When the Wild West Was in Almeria
There was a time in Almeria when stage coaches rolled around dirt roads and outlaws in ponchos puffing cigars rode their mules alongside elegantly dressed gunmen looking for bounty money. Back then, justice meant having a duel. It was a time when the movies magically transported Spain’s emblematic region of Andalusia to America’s old wild west.
You probably know about all this and the famous spaghetti westerns of the time; films made by several Italian directors (the most famous was Sergio Leone) that projected their vision of an era of sheriffs and cowboys onto the silver screen. It was a tough and gritty vision, one that was dirty, dusty, violent, cynical, and far removed from that of contemporary directors such as John Ford. Nevertheless these films were not only very successful but were also relatively cheap to make.
One of the reasons these movies were inexpensive to make lies precisely in the locations they were filmed in. The Tabernas Desert in Almeria provided a solitary environment which was very similar to North American Deserts and it was relatively close to Rome where the studios used for shooting the films were located.
During the 1960s and 70s, replicas of entire far western towns were constructed in Tavernas and used over and over again in different films, offering viewers a familiar and intimate setting for exciting on-screen action . The lone drifter Clint Eastwood, the original Django played by Franco Nero, and the heartless villain character embodied by Lee Van Cleef have all rambled these dusty town roads.
The 80s saw a decline in Spaghetti Western films and many of the sets were left abandoned or turned into tourist attractions that can still be visited today. Hollywood’s connection with Tabernas however continues to this day: many movie producers are well aware that there’s a big chunk of land out in Andalusia that could easily be transformed into Nevada, Arabia, or even a barren planet. In the hearts of many people from the area of Tabernas, the days of gun slinging rogues will always live on. Many people here also love telling old tales from the time. If ever you get the chance, listen to them, and prepare to be transported to a not so distant past!