In The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, in what city or cities does the story take place—specifically, where does Santiago live?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, there are several places mentioned, but only two that refer to the area in which Santiago lives and/or travels. Santiago (also called "the boy") is trying to sell wool to a merchant in the "region of Andalusia" at the beginning of the story. He mentions that he moves around a great deal in this area with his sheep. This region is found in Spain. It is an "autonomous community," and its capital is Seville. Andalusia is found on the southern tip of Spain. Of Spain's autonomous communities, Andalusia is the most populated, and is the second largest (with regard to total area) of the "seventeen communities of the Kingdom of Spain." Santiago does not give the name of the specific town where he lives.

However, the novel does mention a specific town to which the boy goes—the small town of Tarifa. It is located on the southernmost coast of Spain, "in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia." Because Santiago is a shepherd, he travels with his sheep so that they can graze, going (we assume) where the best pastures are for feeding his animals. Tarifa is a place that he knows about; he specifically recalls that there is a gypsy living there. He travels to Tarifa at the start of the book in order to tell her about his recurring dream so that he might get more information and learn about the "treasure" in his dream. (We realize later that the "treasure" is not monetary wealth, though he does find that. The real treasure is Santiago's love for Fatima.)