Spanish town takes neighbourly chats 'al fresco' to UNESCO 

by Reuters in August 13th, 2021
Neighbours gather outside their houses to avoid the heat at night, as a heatwave hits Spain, in Algar, August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Neighbours gather outside their houses to avoid the heat at night, as a heatwave hits Spain, in Algar, August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

By Jon Nazca and Mariano Valladolid

ALGAR, Spain (Reuters) - The town of Algar in southern Spain is seeking UNESCO world heritage status to protect and enliven its treasured custom of outdoor neighbourly get-togethers on sweltering summer nights, which it believes Internet-based social networks threaten.

As sunset nears and cooler air from the mountains and a natural park nearby ease the day's heat, villagers start bringing out chairs and tables to sit outside their homes and shoot the breeze, play cards or just chill out.

Children often join the adults, but there are few teenaged faces to be seen. Algar Mayor Jose Carlos Sanchez hopes that will change as his call for more villagers to join the outings in support of the UNESCO application gains support.

Two weeks after launching the call, and with temperatures approaching record high levels in southern Spain, he says he was surprised to find "nobody inside, everyone in the street, reinforcing this initiative and eager to make Algar an Intangible Heritage of Humanity".

The idea is to prevent social networks from ending a popular tradition, which Sanchez remembers from his childhood as a joyful pastime for Algar families and neighbours.

"When the social networks boom hit, everyone was on social networks. Now I think people are starting to leave that aside a bit to interact face to face, to talk in person...What we're trying to achieve is to have harmony and conviviality and to get back to the traditional way," he said.

Sitting outside also helps save energy, he added, an important factor in Spain where electricity prices have soared to record levels this week due in part to increased use of air conditioning amid a heat wave.

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