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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Michael Schumacher now living permanently in Spain, says Flavio Briatore's ex-wife
27 September 2020

HISTORIC Formula 1 great Michael Schumacher is now living permanently in Spain, according to the ex-wife of his old team manager.

Elisabeta Gregoraci, who used to be married to Flavio Briatore – Schumacher's boss during his Benetton Rénault days – says her former husband is one of just three people, other than medics or carers, who are allowed to visit the seven-times world champion racing driver.

Following his devastating off-piste skiing accident at the end of 2013, Michael Schumacher's condition has remained a mystery to his fans, and even most of his closest friends, since his wife Corinna closed ranks completely and has refused to give any information.

Serious head injuries left Schumacher, now 51, with irreversible brain damage and in an induced coma for some weeks – and a renowned neurologist has recently said he may be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).

Although conscious, and able to sit up with help, it is not clear whether Schumacher is able to process information.

Elisabeta says: “He can't speak; he only communicates with his eyes.”

The ex-model spoke about the German motorsport legend during her recent spell on the Italian version of Big Brother, and confirmed that she knew through Briatore that the Schumacher family was now permanently based in Spain.

Having holidayed there frequently in happier times, Michael and Corinna are now reportedly living on the island of Mallorca, after the latter spent months arranging major renovations on the huge villa she had bought there in order to adapt it for her severely-disabled husband.



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Spanish citizenship for descendants of International Brigades: The unsung heroes of the Civil War
27 September 2020

IF YOU can prove you're a direct descendant of one of the members of the Civil War International Brigade, you may be automatically entitled to Spanish nationality – jointly with your own, and whether or not you have ever lived in Spain.

An amendment to the Law of Historic Memory – originally launched in 2007 – has been agreed, and is expected to become set in stone soon.

“Descendants of the International Brigades who fought for freedom and against fascism in Spain will be able to access Spanish citizenship,” says Unidos Podemos leader and first deputy president, Pablo Iglesias.

“It was about time for the government to tell these heroes and heroines of democracy, 'thank you for coming'.”


Brits included – and exiles from fascist régimes in Europe

Over 50 nationalities made up the International Brigades, including British – to gain first-hand testimonials of the UK citizens who travelled to Spain to help out during the Civil War, men and women alike, the most accessible and fascinating source is Max Arthur's book The Real Band of Brothers – and they were drafted in between 1936 and 1938 inclusive.

The Brigades were voluntary, and around 59,000 people joined up from all over the planet, including Latin America, the USA, Canada, and much of Europe, not just Spain's 'traditional' allies.

French, Italian, German, Polish, Yugoslav, Belgian, Czech, Hungarian, Dutch and British were just a handful of these; some of the nations involved had governments who supported Franco's fascist régime and became his allies after he gained power when the Republicans lost the War, showing that humanity and society stretch far beyond the actions of a country's leaders.



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Safest towns for pedestrians and cyclists revealed
25 September 2020

THE SAFEST large town in Spain for cyclists and pedestrians has been revealed – and it is one of 25 which fall below the European Union's yardstick for urban mobility security.

Of Spain's 88 towns and cities with 80,000 or more inhabitants, and based upon figures between 2014 and 2018 inclusive, the lowest mortality rate for those on foot or on wheels is the satellite municipality of Móstoles, just south of the city of Madrid.

It registered 0.1 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants during these five years.

In the research by MAPFRE insurance's social and humanitarian foundation, titled Horizon C3: Near-Zero Cities, the figure for Stockholm, Sweden was taken – 0.7 per 100,000 people – as it is considered a paragon of pedestrian and cyclist safety in Europe.

Over a quarter of Spain's biggest urban hubs are approximately level with, or below, Stockholm's mortality rate.

In five years, an average of 265 walkers and bikers lost their lives every year in these 88 municipalities, which the MAPFRE Foundation says is 'too high' and gives a national across-the-board figure of 1.27 per 100,000, but 25 towns and cities in nine of Spain's 17 autonomously-governed regions turned out to be safer than the Swedish capital.

The Galicia cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña province) had the second-lowest mortality rate at 0.21 per 100,000 residents, followed by two towns in the Greater Madrid region – San Sebastián de los Reyes (0.23) and Rivas-Vaciamadrid, which was joint third with 'Gwyneth Paltrow's town', Talavera de la Reina (Toledo province), at 0.24.

The next three were also in the Greater Madrid region, which arguably has a higher proportion of towns and cities of 80,000 or more inhabitants – Fuenlabrada, Alcalá de Henares and Torrejón de Ardoz, at 0.31 – and was followed by Elche, near Alicante airport, at 0.35, or half the figure of Stockholm, with Alcorcón (Madrid) at 0.36 concluding the top 10.



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Two Spanish companies manufacturing Covid vaccines
24 September 2020

TWO Spanish pharmaceutical companies are working on at least one vaccine each against Covid-19 – the first known ones in the country to become involved.

Although clinical trials are under way in at least three hospitals in Spain – two in Madrid and one in Santander, Cantabria – these are preparing inoculations for the Belgian company Janssen, the European holding of US-based Johnson & Johnson.

And Spanish scientists and trial volunteers based in the UK are on the 'Oxford vaccine' team, meaning the country has been very involved from the start.

But Rovi Farma and Zendal are the first two manufacturers on home ground, and brief details of their work have been revealed by health minister Salvador Illa.

Rovi Farma, in Madrid, had already been confirmed as the manufacturer for the vaccine developed by the US company Moderna, and it has now been revealed that the inoculation under construction by Novavax is due to be mass-produced by the Spanish bio-pharmaceutical company Zendal.

Clearly, this does not mean the vaccines made in Spain will land in the country first, or as a priority, since development is global and quotas have been set aside for different nations or blocs of nations, such as the European Union, to ensure fair distribution.

Justice and equality reasons aside, it would not make sense for only a handful of countries to have full access to the immunisation, since these would still be at risk from people in territories that did not have it as international travel means any contagious condition can swiftly become a pandemic, as has already been seen with a virus that appeared to be confined to the Chinese city of Wuhan and, within less than two months, ended up affecting almost every town and village on earth.



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Dinosaur eggs found in Aragón 'may contain embryos'
24 September 2020

ONE of the world's largest-known dinosaur 'nests' has been found in northern Aragón, containing unhatched eggs thought to be around 68 million years old.

And they may even still have embryos inside them, say historians.

Each of the 20 or so eggs is around 20 centimetres (eight inches) in diameter, and are thought to have been laid by titanosaurus sauropods – four-legged herbivores with long necks and long tails.

Given that '20' seems to be the key number, the shock discovery – made in 2020 after 14 years of searching and a year after stumbling upon the dig – it is no surprise that the eggs were probably laid by a species known to have been 20 metres long when fully grown.

The site was initially found at the end of last year by palaeontologist and off-road athlete José Manuel Gasca when he was out training with the Club Alpino Universitario, a college-based trail-running association, through the mountains just outside Loarre in the province of Huesca, the northern part of which borders onto the Pyrénées.



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SNCF to operate high-speed trains in Spain at half the price of RENFE
23 September 2020

FRENCH national rail board SNCF will start to operate in Spain from March 15, 2021 – a year when, for the first time, train services in the country are due to open to competition.

Spanish public-sector transport company RENFE has held a monopoly on rail services for decades, but the government announced plans some years back to turn national trains into a competitive market and allow other companies to operate.

This means RENFE will have to work harder to attract and retain customers, since these will be able to 'shop around' for the best travel deals from next year.

And they may well find them once SNCF gets its wheels in the door: Through its budget service Ouigo, France's national rail body will be offering trips at 50% of the price of RENFE's.

Initially, the SNCF will operate along Spain's most heavily-frequented commuter corridor – between Barcelona and Madrid – with stops in Zaragoza, Aragón and Tarragona, Catalunya.

Later, the service will extend to lines linking Madrid with Valencia, Alicante, Córdoba, Sevilla and Málaga.

SNCF will use its Alstom Euroduplex double-decker trains (pictured above), and will be the first time in Spain's history that two-storey carriages serve the high-speed tracks, currently only covered by the AVE network.

The Alstom Euroduplex trains have seating for 509 passengers, a bar on board, and stewards to attend to customers.



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Almodóvar's English short with Tilda Swinton to air in October
22 September 2020

CULT film director Pedro Almodóvar's first production in English is due to hit cinemas in Spain on October 21.

The Human Voice, a 30-minute short starring British-Australian actress Tilda Swinton, is based upon a story by French author Jean Cocteau – of Les Enfants Terribles fame, and who also provided the inspiration for one of Almodóvar's most famous early melodramas, Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios ('Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown').

But the director's first film in a foreign language is radically different from Mujeres al Borde – the 1988 hit was very much a product of its time, just 13 years after dictator General Franco's death and a decade after democracy was enshrined in law through Spain's Constitution, a period of rapid social change which brought with it the end of an iron-fisted censorship on the arts, media and education.

Back then, authors, painters, singers, songwriters, scriptwriters, screen and theatre directors and journalists, who could have been jailed in the past for any works that 'questioned' public authority or the Church or were considered 'indecent', had suddenly gone mad – released from their chains, they lurched in completely the opposite direction and all that had been banned came galloping to the forefront.



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Spain's first-ever outpatient hip replacement performed in Barcelona
22 September 2020

BARCELONA'S Hospital Clínic has carried out the first-ever hip replacement that does not need the patient to stay in overnight, eliminating the need for blood transfusions and morphine-type painkillers.

Already, the Clínic had managed to reduce in-patient stays for hip replacements from seven days in 2013 to three-and-a-half in 2019 by performing gradually less-invasive surgery and by focusing more on a combination of analysis and reorganisation, therapeutic education, and optimising the operating theatre and overall medical process using 'the best scientific evidence available', hospital sources say.

In other words, ongoing testing and getting the patient on his or her feet quicker with physiotherapy and explaining what to do have been key – in fact, in some hospitals in Spain, patients attend group sessions ahead of hip and knee replacements, so they know what to expect and how to deal with pain and stiffness afterwards, and can plan for their future, temporarily-restricted mobility before going under knife.

Hospital Clínic says the 'key' to cutting overnight stays for hip-replacement patients lies in surgical techniques that eliminate the need for blood transfusions and cut down the amount of morphine or morphine-strength painkillers needed to deal with post-operative discomfort.



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Medieval towns in Spain's coastal provinces
21 September 2020

LIFE in the Middle Ages has become quite fashionable lately, centuries after it all happened or – as some would say – didn't happen.

You probably think of jousting, jugglers, giant feasts in torchlit courts with massive cake-and-ale bowls being passed around the communal table (not recommended with the Covid pandemic), or maybe plagues, poor sanitation, witches being drowned and blood tests using leeches. Fairytale-like castles may pop into your head and, fairly uniquely in western Europe, a Spain where the majority of the population was of Arab origin and the predominant religion was Islam.

“I loved studying the Mediaeval era at school,” one Spanish lady told us.

“It was basically 1,000 years when nothing happened.”

But everything that makes 'Mediaeval' trendy in the 21st century begs to differ: From the spectacular glittering Moors and Christians festivals, to the Middle Ages-themed craft markets in the early months of the year, to novelists such as Ildefonso Falcones, Spain's answer to Ken Follett of Pillars of the Earth fame (and he's always on the bestseller shelves, too – his latest tome and prequel to the former, Las Tinieblas del Alba in Spanish (The Evening and the Morning) has a whole display unit dedicated to it at the moment in hypermarkets and bookshops in Spain).

Then there's the architecture, of course. Moorish castles abound in the country; in fact, there are so many of them that a huge number only have about a paragraph of historical detail about them published anywhere – nobody's bothered to research every single one, or they'd be spending another 1,000 years on them. And even many small villages retain what was left of their 'city' walls, with their arched entrances; lots of these started out life as humble, Arab-owned farmsteads in the Middle Ages.

If you're hoping to live or spend your holidays somewhere within striking distance of a beach – even if it's not exactly on your doorstep – but find yourself seduced by the magic of all the good bits about the Mediaeval era (the parts that don't include plagues and leeches), you'll find plenty of towns and villages on Spain's coasts that feel as though you've stepped off a plane into the early years of the last Millennium.

Here are some of the most stunning Mediaeval towns in coastal provinces (of course, there are plenty others a long way inland, too, with their own unique charms – but we'll come back to you later on those).


Girona province

Close to the wonderful modern madness of the Costa Brava are towns that will take you back hundreds of years – some of them right on the beach, and some a short-ish drive away, but close enough for a day trip.



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Sagrada Família to miss 2026 completion deadline...but after 134 years and counting, it's a small setback
21 September 2020

SPAIN'S longest-ever building project looks set to miss its deadline due to the pandemic, but work is still in progress and will not stop until the construction team has finished; they have already taken 134 years, so a few more are unlikely to breach planning permission terms and conditions.

Barcelona's Sagrada Família Cathedral, one of the country's top attractions – beautifully weird, tastefully wacky, beyond unique, and well worth the queues whether or not church architecture is your cup of tea (the longer you have to queue, the more time you get to spend admiring the outside free of charge) – began its journey in 1883, when the plans were rubber-stamped.

The first bricks of what was set to be the most global masterpiece of flamboyant modern architect Antoni Gaudí were laid in 1886.

Other high-profile works of Gaudí's – including Barcelona's psychedelic mosaïc-patterned Parc Güell, and the green-and-red restaurant in Comillas (Cantabria) – have long since been finished, but the Sagrada Família is still being built.



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