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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.

Spanish tennis - the future is bright
19 September 2021

The sight of the great Rafael Nadal on crutches this week has yet again led sports journalists to wonder how much longer the Spanish superstar can carry on competing at the top of the game. Whilst nobody dares write him off just yet - he has bounced back in spectacular fashion too many times for anyone wortht their salt to venture down that road - even he admitted this week that having yet another operation on his troublesome foot and being on crutches now "was not in the script". 

While the 20-times Grand Slam Champion takes time off in his native Mallorca to recover from this latest setback and prepare for the 2022 season, we take a look at the next wave of Spanish players making their way up the rankings ready to receive that baton, whenever it gets passed.

Carlos Alcaraz at the 2021 US Open

Carlos Alcaraz Garfia

Coached by former World No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz has been maving waves and breaking records on the professional circuit for a couple of years now. At the age of 16, he made his ATP main draw debut at the 2020 Rio Open, defeating fellow countryman Albert Ramos Viñolas after receiving a wildcard for the singles main draw. Aged 17, Alcaraz qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open, making him the youngest participant in the men’s singles. He won his Grand Slam debut defeating fellow qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp in straight sets before losing in the second round to Mikael Ymer.

In 2021 Alcaraz became the youngest match winner in the Madrid Open's history, defeating Adrian Mannarino as a wildcard and breaking 18-year-old Rafael Nadal’s record from 2004. In the second round, he lost to five-time champion Nadal on his 18th birthday. By winning the biggest title of his career until then at the 2021 Open de Oeiras III challenger, he entered the top 100 as the youngest player at the age of 18 on 24 May 2021.



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Valencia on the menu in Paris: is this France’s next gastronomic tourist destination?
19 September 2021

This week, the headquarters of Spain's Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in Paris hosted a presentation of Valencia and its province as a gastronomic tourist destination to the specialised press and professionals of the French tourism sector.

The event - organised by València Turisme and Visit València, under the Delicious València brand - was attended by the permanent ambassador of Spain to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló; the director of the Spanish Tourist Office in Paris, Mª José Gómez; the provincial Councillor for Tourism in Valencia, Jordi Mayor; and the Councillor for Tourism on the Valencia City Council, Emiliano García; as well as the director of the International Michelin Guide, Manuel Fabián, representatives of tourism and gastronomy from various Valencian businesses, tour operators and the French media.

The showcasing of Valencia as a gastronomic destination consisted of an introduction to the city and its province, followed by a tasting of traditional Valencian starters and rice dishes (Valencian paella and arroz del senyoret), prepared by chefs Francisco Alapont, from Peque Casa Nostra restaurant, and David Zorrilla, from Casa Salvador restaurant.

These traditional dishes were all paired with wines and cavas from the Utiel-Requena region and the menu was organised in collaboration with the Club de Artesanos del Arroz de Cullera, the Ruta del Vino de Utiel Requena and the Utiel-Requena Cava Association.



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Spain's most beautiful bridges - the perfect autumn 'staycation' road trip
17 September 2021

With summer drawing to a close, but plenty of warm weather still on the horizon, this is the perfect time for those without school-age kids to hit the road and explore some of Spain's most picturesque locations. 

One of the architectural staples in many Spanish towns and cities are the bridges - both ancient and modern. Some of them are so iconic they attract hordes of visitors from far and wide every year; others are less well known, but no less worth a visit if you’re prepared to go a little off the beaten track. 

Our road trip starts in Spain's largest autonomous community - Andalusia - specifically in the historic city of Córdoba, then travelling out to Granada, before moving southwards and westwards. Province after province in this region has bridges worthy of a road trip detour. One or two are not for the faint-hearted, but the rest are easily accessible to anyone.

Córdoba - Puente Romano

Puente Romano, Córdoba - photo credit - OK Diario

Spanning the Guadalquivir river, Córdoba’s Roman Bridge was originally built by the Romans in the early 1st century BC. It is thought that the Via Augusta, which connected Rome to Cádiz, most likely passed through it in its original form. Its current shape dates from the Islamic reconstruction in the 8th century, when the city’s Muslim governor, Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, ordered a bridge to be built on the ruins of what was left of the old Roman construction. The result is an elegant structure with 16 arcades, reflecting the famous Arab architecture that dominates Córdoba’s famous scenery. In the Middle Ages, the Calahorra Tower and the Puerta del Puente were built at the bridge's southern and northern ends respectively (the latter is now a 16th-century reconstruction). In the 17th century, a sculpture depicting St. Raphael by Bernabé Gómez del Río was erected in the middle of the bridge. 



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Meteorite flashes across several Spanish provinces, landing in Badajoz
17 September 2021

SMART project detectors from the Andalusian Institute of Astrophysics (IAA-CSIC) last night detected a huge meteorite as it crossed the skies in southern Spain, crashing in the province of Badajoz. 

The phenomenon was detected from the observatories of Calar Alto (Almería), Sierra Nevada and La Sagra (Granada), Seville and La Hita (Toledo).

Detectors recorded a rock from an asteroid - known as a 'meteroid' - as it hit the atmosphere at about 76,000 kilometres per hour.

SMART Project researcher, astrophysicist José María Madiedo, said the fireball generated by the meteorite's impact on the atmosphere was recorded at around 10:25 pm on Wednesday evening.

The enormous speed at which it was travelling caused the rock to become incandescent, generating a fireball that crossed the night sky, its luminosity was similar to that of the full moon, making it visible from more than 600 kilometres away.

Huge numbers of people got the chance to see this phenomenon, which was especially spectacular in the skies over Seville, Huelva, Córdoba and Extremadura.



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Rosalía takes the MET Gala by storm in a giant ‘mantón de Manila’
15 September 2021

Spanish singer Rosalía's interpretation of the 'American Independence' theme at last night's MET Gala raised a few eyebrows as she took to the famous red carpet in a giant Manila shawl in tribute to fellow Iberian songstress Lola Flores.

Rosalía wore a red leather fringed outfit inspired by the Manila shawl (mantón de Manila) on Monday for her debut at the exclusive gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

"It's inspired by the Manila shawl, which is very popular in Spain. Look at these fringes!" the award-winning artist told actress Keke Palmer, host of the event, about her groundbreaking image, designed by Rick Owens.

The Manila shawl (mantón de Manila or mantón de seda) is an embroidered silk shawl derived from the Filipino pañuelo. They were popular in the Philippines, Latin America and Spain during the colonial era, before becoming popular in 19th century European fashions. Today the mantón de Manila is still an essential element in traditional women's clothing in Hispanic cultures, and is particularly prominent as part of the traje de flamenca worn by flamenco dancers.

Rosalía posed on the museum steps wearing high platform boots with a transparent heel, shorts and a top that wrapped around her shoulders like a Manila shawl, extending in a train of several metres adorned with fringes.

The theme for this year's Met Gala was all things American and the singer said she was "celebrating that there are many beautiful and incredible designers" in the country, of whom she said Owens was her favourite and that is way she had chosen him for her première.

Rosalía was due to make her debut appearance at what is widely considered to be the celebrity "party of the year" in May last year, but the global pandemic forced organisers to cancel it.



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Valencia city council set to simplify solar panel installation process to help residents save up to 40% on electricity bills
15 September 2021

The city of Valencia is soon going to be doing a lot more to promote the installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the roofs of houses and commercial buildings with a dual aim: to help residents lower the cost of electricity bills at a time when the cost of energy continues to skyrocket (this Friday saw a new record: 152.32 euros per megawatt/hour) and, at the same time, contribute to the fight against climate change by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases thanks to the self-generation of solar energy. 

To this end, the City Council intends to approve, this Friday, a modification to the Solar Uptake Ordinance that will simplify the procedure required to install solar panels, which will henceforth only require a statement of responsibility. For consumers, this new source of energy could save (depending on habits and time zones) up to 40% on their electricity bill.

The mayor, Joan Ribó, and the Councillor for Climate Emergency and Energy Transition, Alejandro Ramón, presented the details of the initiative, which they say has been prompted by the pact signed last week in the Senate between the four largest cities of Spain to ensure that by 2030 they are climate-neutral in terms of polluting gas emissions, and the recent rise in the price of electricity.



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Sánchez promises to lower taxes to put the brakes on rising electricity prices
14 September 2021

The Council of Ministers will approve new measures today to try to stop the rise in electricity bills due to the record prices that electricity has been reaching in the wholesale market for weeks now.

The news was broken on Monday night by President Sánchez in an interview with TVE, where he outlined that the suspension of the energy generation tax (7%) will be extended until the end of the year and that special tax will be reduced from 5.1 to 0,5%, "the minimum required by EU law".

Sánchez added that it is not "acceptable" that electricity companies are reaping "extraordinary benefits", which is why he also intends to "cap gas bills" before the expected price rise over the coming months. "[Companies] can afford it, here we all have to make an effort," insisted the president.

In addition, Sánchez pointed out that "a distinction must be made" between the price of energy in the markets - where "no government has the legal capacity to act" - and the impact of the market on electricity bills - where the wholesale price can have an impact of between 20 and 30%.

He also claimed that, until now, the government had tried to lower electricity prices with structural reforms - promoting renewable energy sources, protecting the most vulnerable families by not allowing supplies to be cut off due to non-payment, and reducing taxes such as VAT and generation tax – and has asked Congress to expedite the measures pending parliamentary endorsement.



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Residential home value hikes 'above average on coasts and islands'
13 September 2021

HOME prices rose faster than the national average in several of Spain's key coastal hotspots in the second quarter of this year, with the Canary Islands leading the field.

Across the country, residential property values increased by 3.3% year on year, and the figure nearly doubled off the mainland.

Latest Home Price Index (IPV) and National Statistics Institue (INE) data show that the cost of buying a house or flat in the Canaries shot up by 6.7% between April and June inclusive, based upon the same period in 2020, and in the Balearic Islands, by 5.7%.

Cantabria, on the northern coast, reported a rise of 5.3%, whilst Murcia in the south-east jumped by 4.4% and the Mediterranean region of the Comunidad Valenciana was just behind at 4.3%.

The national rise of 3.3% is the highest seen since 2019, the last 'normal' year before the pandemic reached Europe.

New builds were 6% more expensive as at the end of June and second-hand properties had gone up by 2.9%.

In Comunidad Valenciana, brand-new homes climbed in value at a slower pace than the average for Spain – 5.3% - but existing residential properties rose by well above the typical national figure of 2.9%.

For Cantabria, a similar pattern was seen – newly-built houses and apartments up by 4.3% and pre-loved homes by 5.5%, although in Murcia, both types saw above-average rises with new properties experiencing a 6.8% hike and second-hand homes valued at 4% more than in the second quarter of 2020.

This was also the case for the Canary Islands, where growth in either type of residential property price was comfortably above the national average and with very little difference between them – 6.5% for new and 6.4% for second-hand.


Price growth returns to normal after 'pandemic year' slowdown

All these regions saw greater growth in home values in the second quarter of 2021 than they did in the first quarter, and typically slightly above the mean figure for Spain as a whole.

Nationwide, home values have been rising consistently for the last 29 quarters, or since March 2014, even during the first few months of the Covid crisis.

Growth slowed somewhat in the second quarter of 2020 – after a hike of 3.2% between January and March inclusive, residential property values only rose by a national average figure of 0.9% from April to June, the lowest increase seen since spring 2013 – but since the latter end of 2020, home price recovery has been consistent.

This is particularly true of pre-owned homes – during the second quarter of 2020, these only went up in value by 0.7%, compared to 2.9% in the second quarter of 2021.



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Penélope Cruz gets Venice Film Festival Best Actress award and dedicates it to Pilar Bardem
13 September 2021

HOLLYWOOD legend and veteran Almodóvar actress Penélope Cruz had a busy time at this year's Venice Film Festival, with two of her most recent silver-screen productions being showcased and taking home one of the top awards.

Penélope Cruz, first Spanish woman to receive the Copa Volpi for Best Actress at Venice Festival (photo: Venice Biennale on Twtter - @la_Biennale)

The Madrid-born national treasure, 47, has not been seen for some years in English-language films – 20 years after her Tinseltown début with a string of successes including Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, a drug-baron's Colombian wife in Blow, and in the US remake of Alejandro Amenábar's Abre los Ojos ('Open Your Eyes'), Vanilla Sky alongside Tom Cruise, playing the same rôle as in the original.

But she has rarely been absent from Spanish cinema, continuing to appear in most of prolific cult director Pedro Almodóvar's works – which is where she started her career – and in other national and European productions.

One of these was Gaston Duprat's and Mariano Cohn's Competencia Oficial ('The Official Competition'), along with fellow Almodóvar 'apprentice'-turned-Hollywood great, Antonio Banderas, and which was shown at the 78th Venice Film Festival to great acclaim.

Penélope was also represented in her part in the latest Almodóvar film, Madres Paralelas ('Parallel Mothers'), the curtain act for the opening ceremony, which attracted huge applause from viewers.

Speculation among festival-goers was rife that the most recent offering by the ever-present director from Castilla-La Mancha would feature somewhere among the awards.

Tipped to net Best Film or Best Direction, Madres Paralelas missed out on both, but Penélope took home Best Actress for her own rôle, gaining the Copa Volpi, or Volpi Cup to a resounding ovation from the public.

She is the first Spanish female ever to receive this prestigious award in the history of the Venice Festival.

Once on stage, in the company of this year's jury leader Bong Joon-ho, Penélope dedicated her prize to her husband, 'Bond villain' Javier Bardem, and their two children, and also to her 'two parallel mothers' in real life.



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Bishop quits to marry erotic novelist: Scandal, celibacy debate and life for churchmen in love
12 September 2021

A DIOCESE in Catalunya is in uproar after a Bishop of the Catholic Church announced he had given up his vocation to marry an author of erotic novels.

Bishop of Solsona, Xavier Novell (photo: Catalunya News Agency, or ACN)

Xavier Novell had created controversy in the past for admitting he 'frequently' practised exorcisms, spoke out in defence of conversion therapy for homosexuals, and supported his region's attempt at a referendum on independence, but this time, his polemical behaviour has not been slammed by the public – only by his former employers.

In a letter to the Diocese of Solsona three weeks ago, Novell explained his decision to give up his post of Bishop and leave the Church was due to 'strictly personal reasons', but it has only now been revealed that he had fallen in love with psychologist and fiction writer Silvia Caballol.

Sra Caballol's novels are erotic with a satanic twist – like a kind of vampire or devil-worship version of the Fifty Shades series – and titles highlighted in the Church press include Hell in Gabriel's Lust.

But a nun from the Dominican Republic interviewed on Spanish channel-four (La Cuatro) programme Todo es Mentira ('It's all lies'), Sister Lucía Caram, says she believes the real reason for Novell's departure is because 'the Pope is furious with him' for his very public and ultra-conservative declarations.

As well as the exorcism and support of Catalunya's secession referendum and conversion therapy, agricultural engineering graduate Novell – who became Spain's youngest Bishop when he took the post in 2010, aged 41 – has spoken out against abortion, even following rape; euthanasia, and same-sex marriage.

Back in 2017, he made the unfounded claim that homosexuality was 'caused' by 'not having a father figure' in the family, or directly condemning single mums or all-female parents.

“He's done a lot of damage to a lot of people,” Sister Caram said on the show.

A decade ago, Novell was asked what he would do if he fell in love, for real, and answered that if a woman 'awakened in him feelings of marital affection', he would go out of his way to make sure he never saw her again.

Divorced, former Muslim wife and sexologist...'living in sin' with Bishop

Catholic priests, Bishops and other members of the clergy cannot marry – unlike in most branches of Protestantism where women as well as men can be vicars or priests, can marry and have children, and even be divorced.

Catholic churchmen cannot marry or have romantic relationships, unlike in some other branches of Christianity 

Now, the Church in Spain is aflame since, not only has the Bishop left to get married, and to an erotic novelist to boot, but they are living together in Manresa (Barcelona) despite not yet having tied the knot, and Silvia Caballol is a divorcée.

The writer and practising psychologist, 38, spent several years living in Morocco as she was married to a man from the northern African country, a Muslim, and had two children with him.

She moved back to Barcelona after their divorce.

Silvia Caballol started publishing her novels back in 2015 - fiction which has been described as covering themes such as penitence and punishment, sado-masochism, madness, religious cults, psychopathy, lust, immortality and 'the raw battle between good and bad, between God and Satan, between the angels and the demons', all from a sexual point of view.

She has taken professional courses in sexology, Islam, Catholicism, yoga, and anti-stress techniques.



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