May 24, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain

Can we talk about Spanish grandpas? I think we should, as I have a slight obsession with SGs. Not in a creepy, gross kind of way, but in an “I just want to hang out and chat about the good ol’ days” kind of way.

I’m reminded of this regularly as I make my way through Madrid’s streets. I tend to see a lot of the same folks – the vegetable seller, the doorman at the famous Sergi Arola Gastro, the gypsy hawking Kleenex on the corner as though every day is a must-need-tissue day. Obviously these aren’t the people reminding me of my love for SGs, though. Rather, it’s the grandpa that I see on Calle de Almagro who interrupts bench-sitting with slow laps up and down the sidewalk. He’s adorable, and I want to know his story. Desperately.

He’s one of a gazillion (seems like it anyway) Spanish abuelos who do this very same thing. For years I’ve oohed and aahed over cute grandpas in pueblos across the country. They’re always just chilling, watching the world go by. And while they’re chilling, I’m awkwardly following them around trying to capture them in their natural habitat.

I constantly marvel at the difference between the elderly lifestyle here versus in the States. In Spain, abuelos (and abuelas too!) dress in their Sunday best, no matter the day, only to hit the streets and pace to and fro by themselves, or sometimes silently in the company of another. It seems that no matter the age, no matter the ailment, they meander around town. I love this.


I’m always fighting the urge to join them and pick their brains – ask them what they’ve seen throughout their years of watching Spanish life unfold and evolve before them. A civil war, a dictatorship, technology….just imagining the stories they could tell sends me into a thought spiral.

No longer having grandpas of my own, I often wish I could adopt one of these darling little guys through some imaginary adopt-a-Spanish-grandpa program. I know what you’re thinking – what about your Spanish father-in-law? Love him, but unfortunately he doesn’t fit the crucial cute-SG criteria – a hat, a cane and a passion for aimless street wandering (although he does love to talk – and for that I do adore him, just not to the point that I want to take pictures of him hanging around the casa).

As a tribute to SG awesome-ness, I decided to dig up some pics I’ve taken of them over the years. Of course I came across boatloads of photos, confirming further that perhaps I need to tone down the SG infatuation a tad. Poor Jacobo, he’s well aware that a hat and a cane are most definitely in his future (because I said so).

So here you have it – some pictures of my SG sightings. What’s not to love about them?!




18 comments

18 Responses to “Confession: I heart Spanish grandpas”

  1. Erik R. Says:

    I do, too. I love my wife’s grandfather like my own.

    I was going to ask if that one watery picture was of Santander, but then I noticed the file name and saw that I was correct. Great shots, all of them!

  2. Erin Says:

    Wow – good eye! Are you close to Santander? I sure love it up there!

  3. Erik R. Says:

    I’m about twenty minutes east of Santander.

  4. Erin Says:

    And I’m jealous. I think that region is quite possibly the most beautiful in Spain! If it made any sense whatsoever, I’d move there in a heartbeat.

  5. Regina WB Says:

    I totally agree, SGs are a wealth of information on the history of Spain!

  6. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] Says:

    Me tooooo! I call them my abuelos. Also, they often approach me when I’ve just gotten done running in the park. “What are you doooooooing?” they wanna know.

  7. Fiona Says:

    Yes, abuelos are wonderful, though I’m always slightly nervous about asking old generation re war/dictatorship – my suegra and her sisters were all sent off to different boarding schools around Spain after their father was shot by the Fascists (for smuggling coffee), and they don’t talk about it – think was fairly unpleasant. Sadly no suegro/abuelo.

    I’m always fascinated by abuelos’ and abuelas’ faces – have to remind myself not to stare. Some of them have such pain still, esp in their eyes – makes you wonder what happened to them, what they saw, what they suffered, who they lost, if it’s all still immediate for them, whether Seville (where I live) is full of terrible memories for them. Or maybe that’s just me getting carried away…

  8. Fiona Says:

    PS Love the photos! I have a favourite one from a group sitting on deck chairs in front of house in seaside town in Almeria, must post sometime. Have you read Michael Jabocs’ Factory of Light? Fab book, best I’ve read about living small town in Andalucia (ie not expat in converted bloody olive oil mill), wonderful cover, you’d love it! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Factory-Light-Tales-Andalucian-Village/dp/0719561736

  9. Sabrina Says:

    How cute! Can I adopt one too please? I could write letters to him from Texas and he could write back from Spain… Just a thought! But then…. maybe this is one of those things that seem much better from a distance. What if he never stops talking about things I have already heard?!

  10. Erin Says:

    @Kaley – for this very reason, I’m afraid of approaching them – I’m afraid they will be deeply confused by my American-ness, much less my asking them 20 questions.
    @Fiona – I agree, asking about war might be a bit much. But I wouldn’t be against asking them about their favorite Spanish foods and then seeing where the conversation might take us :). If I so much as mention Cordoba to my suegro, I can guarantee myself an hour conversation on its olive and wine production (which ends up being laced with political perspectives and how the youth today have changed). No joke. And thank you for the book recommendation! I’ll have to check it out!
    @Sabrina – hahahahahahha! See – this could be part of my long distance adopt-a-Spanish-grandpa program. The genius interface will include a feature that weeds out duplicate story telling!

  11. Sarah Bunch Says:

    Aw, such a sweet post. I totally agree. I loved to see the SGs hanging. I loved how they were still such a part of life… never tucked away and forgotten. I hope we can regain some of that back here.

  12. Sabrina Says:

    Perfect 🙂 Sign me up! And make sure to include a feature that makes the adopted abuelo send pictures once in a while 🙂

  13. Erin Says:

    Ah yes – when you sign up, you’ll be sent a picture of your adopted SG along with his hobbies and interests (long walks on the streets, playing dominos, sleeping in, etc). This is starting to sound like a brilliant idea ;).

  14. Sabrina Says:

    I think you could make it work!

  15. Cat Says:

    Love this, erin!! My friends make fun of my SG obsession and need to have a miura in an old man bar. But, hey!! There are always free peanuts!

  16. Angela Says:

    You’re right, they are great, they so look like the grandpas in my hometown, Sardinia!

  17. Aiketa Says:

    Sure they have something really special, and grandmas too. Even for a Catalan girl!
    Here is a picture I posted on my blog last June of a group of grandpas: http://1anyen365fotos.blogspot.com/2011/06/dia-257.html

  18. Erin Says:

    Too cute! Thanks for sharing the pic!

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