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Thoughts from Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 7 July 2020
07 July 2020 @ 10:23

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

Life in Spain: What has changed this century?  

Racism: Are the Spanish racist? They certainly don't think so but the Dutch author Vernon Werner certainly thinks they are. Right on cue comes this article from The Local, headlined Spain is not the US but it is in denial about racism. And then there was this El Pais article as well yesterday. As for my posts on this subject . . . Here are the earliest I can trace, from 2004:-

August 2004: It's frequently said that the Spanish are not racist but that they detest gypsies. To be honest, it’s easy to understand this. As I was crossing the bridge today, a mother with a wheelbarrow full of detritus collected from the town’s rubbish bins was encouraging her two young kids to toss large chunks of it into the river below. Saying anything on these occasions risks later retaliation, my Spanish friends insist. But I could not stay quiet and so remonstrated with the mother. However, in what I like to think was sagacious and judicious compromise, I made my comments in English. In truth, the Spanish probably would be more racist if the immigrants already here were spread more widely throughout the country. On the other hand, the almost-daily reports of drowned Africans who didn’t make it alive it to the Spanish coast surely provoke at least a degree of compassion.

October 2004: Meanwhile, the soccer race row rumbles on. Today’s papers report that only one Spanish journal and one brave person in the ‘football community’ have rejected the coach’s defence that he is not racist and that his comments were just a bit of fun. The captain of the Spanish team has gone even further and said that anyone who thinks the coach is a racist must be mad. This view is endorsed by the outraged sport commentators who point out that, whereas the French press has been quite muted, the British tabloid press has been rabid on the subject. Since these are known to be scabrous organs, they must be wrong, so what’s all the fuss? I never thought I would be siding with the British tabloid press, on the one hand, and sympathetic to political correctness, on the other, but ... hang on a minute!

November 2004: Different cultures, different perceptions. Some observations on the clash last night between England and Spain:-

While the UK media regard the main issue as the racism displayed both before and during the game - by the trainer and the crowd respectively - this is a non-issue for 90% of their Spanish counterparts. The main take for them was the abject performance of the England team and the clear superiority of the Spanish eleven. The main subordinate issue was the madness of Rooney. Indeed, one paper went so far as to award the highest performance marks to the English trainer for taking Rooney off before he self-combusted.

One reason for this dichotomy is that the [rather more serious] Spanish media despise the UK tabloid press and regard any issue of importance to them as ‘sensationalist’. Their gut instinct is to reject it out of hand. One feels some sympathy for this, generally speaking.

Another, rather more serious, reason is that Spain appears to be now where the UK was about 30 years ago in terms of attitude to racial taunts and empathy with their effect. Here, a very acceptable defence to any suggestion of insult runs along the lines of – “It was all in good humour. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Don’t get upset….. Now you’re being hypersensitive and obsessive”. This helps to explain why both the Spanish trainer and the local media can’t understand why anyone reacted to him calling Henry “a shit of a nigger’. And why they were even more nonplussed about the entire UK media dismissing him as beyond the pale for later saying ‘I have black players round to dinner. They tell me there is racism in the UK whereas there is none here. And I know how the British treated people in their colonies.” As far as almost everyone in Spain is concerned, it was more than enough for him to say “Hey, it was all a bit of joke about Henry, to motivate my players. Let’s forget about it”. So, to keep on asking him questions smacks of a vicious witch hunt.

With the honourable exception of the left-of-centre El Pais, none of the national or local papers reported or commented on the disgraceful monkey-chanting of last night’s match. However, all the papers did report that the UK Football Association had formally complained to the international football authorities about the same thing at the previous night’s match between the junior teams. This was too much for both the ‘Presidents’ of the two stadiums, each of whom denied that there had been any racist chanting at all. Maybe they will change their mind when they listen to the soundtrack of the games. Or perhaps their lawyers have told them that making monkey grunts every time a black player touches the ball doesn’t technically qualify as racist chanting, unless a monkey is the claimant.

To bring this sad blog to a close, perhaps the wisest thing said about the affair was that both the dire quality of English football and the appalling behaviour of the Spanish fans should ensure that it will be a long, long time before they play each other in another ‘friendly’ match.


1. Racism:  Not much change, I suspect.

2. Prostitution: Ditto. Even if at least 1 of the 3 brothels in my barrio -  and 1 up in the hills 16km from the city - have closed.

Current Life in Spain: Living La Vida Loca . .   

  • Here's María's Day 22 of her chronicle of our Adjusted Normal.

That's a lot for today, folks. So, I'm clocking off now . . . Grandparent duties call.

Except for this beautiful foto of an insect caught in amber billions of years ago . . .


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

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