terrorism, in memory o the victims, and for peace, quoting Gandhi, There is no road to Peace; Peace is the Road. Alfaz practices exactly that: think and act, locally and globally. Homenaje a Alfaz!
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgment and link to the source, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, is included. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Jun 2013.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Think-Act, Locally-Globally: Alfaz, Spain, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
2 Responses to “Think-Act, Locally-Globally: Alfaz, Spain”
Click here to go to the current weekly digest or pick another article:
- Destroying the Web of Life: The Destruction of Earth’s Biodiversity Is Accelerating
- The Assault on the U.S. Capitol and the Problem of Right-Wing Radicalization
- Psycho-Covidology: Induced Helplessness and the Exploitation of Fear
TMS PEACE JOURNALISM:
- On 22 Jan 2021, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Will Enter into Force
- What Went Right This Week: Hope for Stabilising the Climate, Plus More Positive News
- World: Positive News in the Difficult Year of The Pandemic
CONFLICT RESOLUTION - MEDIATION:
- How to Conduct Your Own Conflict Analysis
- Three Simple Conflict Analysis Tools That Anyone Can Use
- Turkey-Greece Mediterranean Tensions: Track II Efforts Needed
- To Force Climate Action, We Need More Than Just Protests
- Dorothy Day, Co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, Was a Radical Activist
- The 10 Steps of Strategic Peacebuilding: Create Your Strategy to Build a More Peaceful and Just World
- Martin Luther King: The Saint Honored by the Government That Shot Him in the Face … A “Forgotten” Extrajudicial Political Assassination [?]
- MLK’s Warning of America’s Spiritual Death
- “Orders to Kill” Dr. Martin Luther King: The Government That Honors MLK with a National Holiday Killed Him
- Education for Peace and Nonviolence in Times of Crisis
- Power’s Prophet: Remembering Gene Sharp
- Nonviolence Charter: Progress Report 17 (Oct 2020)
- George Galloway: The Brexit Deal Is Done. We Are Now Free to Build a New Britain...If We Want It
- Claims of Antisemitism Conceal a Reign of Political and Cultural Terror across Europe
- EU Summit: Billions for the Banks, Nothing for Workers
- You Don’t Want to Imagine an Ocean without Coral Reefs—but You Might Have to
- 2020 on Track to Be One of Three Warmest Years on Record
- EPA Finds Glyphosate Is Likely to Injure or Kill 93% of Endangered Species
- Gandhi: The Soul Force Warrior
- Peace Linguistics: Contributions of Peacelinguactivist Francisco Gomes de Matos
- Academic Trends in Higher Education for Tolerance
- Nepal: Inaugural Issue of “Social Inquiry” Published
- Yi Jing - I Ching 易經 — The Book of Changes
- Emails Show Monsanto Orchestrated GOP Effort to Intimidate Cancer Researchers