It could have been any town, but it was Torrenueva Costa which lost a lynchpin within the community, because every small town has one.
Antonio Ruiz Laguna wasn’t the Mayor, he wasn’t a bigwig, he wasn’t an internationally known artist or scientist – he was a waiter.
I could have said, ‘just a waiter’ but that is unfair because the importance of a person is not their worldly or academic achievements; but rather the hole that they leave behind within a community.
British pubs might be an institution with their untransferable atmosphere to other climes – they’re like red postboxes and telephone cabins; part and parcel of Britishness, and the same is true of Spanish bars.
From one side of Spain to the other, wherever there is a block of flats, in one of the premises at street level is a small bar, run by a family: the wife is in the kitchen who only seldom emerges, the husband mans the bar and the son or daughter helps out. It’s a tiny kitchen but somehow, by seeming art of magic, an array of hot tapas, mouthfuls and simple meals stream out. Somebody with a gravelly voice orders brandy or anis with their coffee and the ONCE lottery-ticket seller moves hopefully through the customers. The TVs always on with the volume set at a level that would challenge a bat.
It’s street-level Andalucía, it’s intrinsically, indelibly and warmly the fabric of Spanish society so when a bar owner, his wife, or his son dies (as in this case), it leaves a massive hole.
So, no, Antonio, who worked in Bar Dilar in Torrenueva during 30 years was not a celebrity whose passing will be on TV tonight, the upper academic circles will not raise a glass to a colleague’s passing and no flag will be flown at half mast. Yet in this Granada, coastal town, the locals will miss 52-year-old Antonio, whose face was just as familiar to them as those on their grandmother’s sideboard.
I never met Antonio, but I, like you, have been fortunate enough to meet dozens like him.
(News: Torrenueva Costa, Costa Tropical, Granada, Andalusia)