Castilian Westworld

The Conecta festival and the city of Toledo were fantastic and I’m going to write a little about my experiences in a later post. One of the stranger things we encountered during a pre-conference day of round-table discussions was the Toledo branch of the Puy de Fou historical theme parks. Founded in 1977 by notorious rightwing politician and novelist Philippe de Villiers as an offshoot of his historical drama TV show Cinéscénie, the original Puy de Fou in Les Epesses became the fourth most-visited theme park in France after the two Disney parks and Parc Astérix.

At night the park stages a performance in which various historical tales are re-enacted in grand mythic style. Columbus sails to the new world, Knights Templar crusade, Visigoths battle Romans. It is a deeply uncanny place, especially the brand-new ancient castles with perfectly pointed brickwork. The park is right in the middle of in a region so rich in real ancient castles it is called Castilla-La Mancha.

I had been wondering about the potential for using this place as a location for a fanciful and historically inaccurate TV series of my own, but when fellow writer Pierre Puget told me about de Villiers’ political positions – he is an apologist for ‘illiberal democratic’ populists like Hungary’s Orbán – I rather lost interest.