Where white elephants roam amid “modern ruins”

A year or so ago a friend took me through the Marina d’Or development near Orpesa in Valencia.  Slowly driving up and down the deserted avenues of high-rise holiday apartments, I experienced a peculiar mixture of awe and aversion.  Never mind the environment, or local people’s interests, or indeed the cultural heritage that this place might once have afforded, here was economically irresponsible tourism development—grossly misjudged speculation—and it was staring me in the face.  It was ghostly, sickly, tacky and surreal.  (And Castellón airport lay redundant just miles away, and along with it, millions of Euros of public investment.)

Clearly written into this “resortscape” was the expectation that floods of tourists would come seeking one form or another of that maSS touriSSSm-cocktail: sun, sand, sea, sangria…  Why?  What were they thinking!?!  That the beach, warm weather, a Spanish welcome, pretty landscaping and a whopping great tourism infrastructure with ski-runs and never-ending fun-fairs would ensure their arrival?  And is there really anything special about that “anywhere” combination anymore?

Thinking back, was I too quick to damn the scene–it was kind of out-of-season the day we visited?  Thinking now, is my aesthetic assessment just that of a “culturally English” snob?  And thinking forward, wouldn’t my reflections be rendered redundent if the economics started looking more attractive to Mr Ryanair or equivalent?  Well, the latter can only happen while other beach+sun+infrastructure-packaged places continue looking “dodgy” to prospective cheap holidaymakers.

In the meantime, Spain’s essential public services continue to bear the brunt of severe funding cuts, and the future of Spain’s coastal tourism is by no means guaranteed, so I would be concerned for those holding out for jobs at Marina d’Or.

As to what brought on this rant and recollection… I have just finished watching the BBC reportage The Great Spanish Crashwhy was this controversial with the Spanish central government?–having recently read about an atypical, somewhat “dark” tour, which sees activists taking visitors on a “protest tour of Spain’s modern ruins”.

“Modern ruins”, built on the foundations of careless arrogance?  Either way, I’m convinced psycho-geographers would have a field day contemplating the roaming white elephants of this region.  While visitors with a social conscience would fume.  Both would likely concur that more thought will be required to avoid such wonton displays of waste in the future.

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