I’ve never been to Plasencia, not really. I passed through it on a bus. I remember it though. Below us, the river and the green pastures of the high mountians, livid against the dun memories of Andalucia. Above, the old walled city with its sand-colored cathedral and walls, watchful from its hill. Storks had built their nests in the fastnesses of the cathedral towers and walls, and small sprays of flowers sprung from the masonry. Between the swift, green countryside and the khaki butresses of the old city were the brick apartment blocks from the last century, ugly in the way only totalitarianism could make them.
I haven’t been to Plasencia. But it looked like its best days were behind it. Like all the dusty towns you pass through driving through Extremadura, Castile and Leon. If my impression is true, it is a shame. That part of the world has been in decline since the waning years of Philip II. This town, imporatant enough to merit two cathedrals, in its idyllic setting, was the place where people toiled for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Hints of Arabic stonework, the faint outline of a long-gone mill dappling the surface of the river, the gutters and lamp posts and sycamore trees.
Plasencia won’t die. Too much work has been plowed into her soil for that to happen. Farmers will still need a place to buy nails and sell wool, even as the world passes Plasencia by. Plasencia will never suffer the indignity of the mining town or appear like the bleached carcasses of Plains farmhouses. It will never be the gaping retail memento mori that is an abandoned mall. Still, it is sad to see something so regal and proud brought low. Our Plasencias deserve better, but we have so little to give. We need jobs and lovers and opportunity, and so we leave our Plasencias, shaking the dust from our feet.