The Spanish Siesta by Andrea Kimpson

From the first day arriving in Trujillo, I was encouraged to take a siesta, in English, a nap. The Spanish Siesta occurs from 2 PM to 5 PM every day across the city, meaning that restaurants, stores, and businesses are closed. Everyone returns home to have lunch with their families and to take a break from the day. They go back to work and school after 5 PM. My initial reaction was confusion. In the United States, we do a typical 9 AM to 5 PM schedule with an hour break around 12 PM or 1 PM. The hours of 2 PM to 5 PM were usually prime busy hours. The Spanish take these three hours to rest and relax, and so living in Trujillo, I have had to do the same. I was initially very uncomfortable with the idea and did not really understand it. Again, I am used to hustle and bustle that never really ends, so it was jarring to see a city completely shut down without it being a major holiday.

In speaking with other program participants, they also felt that same level of unease. What do we do for three hours when everything is closed? We commented on how we felt at loose ends, or that we were wasting our precious time in the city. It took starting classes to really understand and appreciate the siesta. We attend classes from 10 AM to 2 PM every day, ending just in time for the siesta. I began to greatly appreciate the siesta time as space in the day to eat lunch with my family, share our days, and then rest in preparation for the remainder of the day. On a practical note, it was clear that the siesta hours were the hottest time in the day, meaning that staying inside was not only enjoyable, but imperative. 

It quickly became easier to genuinely take a break, giving myself to breathe and process before heading out for the evening. Even the length of the siesta became more comfortable, as I understood the time needed to cook lunch, eat, and then still have time to relax and chat with family. I found myself looking forward to 2 PM to 5 PM because I knew I would have time to crack open a good book, take a nap, or watch a show with my host mom.

With further reflection on both the practical and actual experience of the siesta hour, I understand that it reflects a cultural emphasis on total wellbeing. This time is meant to be spent replenishing oneself after the day, whether that be with food or good company. Rest is needed to truly enjoy life, making it a societal priority that the day is structured around.

I am very grateful to be experiencing life in Trujillo, complete with the siesta. I can confidently say that I am not ready to leave it behind when returning to the United States!

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