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The History Man

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

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, peppers, ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden and tasty ham.

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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A Failed Coup
Thursday, March 3, 2022

As we move into March 2022, an attack on democracy is taking place in the Ukraine, as Russian president Vladimir (hijo de) Putin seeks to become the greatest ever war criminal in the history of the world.

We should remember that 41 years ago there was another attack on democracy in a European country - the newly democratic Spain.

On 23 February 1981 Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, an officer of the Guardia Civil, entered the Spanish parliament, Las Cortes, waving a loaded pistol aloft, and proceeded to hold the members of parliament hostage. Our contributor The History Man recalls the day 40 years ago when the newly-fashioned democratic Spanish state came under threat once again from the military, as it had done in 1936, prior to the Civil War.

Shots were being fired in the Spanish parliament. Live camera images on television showed a lone figure in a tricorn hat taking control of the chamber. He was then joined by other armed men in uniform with machine guns. More than 37 shots were fired as delegates dived for cover. It later transpired that Tejero had been supported by 200 armed civil guards and soldiers.

The 23 February 1981 Spanish coup d’état attempt (Spanish: Intento de Golpe de Estado de España de 1981) was an attempted military takeover of the elected government. Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero led 200 armed Civil Guard officers into the Congress of Deputies during the vote to elect a President of the Government. The officers held the parliamentarians and ministers hostage for some 22 hours, during which time King Juan Carlos I denounced the coup in a televised address, calling for rule of law and the democratic government to continue. The following day, coup leaders surrendered to the police.Tejero made the following statement: “We received a country in perfect condition; we are obliged to hand it to our offspring in the same condition.”

Though shots were fired, the hostage-takers did not kill anyone.

Background

The coup attempt was linked to the Spanish transition to democracy. Four factors generated tensions that the governing Democratic Centre Union (UCD) coalition of conservative parties could not contain:

  • almost 20% unemployment, capital flight and 16% inflation caused by an economic crisis,
  • difficulty devolving governance to Spanish regions,
  • increased violence by the Basque terrorist group ETA,
  • opposition to the fledgling democracy from within the Spanish Armed Forces.

The first signs of unease in the army appeared in April 1977. Admiral Pita da Veiga resigned as Navy minister and formed the Superior Council of the Army. This was a result of Da Veiga’s disagreement with the legalisation of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) on 9 April 1977, following the Atocha massacre by neo-fascist terrorists. In November 1978, the Operation Galaxia military putsch was put down. Its leader, the very same Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero, was sentenced to seven months in prison.

While seditious sentiments grew in sectors of the military and extreme right, the government faced a serious crisis at the beginning of the decade, and its position became increasingly untenable in the course of 1980. The growing weakness of Adolfo Suárez at the heart of his own party led to his televised resignation as prime minister and president of the UCD on 29 January 1981.

On 1 February, the “Almendros Collective” published an openly insurgent article in the far-right newspaper El Alcázar, which was the mouthpiece of the Búnker hardliners, including Carlos Arias Navarro, Luis Carrero Blanco’s successor as prime minister, and the leader of the francoist party Fuerza Nueva, Blas Piñar. From 2 to 4 February, the King and Queen traveled to Guernica, where the deputies of Basque separatist party Herri Batasuna received them with boos and hisses and various incidents.

In this atmosphere of mounting tension, the process of choosing Suárez’s successor began. Between 6 and 9 February, the 2nd UCD congress in Majorca made it clear that the party was unravelling and Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún was named acting prime minister. On 10 February, Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo was named candidate for prime minister.

On the day of the assault on Congress several TVE cameramen and technicians filmed almost half an hour of the event, providing the world with an audiovisual record of the attempted coup (which would be broadcast several hours after it ended). Moreover, members of the private radio station SER continued their live broadcast with open microphones from within the Congress of Deputies, which meant that the general public was able to follow along by radio as events unfolded. As such, the date is sometimes remembered as “the Night of Transistor Radios” (La noche de los transistores).

At 18:00, the roll-call vote for the swearing in (investidura) of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as prime minister began in the Congress of Deputies. At 18:23, as Socialist-party deputy Manuel Núñez Encabo was standing up to cast his vote, 200 Guardia Civil agents led by Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero and armed with submachine guns, burst into congressional chambers. Tejero immediately took the Speaker’s platform and shouted “¡Quieto todo el mundo!” (“Nobody move!”), ordering everyone to lie down on the floor.

As the highest-ranking military official present, Army General (and Deputy Prime Minister) Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado refused to comply, confronting Tejero and ordering him to stand down and hand over the weapon. Outgoing Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez made a move to join Gutiérrez Mellado, who briefly scuffled with several civil guards until Tejero fired a shot into the air, which was followed by a sustained burst of submachine-gun fire from the assailants. (The shots wounded some of the visitors in the chamber’s upper gallery). Undeterred, arms akimbo in defiance, 68-year-old General Gutiérrez Mellado refused to sit down, even after Tejero attempted, unsuccessfully, to wrestle him to the floor. Their face-off ended with Tejero returning to the rostrum and Gutiérrez Mellado returning to his seat.

After several minutes, all the Deputies retook their assigned congressional seats. The captain of the Guardia Civil, Jesús Muñecas Aguilar, strode to the Speaker’s platform, demanded silence and announced that all those present were to wait for the arrival of “the competent military authority.”

At 19:35, prime minister Suárez stood up and asked to speak to the commanders. Shots were fired in response, and a guard flashed a submachine gun towards the deputies’ seats, demanding silence. One of the assailants ordered, “Mr. Suárez, stay in your seat!” Suárez was about to reply when someone else shouted, “Se siente, coño!” (“Sit down, damn it!”)

Finally, Tejero grabbed Suárez by the arm and led him forcefully to a room outside the chamber. When Suárez demanded that Tejero explain “this madness”; Tejero‘s only reply was “¡todo por España!” (“Everything for Spain!”). When Suárez pressed the point, citing his authority as prime minister (“president of the government”), Tejero replied, “Tú ya no eres presidente de nada!” (“You are no longer the president of anything!”)

Military occupation of Valencia

A simultaneous rebellion in eastern Spain fizzled out. Shortly after Tejero took control of the Congress, Jaime Milans del Bosch, Captain General of the III Military Region, executed his part of the coup in Valencia. Deploying 2,000 men and fifty tanks from his Motorized Division as well as troops from the port of Valencia onto the streets and into the city centre, they occupied the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) and the Valencian judicial court building (Las cortes valencianas). The revolt, known as Operation Turia, was considered key if other military regions were to become involved in the coup. By 19:00, Valencian radio stations began broadcasting the state of emergency declared by Milans del Bosch, who was hoping to convince others to endorse his military action. Well into the night, Valencia was surrounded by armoured military trucks and other troop units called in from the Bétera and Paterna army bases. Police snipers took their places on rooftops, military marches were played on loudspeakers and a curfew was imposed on the citizens. An armoured convoy was dispatched to the Manises Air Base in order to convince the commander there to support the coup; however, the Colonel of the 11th Wing in charge of the base not only refused to comply, he threatened to deploy two fighter jets armed with air-to-ground missiles (which he claimed to have standing by with their engines running) against the tanks sent by Milans del Bosch, thereby forcing the latter to withdraw. This setback hinted the impending failure of the Madrid coup.

Juan Carlos’s repudiation

King Juan Carlos refused to endorse the coup. The monarch, after protracted discussions with colleagues, was convinced of his military leaders’ loyalty to himself and the Constitution. Two and a half hours after the seizure Juan Carlos phoned the president of the Government of Catalonia Jordi Pujol and assured him that everything was under control. Pujol, just before 22:00 that evening, made a short speech via national broadcasting stations inside and outside of Spain calling for peace. Until 1:00 in the morning (24 February), negotiations took place outside the Congress between the acting government as well as General Armada, who would later be relieved of his duties under suspicion that he had participated in planning the coup.

At 1:14 on 24 February, the King of Spain appeared live on television, wearing the uniform of the Captain General of the Armed Forces (Capitán General de los Ejércitos), the highest Spanish military rank, to oppose the coup and its instigators, defend the Spanish Constitution and disavow the authority of Milans del Bosch. The King declared:

“I address the Spanish people with brevity and concision:

“In the face of these exceptional circumstances, I ask for your serenity and trust, and I hereby inform you that I have given the Captains General of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force the following order:

“Given the events taking place in the Palace of Congress, and to avoid any possible confusion, I hereby confirm that I have ordered the Civil Authorities and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take any and all necessary measures to uphold constitutional order within the limits of the law.

“Should any measure of a military nature need to be taken, it must be approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The Crown, symbol of the permanence and unity of the nation, will not tolerate, in any degree whatsoever, the actions or behavior of anyone attempting, through use of force, to interrupt the democratic process of the Constitution, which the Spanish People approved by vote in referendum.”

From that moment on, the coup was understood to be a failure. Deputy Javier Solana stated that when he saw Tejero reading a special edition of the El País newspaper brought in by General Sáenz de Santamaría, which vehemently condemned the hostage situation inside the Congress, he knew that the coup had failed.

For his part, Milans del Bosch, alone and thereafter isolated, abandoned his plans at 5:00 that morning and was arrested.

The deputies were freed that morning after emerging one by one from their all-night ordeal shouting “Long Live Freedom”.Tejero resisted until midday on 24 February and was arrested outside the Congress building.

Legacy

The most immediate consequence was that, as an institution, the Monarchy emerged from the failed coup with overwhelming legitimacy in the eyes of the public and the political class. In the long term, the coup’s failure could be considered the last serious attempt by adherents to Francoist ideology to destroy Spain’s future as a democracy and implement their fascist totalitarian designs on the nation.

The Supreme Court of Military Justice, known as the Campamento trial (juicio de Campamento), condemned Miláns del Bosch, Alfonso Armada and Antonio Tejero to thirty years in prison as the key instigators of the coup d’état. Eventually, thirty people out of some 300 accused would be convicted for their involvement in the coup.

With acknowledgements to Wikipedia

 



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The Great Andalusian Exodus
Thursday, February 24, 2022

Co-author: Andrew Pearce

It was an opportunity that even the insular General Franco could not turn down. Despite over two decades since the end of the Civil War, much of Spain was still in an economic mess. And the Republican stronghold of Andalucia – largely ignored by the Spanish dictator – was facing ruin.

Yet a ray of light arrived from the most unlikely of places which was to change the lives and fortunes of thousands of Andalusians. Little more than ten years since the end of the Second World War, a once broken Germany was experiencing its own economic miracle.

It was quickly rebuilding its economy and handed Franco the chance to reverse the ailing fortunes of his country. Jobs in industry were fast being created and Germany’s government was offering ‘Gastarbeiterprogramme’, Guest Worker Programmes, in the heavy steel industry.

Free, functional accommodation was often the selling point for the thousands of Andalusians who had been forced to live in squalor in the years after the Spanish conflict. Italy had already signed up to send over workers in 1955 and Spain struck its own deal on March 29, 1960.

“Many Andalusians were in desperate need of work and Franco made a point of sending them over first as they were illiterate and of less value to the Spanish economy,” explains German author Erica Ruetz, who in 2009 made a TV documentary about the Germany-bound emigration of Andalusians.

The majority initially headed to Baden-Wuerttemberg and the industries of the Neckar valley around Stuttgart. From the Serrania de Ronda alone some 8,000 people headed north, with the villages of Montejaque, Benaoján, El Gastor and Igualeja being the biggest providers of workers. And, as the floodgates opened, many Andalusians also opted for Switzerland and France as the opportunities for work grew.

But it was in Germany where many established long-term ties with the towns and people. So special were the bonds that were eventually formed between the work-hungry Spaniards and the welcoming Germans, that a partnership was announced between two Andalusian mountain villages and a German town.

Benaoján and Montejaque – two white villages near Ronda – put the official seal on the 50-year relationship with the town of Knittlingen, where about 300 Andalusians settled. And it was not just the booming German towns that saw the opportunity to benefit from these eager Andalusians. Incredibly, a taxi service was created that drove people from Montejaque to their new work base in Knittlingen. Manolo was the hardy soul who regularly embarked on the journey up through Spain to the German climes.

“Over 30 years ago I regularly drove villagers – many of them were close friends of mine – up to Germany,” he remembers. “Back then, I’m sure you can imagine, the roads were nowhere near as developed as they are now. “It could be a hair-raising journey at times, especially along Andalucia’s mountain roads but I would get about 18,000 pesetas for a day’s drive – about 100 euros in today’s rates.”

Despite having to start a new life so far away from the idyllic villages they grew up in, the Andalusians were determined not to use homesickness as an excuse not to go. “Although the Germans have a reputation for being workhorses, I can tell you that the Spanish immigrants often worked harder than their counterparts,” explains Ruetz.

And it was through their spirited, determined attitudes that the Andalusians won the respect of their colleagues. “The Spanish melted into German society without a trace and never created any unrest or tension,” continues Ruetz.

“There have notoriously been many problems between the Germans and the Turks but, in spite of my extensive research, I have been unable to uncover any sources or people documenting trouble between Spaniards and Germans.”

One reason for this was undoubtedly the very fact that the Spaniards were overcome by relief with the new lives they encountered in Germany. Companies such as Keumo and Kiesselmann offered the migrants free, new flats – a commodity of which dreams were made of back in Andalucía.

“It was a paradise, water came out of the wall,” explains Miguel Ruiz, from Benaoján. What’s more, although wages were certainly not bountiful, the Spaniards undoubtedly earned more than they ever would have back in Andalucía.

But this flourishing quality of life far away from the Spanish motherland was still able to be tempered by the autocratic Franco. He sent priests and teachers to the Spanish districts to ensure his people adhered to their home values and remained true to Spain. More likely, it was a case of “remaining Catholic and keeping their mouths shut” according to Ruetz.

However, the dictator could not complain about the efforts his disbanded Spanish workers were putting in. It is estimated that between 1960 and 1970, the overseas workers contributed some five per cent to Spain’s GDP, purely through the money that was sent back to the family.

Originally harbouring hopes to work for a number of years and wait for the economic situation in Spain to pick up before returning home, many Spaniards soon realised that they had become extremely settled in northern Europe. “Many of them wanted to make enough money to allow them to come back, buy a home in Spain and live happily back in their villages,” explains Ruetz. “But the problem is their children went to school, integrated so well and basically became Germans themselves. Now, many of the original arrivals are recognised as highly-skilled workers and earn more than teachers.”

Overcoming their stereotype that Spaniards are not the world’s greatest at learning languages, many quickly picked up their new mother tongue. However, one, María López, in Knittlingen, despite having lived in Germany for almost 30 years was still unable to string a sentence together. But she managed to get by. For example, a trip to the butchers would involve lots of ‘oinking’ if pork was on the day’s menu!

As the Germans became increasingly friendly with their Spanish friends they would often hear the names of their former village homes, such as Benaoján and Montejaque, crop up in conversation. The migrant workers would speak about their old lives and the paradise, mountain outposts in glowing terms – fuelling their hosts’ desire to visit these mystical heavens.

For instance, Rita W, 69, a former nurse, proved that not all migration was Germany bound. “I was living and working in a Knittlingen clinic and I could never get away from co-workers and patients talking lovingly about their home pueblo,” explains Rita. “In 2003 I decided to take a holiday there and fell in love with the area. So much so that on the second day we bought a house where I lived for five years before remarrying and moving to Ronda!” Rita still has the Montejaque house, which is a casa rural (a holiday rental), although she and her husband use it from time to time as a change from living in the campo.

Indeed, Rita’s case is not unique as there are quite a few Germans who settled in the mountain towns. And it was during these trips to the hillside hideaways where Germans – paradoxically just like the migrant Spaniards – stumbled upon their dream settlements.

The life of Charlie I., once a workaholic in southern Germany, was transformed after choosing to settle in Spain. “I learned how to work in Germany, but in Montejaque, I learned how to live,” he says.

The Germans after all really do have a lot to thank the Spanish for too.



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St. Valentine's Story - In His Own Words
Thursday, February 10, 2022

Next Monday,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? Here is Valentine's own story, translated from the Latin of course.

“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 candlelit 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!”

 

Disclaimer:

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.



Like 0        Published at 12:58 PM   Comments (1)


TURNING THE CLOCK BACK: What was going on 10 years ago?
Wednesday, December 22, 2021

As we approach the end of 2021 after the most awful year, dominated as it was by the Coronavirus pandemic, what was going on back in 2011? The History Man looks back…

2011

Well, what a year it was! From smoking bans to earthquakes, from toppled politicians to general strikes. Oh, and Ryanair was up to its usual tricks!

January 2011

  • A proper smoking ban is finally introduced in Spain, so that we can now go for a drink without having to inhale other people’s smoke.
  • Ryanair starts 2011 as it left 2010 – mired in a row with the authorities! This time it is a row overcharging if passengers arrive without their pre-printed boarding passes.
  • Spätzle auf Spanisch, a documentary about the long-standing links between Montejaque, Benaoján and German partner town Knittlingen, is aired on German TV.

February 2011

  • We move house. There was probably other more important news this month, but we are so busy, we don’t notice!

March 2011

  • Spain celebrates 25 years membership of the European Union.
  • It is announced that there are four million “black” workers in Spain. That means lots of income tax not being paid. It also means that the unemployment figures are probably even worse than those quoted.
  • A series of strikes at Spanish airports are threatened. The issue is the proposed privatisation of some airports and probable redundancies.
  • The maximum speed limit is reduced to 110 kph – to save fuel – but is restored to 120 a few months later.

April 2011

  • Easter rains ruin the Semana Santa processions throughout the region.

May 2011

  • The Spanish local elections result in a huge shift to the right. Many councils change hands, even in traditionally socialist Andalucía.
  • Earthquakes rock the town of Lorca in Murcia.

June 2011

  • Ronda gets a new council formed by a coalition between the Partido Popular and the Partido Andalucista. The new mayor, a woman, Mari Paz Fernández, is from the PP.
  • Júzcar, a village in the Serranía de Ronda, is chosen to promote the latest Smurfs film and is painted blue!

July 2011

  • The running of the bulls festival of San Fermín takes place as usual in Pamplona.
  • José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the socialist prime minister, known as Mr Bean because of his likeness to the Rowan Atkinson character, resigns and announces general elections for November.

August 2011

  • We become grandparents for the third time – Lotta is born on 4 August.
  • The weather is unbearably hot! Thank goodness for shade, swimming pools and sangria!

September 2011

  • The Feria de Pedro Romero in Ronda is again a success, despite la crisis.
  • The poignant 10th anniversary of 11-S (9/11) is remembered throughout the world.

October 2011

  • The former mayor of Ronda, Antonio María Marín Lara, is arrested on charges of corruption and is released on bail. Toti vows to clear his name; the question is will he manage to wriggle out of it this time?
  • Winter arrives with a vengeance at the end of the month with freezing night-time temperatures.

November 2011

  • 20 November is the 36th anniversary of Franco’s death.
  • It is also the date of the Spanish general election, which the PP wins by a landslide. The new PM is Mariano Rajoy.
  • A high-speed rail freight route is announced, which will devastate one of the most beautiful valleys near Ronda. A vigorous campaign against it is started.

December 2011

  • We do a grand tour to visit family in Germany and England but are glad to get back home.
  • UK PM David Cameron isolates the UK from the rest of Europe over plans to renegotiate the EU contract. This means the UK will have no say in the future direction of the Union.
  • As we scoff our grapes at midnight, and make our buenos propósitos del Año Nuevo, New Year resolutions, we can wonder what is in store for us in …

… 2012!

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!



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