The Expat Community Chapter 11

          My associations grew quickly until I knew most of the non-Spanish, English-speaking people who were in the neighborhood, about thirty people. Spain was so cheap and such a great place to be then. People I knew were students of flamenco and Spanish, dancers, writers, musicians, actors, and travelers. There was even an FBI informer posing as a writer, which was the wrong cover for him since he was totally inarticulate. His name was Ted. Looking back, I think he was there to keep an eye on the American expatriate population to make sure we didn’t embarrass our country or make trouble for the Spanish dictatorship.

          Back home, J. Edgar Hoover was in charge of the FBI and his ideas about government weren’t far from Franco’s. There were lots of eyes watching. Spain was a fascist country then and a strict Catholic country. All of us had to be aware of that and not step too far out of line. We saw cars pull up and men get out and pick someone up in the plaza, put him in the car, never to be seen again. We knew people who were warned not to express their anti-Franco political views in the bars.

          There was an unofficial curfew at midnight when you had to be off the street. If you came home later you had to clap three times and wait to hear the jangle of keys announcing the presence of a guard who would open the gate to your building. It wasn’t a strict curfew but it allowed the authorities to keep track of what was going on. There was no crime and I didn’t have to worry about my motorcycle on the street.

          Even though I had great romantic notions about freedom and democracy, I saw that Franco’s Spain had some undeniable benefits for the expatriates. It was incredibly cheap and it was safe. Basically, Spain was like it had been for most of the previous hundred years. In the countryside, time stretched out much farther into

the past.

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