Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cultural Anthropology at the Marina Beach

As promised, here are my field sketches from the nightclub research in Benalmadena, Spain.

The Club

The Marina Beach is across from the Burger King and down a flight of stairs. On our initial scouting of the marina area, our fieldwork team decided the beanbag chairs and the costuming of the staff would make for a more lively outing than other clubs seemed to offer.

We conducted our research over four separate visits. For our first visit, we arrived at 10:30pm on a Saturday night. Not being ready for the beanbags, we took up a position at a tall round table with bar stools that allowed us good sightlines of the outer area of the club.

The Staff

When I discovered two muscular young men with no shirts fixing their hair and donning sarongs in the washroom, I was nervous that my blue shorts and golf shirt look would prevent me from blending in when other customers arrived. It turned out that these men were in fact club staff.

After being in the club for about 30 minutes, the DJ played Madonna's latest hit. "We have to dance to this," announced our team leader, Marcie. Beverley guarded our table while Marcie and I went to the dance floor. Distracted by our gyrations it was only halfway through the song that we noticed the staff had hung a heavy rope across the entrance to the dance floor. As they hadn't asked us to stop, we continued dancing for several more songs until they began playing a hiphop number that our team leader determined was unsuitable.

We stepped over the rope and rejoined Beverley.


Because we'd been inside on the dance floor, we missed the first performance by the bar staff. All of them, both men and women had climbed onto the bars and other high surfaces and danced. At a certain point they all threw handfuls of tissue paper squares into the air that fluttered to the floor and onto our tables.

For some reason, watching some of the more athletic female staff perform caused our team leader to announce more than once that she would in future be restricting her diet. The performance of the male staff did not have this effect on any male members of the fieldwork teamdivider

The Revellers

At about midnight, the club began to fill with customers; all wearing more clothing than the staff. The female members of our team blended in perfectly with the other customers. I must report that my above-the-knee shorts and (slightly) grey hair set me apart from other male customers. Dancing on the roped-off dance floor, my "style" of dancing, filling an empty beer bottle with water, and my sketching may also have resulted in the regulars sensing an "outsider" in the club and moderating their behaviour.

The rope was removed somewhere between 12:30 and 1:00am. Perhaps during one of the big dance numbers.


Over the course of the evening, three or four parties of women wearing coordinated outfits arrived. We determined that these were "bachelorette" or "staggette" parties. On our second visit to the club, I interviewed some young women who had attended teachers training college together in Birmingham. They reported that it had become big business in Britain for tour companies to arrange trips for brides-to-be and their friends to places like the Costa del Sol. The packages included transportation, accomodations, an itinerary of clubs to go to and the coordinated outfits.

On our first night, the most striking group were all from Spain. Some wore tank tops that said "Se nos casa la pache".Note 1 They all wore black and white leopard spot cowboy hats and sheriff's badges with small plastic penises extending from them.

During the evening, each of the brides-to-be knelt on the bar and drank a cocktail that was tucked into the shorts of one of the male staff. This apparently symbolic ritual seemed to be highly popular with the brides companions.

The Music

While some of the team members were able to dance (after a fashion) to any of the mixture of disco, reggaetón,Note 2 hiphop, house and other dance music, our team leader felt it necessary to maintain high standards and only dance to the right music. In order for her to communicate to the disc jockey what sort of music would be appropriate, a junior team member loaned her a pen and provided her a 3"x5" index card from his collection.divider

The Team

Cultural anthropology is tiring work. Fortunately the Marina Beach provides large matresses for lounging along with the bean bag chairs which proved to be more comfortable than I recall my old 1980 beanbag chair being.

divider The final illustration was sketched by our intern Beverley (promoted to full-fledged anthropologist by our third visit) and coloured by junior team member Scrimshaw.

Links: Map


  • 22/07/2006 - Fiesta en Marina Beach1 2 - a night we were there
  • 08/07/2006 - Sábado noche en Marina Beach 1 2


Anonymous said...

I feel way more culturally illuminated now that I've seen the illustrations!

Anonymous said...

I have to say that Marina Beach in Benalmádena was one of the best bar/club that I have been in! I went with my friend in august and became friends with most of the bar men. When u look at them u automatically think PLAYERS but they are not, they are really sweet guys just doing there jobs. Me and my friend became extremly good friends with Ernesta! and Tino(nick name GATO) but I also became good friends with Miguel and Habe(nick name ANGEL) I really have missed going in there with friends sinci I came back and hope that next year wen I go back with my friend they will all still work there!!! Nicola