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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.

No more 'dangerous breeds' list: Animal protection law overhaul will 'end canine racial discrimination'
08 April 2021

A LAW dating back 22 years requiring owners of certain dog breeds to register them with the council, pay a tax and keep them muzzled and on a lead could be about to change now that Spain's government is considering a review of the 'dangerous' label.

Behaviour, not breed, will be considered for special restraint and training measures under proposed new law (photo: Fontibón360)

Director-General of Animal Rights, Sergio García Torres, spoke at the political conference organised by the Spanish Royal Canine Society, and advocated the 'dangerous breeds' criteria be assessed on a 'dog-by-dog' basis.

Most people who have any contact with animals have met pitbulls, Rottweilers, Dobermanns or other, similarly-categorised dogs who are complete 'softies' and would not harm a fly, whilst some dogs who have shown aggressive behaviour may be of breeds not on the 'compulsory registration' list.

García Torres and the Royal Canine Society are concerned that the 'potentially dangerous' list creates prejudice against entire breeds which may not be at all justified in a high number of individual cases.

To this end, a law reform underway is seeking to 'validate the behaviour' of specific animals 'without taking into account the given breed they were born into'.

Replacing Law number 50/1999, the legislation will cover dogs whose character means they need 'special handling' or 'expert management', and require them to be trained in behaviour improvement techniques to prevent, or stop, them being 'dangerous'.

Unlike in other countries, Spanish legislation does not automatically require a dog who attacks a human to be put to sleep – in fact, this is avoided as far as possible and would only happen where the animal was a serial public danger and too 'far gone' for even canine behavioural experts to retrain them to be safe.

García Torres says he wants national law to work towards an end to pets being dumped and for zero animal euthanasia except on purely humane grounds, where the creature is actively and incurably suffering and no remedies are available in life – much along the same grounds as the newly-approved euthanasia law for humans.

The Royal Canine Society (RSCE) has called for legislation that makes dog identification universal, protects and promotes native breeds, accredits the work of 'ethical and responsible breeders', and actively educates children and young people in 'values that encourage respect and empathy for animals'.

García Torres says the law being prepared by Spain's government – the draft of which is at the 'public information' stage, meaning it can be consulted by society and is open to appeals – focuses on streamlining the 17 different regional government laws, none of which are exactly the same, and on setting up an 'Animal Protection Registration System' (SRPA).



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What has Platja d'Aro done with its 'Stanley Kubrick' monolith?
07 April 2021

ALL OVER the world – at least, on both sides of the Atlantic – monoliths almost identical to those left by aliens invading earth in the cult Stanley Kubrick film 2001: Space Odyssey have been appearing, and disappearing just as fast.

Authorities have taken them down almost as soon as they were found – in the Utah desert and on the California Pacific coast road, which the New México-based group 'The Most Famous Artist' owned up to leaving there, and also in Romania, The Netherlands, Poland and the UK.

But Spain has taken a different approach, and seems to be quite fond of its anonymous metal posts – the first to appear in the country, on a hill above Ayllón (Segovia province, Castilla y León) was put back up three times after it fell over and the mayoress paid it a visit the morning it popped up.

The latest monolith emerged apparently out of nowhere on a Costa Brava beach – and has already been removed. 

This is not for the reasons other places have taken theirs down, though: The town council in Castell-Platja d'Aro (Girona province) dug it up from the sands in the middle of Sa Conca beach in the S'Agaró area to protect it from vandals.

A group of youths had kicked it down 48 hours after it appeared, and have since been identified and arrested.

Now, the brightly-shining monolith has been given a new home in the town's Els Estanys Park.

Here, sculptures are arranged in a dedicated area, like an open-air art gallery or miniature Rodin garden, and the monolith has joined them, meaning anyone who rushed to Sa Conca beach to see it and was too late can still go and admire it and take a selfie with it. 



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'State of Alarm' to end on May 9 and vaccine efforts to 'multiply' in next three months
06 April 2021

PRESIDENT Pedro Sánchez has announced plans to end the 'State of Alarm' on May 9 this year and has given a deadline of the end of August for 70% of Spain's population to be vaccinated with both doses of the anti-Covid immunisation.

And this is the government's 'most conservative estimate' of how the situation will progress, hinting that improvements may even happen earlier.

National health authorities' goal is for 10 million people to have been immunised by the first week in June and 15 million, which would be around a third of the country's headcount, by the second week of that month.

By the week beginning July 19, as many as 25 million could be fully vaccinated, a figure expected to rise to 33 million, or seven in 10 residents, by the time summer ends.

Earlier, by the week beginning May 3, Sánchez (pictured) estimates Spain will have broken the five-million barrier.

The recent rubber-stamping of the Janssen vaccine, due to arrive in Spain after next week, is hoped to accelerate the roll-out, given that this new formula only requires one dose rather than two.

Spain has signed deals to receive a total of 87 million doses of the four different vaccine formulae – three of which need a double dose – between April and September.

From April to June, the country will receive 3.5 times as many doses as it did in the preceding three months, including 5.7 million single-dose Janssen vaccines before July.

Meanwhile, another formula developed in Germany, the CureVac, is due to be signed off for release in the next few weeks.

Current figures suggest that more people will have been fully vaccinated by the middle of April than the number of people infected with Covid-19, for the first time ever.

It remains unclear whether a person who has been inoculated can still catch the virus and pass it on – recent cases of 'outbreaks' in nursing homes in Spain have, reportedly, been asymptomatic in all those who have been immunised, even though, by definition, theirs is an age group where contracting Covid would normally be dangerous and potentially fatal.

This seems to show that a person who has been vaccinated can still catch the disease, but their immune system prevents the virus from causing them any harm.

Scientists are still trying to ascertain whether these cases can cause contagion to others in contact with them, although the creators of the Pfizer vaccine have recently said those who have received both doses 'do not infect anyone else'.



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Sakoneta, probably the 'grooviest' (and weirdest) beach in Spain
05 April 2021

'WINDSWEPT' might be a way of describing one of Spain's oddest-looking beaches, or perhaps 'ploughed' – but the Sakoneta, as well as a photographer's and social media-user's dream, is also a geologist's paradise and a window on the world aeons before we as a species got here.

Hard to believe Sakoneta beach is entirely naturally created - and tens of millions of years old (photo: Donosti City TV on YouTube)

If beaches, for you, only hold any attraction where they're palm-fringed with velvety, golden sands, turquoise waters, parasols, kiosks, sunbeds, port-a-loos and foot-showers, this chunk of coast in Deva, Guipúzcoa province – of which the capital is San Sebastián – is unlikely to be on your travel bucket list; but if raw nature, Jurassic landscape and unique, one-off panoramas are your thing, this officially-protected Basque Country biosphere is very much worth the detour.

Known as 'Deba' in the regional language, euskera, the shores of the town sit between Haitzandi and Haitzabal and form part of the Deba-Zumaia bio-reserve, an eight-kilometre slice of cliffs that look as though they were turned out of a jelly-mould and then hit by a gale heading north before they were properly set. 

Rippled surface covered in heathland grass on the top, and barcode furrows on the ground, the rockface in the middle looks as though it had been sliced with a bread-knife.

It's hard to believe Sakoneta beach's design is pure accident.

Part of the northern Basque Country 'Flysch Route', the cove is perhaps one of the most striking examples along its length: Formed during the early Cretaceous era, after the end of the mass extinction that finished off the Jurassic period – so, about 100 million to 65 million years ago – the system runs from the Andutz fault, a 700-metre-thick plate of limestone and marl (calcite mudstone) strata interspersed with turbidite deposits.



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Are there any towns in Spain whose names begin with a 'W'?
05 April 2021

THOSE of you who already speak Spanish know this, but those of you who are still learning may not have realised the language has no words of its own beginning with a 'K' or a 'W'.

Where's this place with an unlikely name? (Photo: NeliOM/Wikimedia Commons)

If you don't believe us, check the dictionary – every entry starting with either letter is of foreign origin. In fact, these letters are barely used at all in any position in Spanish words; the 'K' can be found in some of more modern creation – okupa, or 'squatter', or okupar, 'to squat', uses a 'K' to differentiate it from ocupar, 'to occupy', or its third-person singular conjugation, ocupa; then there's bakalao, which is a type of 1980s' techno music, and the 'K' is so it does not get mixed up with bacalao, which means 'cod'.

Part of the Santiago pilgrims' route known as the Camino de Madrid (photo: Erazo Fischer/Flickr)

By contrast, the letter 'X' is used a lot – taxi, which is self-explanatory, or éxito, meaning 'success' (not 'exit', which is salida), or any other word with an ex- prefix which are instantly recognisable to an English-speaker. Words beginning with 'X' in the Spanish language are similar to those beginning with 'X' in English, such as xenófobo, xenófiloxilófono, xerografía, which you can probably work out for yourself, although they are much more abundant in the catalán family of languages such as valenciano, ibicuenco, mallorquín, menorquín, and catalán itself, making a 'ch' or 'sh' sound, and in galego, the Galician language, where the 'X' often replaces the 'J' (such as in Xunta, for 'Junta', its regional government) – a tongue which, otherwise, has strong influences of Portuguese.

So, why have you been learning to pronounce 'W' when reciting the alphabet in Spanish, if it isn't used? Well, apart from spelling out names or places in your own language if you need to, or reading out a full website address (www, etc), you'll also see that words 'borrowed' from other languages sometimes use it – indeed, no 'pure' Spanish word does – such as walki-talki, walkman, wadi, and so on.



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Masca, the 'Machu Picchu of Spain'
03 April 2021

MAYBE it wasn't built by the Incas, but it's almost as old and equally as fascinating, panoramic and vertiginous: Spain's answer to Machu Picchu is not a staple on the tourism trail, but probably should be.

The thin edge of the wedge: Masca, in the Teno Rural Park (photo: Tenerife tourism board)

You'll need a head for heights to visit this enclave, but once you're up in Masca in the Teno Rural Park nature reserve, you'll be so blown over (only metaphorically, unless strong winds are forecast) that your knees will forget to turn to jelly if you look down.

Masca forms part of the wider village of Buenavista del Norte and is one of a handful of tiny hamlets, basically farmsteads, in the Teno Rural Park along with El Palmar, Teno Alto, Las Lagunetas, Las Portelas, Los Carrizales, and Erjos, all of which are more or less self-sufficient, living off their arable and livestock industries – they eat what they produce, and only work enough hours a week to produce what they eat, meaning most of the agricultural hands are in the family and their labour is part-time, as it doesn't need to be anything more.

And it literally sits on the sharp edge of a mountain peak.

Tiny, traditional-looking country houses, winding lanes, dense forest, dramatic and sheer cliff-faces plunging into seemingly bottomless chasms, with the Atlantic Ocean as a moat, this splendid and unusual little haven on the Canarian island of Tenerife is, in fact, a local heritage site, and is said to be one of the best examples of timeless rural architecture in the region, if not in the whole of Spain.

Traditional houses, originals or replicas, in Masca (photo: Ronny Siegel/Wikimedia Commons)

Although, in fact, not all of its houses are particularly old; many were destroyed in a huge forest fire in 2007 – but they're all designed in keeping with a style that has been in use for centuries, some of them embedded into the rocks of the abyss, so in theory, nothing has changed in Masca since time immemorial.

Except for a road or two and the occasional car, of course.

Ancient pottery kilns, teak workshops and bread ovens, communal farm fields, and of course, birds of prey – eagles aplenty – can be found in the wider radius of this village that teeters on the blade of an abrupt crest miles (half a mile, anyway) above terra firma.



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Easter parade 'pointy hats': What are they all about?
03 April 2021

IF YOU'VE lived in Spain since at least the beginning of 2019, you'll probably have seen an Easter week parade before; hopefully, if you're a regular visitor to Spain, you'll have managed to plan at least one trip here in time to see the Good Friday marches. And if neither is the case, it's about time you did – although any attempt to do so last year or this would have been frustrated as all processions have been called off for the second Easter running as a precaution against Covid contagion.

So here's to Easter 2022 and normality returning.

Actually, it is getting that way in many parts of Spain. Some regions where even the smallest of villages had dozens, or in fact, hundreds, of cases each at the beginning of the year are now practically Covid-free, with only a handful of towns reporting numbers in single figures. One of these is the Mediterranean region of the Comunidad Valenciana, where the vast majority of its 500-plus towns and villages are now reporting no cases at all, and a smattering of bigger towns only reporting between one and 15 at the most. The idea of each region's borders being shut, bar opening times restricted, and a curfew of anywhere from 22.00 to midnight imposed, is to stop this excellent progress being ruined by everyone, understandably, wanting to let rip over the long holiday weekend. But we're now starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, and the day will soon come when 'confinement' is an old-fashioned word for childbirth, 'mask' is about fancy dress or a substance you spread on your hair and face to give you silky locks and smooth skin, and 'social distancing' means taking a break from Facebook.

Anyway – if you're already champing at the bit to watch a Good Friday parade in Spain – or watch another one if, like the rest of us, you feel you've forgotten what they look like – now might be a good time to learn a bit more about them so you're clued up and get the best out of it when you're finally seated by the roadside listening to the haunting, rhythmic drum-beats.

The main parade, and in most towns, the only one of two, at Easter is on Good Friday and, unlike most Spanish fiestas where the actual saint or religious occasion they are based on takes a back seat or never features at all except in the name on the events programme, Easter is pretty much 99% linked to the original crucifixion story.

But if you're an atheist, believe in 'something' but don't follow any religion, or your religion is not one of the forms of Christianity, this doesn't mean you should feel left out or that none of it applies to you: The biblical legend involves a series of morals and metaphors, and as a story it's replete with tragedy and joy, and the parades that re-enact it are highly emotional, whatever your faith, or even if you have none at all.

To find out more, about how Spain celebrates in a non-Covid year, and the background to the story if you've never read the Christian bible, take a look at our article here (it's got Antonio Banderas in it, too. Read it through and find out why).

Food is at least as important at Easter in Spain as it is at any other time of the year, especially monas de Pascua (cakes covered in hundreds-and-thousands, with an optional chocolate coating) on the Mediterranean and torrijas (sweet, milky, eggy 'French' toast covered in icing sugar) in Madrid and many inland locations. If you want to mark Easter somehow and feel the loss of the parades has just turned it into four days off work with little to show for it, why not get cooking? Last year, during lockdown, some of the top chefs based in Valencia shared their 'secret' Easter recipes with us. They're not so secret now, and thanks to us at thinkSPAIN, they're also out there in English. Supermarkets are mostly open tomorrow (Saturday) if you're short of any of the ingredients.



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Tom Jones, Simple Minds, Il Divo and Lionel Richie at this year's Marbella Starlite Festival
01 April 2021

FAMOUS national and international bands and solo artists have confirmed their presence at this year's Starlite Festival in Marbella, one of the most eagerly-attended on the Costa del Sol over its decade of life.

So far, Welsh-born crooner Tom Jones, '80s indie-rockers Simple Minds, and soul legend Lionel Richie are definites, as are the multi-lingual modern opera band Il Divo and Colombian reggaetón star Maluma.

Earlier, top 40 chart-hoggers Aitana, David Bisbal, Antonio Orozco, Rosario, Miguel Ríos and Rozalén, and Spain's answer to Cliff Richard, Raphael, confirmed their slots.

Other pre-bookings include Alan Parsons, Passenger, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Antonio José, Magán, Taburete, Pablo López, Ozuna, Sebastián Yatra, José Luis Perales, Ara Malikian, Tomatito, Carlos Rivera, and the Murcia-born early-2000s rock duo Estopa, made up of the Muñoz brothers and whose soulful hits were on constant heavy rotation on mainstream radio at the beginning of the century.

This week, Basque-based modern veterans La Oreja de Van Gogh – a fivesome never off the radio in the first 10 years of the Millennium – have confirmed they will be performing at Starlite on June 25.



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Spain to get 20 million Janssen vaccines this year: One dose only, suitable for any age with 'mild' side-effects
31 March 2021

A SINGLE-DOSE vaccine against Covid-19 created by Janssen will be in use throughout the European Union from April 19, and Spain is set to get enough for 40 million jabs.

Janssen itself has confirmed this, and the European Commission has signed a contract to purchase 400 million doses, of which Spain will have 10%.

Unlike the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, the Janssen version only needs to be administered once, with no second or booster dose a few weeks later, and it can be kept in an ordinary refrigerator rather than needing to be stored at exceptionally-cold temperatures requiring special freezer units.

Janssen says its inoculation is suitable for use in humans of any age, including pregnant women and breast-feeding mums, and that the side-effects from it are 'very mild' – unlike the AstraZeneca injection where many of those who have had it have related intense headaches, hangover-like symptoms and, according to a daily newspaper in the province of Alicante, over 1,000 school teachers are allegedly off sick due to the side-effects of the AstraZeneca jab.



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Another 'alien' monolith appears in Spain – this time on Costa Brava beach
30 March 2021

THOSE who thought the Stanley Kubrick-inspired 'monolith fever' spreading around the globe in December had cooled off altogether will be pleased, or annoyed, to know that it is still burning brightly: Another square-shaped metal post has popped up in Spain, this time on a Costa Brava beach.

Back in November, a steel monolith resembling the 'calling card' left by extra-terrestrials in the famously, and inaccurately, futuristic 2001: Space Odyssey – which left film fans leaving cinemas dazed and confused after its airing in 1968 – appeared out of nowhere in the Utah desert, then another turned up off the central coast road through California.

Between these, one sprung up in Romania, and another in The Netherlands; the fifth in the 'series' appeared in Spain in early December on a hillside above the town of Ayllón in the province of Segovia, Castilla y León, and is thought to have been the first one on earth that was not taken down by concerned authorities.

In fact, Ayllón's mayoress paid a visit to it the morning it 'emerged', and said it had been put back up three times after being blown down. 

Since then, others have made an appearance in the UK and Poland – although of all the monoliths seen so far, the association which claims to be the instigator says it is only behind the ones in Utah and California.

The self-titled group 'The Most Famous Artist', based in the State of New México, has denied any connection with the various European versions, but says it is pleased to see the trend is catching on.

Nobody is quite sure where the Ayllón monolith came from – nor the one that apparently sprung out of the ground in the town of Castell-Platja d'Aro (Girona province) today (Tuesday).

It was spotted on the sands of Sa Conca beach in the residential hub of S'Agaró and is triangular in shape; unlike the dull gunmetal-grey steel post in Ayllón, this one is made from shining chrome or stainless steel, and its top is slanted rather than squared off like the Segovia-province version.



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