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My hometown of Velilla: a small, relaxing place in Spain

The main square of Velilla de San Antonio. In the background there is a fountain which represents three of the world's religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. (David Carmena/YJI)

Velilla de San Antonio, SPAIN – There is no place like home. That common phrase is spread worldwide because everyone lives in a town or city which means something special to them, but at the same time it’s charming due to the experiences you have there.

My hometown is Velilla de San Antonio, a small town in the region of Madrid. It has 12,000 inhabitants, which means that I know most people there. Most of the times I walk along the street, I find someone I know, but sometimes I meet someone new.

That’s one of the good things about living in a place with so few people – it’s a community.

The main commercial street in Velilla, where a lot of local shops and businesses can be found. (David Carmena/YJI)

The history that surrounds this place is curious and not well known, not only to the kids, but also to most of the residents.

Velilla was founded in the 12th century by immigrants from the Valencia province who were trying to find a better life. In the beginning, when construction started here, there were no more than 400 inhabitants. There were no shops or churches, just old white houses. Today, the population has more than tripled.

A typical home in Velilla. The white color is the same found in other places in Spain, especially the southern and eastern Mediterranean coast. (David Carmena/YJI)

Unfortunately, the most cruel and violent period of Spain’s history happened in Velilla and other nearby towns.

In the Jarama River area, during the Spanish Civil War, there was a battle between republican forces and rioters, which, between the two forces, left nearly 18,000 dead.

This battle is considered by historians to be one of the worst in the region and in the country. In nearby places, bunkers remain as a symbol of the devastation that surrounded this area.

However, not all is bad and sad where I was born. In my town, big supermarkets chains and shops with brand name clothing are almost not seen. It is like they have disappeared.

We have to go to the capital, Madrid, or other big cities which are nearby to find one. That is because we prefer to buy locally, helping the business of Velilla. That means that, for example, most of the vegetables and fruits we buy are locally grown.

Here there are fields that are owned, cared for and cultivated by Velilla farmers, and when you eat a tomato, for example, you can taste the natural flavor and freshness. And all the vegetables are delicious, but not for our pockets, because sometimes the food prices skyrocket.

One of the 13 parks in Velilla. The parks are especially popular in the summer. (David Carmena/YJI)

We are also proud of our parks, which are crowded every single weekend. We love natural areas and we have 13 parks around our town. When stifling heat arrives, we go out to them and spend the day there. We like it so much that most of the time, we meet with other families and have a meal and a laugh with them, and we also share stories, a lot of stories.

If I had to describe my town in one single sentence I would say: Velilla, the town where its inhabitants love to drink and eat.

Spain is the only country in the world that has more bars per inhabitants than any other nation. That means we love staying outdoors, enjoying the sun, talking, laughing and drinking.  These are some of the main characteristics of Spaniards and our lifestyle, and in this town you can feel it a lot.

We Spaniards love socializing – drinking and eating at any opportunity. When we go to the bar, it’s not just about the alcohol. It’s a casual place to eat and meet people. Even if you just order a beer, some food will come with it. Tapas, anyone?

A bar in Velilla. Spaniards like to spend time in bars with family and friends. (David Carmena/YJI)

In Velilla, it can be winter or summer, it can be raining or a heatwave, but you will always see people in the bars. There’s not a single day that you walk along the street and you see a bar closed or a terrace without people. It would be very strange to see that.

One of the things that I don’t like about Velilla is the public transport. Buses arrive late and you have to check the time you want to catch the bus. Sometimes, you wait more than one hour until the bus arrives, even when it is scheduled to arrive 45 minutes earlier.

Velilla’s city hall. (David Carmena/YJI)

Public transport quality is ridiculous and we don’t have taxis here. If you want one, you must call for one to come from Madrid, so that means you must wait 15 minutes or more. There are no trains.

In other cities such as Coslada or Arganda del Rey with more than 80,000 and 60,000 inhabitants respectively, they have a good underground system, while here it is non-existent. That means that if we would like to take the train or underground, we would have to go to one of these two cities, which is at least a 15-minute drive from Velilla.

And this contrasts so much with other Spanish towns that are in the countryside and have a good railway system, and I’m referring to towns of just 800 inhabitants.

In contrast, one of the greatest things about living here is that the only noises we have most of the time are from the birds. There are a lot of private vehicles as well, but mostly, the sound that predominates in this area is the sound of the birds.

While some conveniences offered by big cities are not seen here, my uncrowded rural town is perfect for those who want to relax and meet new people.

David Carmena is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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