The island of San Simón in the Bay of Vigo

by Yolanda Castaño

Above (Issue I/2019)


View onto the Illa de San Simón. Photo: Alberto Pombo

If you stand at low tide on the beach of Redondela, you might think that the island, which consists of two islets connected by a stone bridge, can be reached by a short swim. The tranquility of San Simón, where a light sea breeze sways the crowns of the eucalyptus trees, does not suggest that monks lived here centuries ago, or that the island was once a quaint stop-off point for the sailors returning from the Spanish colonies, or once formed a home for orphans. Its lush greenery does not reveal that thousands of political prisoners were crammed here during the Franco dictatorship. In the Middle Ages, the island was sung about by bards in their songbooks. That is why people dream of it today as the mythical cradle of Galician-Portuguese love poetry and San Simón as a place where lovers meet. In the meantime, the island is part of Galicia's cultural heritage and an official memorial. Depending on how the light falls it alters the air and soul of the Illa de San Simón. Sometimes the island is a peaceful oasis, sometimes it brims with gloomy melancholy, sometimes a sarcophagus, sometimes a natural gem. Just 250 metres long and 84 metres wide, it preserves as many stories as it inspires new ones.

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