June 28, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Madrid, Spain, Traditions

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this sign in the suburbs of Madrid: “Potato-sack races, line dancing, cowboys.” WHAT. No, really – what???!!! I wanted to both laugh and cry. Was there really an audience for this here?

I mulled over the idea of going, first proposing it to a friend of mine who is equally unashamed of embracing her American self (her last gathering involved beer pong and jello shots. Ya). She couldn’t come, so I kind of forgot about the idea – after all, what loser would go to such a thing alone?

I know: ME.

Burning with curiosity, I finally accepted that I craved a good ol’ country-western festival. So in the eleventh hour, and totally unprepared (that is, minus patriotic paraphernalia), I grabbed the car and headed 30 minutes north of Madrid to find my inner American cowgirl.

Not far off the freeway and surrounded by waist-high grass, I discovered the ranch – the “Honky Tonk El Encuentro Territorio Dakota” (a combination of words that surely confuses you as much as it does me). Turning up dust clouds, I mowed over the field of shrubbery to park my car with some fifty others.

Following the sound of music, I moseyed up to the ranch, preparing for them to roll out some sort of red carpet for the Americana. They would clap and oooh and ahhh over my American-ness. Maybe even ask me to lead them in the “Pledge of Allegiance” and then in some classic tunes (such as “America the Beautiful” – a personal favorite, which I’ve sung for Jacobo many a time, followed by his ears bleeding).

Funny thing – no one cared.

Entering the compound, the fiesta came to life with people wearing cowboy boots, Kenny Chesney belting out tunes on the loudspeakers, American flag streamers, Harley Davidson banners, Budweiser beer. And not an American in sight – except for me, chuckling and taking it all in like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.

There was this one fellow who proudly sported a Texas-sized belt buckle, a cowboy hat and a collared white button-up with “Rodeo Champion” and the brand “Wrangler” emblazoned on the back. If anyone was American, this would be my man. I approached him and asked him if he indeed came from the land of the free and the home of the brave (in Spanish and not in those exact words – I think it went something more like “are you American?”). I don’t get it though – just like the sheep in Granada, the guy scurried away like I had some disease. I really wanted to take a picture of this fine specimen of Spanish country-western love, but I think I’d scared him enough already, so I let him be.

Bewildered by the rejection, I wandered the property to check out the kiosks selling cowboy hats and boots, arrowheads (really?) and silver midwestern jewelry. Quite the jackpot they had. Meanwhile, the kiddies were mounting ponies, and hefty Harley riders chatted it up in their leather vests. I even got suckered in to buying a raffle ticket to help a sick horse.

I worked my way into what appeared to be a farmhouse of sorts only to find a virtual shrine to the USA. Pictures of Native Americans covered the walls, a massive star spangled banner draped from the ceiling, and a few Confederate flags clung uncomfortably to the wooden columns (the Spaniards do NOT understand the significance of this flag – I’ve seen it many times here and whenever I try to explain what it represents, I realize that they are not familiar at all with its often negative connotation).

Since no one seemed interested (astonished, amazed, impressed?) by my uber American-ness, I decided to go with one of my tried-and-true “get people to talk to me” tactics (I’m not this pathetic, I swear). Basically it consists of cornering a service worker and/or buying something, therefore forcing some sort of exchange in order to pick their brain with my curiosities (this also works with SGs because they are too slow to quickly escape). The victim, eh hem beer-counter guy, was actually quite friendly, sharing with me that they do line dancing every Friday and Saturday, and no, there are never Americans. We’ll have to change that.

As much as I wanted to stick around and get sloshed on cheap beer (by myself), I decided to head home. I savored each random American detail on the way out – the “Las Vegas strip” sign, the convertible car pulling into the parking lot (overgrown field) while blaring Garth Brooks, and the aforementioned Spaniard in rodeo garb.

30 minutes later I was back in Madrid eating my manchego cheese as though it were all just a dream. But it wasn’t, so don’t you worry, I’m totally dragging all my American friends back there for line dancing (get ready, ladies – this is totally happening!).


10 Responses to “Spain does country western. Seriously.”

  1. Erik R. Says:

    Wow! Just, wow. And yeehaaw!

    How fascinating to see your own culture copied and embellished like that. But I bet they don’t celebrate the fourth of July.

  2. Erin Says:

    I know – I’m still kind of in awe. Spaniards (or at least 50 of them) like country western – who knew? Oh yeah, and check this out: http://www.musicacountry.es/

  3. Fiona Flores Watson Says:

    Hilarious, thanks for a great post. I love reading about quirky, totally incongruous stuff like this – there’s so little that’s un-Spanish in Spain, if you know what I mean. Especially down here bullfighting, flamenco-dancing Andalucia.

  4. Steph Says:

    OMG I’m totally coming with you next time!

  5. Erin Says:

    I so wish you other expats could have been there – it was priceless! Plus, it was just a little awkward given that I was the random American, wandering around, laughing and talking to myself. @Stephanie – Seattle says hi :).

  6. Sabrina Says:

    How crazy! 🙂 I think you totally need to have your next American amigas meeting there! Maybe they just didn’t get that you were American? I think you need to return with your ladies and make it a party 🙂 Line dancing? Seriously? Too funny!

  7. Erin Says:

    I’m pretty sure you could show them a thing or two about how to do country western right. I feel like I had my own “country skipper” experience all the way out in Spain. Go figure!

  8. Erin Says:

    Wow. …I would totally go there, too. yeehaw! 🙂

    Is that astroturf??

  9. Erin Says:

    Yep, astroturf. Apparently not a single American detail was lost on them.

  10. Erin Deneen Says:

    Hi! I had a similar experience in France and was completely shocked and bewildered and excited by the love for American culture! Do you know if this festival is still going on in the years since you went? Thanks so much!

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