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Fifty women shuffle in their seats, digging into their handbags for mascara and lip gloss and combs.
They raise their hands to their heads and smooth down flyaway hairs.
At 23 dollars, the caravans offer a cheap day trip and a chance to breathe clean country air. Left, the women are in command on the dance floor as the men are slower, clumsier and struggling to keep up in Calzadilla de la Cueza, Spain. (Angel Navarrete / For The Times) Quilindo and Blanco, 66, were neighbors in Cali, Colombia, and both ended up in Madrid.
Blanco is more open about wanting to find a partner; she’s been to 15 caravan events, and while she’s had brushes with love, nothing has ever stuck.
One woman unrolls the curler she’s kept in her bangs for hours, and her blond-streaked hair bounces.
Another checks her sparkling turquoise eyeliner in a compact mirror.
In many rural towns, aging male farmers are often the only ones left. His wife, Venecia Alcantara, rushes about, offering greetings and telling stories in a booming voice.
The only reason he came to the hotel, he says later, was to see her. In November, members of Castilla La Mancha’s United Left party wrote an opinion piece for the newspaper El Diario arguing that the caravans treated “women as commodities” and were “a vestige of an old-world past, profoundly In years past, two or three caravans left Madrid each month, and town governments helped cover the costs.She picks at her oxtail and gazes on as her niece laughs with the men seated next to her.Quintana tries to say something to the men across from her, but her comment falls flat, and she returns her gaze to the oxtail.The bus stops by a wide storage shed, the kind that holds a well-worn tractor. After a six-hour journey from Madrid — four on the bus, two for a lunch of sandwiches and sangria in a bar along the way — they’ve reached the town of Calzadilla de la Cueza, where they hope to find someone to love.Three men lean against dusty trucks near the red-brick hotel where, a few hours later, there will be dining and dancing.
But some villages are nothing more than a handful of stone houses along a dirt road.