Dying days of summer
In Cadiz, southern Spain, diving is a ritual that stands the test of time
The ancient city of Cádiz has been constantly inhabited for 3,000 years, yet in 2022 it faces significant change. It’s a city of contradictions – it has one of the highest levels of unemployment in Europe, yet at the same time it has been listed as one of Europe’s top destinations by the New York Times. This historical place, with its defensive walls, sparkling coastline and narrow shaded streets is in a state of flux; tourism and investment are arriving after years of institutional neglect.
Against this backdrop, there is one constant image. From an early age, I have witnessed an annual ritual, always undertaken in the exact same spot. Every summer, on the Caleta beach, teenagers have always leapt from high on the Fernando Quiñones bridge that leads to the San Sebastian Castle, into the sea. There is a narrow window of time where this is possible, when the tide is just high enough to make it safe – and sufficiently spectacular to draw small crowds of gasping adults. The waters around are surrounded by rocks, a precise jump is essential.
The scene brings to mind imagery of Copacabana or La Habana. It’s a trick of the mind, having been fed a stylistic diet where we associate deep tans and athletic bodies with exotic locations far beyond our European shores, but this is the south of Spain. These teenagers are not looking to recreate a romantic image from a faraway world, they are simply full of freedom and defiance.
The bathing suits and hairstyles may have changed, the leaps and somersaults are now captured on iPhones, and the world beyond this bridge may be adapting at what feels like breakneck speed, but this youthful exuberance, athleticism and sense of adventure, this scene of deeply tanned skin crashing into deep blue water is – and hopefully always will be – a mainstay of Cádiz.
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