July 9, 2006

El Faro

With this pic, Stephanie and I have stepped into the first room of seven which is the experience-o-rama "Center of Interpretation" for Tossa's Lighthouse, El Faro (Es Far in Catalan). At the top of Cap Tossa, the prominent rocky outcropping, the landform which defines our pueblo on the sea, the local government has invested money to reform and remake the old lighthouse into a museum and cafe. This is part of several public works projects that have sprung from a Catalan Spring, the recent economic success of Spain in general and the recent efflorescence of Catalan Nationalist spirit in particular.

This tiled shot from the approach to the top of the hill shows Codolar below (our favorite beach here) and if you can make it out, the recently completed hiking trail along the rocky edge of the Costa Brava, another civic project that is a reinvestment in the natural beauty of Catalunya. The terrace of our house, by the way, is here in this shot.

The layout of the El Faro experience is a sequence of rooms equipped with the latest in audio visual presentation techniques that endevors to tell the story of lighthouses in general and perhaps only glancingly about the specific life of Tossa's Faro itself. But before I let loose my minor critique (already squirming out of this paragraph), here is a bit of the text from the pamphlet that comes with the show:

Since time immemorial, lighthouses have been a guiding light for navigators and sailors. Beams of light from the coast penetrating the deep blue of the ocean represented a message to the sailor, letting him know that he would soon be sfe in the harbour, that he had safely weathered the storms, that land would soon be glimpsed... that he was finally home from the sea. From the earliest days of history to more recent times, the lighthouse has played a fundamental role in the lives of all seafarers. As dusk fell, these steadfast coastal watchtowers would awaken and send out the evening's first rays from their lanterns.


Their light would rythmically sweep the sea, providing comfort for al those who were inspired to learn the mysteries of the deep and understand its ways. The Mediterranean Lighthouse Interpretation Centre has been developed on the basis of the cultural heritage and symbolism represented by lighthouses throughour history.


Specifically created to transmit the significance of lighthouses in a practical and educational way, the Mediterranean Lighthouse Interpretation Centre is one of the most attractive cultural and entertaining sites on the Costa Brava. The Centre itself, together with its marvellous setting, make it a reference point not only for the world of lighthouses but also for our maritime heritage.

It goes on, but I'm sure you've got the point.

Well, it is indeed marvelous... and smart for the local civic elements to guard and nurture such local treasures. But nothing is perfect and in the inclination toward the better (while simultaneously bearing in mind that the best is the enemy of the better), I have a critique for The Mediterranean Lighthouse Interpretation Centre. But I tend to flinch at the jargon and overbearing institutional voice in its disposition... but then I tend to think that the worldwide triumph of advanced culture in the Western World is simultaneously a glory and a detriment since we tend to lose a measure of self criticality. The overall feel of the Center seems to be a bit impersonal to a fault.

Maybe it's the blogger in me, but what seems to be missing in this Interpretive Center are the human lives involved in the story: Who were the lighthouse keepers? Did they have families, dreams, were they lonely? Where there not lives lived between each brief handwritten log entry? And on the other end of the heroic beam of light: who were the sailors, especially as a story of the seaside fishing pueblo of Tossa de Mar. Couldn't they have harvested images of their weatherbeaten faces and recorded stories from the descendants of the local fishing families, many of whom still, to this day, guard the virtue of this little seafarer's town?

Pues, nada... as the saying goes.

Posted by Dennis at July 9, 2006 10:40 AM

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