|Church of San Andrés|
The surrounding region
|Villanueva seen from above|
The city is found on a plain to the west of some lovely mountain ranges (like the Sierra de Las Villas) and sits on a plateau between the Guadalimar and Guadalquivir rivers, the latter of which flows through Córdoba and Sevilla further west. Jaén is the fifth-most populous province in the Andalucía region, behind Sevilla, Málaga, Cádiz, Granada, and Córdoba, and most people live either in the big capital, Jaén, or in villages of varying size along the Guadalquivir river valley—like Villanueva.
Villanueva as a pueblo
|Streets of Villanueva|
|Local bottled water|
Villanueva is no different, and you can walk from one edge of town to the other in about 20 minutes. It really is a charming place, but even though I was placed to teach English at the elementary school in town, after I got stuck in town for a weekend at the beginning of the year I knew I couldn’t last eight months there. So I opted to live down the road in Úbeda, a city about four times the size with more apartments to choose from, a couple big supermarkets, a handful of Americans, and a bus station that serves as a regional transportation hub.
On the south edge of town, you’ve got the local bullring, built in 1928 in the Mudéjar Revival style, so it’s got cool horseshoe arches and stair-step triangles all over the place. The gold, white, and stone color scheme is really sharp.
In the central, historic core is the monumental, 17th-century Church of San Andrés. The town’s main church, it was constructed over an earlier one that had sat on the foundations of an old Moorish fortress; from certain angles the bell towers and corners look much more like a castle than a place of worship. Heading south down Calle Cantarerías you can get a well-composed photo like the one at the top of this post, with the church dominating the city and the hilltop village of Iznatoraf looming in the distance.
Just down the street is the local Dominican convent dedicated to Santa Ana. This simple, Renaissance complex dates from 1540 and has a distinctive, two-tiered bell tower that can be recognized from afar.
|Sanctuary of the Fuensanta|
Where the name comes from
|The school building|
|Me with the 3ª A science class|
Something that I found really cool about the school was its racial diversity. In addition to light-skinned, ethnic European Spaniards, Villanueva has a fair number of Romani people (i.e., Gypsies) as well as recent Moroccan immigrants.
|The kids during recreo or recess|
Villanueva is also home to many Moroccans who have come to Spain over the past two decades for work, for example, in the olive groves. Their children made up a good fourth or fifth of the classes I taught in. They never caused big problems and spoke Spanish just as well as the other students—and had already picked up on the laid-back accent, too! I’m kind of jealous of them because they will grow up trilingual in Arabic, Spanish, and (probably) English. It was really fun to go to Morocco over Easter break and get a feel for these students’ home culture—and come back being able to say as-salaam ‘alaykum (“hello”) to them!
While I am looking forward to moving across the country to northwestern Galicia, I will really miss this school next year. I was blessed with a great experience here and am grateful for the wonderful introduction to Spanish society I had at La Fuensanta.
If you’ve ever lived or worked in Spain, what was your pueblo like? Talk about it in the comments below!
For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.