Date: Dec, 2014
Location: Ronda, Andalucia, Spain
Ronda, now the fastest growing town in Andalucia, is set in and around a deep gorge spanned by an impressive bridge, Puente Nuevo, which towers 390 ft above the canyon floor. On one side of the bridge is the Old Town, and New Town covers the other side. As the name suggests, New Town is mostly newer developments of residences, shops, restaurants, and hotels.
The former town hall, which sits next to the Puente Nuevo, is now a Parador Hotel and has excellent views of the Tajo Canyon. Next to the Parador is the Plaza de Toros (Spain’s oldest Bull Ring).
The most impressive views of the valley and Tajo are from el Balcon del Coño, the platform next to the open air theater and the rotunda behind Plaza de Toros. The name isn’t translatable without causing some offense, but if you imagine someone looking down 200m and exclaiming “Ayy, coño!” and then stepping back rather quickly one might understand its meaning.
This part of Ronda was built during the golden age, and was originally known as Alameda de San Carlos, and now only as Alameda del Tajo, though the park itself used to be much smaller until a group of dilapidated homes were demolished in the 20th century to make way for the park.
Close to the Balcon is Plaza Blas Infante. Blas Infante is considered the father of Andalucia, and it was in Ronda that he made his declaration that Andalucia is a nation within the Kingdom of Spain.
On the other side of the Plaza de Toros is Plaza del Socorro (considered the central Plaza of Ronda) and also the site of an important church the Iglesia del Socorro. One of the most important events in recent Andalusian political history, the Assembly of Ronda took place here in 1918 when Blas Infante, unfurled the flag and symbols of Andalusia while standing on the first floor balcony of the Circulo de Artistas. When Spain regained her democratic foundations in the late 1970s Andalusia missed out on full autonomy until 1.5 million Andalusians took to the streets to demand that the Andalusian nation be treated the same as Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia. The establishment of a national movement was widely applauded in the early 20th century, eventually leading to Andalusia being recognized as one of Spain’s national communities, and allowing the Andalusian parliament a lot more autonomy than most regions of Spain.
Whilst it may not be immediately obvious, the statue in Plaza del Socorro’s fountain is Hercules, with the pillars of Hercules behind him. He is holding onto two lions that he aims to tame, though taming two lions was never one of the tasks set for Hercules. Blas Infante designed the coat of arms, flag, and symbols of Andalusia, so it is probable the lions have another significance unique to Infante’s ideal of Andalusia.
(Read about how New Town neighborhoods were born outside the city gates, across the bridge)