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The History Man

This blog contains interesting facts about the history of Spain and things Spanish.

Día de Andalucía – Tuesday 28 February 2023
Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Andalucía Day marks the anniversary of a referendum held on 28 February, 1980 when a large majority of voters supported the referendum for Andalucía to become one of the 17 autonomous communities in Spain, following Spain’s democratisation after nearly forty years of the Franco dictatorship. 

General Franco died in November 1975 and was succeeded as Head of State by King Juan Carlos I, since disgraced and living in exile.  The History Man has done some research ..…


Día de Andalucía is a significant day in the life of most andaluces. It is a public holiday so that schools, businesses, and government offices are closed.

In 2020 it was not celebrated officially because of the Covid pandemic. In 2021, 28-F, as the Spanish call it, was restricted, again because of the Coronavirus.

In 2022 Día de Andalucía was back to normal and all hell was let loose. It promises to be the same again today.

Many people will spend the day quietly with family or close friends. However, some people organise or attend private parties with traditional music, dancing, food and drink. Some municipalities hold communal meals with traditional foods, drinks and entertainment. This did not happen in 2020 or 2021, of course, because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

The autonomous community of Andalucía shares international land borders with Portugal and Gibraltar. Within Spain, it borders the autonomous communities of Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura and Murcia. People in Andalucía voted for the region to become an autonomous community of Spain on February 28, 1980. However, the Spanish Parliament only accepted Andalucía as a historic nationality in 2006.

Andalucía’s flag is widely displayed on Andalucía Day. It consists of three equal horizontal bars. The top and lower bars are dark green and the middle bar is white. Andalucía’s coat of arms is at the centre of the flag. Andalucía’s coat of arms consists of an image of the mythical Greek hero Heracles between two columns. The columns represent the Pillars of Heracles. These are the rocks on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar.

In many cities, towns and villages in Andalucía people decorate their balconies with the regional flag and with green-and-white bunting.

This year it looks like we may have gotten to grips with the Covid-19 virus, so everything should be more or less back to normal. Let’s hope so and let’s enjoy today.

This writer already has his plans in place: he’s off to Allioli Bar y Mas in Jimera de Líbar, Málaga, to see live music performed by the rock band Equis, featuring Markus Myers, formerly of the band Alicia’s Attic.

Beer, tapas, fresh air and brilliant music!

!Felices fiestas!

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23/24 February – bad days for democracy
Friday, February 24, 2023

Two attacks on democracy have taken place on 23 and 24 February. One, 42 years ago in Spain and the other, 12 months ago in Ukraine. The History Man tells us more.





It is 12 months since Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, launched his illegal and brutal attack on Ukraine. He called it a special operation to stave off the "nazification" of Ukraine.

Does Putin think we’re stupid? Or that the Russian people are? Problem is, propaganda and lies like this are all the vast majority of Russians get to hear via the tightly controlled media in that country.

The latest death toll figures are difficult to establish with both sides over- or under-estimating the data for their own political reasons. Many agencies make different estimates of the death and injury statistics.

Official US resources reckon that 200,000 soldiers have died on both sides.

Other “official” figures show that 7,199 Ukraine civilians have been killed – a war crime, or more accurately 7,199 separate war crimes.

18,483 civilian casualties were reported between February 24 and January 23, 2023, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

1,276 children have been killed or injured in violence between the beginning of the conflict and January 23, 2023.

About 5.7 million school-aged children have been affected by the conflict, including 3.6 million due to school closures.

17.7 million people need humanitarian aid and protection. In addition to the more than 8 million refugees outside Ukraine, an estimated 5.5 people have been displaced within Ukraine.

With over 8 million fleeing Ukraine as of early January, this has become one of the largest and fastest displacement crises in the world today, according to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Human Rights). It is also one of the bloodiest conflicts in Europe since World War II.

Data provided by


Spain and 23-F

23 February was the date, 42 years ago, when a pistol-wielding civil guard, Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, backed by 200 civil guards, entered the chamber of the Spanish parliament, fired shots into the air and tried to initiate an ill-advised and under-prepared golpe de estado (coup).

The coup attempt failed and democracy was quickly restored.

I wrote about this a year ago in Eye on Spain. Please see A Failed Coup (


The future of democracy

Can democracy as a political concept survive? When democratic political systems elect people like Trump, Johnson, Erdogan and even Putin, one has to raise one's eyebrows.

It’s an interesting debate. Absolutely crucial is that Putin must not win this war. The West is behind Ukraine, but despite the provision of massive resources, more needs to be done. There is a lot of rhetoric on the part of politicians like Biden, Sunak, Macron and Sanchez, and belatedly Schulz in Germany, but is it enough?


© The History Man

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Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday
Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the 40 days running up to Easter. Shrove Tuesday is observed in many Christian countries through participation in confession and absolution.

For most of us, however, it is simply Pancake Day.

The History Man delves deeper into this tradition.


Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is a moveable feast determined by Easter, which in turn is determined by the Moon. The expression "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word shrive, meaning " absolve".

In France, Shrove Tuesday is known as Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday"), referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

Many Christian congregations plus non-practising folk observe the day through eating pancakes.

In some Christian countries, it is also a carnival day, the last day of "fat eating" or "gorging" before the fasting period of Lent.


Why pancakes?

It was traditional in many societies to eat pancakes or other foods made with the butter, eggs and fat or lard that would need to be used up before the beginning of Lent.  

The specific custom of British Christians eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday dates to the 16th century.

The word shrove is a form of the English word shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins. Thus, Shrove Tuesday was named after the custom of Christians to be "shriven" before the start of Lent.

In the UK, Ireland and parts of the Commonwealth, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day, as it became a traditional custom to eat pancakes. 

In Spanish-, Portuguese- and Italian-speaking countries, among others, it is known as carneval. This derives from Medieval Latin carnelevamen ("the putting away of flesh") and thus to another aspect of the Lenten fast, to abstain from eating meat.

The day, or week, is often celebrated with street processions or fancy dress. The most famous of these events are the Brazilian Carnival in Río de Janeiro and the Santa Cruz Carnival in Tenerife (Canary Islands).

In Spain, the Carnival Tuesday is named día de la tortilla, "omelette day", since, rather than pancakes, an omelette made with some sausage or pork fat is eaten.

Shrove Tuesday serves a dual purpose of allowing Christians to repent of any sins they might have made before the start of Lent on the next day, Ash Wednesday, and giving them the opportunity to engage in a last round of merriment before the start of the sombre Lenten season.

Pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding Lent, because they are a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasises eating simpler food, and refraining from food that would give undue pleasure: in many cultures, this means no meat, dairy products or eggs.

On Pancake Day, "pancake races" are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning. 

The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially in England. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan while running. 


Shrove Tuesday in Spain

As indicated previously, omelette is eaten instead of pancakes, according to tradition thus using up the surplus butter and eggs, which couldn’t be eaten during Lent.

There are processions in most towns and cities, plus other events and activities. Since this week coincides with schools’ half-term holiday, known here as Semana Blanca, there is plenty for the kids.

I haven’t been to Río, but I have been to the carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife a number of times. Spectacular!


Enjoy your pancakes or your tortillas!


© The History Man


With acknowledgements to Wikipedia


Tags: Ash Wednesday, butter, Canary Islands, día de la tortilla, eggs, frying pan, History Man, Lent, pancake, Pancake Day, pancake race, Puerto de la Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, shrive, shrove, Shrove Tuesday, Tenerife, tortilla

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St Valentine's Day
Monday, February 13, 2023

Tomorrow, 14 February, is St Valentine's Day. Have you ever thought about the origins of the custom of sending flowers and cards, going for a romantic meal, etc?



Last year The History Man posted Valentine's own story. Valentinus, a Roman, lived in the third century AD. He died on 14 February 269 AD. Here is his story again, for 2023, translated from the original Latin.


“Let me introduce myself. My name is Valentine. I lived in Rome during the third century. That was long, long ago! At that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius. I didn't like Emperor Claudius, and I wasn't the only one! A lot of people shared my feelings.

“Claudius wanted to have a big army. He expected men to volunteer to join. Many men just did not want to fight in wars. They did not want to leave their wives and families. As you might have guessed, not many men signed up. This made Claudius furious. So what happened? He had a crazy idea. He thought that if men were not married, they would not mind joining the army. So Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages. Young people thought his new law was cruel. I thought it was preposterous! I certainly wasn't going to support that law!

“Did I mention that I was a priest? One of my favourite activities was to marry couples. Even after Emperor Claudius passed his law, I kept on performing marriage ceremonies -- secretly, of course. It was really quite exciting. Imagine a small candle-lit room with only the bride and groom and myself. We would whisper the words of the ceremony, listening all the while for the steps of soldiers.

“One night, we did hear footsteps. It was scary! Thank goodness the couple I was marrying escaped in time. I was caught. (Not quite as light on my feet as I used to be, I guess.) I was thrown in jail and told that my punishment was death.

“I tried to stay cheerful. And do you know what? Wonderful things happened. Many young people came to the jail to visit me. They threw flowers and notes up to my window. They wanted me to know that they, too, believed in love.

“One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit me in the cell. Sometimes we would sit and talk for hours. She helped me to keep my spirits up. She agreed that I did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages. On the day I was to die, I left my friend a little note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. I signed it, "Love from your Valentine."

“I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. It was written on the day I died, February 14, 269 A.D. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh -- because they know that love can't be beaten!”




I wrote this piece some years ago and I cannot remember my source. I hope I am not guilty of infringing copyright or plagiarising someone else's work.

If I am, please accept my apologies and get in touch and I'll have the post removed.


Tags: Claudius, emperor, card, flowers, heart, St Valentine, San Valentin, Valentine, Valentinus


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Friday the 13th
Friday, January 13, 2023

Today is Friday the 13th. There will be one more in 2023. Many people consider this day to be unlucky and try to avoid situations where bad luck may occur.

The History Man has been taking a look at this superstition.



Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year. For example, 2015 had a Friday the 13th in February, March, and November; 2017 through 2020 had two Friday the 13ths each; 2016, 2021 and 2022 had just one occurrence of Friday the 13th each; 2023 and 2024 will have two Friday the 13ths each.

According to folklore historian Donald Dossey, the unlucky nature of the number "13" originated with a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest, and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. According to Dossey: "Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day." This major event in Norse mythology caused the number 13 to be considered unlucky.


Christian associations

The superstition seems to relate to various things, like the story of Jesus’ Last Supper and crucifixion in which there were 13 individuals present on the 13th of Nisan, Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday. Some believe that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to take his seat, although this is not stated in the Bible.

In France, Friday 13th might have been associated with misfortune as early as the first half of the 19th century. A character in the 1834 play Les Finesses des Gribouilles’ states, "I was born on a Friday, December 13th, 1813 from which come all of my misfortunes".

An early documented reference in English occurs in H S Edwards’ biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th:

"Rossini was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and 13 as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away."

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of T W Lawson’s popular novel ‘Friday, the Thirteenth’, contributed to popularizing the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

In Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck.



Triskaidekaphobia (from Ancient Greek τρεισκαίδεκα (treiskaídeka) 'thirteen', and Ancient Greek φόβος (phóbos) 'fear') is fear or avoidance of the number 13. It is also a reason for the fear of Friday the 13th.

The term was used as early as in 1910 by Isador Coriat in Abnormal Psychology.


The film franchise

Friday the 13th is an American horror franchise that comprises twelve slasher films, a television series, novels, comic books, video games, and tie‑in merchandise. The franchise mainly focuses on the fictional character Jason Voorhees, who was thought to have drowned as a boy at Camp Crystal Lake due to the negligence of the camp staff.

Decades later, the lake is rumoured to be "cursed" and is the setting for a series of mass murders. Jason is featured in all of the films, as either the killer or the motivation for the killings.

The films have grossed over $468 million at the box-office worldwide. It was the highest-grossing horror franchise in the world until ‘Halloween’ (2018) was released, putting the Halloween franchise in the top spot.


So, be careful today! Although, if you live in Spain, maybe you have to worry about martes trece.





© The History Man


Tags: Bible, Donald Dossey, Friday the 13th, Gregorian calendar, Halloween, History Man, Isador Coriat, Jason Voorhees, Jesus, Judas Iscariot, Last Supper, martes trece, Triskaidekaphobia, Tuesday the 13th


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Two Bank Holidays in Spain This Week
Sunday, December 4, 2022

By The History Man


Spain enjoys more días festivos (bank holidays) than most countries and the Spanish know how to enjoy themselves on these “days off”.

This coming week there are two, on Tuesday and Thursday. Known as the Macropuente de la Constitución (a puente is when an additional day’s holiday is taken to form a “bridge” between, say, a Sunday and a Tuesday or a Thursday and a Friday. Theoretically, this week there could be three puentes: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, hence the name macropuente) it is somewhat surprising that neither Monday or Wednesday has been declared a puente. The only industry taking those two days off, I am told, is construction.


Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución) – 6 December

This day marks the anniversary of a referendum held in Spain on 6 December 1978. In this referendum, a new constitution was approved. This was an important step in Spain's transition to becoming a constitutional monarchy and democracy after the fascist regime of General Franco came to an end on his death in November 1975.



The dictator Francisco Franco was head of state in Spain from 1 April 1939, until 20 November 1975. He died five days later. Spain needed a new constitution and political system after his death. General elections were held on 15 June 1977. The newly formed parliament drew up a new constitution, which was approved by 88 percent of the people of Spain in a referendum on 6 December 1978.

Constitution Day is a national public holiday.

On the days before Constitution Day, children and young people have extra lessons on the history, politics and constitution of Spain. The parliamentary buildings in Madrid are open to the general public for one or two days and a cocktail party is held in the parliamentary buildings on 6 December.

Constitution Day is a day off work for most people. Public life is generally very quiet and most businesses and other organisations are closed. Most shops are closed, although some bakers and food stores may be open. Public transport services generally run to a reduced schedule, although there may be no services in rural areas.

The Spanish spend time at home relaxing with family members or close friends.



Physical representations of the Spanish Constitution are important symbols of Constitution Day.

The national flag of Spain consists of two horizontal red bands separated by a yellow band. The red bands are of equal width and the yellow band is twice as wide as each red band. This version of the flag was confirmed in the constitution of 1978. The national flag is widely displayed on private homes, public buildings and even public transport vehicles on Constitution Day. It may be displayed alone or together with the European and regional flags.


St Nicholas Day

6 December is also Saint Nicholas Day, or the Feast of Saint Nicholas, observed in Western Christian countries. It is celebrated as a Christian festival with particular regard to Saint Nicholas' reputation as a bringer of gifts, as well as through the attendance at church services.

In Germany and Poland boys have traditionally dressed as bishops and begged alms for the poor. In Poland and Ukraine children wait for Saint Nicholas to come and to put a present under their pillows provided that they were good during the year. Children who behaved badly may expect to find a twig or a piece of coal under their pillows. In the Netherlands and Belgium children put out a shoe filled with hay and a carrot for Saint Nicholas' horse. In the USA one custom associated with Saint Nicholas Day is children leaving their shoes in the entrance hall on Saint Nicholas Eve in hope that Saint Nicholas will place some coins on the soles.

The name Santa Claus derives from the name Saint Nicholas, or the Dutch Sinterklaas, the saint's name in that language. However, the gift-giving associated with these figures is associated with Christmas Day, rather than with Saint Nicholas Day.


Immaculate Conception (Día de la Inmaculada Concepción) – 8 December

Many Christian communities around the world annually observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. This day is a holy day of obligation in which many Christians, particularly of the Roman Catholic faith, attend special church services for the occasion.

Immaculate Conception is a public holiday in Spain. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

8 December is also a public holiday in some other countries, eg East Timor, Guam, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States, Italy, Malta and Monaco.

It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA (except Guam).



Theological controversy surrounded the Feast of the Immaculate Conception for centuries. However popular celebration of this holiday dates back to at least the eighth century. The argument related to the meaning of the word “immaculate”, which in this context refers to the belief that the Virgin Mary (Jesus’ mother) conceived the baby Jesus without having sexual intercourse, according to Christian belief.

Many theologians throughout Christian history, including St Thomas Aquinas, questioned the Immaculate Conception. It remained open for debate for many years until Pope Pius IX proclaimed it to be an essential dogma in the Catholic Church on 8 December 1854. The written document on this is known as the Ineffabilis Deus. Since then, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the belief that Mary was born without sin and that God chose her to be Jesus’ mother.  Many Anglicans in the world also hold this belief.



Various paintings, statues and other forms of artwork have been made depicting the Immaculate Conception. They usually show Mary as a young woman dressed in white and blue. She is often standing on a hill or raised area and has a halo of stars around her head. The pieces of art may also include images of clouds, golden lights, cherubs, lilies, or roses. 


So, my friends, if you live in Spain or are here on holiday, enjoy the coming week of celebrations. But don’t forget to do your shopping on Monday and/or Wednesday.


© The History Man



Tags: 6 December, 8 December, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Constitution, East Timor, fascist, Franco, Germany, Guam, Immaculate Conception, Ineffabilis Deus, Italy, Jesus, Malta, Mary, Monaco, Netherlands, Poland, Pope Pius IX, Saint Nicholas Day, St Thomas Aquinas, Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, The History Man, Ukraine, UK, USA

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Halloween, All Saints and All Souls in Spain
Monday, October 31, 2022

What a hectic three days the end of October and the beginning of November are here in Spain. A semi-pagan festival, Halloween on 31 October, followed by two Roman Catholic feast days, All Saints’ and All Souls’ on 1 and 2 November. 1 November is a national holiday in Spain. This year, 2022, 1 November falls on a Tuesday, so many workers will also take the Monday off giving them a four day break. This is known as a “puente”, a bridge, or long weekend. The History Man has been looking at the background to these three días festivos



The word Halloween, a contraction of “All Hallows’ evening”, is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

One theory holds that many Halloween traditions may have been influenced by ancient Celtic harvest festivals, which may have had pagan roots.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as sweets or sometimes money, with the question, “Trick or treat?” The word “trick” implies a “threat” to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given.


All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, is a Christian solemnity celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. Its intent is to celebrate all the saints, including those who do not, or are no longer, celebrated individually, either because the number of saints has become so great or because they were celebrated in groups, after suffering martyrdom collectively. The feast may have started in the Christian community in Antioch. Its date, November 1, was set by Pope Gregory III and extended to the whole church by Pope Gregory IV.

In Western Christianity, it is still celebrated on November 1 by the Roman Catholic Church as well as many Protestant churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church and associated Eastern Catholic and Byzantine Lutheran churches celebrate it on the first Sunday after Pentecost. The Church of the East and associated Eastern Catholic churches celebrate All Saints’ Day on the first Friday after Easter.

In the Western Christian practice, the liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of October 31, All Hallows’ Eve (All Saints’ Eve), and ends at the close of 1 November. It is thus the day before All Souls’ Day, which commemorates the faithful departed. In many traditions, All Saints’ Day is part of the season of Allhallowtide, which includes the three days from October 31 to November 2 inclusive, and in some denominations, such as Anglicanism, extends to Remembrance Sunday. In places where All Saints’ Day is observed as a public holiday but All Souls’ Day is not, cemetery and grave rituals such as offerings of flowers, candles and prayers or blessings for the graves of loved ones often take place on All Saints Day.

In Spain, el Día de Todos los Santos is a national holiday. As in all Hispanic countries, people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives. The play Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla is traditionally performed.


All Souls’ Day

All Souls’ Day, also known as El Dia De Los Difuntos, the Day of the Dead, is a day of prayer and remembrance for the souls of those who have died, which is observed by Catholics and other Christian denominations annually on November 2. Practitioners of All Souls’ Day traditions often remember deceased loved ones in various ways on the day. Beliefs and practices associated with All Souls’ Day vary widely among Christian churches and denominations.

In contemporary Western Christianity the annual celebration is held on November 2, and is part of the season of Allhallowtide that includes All Saints’ Day (November 1) and its eve, Halloween (October 31).

Many All Souls’ Day traditions are associated with popular notions about purgatory. Bell tolling was meant to comfort those being cleansed. Lighting candles was to kindle a light for the poor souls languishing in the darkness. Soul cakes were given to children coming to sing or pray for the dead (cf. trick-or-treating), giving rise to the traditions of “going souling” and the baking of special types of bread or cakes.

So, there we have it. As implied earlier, despite serious religious undertones, the Spanish see this period as a time for family and celebration of life in general – even in the Covid-19 world we still live in.

With acknowledgements to Wikipedia


Tags: All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, bridge, puente, catholic, covid-19, día de los difuntos, day of the dead, Halloween, pagan, the history man

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El Día de la Hispanidad - Spain's Fiesta Nacional
Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Tomorrow, 12 October, is El Día de la Hispanidad. As we know shops and offices will be closed, few people will go to work and many will go away for an extended weekend. But why? The History Man investigates…

Tomorrow in Spain is what we British call a Bank Holiday. El Día de la Hispanidad is the Fiesta Nacional de España, the national day of Spain. It is held annually on 12 October and is celebrated throughout Spain. It commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first arrival in the Americas, on Guananí Island, in the archipelago of the Bahamas.

It is a day also celebrated in other countries. It is known as Columbus Day in the United States and as Día de la Raza in various Hispanic American countries. Celebration of the anniversary in Spain dates to 1935 when the first festival was held in Madrid. The day was known as Día de la Hispanidad, emphasizing Spain’s connection to the Hispanidad, the international Hispanic community. On November 27th, 1981, a royal decree established Día de la Hispanidad as a national holiday.

However, on 7 October 1987, the name was changed to Fiesta Nacional, and 12 October became one of two national celebrations, along with Día de la Constitución on 6 December.

Spain’s “national day” had moved around several times during the various regime changes of the 20th century; establishing it on the day of the international Columbus celebration was part of a compromise between conservatives, who wanted to emphasise the status of the monarchy and Spain’s history, and Republicans, who wanted to commemorate Spain’s burgeoning democracy with an official holiday. The change in the name had the effect of removing all references to Spain’s historical colonialism, and even its ties to Latin America.

Ever since 2000, 12 October was celebrated each year with a military parade of some 4,000 soldiers (usually held in Madrid) and presided over by the Spanish king. However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the parade was cancelled in 2020.

In 2021, however, the events took place as normal and they will this year also.

So, now you can celebrate El Día de la Hispanidad tomorrow along with your Spanish friends and neighbours, possibly knowing more about the rationale for and background to this feria than they do! Enjoy your day!


With acknowledgements to Wikipedia

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History of a Ronda tapa
Saturday, May 28, 2022

By The History Man

The exquisite ´serranito´ from Ronda is thirty years old. Inventor Benito González managed to make this tapa a culinary masterpiece, using pork fillet, serrano ham, green peppers and ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden.

In 1974, when Tobalo González opened ´Bar Benito´, in the popular San Francisco neighbourhood of Ronda, it was not very common for customers to ask for a tapa. “Here the farmworkers and the builders’ labourers came and ordered a coffee, a brandy or a glass of wine, but nobody asked for anything to eat,” he said.

But over the years everything changed. His son Benito took over the bar and prepared a complete tapas menu, including ham, cheese, fried fish, scrambled eggs and other delicious delicacies from the Ronda region. Things worked well and the tables were filled daily with people keen to eat the best produce from the gardens and farms in the area. But as with everything, you have to keep looking for new ideas.

One day in 1990, Benito was eating in a restaurant in Sevilla and they gave him a plate of steaks, fried peppers, tomato and several slices of ham. As you would expect, it was very tasty and then the idea occurred to him: “What if I put all this in a bread roll and offer it as a tapa?”

No sooner said than done. As soon as the first ones were put on sale, they were a hit immediately and customers began to demand what became known as the ´serranito´, a complete and very reasonably-priced tapa, bearing in mind that they normally cost around 1.50 euros.

In the hot summer months, Benito shifted up to 400 serranitos a week and there were even tourists who had heard about it and came to ​​try it. In addition, the tapa spread to most of the bars in Ronda and to many bars and restaurants throughout Andalucía.

But to prepare a good serranito you have to bear in mind several important things. First, that the fillet must be from the pork loin; then, that the oil must be virgin olive oil and, in addition, the tomatoes must be just ripe. Finally, if the pepper comes from the fields at the bottom of the Tajo, so much the better. Another thing to bear in mind when preparing an authentic serranito is to use a good quality bread roll baked in Ronda.

Author’s note: When I first came to Ronda in 2001, having bought a little flat in the Barrio San Francisco, I introduced myself as a new vecino in the Bar Benito. I was given such a warm welcome by Benito and his regular customers that it became my local whenever I was in town. Sadly it is now closed.

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The Rise and Fall of King Juan Carlos I
Saturday, March 5, 2022

When Juan Carlos succeeded Francisco Franco as Head of State on the Generalissimo’s death in November 1975 the King played a major role in moving Spain from a right-wing dictatorship to a modern democratic constitutional monarchy. However, over the years a number of controversies led to his abdication in 2014 and since then a long list of allegations of corruption have emerged. This led to him going into self-imposed exile in the UAR in 2020. 

The recent court trial of the former king has just ended. The case has been archivado,  filed away. In other words no further action is to be taken. He is free to go.

The History Man plots the rise and fall of this once extremely popular monarch.


Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón was born on 5 January 1938.  He is the grandson of Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain before the abolition of the monarchy in 1931 and the subsequent declaration of the Second Spanish Republic. Juan Carlos was born in Rome during the royal family’s exile and grew up in Italy.

Francisco Franco took over the government of Spain after his victory in the Spanish Civil War in 1939, yet in 1947 Spain’s status as a monarchy was affirmed and a law was passed allowing Franco to choose his successor. He by-passed Juan Carlos’s father, Juan, the third son of King Alfonso, who had renounced his claims to the throne in January 1941, as Franco considered him to be too liberal, and in 1969 installed Juan Carlos as his successor as head of state.

On Franco’s death in 1975, Juan Carlos became king and reigned until his abdication in June 2014. In Spain, since his abdication, Juan Carlos has usually been referred to as the Rey Emérito, King Emeritus.

Juan Carlos spent his early years in Italy and came to Spain in 1947 to continue his studies. After completing his secondary education in 1955, he began his military training and entered the General Military Academy at Zaragoza. Later, he attended the Naval Military School and the General Academy of the Air, and finished his tertiary education at the University of Madrid.

In 1962, Juan Carlos married Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark in Athens. The couple had two daughters and a son together: Elena, Cristina, and Felipe. Due to Franco’s declining health, Juan Carlos first began periodically acting as Spain’s head of state in the summer of 1974. Franco died in November the following year and Juan Carlos became King on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco’s death, the first reigning monarch since 1931; although his exiled father did not formally renounce his claims to the throne in favour of his son until 1977.

Juan Carlos was  expected to continue Franco’s legacy, which is why Franco chose him to be his successor. The new king, however, had other ideas and soon after his accession introduced reforms to dismantle the Francoist regime and begin the Spanish transition to democracy. This led to the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 in a referendum which re-established a constitutional monarchy.

In 1981, Juan Carlos played a major role in preventing a coup that attempted to revert Spain to Francoist government in the King’s name. In 2008, he was considered the most popular leader in all Ibero-America. He was praised for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy.

According to a poll in the newspaper El Mundo in November 2005, 77.5% of Spaniards thought Juan Carlos was “good or very good”, 15.4% “not so good”, and only 7.1% “bad or very bad”.

However, the King and the monarchy’s reputation began to suffer after controversies arose surrounding his family, exacerbated by the public controversy centring on an elephant-hunting trip he undertook to Botswana in during a time of financial crisis in Spain. Up until the Botswana elephant trip, Juan Carlos had enjoyed a high level of shielding from media scrutiny, described as “rare among Western leaders”.

Spanish news media speculated about the King’s future in early 2014, following public criticism over the Botswana trip and an embezzlement scandal involving his daughter Cristina, and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin.

In June 2014, citing personal reasons, Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son, who acceded to the throne as Felipe VI.

The Spanish constitution at the time of the abdication did not grant an abdicated monarch the legal immunity of a head of state, but the government changed the law to allow this. However, unlike his previous immunity, the new legislation left him accountable to the supreme court, in a similar type of protection afforded to many high-ranking civil servants and politicians in Spain. The legislation stipulates that all outstanding legal matters relating to the former king be suspended and passed “immediately” to the supreme court.

In June 2019, the former King announced his retirement from all official duties.

Recordings of the former King’s alleged mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn speaking with a former police chief, were leaked to the press in mid-2018.  Sayn-Wittgenstein claimed that Juan Carlos received kickbacks from commercial contracts in the Gulf States and that he maintained these proceeds in a bank account in Switzerland.

She alleged that he purchased properties in Monaco under her name to circumvent the tax treatment of lawful residents, stating “[not] because he [loved] me a lot, but because I reside in Monaco.” She further claimed the head of the Spanish intelligence service warned her that her life, and those of her children, would be at risk if she spoke of their association. The allegations drew demands for Juan Carlos to be investigated for corruption in early June 2019.

Swiss authorities began investigating Juan Carlos in March 2020.  Sayn-Wittgenstein reportedly told the head Swiss prosecutor on 19 December 2018 that Juan Carlos had gifted her €65 million out of “gratitude and love”, to guarantee her future and her children’s, because “he still had hopes to win her back”. A letter written by Juan Carlos to his Swiss lawyers in 2018 stated the gift was irrevocable, despite having asked in 2014 for the return of the money.

On 14 March 2020, The Telegraph reported that his son Felipe, King of Spain since 2014, appeared as second beneficiary (after Juan Carlos) of the Lucum Foundation, the entity on the receiving end of a €65 million donation by Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, King of Saudi Arabia. On 15 March 2020, the Royal Household issued a statement declaring that Felipe VI would renounce any inheritance from his father. Additionally, the statement announced that the former king would lose his public stipend from the State’s General Budget.

In June 2020, the public prosecutor’s office of the Spanish Supreme Court accepted to pursue an investigation against Juan Carlos pertaining to his role as facilitator in Phase II of the high-speed rail connecting Mecca and Medina, intending to delimitate the criminal relevance of the facts that took place after his abdication in June 2014. As King of Spain, Juan Carlos was immune from prosecution from 1975 to 2014 via crown immunity.

A further investigation by Swiss authorities is being undertaken regarding €3.5 million paid from the Lucum Foundation to the Bahamas-based bank Pictet & Ciein for a society called Dolphin, which was controlled by the lawyer Dante Canónica, who also controlled Lucum.

Spanish prosecutors opened an investigation into the use by Juan Carlos and other members of the royal family of credit cards between 2016 and 2018 which were paid for by an overseas account to which neither Juan Carlos nor any member of the royal family were signatories. This led to accusations that the funds are undisclosed assets of Juan Carlos, and as the card drawings exceeded €120,000 in one year, comprised undisclosed income and was therefore a tax offence in Spain. Mexican millionaire and investment banker Allen Sanginés-Krause has been named as the owner of the cards, a friend of Juan Carlos to whom he donated sums of money using Air Force Colonel Nicolás Murga Mendoza as an intermediary.

In December 2020, Juan Carlos reportedly paid 678,393.72 euros to Spain’s tax agency for the concept of defrauded money in an affair of “opaque credit cards” used between 2016 and 2018 by himself, his wife and some grandchildren, intending to avoid further scrutiny from the Supreme Court’s prosecutor, the payment being, in fact, an admission of fraud.

A third investigation is being undertaken by the Spanish authorities over an attempt to withdraw nearly €10 million from Jersey, possibly from a trust set up by or for Juan Carlos in the 1990s. Juan Carlos claims he is “not responsible for any Jersey trust and never has been, either directly or indirectly.”

A further investigation is taking place regarding the fact that until August 2018 Juan Carlos maintained a bank account in Switzerland which contains almost €8 million.

Reports have been made that Juan Carlos made a private trip to Kazakhstan in October 2002 to hunt goats with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. On departure from Kazakhstan he was given 4 to 5 briefcases purportedly containing $5 million in cash.

The Zagatka Foundation, founded in Liechtenstein in 2003 and owned by Álvaro de Orleans-Borbón, a distant cousin of Juan Carlos who lives in Monaco, received a large sum of money from Switzerland. Juan Carlos is named as the third beneficiary. In 2009 Álvaro de Orleans-Borbón paid a cheque from Mexico for €4.3 million into the account which the Swiss adjudicated belonged to Juan Carlos. Juan Carlos appears to have drawn down funds from the Zagatka Foundation to spend €8 million between 2009 and 2018 on private flights, with Air Partner receiving around €6.1 million.

Zagatka used commissions due to Juan Carlos and paid to Zagatka to invest millions, mainly in Ibex35 companies between 2003 and 2018.

A Panamanian Lucum foundation had Juan Carlos as the first beneficiary and King Felipe VI as a named second beneficiary, although King Felipe VI has subsequently relinquished any inheritance from his father Juan Carlos. Lucum received $100 million from the Saudi royal house in 2008. Swiss prosecutors are concerned about who at the Swiss bank, Mirabaud & Cie, know who the account was for and what was discovered about the source of funds from the Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia. They are also concerned about a €3.5m transfer from Lucum to the Bahamas to an account held by Dante Canónica. Mirabaud bank, who had concealed from its employees the beneficial owner of the account, asked in 2012 for the account to be closed, due to possible adverse publicity, this was when the bulk of the funds were transferred to Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.

On 3 August 2020, the Palace of Zarzuela announced Juan Carlos wished to relocate from Spain because of increased media press about his business dealings in Saudi Arabia. Since then, Juan Carlos has lived in self-exile from Spain over allegedly improper ties to business deals in Saudi Arabia. On 17 August, the Royal Household confirmed that, since 3 August, Juan Carlos has been living in the United Arab Emirates, where he arrived by taking a private plane from Vigo Airport.

As for his private life, this too is not without controversy. Juan Carlos and Sofía have had two daughters and one son, but they have apparently not shared a bed since 1975.

Juan Carlos is also the alleged father of Alberto Sola, born in Barcelona in 1956, also of a woman born in Catalonia in 1964, and of Ingrid Sartiau, a Belgian woman born in 1966 who has filed a paternity suit, but complete sovereign immunity prevented that suit prior to his abdication. Juan Carlos had several extramarital affairs adversely affecting his marriage, including on ongoing relationship with Diana, Princess of Wales, who, along with Prince Charles, spent every summer as guests of the King in Mallorca.

So, Juan Carlos has truly gone from hero to zero over the course of three decades and his legacy will be forever tainted. What a great shame!

Additional reading

THE GUARDIAN: Former Spanish king’s ex-lover says she was threatened by spy chief
Corinna Larsen tells court ‘chilling’ warning to her and her children came on the orders of King Juan Carlos…


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