"¡Eres mi amiga en Febu!" exclaimed a middle-aged lady one day in the street, grabbing me by the arm. I had no idea who she was. "You are my friend on ..." Febu??? It was a few seconds before the penny dropped. Round here they don't pronounce the letter S and they ignore those pesky final consonants. Try again ...
I started using Facebook when we moved here in 2008, to keep in touch with friends and family in other parts of the world, but soon started to receive friend requests from unfamiliar Spanish names. They came from all age groups and all walks of life, from the road-sweeper to the school headmaster. At first I wondered whether it was OK to accept requests from complete strangers, but decided that in this context it didn't really matter. Being a blonde foreigner with an unpronounceable name, everyone knows me, and it's a great compliment that they want to get to know me better. I have been introduced to so many dark-haired, brown-eyed Marias and Manolos, however, that I still find it hard to remember who I am supposed to know. (Not that they all look the same, you understand - I'm just not good with faces.) So I accept them all, not wishing to offend anyone, and always smile warmly at anyone in the street who appears to know me, just in case.
Chatting in Spanish on Febu is much easier than having face-to-face conversations with people who don't use consonants. I know now who else supports FC Barcelona (we are a minority round here and have to stick together!) I learn about people's political views, enjoy their music clips, laugh at their cartoons and try out their recipes, all without leaving the house. They, in turn, like to see my photos, videos and paintings of the town, and occasionally try out their English on me.
Then of course there's the "guiri" page, used by Alcalá's dwindling number of expats to organise our social life, dispose of unwanted items and and put out pleas for urgently required cooking ingredients not found in the local shops ...
My absolute favourite Facebook page is Historia de Alcalá de los Gazules en Imagenes - a history of the town and its people, created by locals and exiles posting their own photos of days gone by. Some of the images - and the comments - are very poignant. Others reinforce the fact that even in the hardest times, the people here found ways to enjoy themselves.
|Display of horsemanship in what is now the municipal carpark, from|
the Historia de Alcalá de los Gazules en Imagenes Facebook page
It isn't only individuals here who use Facebook. The political parties use it for their slanging matches (the subsequent comments are often more eloquent and enlightening than the original post). The Ayuntamiento uses it to tell us of forthcoming events up to a week in advance, a great improvement on the same-day emails we used to get. Bars and restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon to promote their menus, and for the last couple of years we have used it to publicise the annual classical music festival. The local newspaper, Trafalgar Información, publishes articles daily on Facebook so you don't have to wait two weeks for the printed edition. I've even had a friend request from a local crane hire company (I did actually decline that one!)
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