Algeciras

In Cuba they've got this dish called moros y cristianos, Moors and Christians, which is rice with black beans. Over by the Straits of Gibraltar, around the south coast of Spain and the north coast of Morocco, they've got real Moors and real Christians.

Algeciras was built a Moor town when the Africans ruled the south of Spain. To the European white man it represents a scary vision. The question is not, What would happen if the Islam of Africa invaded our Christian paradise? but, What did happen when Islam ruled over a part of our sedate empire?

Over in Tangier the psyche is much absorbed with Spain. They know they've been there before and they want to go back. Up in the Al Serif Mountains, the mothers will ask you to get passports for their sons so that they can go work in Spain. Last summer hundreds of Moroccan boat people drowned in the Straits trying to enter Spain illegally. In Madrid you can score the best Moroccan hash in the park behind the Prado. I pity the poor immigrant.

The guys from the Rif Mountains who came to Tangier in the 50s, growing old now, sit in the less salubrious seafront cafes, staring at the Straits and at Spain and Gibraltar. Stoned, poor, immaculate, resentful. In the more up-there Tangier cafes like the Cafe de Paris, there is talk of a Euro-tunnel style tunnel which will connect Tangier with Algeciras, Europe with Africa. But that is just the wishful thinking of the Third World. A subliminal reality, however, is the notion that one day, on ferries and fishing boats, on planes and warships, in gunships and helicopters, the Maghrebi peoples will rise up again to invade their lost white empire. Inshallah!

Paul Bowies, travelling in one of his slick American cars, hauled the crazy Jane Bowies through the Algeciras ferry port as they made their way to the nun's convent in Malaga where Jane passed her last demented years. The Jewess at the mercy of the Catholics; the Loreto nuns were kind to her. The Catholicism of Spain is beguiling to me now - scary to the Anarchists at the time of the Civil War.

Andalusia was the scene of the worst atrocities which lead to the eventual disgraceful victory. I read in a book on the death of Lorca about the professor imprisoned by the Fascists, a liberal man of conscience, who had his glasses deliberately smashed into his eyes by a gun barrel. They left him overnight in his cell, howling in pain. When they came to execute him in the morning, he was already dead from the pain and infection in his eyes.

Paul Bowles now lives bedridden in an American apartment block across the road from the old American Embassy - an old man watching his world collapse. His building is full of Voice o f America types, CIA, other spooks and hawks. Not to mention a nasty Djinn. Me and Traven went to see him as he lay in his bed talking and waiting. I told him that a black goat was circling his block and he looked at me in horror. He has a spectacular Brion Gysin painting in his living-room. As we made to leave I went to inspect it and Bowles's retainer, a nasty item called Abdulwahed, walked over and stood alongside me.

"I notice the back has been covered over," I said. "Gysin often wrote inscriptions on the back of paintings, personal dedications to whomever he was giving the painting to."
"Yes," said Abdulwahed.

As a result of my remarks on the Gysin, we were refused entry the next time we went to see Bowles.,
"Paul he no see you no more," said Abdulwahed.

The Moors still inhabit Gibraltar, their elegant djellabas an affront to the British colonialist atmosphere which stinks up the town. Ceuta (Sebta in Moroccan) is Spain's final and disreputable colony in Morocco. Tangier is a retired international zone full of Europeanised Moroccans and strange Europeans.

Algeciras in the old days was a final port of departure for Europeans thinking about touching down in Africa. Having collected his courage in the port, the European made a mad dash across the Straits. In the 18th century, a trip undertaken, with a bit of luck, in one day. So long as the squalls, the currents, and the demons didn't throw the European out into the wild Atlantic.

Disaffected youth on motorcycles define the Mediterranean style in Algeciras. Lying on my bed in the Hotel Rif, I hear about the leader of the paramilitary wing of a leftist youth movement arrested in Malaga and charged with sedition. The Spanish motorcycle kids, the following day, react by rioting in the streets. I hear about this in Tangier, too, listening to the British Army radio station which blasts out from Gibraltar.

Catholicism is dying out a little in Spain but a strong Catholic background breeds passionate and heroic revolutionaries. Clever children hunger for justice. There is a fierce and dangerous Right, ignorant and determined. I like the Spanish tension between Left and Right, manifested on the walls of Algeciras in graffiti and totemism; the fascist graffiti, the Catholic statues, the patriotic manifestos, the shapes of liberation.

The graffiti of the Left is liberating and vulgar in its directness. There can be no free speech for fascists - the virus must be controlled so I won't discuss their graffiti, elegant and attractive though it is. Let us consider instead the irregular lines, the illogical stance, the bomb factory pose of our Anarchist and Trotskyist sisters and brothers and comrades, dead in their graves or still young on their scooters, tearing down the walls of society wherever they encounter them.

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