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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Learning English
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A local woman in the shop across from where I live put me down from the beginning as an Englishman. She's right, although I could be German or Swedish - as so many of us are. Anyway, English.

And to prove her point, she bursts out with her entire knowledge of the language in one remarkable salute when I heave up alongside.

Wotcher, she says.

I wonder where she picked up that particular greeting. Probably from a holiday visit to Torremolinos some time in the distant past. Or maybe she went to see a show at a music hall in the Old Kent Road.

Wotcher, orl the naybours cried,

ooh yer gonna meet Bill,

as yer walks the street Bill...

For those who need it, including perhaps my friend from over the way, there are a number of English-language schools in Almería ideal for brushing up one's idiom, including one with the odd name of 'The Mancunian Academy', which presumably teaches its students to speak the King's English with a flat Manchester twang.

A friend who hails from that city laughed when I told him about the school and said ... the poor things will all end up speaking Espancunian. Indeed!

A student I know in the Almería educational system is sixteen and he and his 120 classmates are currently using a book called 'The Skin I'm In' by a black American author called Sharon Flake. It's written in the vernacular: '...Then I had to fess up and tell her I forgot to do it. She asked Mr Pajolli if it's OK for me to use my office time to do my math homework. He said, yeah, but that I'd have to make up the time later. Teachers don't do nothing but cause you grief, I swear that's all they do.'

There used to be a Scotsman living in the nearby resort of Roquetas and who taught English. Can you imagine the sounds his more attentive students made? Another teacher I know comes from somewhere 'oop north'. I asked him precisely where a couple of times, but frankly, I couldn't understand what he said.

Over on the other side of the pond, as a Spanish journalist reporting on the USA tells us, more and more people over there are learning to speak Spanish.

Which, as I know from experience, they most certainly aren't.

First of all, it's not Spanish. As anyone can tell you, it's called 'Mexican' (Sorry amigos!) and secondly, no one wants to speak it much beyond 'andalay' which the American girls think means 'beat it'. Indeed they insist that all the Latins learn to speak English (or to be more precise, 'American'). The claim from the Spanish journalist is frankly about as likely as the British all suddenly deciding to learn to speak Urdu.

Back to teaching the Spanish to be able to communicate with us, so that they'll understand us when we want a full-English breakfast, just try and keep it simple.

Don't ask for kippers and remember that if they don't understand you, then shout!

My advice to the Spanish students is to watch movies on the TV in the original language, not dubbed into Spanish. There's a handy button on the remote. Read stuff in English - although maybe pass on Sharon Flake for the time being - stick to Agatha Christie, and even, I don't know, brave the Brit pub down on the Costa and ask for a pint.

But above all, try and shoot for good English. After all, if you are going to make the superhuman effort to learn a foreign language, you might as well get it right. A Spanish woman I once knew spoke fluent English which she had learned while living in the East-end of London. She came from a 'good family' too.

So here's the deal: Learn English from someone who speaks or writes it clearly, because the point is to be able to communicate to those English-speakers you will be meeting later on. Not all of them will speak it very well, so why not make it easy for them.

Are you wimme?

Like 2        Published at 12:49 PM   Comments (0)

Good Food, Good Meat. Why Wait? Let's Eat!
Monday, March 20, 2023

I had two lunches yesterday. The first was an invitation to visit and eat with an Elderly British couple. We had fried turkey breast and a glass of white wine. Followed by an ice-cream on a stick. We talked about the weather (it's been a mixture of sunny and wet days this week).


I then made my excuses and drove along the beach to a restaurant which is opening soon for the season. It was a Spanish friend's birthday and an enormous table for thirty or more had been laid. People came and went as more and more platters arrived from the kitchen. I was sat next to two local people I knew slightly, with a Danish couple seated opposite.

I discovered that the Danes had recently bought a house in the pueblo. I was going to trnslate something for them but discovered that they both spoke fluent Spanish. 'Oh, we learned it when we decided to move here', they said.

How very un-British of them, I thought.

My neighbour passed me endless pieces of meat, sausage, morcilla, alioli and salad. The man on my other side was more concerned about my glass. I had at least three drinks in front of me at one point (although, looking at the picture now, I seem to have been the only one). Pedro was running around telling everyone to eat and drink more, as his sister looked on approvingly. A cousin invited me to go hang-gliding over Easter and a young woman asked me about journalism, as she was studying both this and the English language, and was soon to leave for Malta.

The Spanish, of course, know how to eat and enjoy themselves.

I skipped dinner, by the way.

There's a thread on Facebook with British residents discussing local Mojácar restaurants, which is the best of them and so on. Very positive. There must be a hundred places, with local and foreign cuisine: Spanish, Basque, Madrileño, French, Brazilian, German, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian, American, Italian, English, Irish and Argentinian.

The choices for best place, though, and seen through British eyes, seem odd. The cheapest and worst are mentioned regularly with enormous enthusiasm, while some will only eat in those family-owned place with ridiculously large menus. Menus where one has to take out one's specs ('glafas' as a bilingual friend calls them) and read with a glass of wine to hand.

Me, uh, I'll have what he's having.

Eating out should be a leisurely mixture of good food, good wine, good company and good service. You are paying for some entertainment and some theatre.

Skimp on these and - if it wasn't for the washing up - you might as well have stayed home.

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Under Plastic
Monday, March 13, 2023

I live in an area surrounded by greenhouses.

Plastic ones.

In Almería, and perhaps only counting those invernaderos which cover the dry earth from El Ejido and Dalías east towards Almería City and La Cañada, there are said to be 36,000 hectares of crops growing under plastic. There are more west towards Adra, with the provincial frontier with a small bit of coastal Granada, and on the northern side of Almería; more still around the curiously-named town of Campohermoso (plastic farms are most certainly not hermosos - that's to say: beautiful) located in the campo de Níjar and, back on the coast, as close as they can manage to install them around the attractive natural park of the Cabo de Gata.

An article in the Spanish press calls Almería 'the Orchard of Europe'. It may be thinking more of the olive trees out towards Tabernas and Sorbas, or maybe the lemon tree I've got planted in my garden (you can see it from the street), but our main contribution to the supermarkets of Europe (and even those of the UK when Almería isn't heavily snowed in - at least according to the Daily Express), are the plastic farms, where we grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons (and, er, marijuana too). 

The number of hectares under plastic in the province hasn't changed in twenty years, which seems unlikely, since new ones are always going up, but there you go. 

View from somewhere above El Ejido taken last week


The plastic farms are raised on land which is pretty infertile: blasted by the sun and bone-dry. Back in 1960 (lots of photos here), someone figured out that covering the plot with plastic and bringing in the water - generally from underground aquifers, would encourage the plants to grow faster and stronger. It gets very hot inside the invernaderos, and frankly a bit hard to breathe on the days that one sprays with weed-killer or pesticide, but the profits are good, and the workers don't seem to have anything much to say about the conditions. 

This is because most of them are either 'undocumented' or registered as migrant workers. Many live in wretched conditions (El Walili, a long-term bidonville in Nijar, was abruptly torched and bulldozed flat recently. It had some 500 residents who were obliged to scatter). Around 98% of the workers in these farms are foreigners says the local union, a number somewhere between forty and fifty thousand, and of course they don't have many rights, and certainly not The Vote (needless to say, the racist Vox party does well in the agricultural sector). A further 30,000 (generally Spanish or at least European), work in the packaging plants or as truckers hauling the produce north. 

An article in Público runs details about the labour inspections in the invernaderos and the difficulties of the inspectors in finding who, where and what. According to this, in the last five years, some 11,000 workers have been found to be improperly employed, and the inspectors have handed down around fourteen million euros in fines. Agrodiario on the other hand says that the field-workers are all legal and well paid.

The plastic eventually perishes, and is either lovingly collected and sent to a proper recycling plant, or more likely, discarded in one way or another. An article on Google claims that around 80% of all used plastic ends up either as landfill or simply junked, and another 12% is burned (often in 'accidental' fires). An article at Wiki claims that around 30,000 tons of plastic waste is produced annually. On the bright side, a study by the University of Almería claims that the giant immensity of the plastic actually reduces global warmth - at least locally - by reflecting the sun's heat back into space. 

One of the smaller support industries belongs to the bee-breeders. They produce small hives of a few dozen bumble-bees which are then installed within the plastic farms and employed to fertilize the plants. I sometimes find a stray one coming to inspect my lemon tree (they sting like the very devil).

Almería was always a poor and forgotten part of Spain. Now, with its gigantic industry of plastic farms, producing in 2022 a massive 2,787 million euros in sales, it's certainly odd that Vícar and Níjar are the two poorest municipalities in the entire country.

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Monday, March 6, 2023

We have all laughed, or shuddered anyway, at the mention of Spanish paperwork. What happens is that a veritable legion of functionaries (now, there's a word) spend their entire adult lives - it's a protected job in Spain - filling out forms.

The forms will be in triplicate, need additional supporting documents (which, in turn, will need other bits of paper) and so on.

We used to have to drive into The City, now and again, to hand in, collect, or refile various formularios for sundry purposes. I remember that one would often need a poliza, a twenty-five peseta stamp, to add to the document. These useful and decorative items would be sold in an estanco, a cigarette shop. The nearest one to the Government office invariably being half a mile away. A bit like - and maybe you have noticed - the nearest pharmacy to the hospital or medical centre is invariably located on the other side of town.

Anyway, walking calms the soul (or maybe the sole: I shall have to look it up).

My father-in-law used to be pleased if he got one or more of his three bits of paper stamped or archived as appropriate on his rare trips to Officialdom. He claimed that it brought an interesting sense of drama to his otherwise quiet existence.

We often used - and indeed we still do - the services of a gestoría, an office whose single purpose is to help you get through the various jumps which an immense army of bureaucrats must create to justify their existence. For a modest sum, the gestor will sort you out splendidly - and may, if he has other business to take care of, even accompany you to see the pen-pusher in question.

They all know each other, naturally enough - 'Hola Paco, I've got another one here, he says he wants to import a fire engine'. 'You'll need to fill out this form, and that one and bring along those two from industria, and a P834 from the police. How's your uncle doing, has he had his gall-bladder removed yet?'

You can see why you need a gestor. Buy him a drink afterwards.

Getting a residencia in the old and dark days of the Late Sixties would often revolve around a small gratuity to the nice policeman at the jefatura. I remember being deeply impressed as our gestor swept around the cop's desk and deposited a plastic bag containing a carton of Marlboro and a bottle of Johnny Walker next to the officer's lower extremities.

Everything went smoothly after that.

But, as legions of people pass in front of the armies of bureaucrats, the paperwork begins to mount up. Not just the shelves and the cupboards but the tables and chairs and even the floor are eventually full of piled up documents, and archives, and cardboard folders crammed with photocopies, and binders with abandoned forms and memos, and packets with double-spaced applications and folios in triplicate, bristling with staples and paper clips and Post-its and perhaps even some sealing wax...

and as Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout eventually discovered...

The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall...

When such a moment arrives, the chief pen-pusher will call upstairs to the junior political appointee, impatient to be noticed and moved to higher office, perhaps in the motor division, and inform him of the problem. Maybe fill out a few forms just for the appearence of the thing.

It is now that we meet a new department, the Junta de Expurgo. Their job is haul all the paperwork away, under supervision from a magistrate since it could be sensitive - this is when they might find that empty carton of Marlboro for instance - and to go through it in search of those treasures which must be saved for future researchers as patrimonio histórico.  The rest of it is then destroyed in a special oven along with those inflamable things confiscated by the cops such as - well, perhaps it's better not to ask.

And then, the whole wonderful process begins anew.



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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

While Spain has made leaps and bounds in almost every sphere, public lavatories still need some way to go. We may no longer be in the field of the early travel guide which recommended in the brief section under 'Conveniences' to 'where possible, best start your own', but there are still a few problems that need ironing out.

Being a fastidious and modern country, ruled by all sorts of obscure interests - often of a commercial leaning - we must now expect wheelchair-accessible toilets, even if the building in question has a stairway to get to it. Perhaps, you see, you broke your leg after you gained the bar.

Probably tripped over the step.

Some lavvies don't have a seat, for a reason which I shall shortly be examining, and customers, certain customers, may no doubt be obliged to fastidiously hover over the pan. Which is hard on the thigh muscles. At least these thrones will flush in an orderly way as a rule.

Many years ago, my mother pulled the chain of a local dunny and the whole tank fell off the wall and on to her head. The rest of us standing around the bar were left speechless as she returned, drenched, from the servicio. I believe I learned several words I hadn't come across until then. 

Worse still, there are those latrines that don't rinse, and haven't for some time. The lever has disappeared, or maybe it rusted. You probably won't find them in your local bar, but if you find yourself caught short in the wrong neighbourhood, you'll see that, O Lordy, they exist.

One horrid sort of privy is the old-fashioned squatter, which is a kind of perforated porcelain base with two raised bits for your feet, pointing either one way or indeed the other according to the nature of one's purpose.

On the bright side, the days of being invited to put the used paper in a handy nearby basket have more or less passed.

Pissoirs, those elegant against the wall systems, are odd. They are often fixed to the wall in an elevated position, too high for the shorter gentleman. Oddly, in the USA, this tendency is reversed, with the urinal apparently installed for those of a smaller stature. Our local hotel favours these plumbing fixtures in a basement setting, which is fine, only the automatic light tends to go out after a brief time, which can be annoying if one is day-dreaming.

New Spanish bogs have lower and close-to-the-porcelain tanks, so a collapsing reservoir rarely happens anymore, even if the flow in the modern variant is somewhat reduced. They have a small and large flush to save water. Which may explain why customers sometimes feel that their brief visit to the WC is rather second-hand.

Indeed, I once stayed in a very smart hotel in Melilla and, on removing the wrapper on the crapper and lifting the lid, found a large turd in the bowl.

They had a chocolate on the pillow, too.

Talking of low tanks, many modern privies have a pan so close to the flusher than the seat won't stay vertical for the discerning gentlemen. It's hard and unnatural to try and hold the seat up while taking a whizz, so the usual thing is to not bother, and merely piss all over the commode, seat included. Using one foot to hold it up doesn't work either unless you have a good sense of balance and, besides, are seriously well-endowed.

'Yes, I've finished, go ahead' you mutter to the next person as you make your escape.

Maybe as many as a quarter of all public johns have this unfortunate design-flaw, at least around where I live.

One small step better, other thrones have a seat which appears to be steady when lifted to the vertical, but will suddenly fall from the position with a mighty crash. If that doesn't make you jerk mid-stream, nothing will.

It's all because the tank is to close to the khazi, for goodness sake. I can't imagine who designs these things, the potty company or the installers.

It's as if the Nation's fontaneros all sit down to pee - or maybe they have a secret code of humour... 

But Hush!, the Secretary has just informed the President of the Worshipful Guild of Plumbers that he may rise at his convenience and deliver his speech to the congegration. Apart for his tendency to tell fart jokes, one can be sure how he will begin:

'Ladies and Gents...'

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Franco Remains Dead (Despite What We Hear)
Friday, February 24, 2023

 I was a handsome young fellow in those days, un señorito if I say so myself. I was living in Mojácar in a society of older and generally rather drunken Europeans and a sprinkling of Spaniards who treated us, in those days, with a mixture of gratitude and respect, as we learned a few words of Spanish, built unimaginably large houses and drove astonishing cars (usually with the steering wheel in a novel place on the dashboard) and sometimes bought them a drink in the bar in the village square - the Hotel Indalo run by Antonio. Toma una copa conmigo, my dad would say.

Some of those cars would fall off the cliff as we drove home, sometimes with tragic results, but we were left alone by the police - we were bringing wealth to the village and it was sorely needed. Jacinto, the old mayor, his job awarded to him by the provincial governor, was careful to see that we were happy and that no one watered down the gin.

They were idylic times.

Franco, we said, if the subject came up, he's a good old thing - keeps the place safe. And it was true enough. The Guardia Civil were feared and when it came to it they were, let's say, suitably 'trigger happy'. Things were quiet enough in our small, forgotten, ignored and peaceful corner of a province that, during the Civil War, had been fiercely supportive of the Republicans. Every village had its stories of murder and executions: it had been a terrible time, now carefully put to the side and forgotten.

The Swedes up in Jávea went rather further than we did, organising one day a big (and approved) rally in the bull-ring, with home-made banners reading 'Arriba España' and 'Up Franco' (they meant well). But we were quiet enough - never talk about politics or religion was our motto. Antonio, un brandy por favor.

Then came word that the Old Boy was failing. He was put on life support in the Ruber Clinic in Madrid and lay in and out of a coma for several weeks as the world anxiously sucked its teeth and wondered what would happen next. The once and future king Juan Carlos was waiting with the rest of us.

Saturday Night Live in New York famously began its regular news-segment with the story that 'The Caudillo of Spain, Francisco Franco, is still dead'.

It's said that the crowds oputside the clinic would enthusiasticaly shout 'Adiós, adiós' and that the stricken dictator would ask a fawning courtier, 'what are they saying?' 'Goodbye, goodbye', said the lackey. 'Why, where are they all going?'

And then, finally, he went. On November 20th 1975, the Generalísimo breathed his last and Spain went into heavy mourning. Everything was closed down and quiet.

The small group of emigrés that lived in and around Mojácar naturally felt sorry for their kind hosts and thought that the best thing to do would be to show up at the iglesia for the mass to celebrate the soul of the murderous old sod. We trooped in to the church, dressed in shirts and ties (those of us who owned such things) and were faintly surprised to see that, apart from a couple of old girls dressed in that kind of black you don't normally see these days, and a startled-looking priest, there was nobody at all. The cura gamely got on with his pater nosters and we stood or sat, as required, while trying to look as sorrowful as we could. What will they do without the old swine? we wondered.

At last the service creaked to an end. We passed through the door of the church into the somber evening outside, where a large and evidently indignant group of Mojaquero males were waiting for us. A threanening pause. Then Alcalde Jacinto suddenly broke the hostile silence with exactly the best thing to say:

'Antonio, go and open up the bar, the extranjeros are thirsty'. With a groan of relief, we all scampered off around the corner to the Hotel Indalo for a welcome libation.
I found the newspaper featured at the top of this story while cleaning out a box of junk this morning.

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Mojácar, 2073
Saturday, February 11, 2023

Archaeologists have begun work on a new dig to discover precisely what lies under the town of Disneyville in southern Spain.

It is known that the settlement under the garish collection of today's souvenir stands and disco-pubs was once called Mojácar, but there is little left to guide the investigators into an idea of life in the town in the Twentieth Century.

Beginning at the foot of the hill, volunteers from the Granada School of Archaeology have been working diligently with spades, brushes and blue plastic buckets to unearth the secrets of the town that once existed here.

They now know that the 'Moorish Fountain' was built over the remains of the earlier 'Public Fountain', with a bounty of white marble in what was known at the time as the 'Bathroom China' style of reconversion. The fountain's earlier purpose of washing clothes, refreshing the livestock and providing drinking water (this in the halcyon times before the nuclear desalination plant) was largely sublimated in favour of a photographic concept, designed to seduce the weary visitors, with the erection of a peculiar and most ill-thought municipal art gallery and some other attractions of dubious historical value nearby. By the turn of the century, the area had become the centre of Mojaquero culture, with seven bars and a number of jolly festivals, usually including the ancient sport of delivering something pointy to a gaily coloured and beribboned hole from horseback (an early version of wham, bam and thank you Ma'am).

We drive up the hill on the Avenida Encamp (named after a town in Andorra famous for its foreign bank accounts) and past the venerable Hotel Moresco, which is one of the rare buildings that has survived the many changes to the settlement over the centuries. Originally built by the Phoenicians, the hotel has remained closed to the public now for over 65 years, glaring remorselessly at the passers-by from its location on the bluff. The owners are said to owe more money in taxes than the value of the building, while having remarkable connections in Madrid. So, an impasse.

Visitors would find it hard to imagine that, at one time, Disneyville was once thought to be an attractive residential village, with a small number of amusing bars, an elegant theatre, an open-air cinema, several romantic arches (including the Arco de Luciana), a single town hall building and sundry other wonders now lost. The surrounds of the old castle that crowns the hill was heavily reconverted in the late 20th Century, with the discovery of an ancient burial ground bulldozed quickly over, and is now the home to a worldwide association of graffiti artists. Another area used as an ancient cemetery was the Plaza de Parterre, rebuilt in an amazing mixture of styles, including Roman, Moorish and Neo-vulgarian. Above, archaeologists have located a strange plaza with what appears to be a tiny underground garage (evidently accessible only to those with impeccable connections who may have been allowed to drive through the pedestrian streets of the village before the introduction of personal fliers and other modern forms of transportation).

But, after all is done, the characterless buildings excavated to find the cultura popular underneath, we must move to the Plaza Nueva, so called, despite being erected in the early 16th Century. At the time, settlers, given land in nearby Turre by Royal Decree, could not stay overnight in that region, thanks to the irate mozarabes who dwelt in the hills above, so they would live in and around the main square of Moxacra - as the town was called by the departed Moors.

A few centuries later, now with a road of access built in the mid 1950s (the Generalísimo, later Avenida Horizon and now Av Encamp), the square became the main point of the village. A small hotel called the Hotel Indalo dominated the plaza (archaeologists have found traces of it under the remains of at least fifteen different nick nack shops) and diagonally across the square, the largest of all the emporia stands, three stories of tat. Previously, a modest carpentry evidently occupied the same space,  connected with attractive arches to the narrow street to the left and the wider pedestrian avenue towards the church on the right.

But, it's the viewpoint we focus our attention on: This was a three-storey car-park built by a mayor in the early eighties, with vertiginous ramps for the vehicles. The building was in one way a failure, but it was later used for some small purposes underneath, and a mayor purpose above, where its large marble roof became a perfect place for a number of competing cafeterias to fill with their brightly-coloured tables and dustbins. The viewpoint was an immediate success (substituting, as it did, the previous exactly-the-same view).

In 2016, the construction was demolished and another viewpoint was created to crown a fresh - albeit never completed town hall (paperwork and jobs, then as now, was a lively consideration of the local inhabitants). The view is marred somewhat by an earlier wave of archeologists, who disembowled the famous 'piramid mountain' in front, known in previous times as Mojácar la Vieja, which was later found to be empty.

The narrow streets of the earlier town were, generally speaking, preserved (except near the church, now a souvenir shop selling Chinese-made material, including small busts of one Walter B Disney, said to have been born here in the late 1890s). Some streets had been introduced, as it were 'from scratch', in the 1950s and evidence of earlier lanes, running in different directions, give an early example to the sometimes ingenious local planning. The earlier 'popular architecture' was replaced in the second half of the 20th Century by uninspired 'off the shelf' designs with untypical large windows, later used inevitably as shop-fronts.

One narrow alley gives evidence to a brief presence of a large number of pre-Brexit British settlers in Disneyville: a street which for around thirty years was called Calle Pedro Barato, named after an ex-pat scallywag who was known as 'Cheap Pete' by a grateful if poorly-informed mayor. The name of the street was quietly changed  in the early years of the current century to Calle Cal.

Disneyville hides many interesting anecdotes under the streets and rubble and is well worth a visit.

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The Mojácar Story
Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Mojácar is a beautiful town located on the coast in the Province of Almería in the south-east corner of Spain. It is small, relatively unknown and is home to several thousand northern European and Spanish settlers which, between them, make up rather more than half of the population. The municipality is said to enjoy a micro-climate: not too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter. The community is traditionally divided into el pueblo, the upper town; la fuente, the fountain (the lower reaches of the town) and la playa, the coast, where in fact around 80% of the population lives. Other quieter areas exist – such as las huertas (the orchards) and the small hamlets that form part of the 72 square kilometre municipality such as Sopalmo, Agua del Medio, Las Alparatas and so on. Behind the pueblo, there are mountains to climb and forgotten sites to see. The beach itself stretches for around 17 kilometres and has, as might be expected, everything from full-service well appointed Blue-flag beaches with bars and restaurants, life-guards and public showers, to quiet empty beaches where the only interruption comes from a curious seagull.
Mayor Jacinto Alarcón is remembered as the man who re-invented Mojácar. ‘It’s where the sun spends the winter’ he said in 1965 with satisfaction, as the first trickle of tourists began to visit the village. Some of these early visitors bought houses or land, at what today would be thought of as ludicrously cheap prices. They stayed and their culture and ideas were somehow assimilated into Mojácar.
The village grew slowly, as new houses were built. The beach, a little-used area reserved mainly for the tomato growers, finally became urbanised as well.
Some of the new settlers were artists. They were attracted by the remarkable village, built as it were to look like a scattering of sugar lumps on the final mountain of the Filabres chain, as it plunges from the interior of the province of Almería into the blue Mediterranean below. It is a harsh beauty: Jacinto had insisted that all the houses must be painted with whitewash and the dramatic tumble of flat-roofed white houses with narrow streets adorning a hill some 200 metres above sea-level, in the most arid surrounding, remains irresistible to artists, poets and writers.
The hills that today are adorned with the white cubist village have been inhabited for thousands of years. In nearby Cuevas del Almanzora, Major neolithic remains were discovered around a hundred years ago by a Belgian archaeologist called Louis Siret: Mojácar can probably claim a similar longevity. The nearby pyramid mountain of ‘old Mojácar’, a steep indefensible hill visible from the Mojácar viewpoint off the Plaza Nueva, may give a clue to Mojácar’s name. The hill appears to have had a religious significance, and it seems that the Roman name ‘Mons Sacra’, sacred mountain, was later transformed by the Moors who held Mojácar for many hundreds of years until the end of the XV Century into ‘Muxacra’, and from there, it changed again with Christian tongues into ‘Moxacar’ and eventually Mojácar.
Back in olden times, the sea was a potential enemy. Pirates could arrive on the beach at any moment, and villages were generally built away from the immediate coast, to make it easier for the defenders and correspondingly more difficult for the pirates – generally issuing from the Barbary Coast in North Africa (although even the Vikings managed to infiltrate the Mediterranean as far as Valencia back in the IX Century).
It was best to keep the settlement hidden, and Mojácar originally grew behind the hill it now crowns. In the event of an attack, the defenders had the option to flee inland. Watchtowers along the coast, ready with fire and pitch, would give first warning of any incursion. Some of these watchtowers and forts, carefully restored, can be seen today locally, including one of each along the Mojácar coast to the South.
The fall of Mojácar to the Christian Kings, los Reyes Católicos, in 1488 is remembered colourfully in a local festival that occurs on and around June 12th each year. Mojácar, an important local Moorish-held town, was on the route that Queen Isabela of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon were taking towards Granada, the final capital of the Moorish empire in Spain (which fell in 1492, the same year that Columbus discovered America). The story has it that the interview for the surrender of Mojácar (to avoid a siege and probable slaughter by the overwhelming Christian forces) was held at the Fuente (the Fountain) between Captain Garcilaso for the Christians and the Muslim leader Alavez who was asked for the surrender of his town. According to legend, this is his reply:
We are as Spanish as you. We have been here for seven hundred years and now you tell us to leave. We have never raised arms against the Christians; I think we should be treated like brothers, not like enemies and we should be allowed to continue to work our land. But know this: before we surrender like cowards, we will die like Spaniards’. Brave words!
In 1530 Emperor Charles V received such support for the house of Hapsburg from Mojácar that the city was awarded the coat of arms of a two-headed eagle. Later, Philip II added the slogan: La muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Mojácar, llave y amparo del Reino de Granada: 'The very noble and loyal city of Mojácar, key and guardian of the Kingdom of Granada'.
Mojácar was important locally during the following centuries and is recorded as reaching 10,000 inhabitants in the XVIII Century. Another source records a population of 6,000 people in 1870.
In 1911, a local census records that Mojácar had 4,979 people on the town hall register, and the town had just installed public lighting (run on acetylene). There was a café, a ‘cantina’, two butchers, a carpenter’s, three food shops, a pharmacy, a post office and a bookshop.
 The pueblo maintained this number of inhabitants until round about 1920 when, slowly, the numbers began to fall, speeding its descent in the 1930s. Through the various local vicissitudes of the drop in the local water-table, the end of the local de-forestation (due to an unexpected lack of trees), a peculiar plague of locusts in 1901, the end of the local silver, copper and lead mines in the 1920s (run for 40 years in the surrounding hills mainly by the British) and the troubled times of the Civil War, the area in general eventually became depopulated with mass emigrations to Barcelona, Algeria, Germany and even Argentina, and Mojácar itself began its long descent into what was, by 1960, a moribund village of just 600 souls.
A local legend, impossible to prove or otherwise, says that Walt Disney was either born in Mojácar, or perhaps born in Chicago to a disgraced Mojácar girl, who fled the town for America around 1899, pregnant and afraid.
Modern History
By 1960, as the population fell away, there were only a few hundred people left; but one of them was the irrepressible Jacinto Alarcón, chosen by the provincial governor as mayor. At the same time, attracted by the light and the views, a school of Almerian artists called ‘Los Indalianos’ (named after a Spanish saint) were frequent visitors to the forgotten pueblo.
Happily, the mayor and the artists welcomed each other. The artists named the local totem after themselves – the Indalo: a figure of a stick-man that appears to hold a bow or a canopy over its head as protection. Used in Mojácar for centuries and previously known as ‘the little Mojácar man’, the totem to be one day known as the Indalo was painted over the lintels of houses for good luck. 
Jacinto began to give away houses and land to those who agreed to settle and to invest. A number of foreigners began to take up his offer and, at one point, a number of foreign ambassadors owned houses in Mojácar (giving rise to the street called ‘Calle de los Embajadores’). Jacinto also managed to contact the minister for tourism in Madrid to ask him to build a Parador government hotel in Mojácar, which to everyone’s surprise, was granted.
The beach, now known as Mojácar Playa, began to attract home-buyers. Houses and later urbanisations were built. A hotel chain came to Mojácar in 1975, bringing ‘package tourism’ with them. The town’s fortunes were guaranteed and Jacinto retired, giving way to the democratic mayors which followed Franco’s death.
Today, Mojácar has some eight thousand inhabitants, rising in the summer months to perhaps as many as twenty five thousand.
Mojácar has never truly been famous for its fish and there is no port. Hobby fishing and, more importantly, the next-door port of Garrucha nevertheless supply Mojácar with a bounty of fresh fish and molluscs. The traditional Mojácar fare is based mainly around the pig, with many types of local sausage, and of course the many products of the fields and orchards. Try the Wednesday market in the parking area behind the pueblo for the freshest local produce. For eating out, a number of local bars will offer tapas, those small nibbles that come with a beer or a glass of wine.
There are local restaurants which serve delicious meals, whether simple salads and fish on the hot plate, or chicken, pork and mutton dishes, or of course paella: that famous Spanish rice-dish. There are other restaurants who favour ‘modern cuisine’, inspired by some of the World’s greatest chefs, where Spanish ingenuity in the kitchen is a byword.
Then, we have a plethora of fine foreign restaurants, each anxious for your patronage. We have food from Germany, Thailand, the Middle East, North Africa, Argentina, Mexico, China, France, Italy, Ireland, the UK, Holland and India. Everything from a simple pizza to the best of fine-dining.
Mojácar Today
With the arrival of the first foreigners in the sixties, Mojácar’s hidden life was lost. The village soon had a number of foreign bars and restaurants, and the silver Indalo medallion was better known in far-off London or New York than was the province of Almería itself. This helped to make Mojácar a cosmopolitan town and, as more restaurants, beach bars and hotels sprung up on the beach, the town became in short order an internationally-known resort. Today, there is a mixture of local and foreign citizens, with the multicultural junior school as perhaps a worthy symbol of this high level of integration.
Mojácar, indescribably beautiful, has been chosen to join the select group of ‘Pueblos más Bonitos de España’, the most beautiful towns of Spain (there are currently eighteen in Andalucía).
Fiestas and Attractions
There is always something going on in Mojácar. Concerts are organised both by the Culture Department in the Town Hall as well as by the many bars and beach-clubs. There are more of these during the high season, which stretches from Easter to late September. Other attractions include art exhibitions (there is a municipal art gallery and some other commercial ones). There are any number of sports activities, from aquatic sports to lawn bowls, golf, padel-tennis and bicycling: clubs and teachers/trainers are easily found. There are also walking clubs, gyms and yoga groups. There is, of course, any number of boutiques and shops to suit all tastes.
The festivals organised by the Town Hall include the Carnival week, a picnic called ‘la Vieja Remanona’ and the Romería de San Isidro. These take place in the first months of the year. Later come the Easter parades and the colourful and famous Moors and Christians celebrations in the second week of June. This festival sees the townsfolk divided into half a dozen different groups, known as cábilas, and they will dress up in astonishing period costumes and will party for three days straight. The summer continues with regular concerts in the Town Square and culminates with the town fiesta of Saint Agustín on and around the 28th of August. The final dates on the calendar are the Virgen del Rosario on and around the 7th of October and then the Christmas, New Year and Twelfth Night celebrations. 
How to Get There
Mojácar is 13 kilometres off the A7 motorway, leaving either at the Vera or Los Gallardos exits. The Almería airport is around 50 minutes and the Alicante airport is about three hours away. Other airports within the region include Murcia, Granada and Málaga.

Like 3        Published at 8:20 PM   Comments (3)

The Tragedy in Algeciras.
Monday, January 30, 2023

Racism isn’t a subject I wanted to get into here (beyond a few jokes at the expense of the Brexiteers and their comic view of foreigners), but a recent, terrible, event in Algeciras has brought the subject up once again in political conversation and, inevitably, social media, where we all tend to say (or write in under 280 letters) – more than we should.

Especially if we sign it with un nick (an alias).

A Moroccan left his home the other evening, armed with a machete, and killed a local priest. There’s a video of his victory strut (available on Twitter) and, encouraged, he went off and wounded a second priest before being arrested.

His photo in the media, taken at the police station, shows somebody who is clearly pleased with himself.

The reaction was perhaps obvious, as we’ve all seen it before.

The local Muslim community showed horror at the tragedy and they acquitted themselves, as they always do, with sympathy, kindness and honour. “This is very sad, and it tarnishes our image. Our holy book says that no one can kill. For us God gives life and no one has the right to take it away. That is what Islam says, Islam is peace. The boy who has done this does not know Islam, he is yet another victim, the culprits are the leaders (jihadists) who brainwash people like him," a 36-year-old Moroccan who has lived in Algeciras for decades told reporters.

Elsewhere, we read that the Muslim community in Algeciras are receiving threats: ‘we are being warned that the guns are loaded and ready’.

There are some 875,000 Moroccans living legally in Spain, plus many from other Muslim nations. One family from Casablanca lives next to me in Almería, and I am close to them. On the other side, we have several young Africans who have crossed the Mediterranean in dangerous conditions. One of them lost a brother on such a crossing. They are friendly, too.

Maybe, of course, for them as much as for me, it’s hard being a racist when you’re a foreigner. 

No doubt the Secret Police keep an eye on all of us foreigners, which makes me think – didn’t I used to be a European?

And talking of the police, a chief inspector from Valencia, recently sacked for racist comments, is now patrolling the churches there with (a gang of ruffians) concerned citizens.

But then, others also keep an eye on us, especially if we can’t vote. Take the Vox party and its followers. ‘You open the doors, and in they come’ says Santiago Abascal bitterly.

The PP’s Núñez Feijóo meanwhile was unable to express himself adequately after claiming that ‘We Christians for centuries have never killed for our religion’.

We read that ‘…Although the atrocity met with swift condemnation and revulsion from Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, the reactions of the leaders of the conservative People’s party (PP) and the far-right Vox party have been denounced by members of the country’s Socialist-led coalition government and by migrant and anti-racism NGOs…’

ECD runs an opinion piece: ‘…You don't have to be a Vox sympathizer to recognize that our first concern should be the anti-Christian hatred reflected in this attack and others of the same type that are taking place in Europe. Before the imaginary victims of possible Islamophobia, we should think of the real victims of a deadly Islamist ideology…’

And that silly fellow in the police station. Smiling.

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Pedro Sánchez, Heavyweight
Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Pedro Sánchez may be facing an election year, and even some wobbly polling results, but he is flying high at the present time.

Let’s start with this headline: 'The Government, in full global respect: praise in Davos, Pedro Sánchez on CNN and Yolanda Díaz in The Financial Times. The policies of the Spanish Government are recognized in different relevant spaces and in the media. The president of the World Economic Forum publicly praised the good economic data. Labour Ministers such as those from Brazil or Germany consider Spain a benchmark in labour matters'.

"Congratulations on the good economic results. The same is not happening in the rest of the world", says the President of the World Economic Forum Børge Brende to Pedro Sánchez.

The president participated last week (Tuesday) in the economic forum of Davos in which he had asked the global elites to help governments to oblige companies to pay their share of taxes and to deter them from storing their wealth in tax havens.

Sánchez has one evident advantage over Núñez Feijóo when abroad – he speaks several languages (English, French, Portuguese and Italian) whereas Feijóo admits ruefully that he ‘wished he spoke English’ (we are reminded of Mariano Rajoy when he was asked a question by a BBC reporter in English and his famous reply “Venga, no hombre” before pointing towards a safer bet).

In short, Sánchez looks the part.

In other welcome news for Sánchez, December year-on-year inflation was 10.4% in the EU, 9.2% in the Eurozone, while Spain was the lowest in Europe at 5.5%. The figures come from Eurostat.

Following Davos, Spain and France signed a historic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation last week as Sánchez met with Emmanuel Macron in Barcelona for a summit in a meeting described as sharing a European vision. A strategic alliance, no less. It all went well, beyond a protest by the currently reduced independence movement in Barcelona (where one senior independentista was thumped by a police baton during the excitement). One source talks of ‘Language learning, the cross-border hospital in Cerdanya, and the boosting of tourism: Spain and France's Treaty of Barcelona Friendship agreement signed in the Catalan capital aims at strengthening ties in the environment, plus security, culture, and defence’.

The answer must be a strong Europe says Emmanuel Macron in an interview with El País.

As Pedro edges towards joining Macron as being recognised internationally as a Statesman (‘a skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure’ says the Oxford Dictionary), his image is under ferocious attack from the Right, using facts, fiction, bulos, sometimes manipulation from the media and even the judiciary (lawfare); and, inevitably, pressure, threats and insults from both the public and certain agitators on social media (the probable cause of the abrupt departure of Jacinda Ardern over in New Zealand).

Sánchez renowned abroad may not mean that he will continue to lead Spain after the next domestic elections, of course: but, as they say, forty-eight weeks is a long time in politics.

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