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Hooked on Spain

Castilian Spanish hit my ears as boldly as the freezing winter temperatures that greeted me on the Barajas Airport runway upon my January 1992 arrival to Madrid. And I didn’t get either of them to begin with.

I had fled the warmth and comfort of my hometown, Los Angeles, Calif., and the comparatively musical, Mexican-accented Spanish learned during four years of school study to find adventure in continental Europe. Best to base myself in a country where I could speak the local lingo, right?

Penetrating the Castilian speech was the first of many challenges on the way to feeling Spain is more than a home away from home. Telling stories from across the Spanish peninsula introduced me to a diverse topography and climate reminiscent of my home state, where Spanish missions flourished. But it is the rich history of Spain and its culture that keeps me in the homeland of the conquistadores.

The ancient history of this Mediterranean crossroads is as ever-present in stories concerning security threats and the integration of its growing immigrant population as in those spotlighting its much-lauded cuisine and treasures of national heritage. Modern history is witnessing this once-homogeneous country ruled by a reclusive dictatorship emerge as a model democracy bursting with panache and vigor as it hurtles forward to claim its rightful place among the world’s leading economies.

That’s a ride I won’t miss.