La Niña Sollozando [the sobbing girl]

Part 5 in a series of snapshots of my journey on the Camino de Santiago, Spain, February and March 2013.

I look out of the hostel window in Grañón. It is late evening and the children are playing in the plaza below. Their shouts, and the slap of the football on the stone, bounce and echo from wall to walls, merging into an infectiously energetic racket. I decide to experience the whole thing first hand, and run down the stone steps out into the cool air to observe and listen. The girl who was in the bell tower earlier runs past me with a breathless ¡Hola! As I walk around the perimeter of the plaza I am able to distinguish one particular sound among all the others; that of a child violently sobbing. Like the bouncing football, her crying is also amplified by the surrounding buildings.

It is hard to work out what has happened. At one point the majority of the kids congregate around her, as she sits on some low steps with her amigas. An animated discourse ensues; at its climax she shouts something about ‘PAULA, which is promptly matched with an aggressive response by a girl yelling in her face before running off. Most of the other kids follow in the wake of this apparent team leader.

The mournful sound continues long after the other children have moved on. I return later to check. All that remains is the wavering drone of her hiccupping sobs, and the soothing, consolatory, voices of her loyal friends.

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