My three favorite plazas are the “Plaza Alta” in Algeciras:
The “Zócalo” in Oaxaca:
And Court Square in my hometown:
It is framed by some wonderful buildings like this:
But most of the time it looks like this:
The Plaza Alta and the Zocalo, to be perfectly honest, are not nearly as well framed as Court Square, but I love them for a different reason: the people. In both Oaxaca and Algeciras these places are the heart and soul of the city. In Algeciras “running into someone” at the Plaza Alta is not so much a possibility as it is an inevitability. My best friends from my years in Spain were met on that plaza and our relationships grew there. If you are from Algeciras you probably met your spouse, or had the equivalent of your first date, or your first kiss there.
I only spent a few days in Oaxaca, nothing compared to the seven months I lived in Algeciras, but it was clear to me how central the Zócalo was to the lives of the people there. Yes, it is where the tourists wander and bargain for black pottery and brightly colored animals, but it is also where the children toss weighted balloon missiles into the air and run and run and run to catch them. The children play, the tourists shop, the lovers stroll, and the old folks sit and talk about the events of the day. It is marvelous.
Yesterday, in my hometown, my favorite plaza was filled with people. Nice people. Friendly people. People of all ages, races, ethnicities speaking English, speaking Spanish, and listening to music. I’m not much of a jazz aficionado. The pretense and exuberant elaboration I love in my architecture I find annoying oozing from a saxophone or a keyboard, but the crowd the “Jazz Roots Festival 2014” brought to Court Square was the finest I have ever witnessed. My city disappoints much of the time, not least because my expectations are very high, but yesterday, for twelve remarkable hours in its finest outdoor room, Springfield was as fabulous a place as any. Though it took a special event to show that it was possible, on its best day, and with tremendous effort, Springfield can be as good as a couple of towns most people have never heard of just going through the motions on a normal day.
I’ll admit it. It gives me hope.