I've just returned from a clothes-free holiday in Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) with some great friends. On the plane coming back and loathe to watch the movie offered I spent some time thinking about the atmosphere on the island compared to a previous holiday on mainland Spain, at Vera Playa. Two famously good places for clothes-free fans to take a holiday, but two places different in their 'feel'. I thought about which I preferred and why. I'd been to Fuerteventura before, but only to first a 'textile' hotel, and then in the off season when the weather had been unusually poor. Both the holidays I wanted to compare had at last been similar in that they were both with fellow buffers in private villas under blue skies: Vera Playa in September 2014, and Fuerteventura almost exactly a year later.
First off I should explain the similarities and differences. Both Fuerteventura and Vera Playa have a rich naturist history, where 'naturist' in this case is defined as a respect for people wishing to be simply nude under certain conditions. The key difference is the way those conditions are defined.
On Fuerteventura, the condition is tradition. The island has a very relaxed attitude to nudity and has done for a very long time. It has been a traditional holiday destination for Germans particularly, and this goes a long way to explain its naturist leanings. It could be argued that Fuerteventura is the most tolerant place in the world for simple nudity. I'd be happy to learn of other candidates! Does that mean that everywhere on the island is culturally comfortable with overt nudity? No. Again tradition is king. Tradition says that every beach is OK except for beaches immediately next to towns: Corralejo, Caleta and Morro Jable. Tradition also points to nudity being OK on walks around the remoter areas of the island but not in the towns walking down the streets. Some have argued that nudity is allowed everywhere in accordance with the Spanish constitution, but 'legally allowed' and 'culturally accepted' are two different things. In this blog all my considerations are linked to the difference in culture. The legal situation meanwhile is a constant, both locations being Spanish.
On my recent holiday in Fuerteventura then, our villa and the beaches we chose to visit (all being traditionally 'happy' with nudity) were where we went nude. We didn't cross the traditional 'line' nor even propose to.
Vera Playa is slightly different. Here the condition is spatial. The boundaries of the area in which nudity is accepted is defined by edict (with a small grey area on the north side). The 'feel' is therefore different because the condition of nudity is different. Putting it bluntly, Vera Playa is a nudity ghetto. Nudity is happily accepted culturally within the boundary, and falls back to being only legally accepted outside of the boundary. The status of nudity under freedom of expression in the Spanish constitution since the fall of Franco vis the reality of numbers going nude on Spanish streets goes to show that both cultural and legal acceptance of nudity are required before people are willing to go nude in numbers sufficient to start a 'perpetual effect' i.e. that people willing to go nude triggers others to follow to maintain a persistent presence of 'naturists' and therefore a cultural acceptance and respect. This happens on some Spanish beaches, but not generally elsewhere. Culture and tradition are important, arguably more important, to naturists than legality.
On the Vera holiday then, my friends and I happily went nude in the villa, allocated beach and the surround area within the ghetto, including the streets. We didn't didn't cross the spatial 'line' nor even propose to.
Two clothes-free holidays. Both had great weather and great times. Both included a stay at a private villa where my friends' respect allowed nudity at any time. Both had a great beach to get an all over tan. Both in same country under the same law.
It is weird then how the holidays left a very different impression on me.
Pin-pointing why made up the majority of my thinking time on my recent flight back. Cultural acceptance is key here. Acceptance was brought about in two different ways. On Fuerteventura it was incremental over decades. In Vera it happened almost by accident since the beach was de facto naturist along with the area immediately inland of it before anything was built on the land! The buildings, apartments, streets and pools came later. Vera was not 'created' so that people enjoying way-of-life nudity could happily walk down the street nude.
“Walking down the street nude”....that is where I decided the difference in 'feel' came from.
Nudity is a way-of-life for me. In a situation where conditions are favourable I prefer being nude to clothed. That's not the same for everyone who accepts the label of 'naturist'. Doing normal things is important to me. Normality. Here's an example: I'm sat nude in the villa and I want to go out to the car a distance away, get in and drive to another place, where I want to get out and walk a distance to a beach and dive in the water. What's the difference here between the cultural acceptance of this event chain in both locations? Well both locations have a lot going for them, but in Fuerteventura there's not enough acceptance to walk to my car (although some would argue that they have and it's fine....but not from what i've read or experienced). In Vera meanwhile it's OK. In Vera though it means dressing once at the remote beach to get to the sea, whereas in Fuerteventura the beach end of the event chain is fine!
Which matters more?
To me...personally...it's the walking to the car bit. This is where Vera wins out.
What about having a sit-down drink at a café? Vera lets you. Fuerteventura doesn't
I know I know....what about the fact that Vera is a ghetto? What about nudity being freedom of expression where 'freedom' should be the ultimate goal? There's an argument that building fences is the wrong approach. Well my counter-argument is that Fuerteventura can also be viewed as a ghetto....just a island sized one! Over in neighbouring Gran Canaria, Maspalomas beach is segregated like a typical nude beach in the UK and other countries and more generally nudity is not accepted, so it can't be called a Canary Island culture and certainly not a Spanish culture. Or is it simply that there aren't enough clothes-free fans to create the 'perpetual effect' that changes culture? Hmm.
So my flight conclusion was that nudity as a way-of-life, for me, leads to me preferring Vera Playa. In Vera, nudity becomes a normality I love. Vera can be viewed as a ghetto sure, but for me it's a microcosm of what a future acceptance of nudity should be. The only difference right now is that Vera is so rare a place that almost everyone inside the ghetto goes nude despite there not being a rule to the effect that you have to. Can Fuerteventura become the same? Sitting on the beach at El Cotillo - La Concha within a perfect 50:50 split of nude .v. costume I can easily imagine it could be. Maybe it already is. Maybe it goes to show that naturists yearn acceptance and respect more than simply places and opportunities to go nude...
How do we therefore get from Vera Playa to Naturist Utopia? If my line of thinking above is anything to go by, then it's surely about teaching acceptance. Acceptance can only be reached via education, and education must be directed (especially given the previous comments I've made about the struggles surrounding the definition of naturism). Here's where BN and other associations become vital; associations that must put acceptance at the very top. It is the ultimate vision. It's all very well cajoling folks to strip off and enjoy nudity, but if there's no acceptance in the surrounding culture, then small ghettoes are all there will ever be.....and they're shrinking.
If you've read through my ramblings then I thank you and offer you a question. If you like being nude which would you prefer...the perfect nude ghetto (where acceptance is always 100% like Vera Playa), or a limited 'freedom' without boundaries driven by tradition i.e. by the numbers of people willing to go nude (where acceptance can vary between 0% and 100%...like Fuerteventura)?