Welcome to Spain/Bienvenido a España
Welcome to Spain - or more accurately, Andalucia, the country's southernmost self-governing region, with its 500 miles of beaches or "playas," its crystal blue seas, and rolling countrysides rich in sunflowers, olive trees and flourishing vineyards.
Known as the "Florida of Europe," Andalucia and its Costa del Sol, or "Coast of Sun," attract northern vacationers who come not only for the beaches and mild weather, but for flamenco dancing, bullfights and festivals. The lifestyle is laid back, the food healthy, and the locals friendly, as long as you respect their culture. Few locals speak English, so learning some Spanish before arriving will help you integrate more quickly. And the sooner you adapt to this vibrant culture, the happier and more fulfilled you will be.
Andalucia is comprised of eight provinces stretching east to west across the southern coast. They include: Cadiz, Cordoba, Jaen, Huelva, Almeria, Malaga, Granada and Sevilla.
Rota, a town of 30,000 nearest to the Spanish naval base where you will be assigned, is one of many small whitewashed villages, or Pueblos blancos, directly on the Atlantic coast. In the summer, Rota swells to about 120,000 - most of them vacationing Europeans. The same is true for other Andalucian towns, where the main industry is largely related to tourism.
Andalucia's tourism industry has exploded in recent years, turning one of Spain's poorest regions into the holiday choice for Europeans. Construction of "unifamiliaries" residences, or seaside condominiums in the traditional curvy stucco, can be seen everywhere, as the tourist boom grows.
One of the best ways to get to know Andalucia is at one of more than 3,000 fiestas celebrated each year, including fairs ("ferias"), pilgrimages, carnivals, mock battles between Moors and Christians and religious processions, throughout the 800 communities of the region.
While here, don't forget that you are stationed on a Spanish naval base and are, therefore, a guest of the Spaniards. Gates are maintained by Spanish security and require two forms of identification, plus a vehicle pass, to enter and exit. The United States flag is flown only on the Fourth of July.