Drowned Memories

There’s something lugubrious about burial at sea, which is how you might describe what happened to two small pueblos in the Lecrin Valley when three dams were erected twenty odd years ago, the huge walls containing the endless flow of water, whose level, ever rising, crept slowly up the land, an inexorable progress which eventually turned the small yet vibrant villages into watery lifeless husks where only the ghosts of memory found refuge.

The inhabitants were all re-housed as the Béznar, Canales and San Clemente dams changed the face of the valley forever. The Low Barrio of Béznar disappeared; the village of Canales too; and San Clemente, another pueblo, also vanished beneath the rising waters.

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The original inhabitants have never forgotten how the dams changed their lives. Some confess they went to better and newer homes but a home is not simply a matter of construction but of setting, and many found their new location wanting.

This episode of recent history serves well as a metaphor for what so-called progress does to the past, burying it in one way or another, amplifying the cries of nostalgia as old customs give way to new ones, often trumpeted as new and improved but just as often, not so. And while raised voices can rarely, if eve,r turn back the clock, at least memory, if it serves any function, keeps the past alive in order that the future may not deal with us as harshly as it would otherwise.

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