All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

Spanish Views from a Small Town

Thoughts about life in a small Spanish town from a transplanted American, commenting on things that catch my attention.

Not So Fast, 20 & 21. Santiago's Holy Day.
25 July 2021

It's another grey morning. The clouds are supposed to part this afternoon, and the skies are supposed to improve this week, though temperatures are not expected to exceed a maximum of 26ºC/78ºF on any day. And the regional forecast page, Meteogalica, predicts an increase in the chance of rain by next weekend, and the lowering of temperatures. Again. At this rate, we'll get our summer in October.

Today is the patron saint of Spain, and the day we celebrate our region. It's the day of the apostle Saint James the Great, supposedly buried at the cathedral in Santiago. He has various names in Spanish, from Jaime to Diego to Jacobo to Xácome to Jaume to Iago. And all those versions come from the original Ya'akov, latinized to Iacobus. 

He became the patron saint of the unifying "Spanish" armies (Spain as a country did not exist at this time, merely small kingdoms, such as Asturias, or León.) during the Reconquest, when, at the Battle of Clavijo, he appeared to the Asturian king, Rodrigo, in a dream, telling him that if Rodrigo invokes his name, the Christians will win the battle. The next day, the Christians went into battle shouting out, "Dios ayuda a Santiago!"  (God help Santiago) They won. Of such things, as anxiety-laden dreams, are legends made. 

Since the Transition of the late 1970's, every community has its own day of celebration. Generally, they can fall on or close to the most important local patron saint, such as the celebration of the Día de Navarra, which falls on Saint Xavier's day, 3 December, or the Día de Extremadura, which is celebrated on 8 September, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Then, there are those regions that celebrate their day on a historically significant anniversary, such as Catalunya, which is the 11th of September, and commemorates the fall of Barcelona in 1714, during the War of Spanish Succession, and the subsequent loss of privileges and rights. Madrid celebrates its day on 2 May, when the people of Madrid revolted against the French troops occupying the city during the Peninsular War. We celebrate our day on Santiago's saint's day because he's the patron saint of both Galicia and Spain. 

This year, since it falls on a Sunday, it also marks the year as a Jacobean Jubilee year, and all those who make the Way to Santiago, enter through the Holy Door, and sit through a Mass, will win plenary indulgence. Ever since the conservative regional politicians realized they were sitting on a gold mine, and started promoting the Way thirty years ago, the number of people on the Way and in the city has increased tremendously. From being simply a university town, it's become a tourist and pilgrim mecca. For those who live off tourism, fine. For the rest, not so fine, as we have to wade through crowds of people on a regular year, and through throngs of pullulating masses of humanity on a Holy Year. 

This year, with the pandemic, it's been a mixed blessing. In May, I entered through the Holy Door for the first time in my life. There were no crowds, no lines, nobody. A few days later, my daughter went, and there was a very short line with no waiting. Now, the line probably stretches across the square, and down the side streets. The bad part is that the Pope succumbed to the economic interests of our regional president, and declared it a two-year deal; next year is also a Holy Year. God save us from the hordes.

For well over a hundred years, on the eve there was a "burning of the façade" of the Cathedral, and then fireworks were added. The "burning" was a wooden structure built to resemble the Cathedral's façade, and then burned in front of the Cathedral. That custom was ended sometime since I moved here in 1991. Now, there's usually a light show, telling the story of Santiago, though there didn't seem to be one this year. Since last year, and the end of the cleaning of the Cathedral stonework, fireworks have been moved out to different parts of the city, in an attempt to protect the stone, and to avoid conglomeration of crowds. This just meant that the crowds went running to the hills around Santiago, like Monte Gaias, where the Cidade da Cultura is located, to be able to see all the different fireworks from one spot. So, not really crowd control.

So now, we have a lazy Sunday, and one less holiday this summer. And too many tourists in town.

Life continues.

Symbol, Shell, Spain, Europe, Seashells



Like 0        Published at 17:24   Comments (0)

Not So Fast, 15, 16, 17, 18 , & 19. Our Reality.
23 July 2021

When I began subtitling my blog at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, my intention had been to do a day by day account of how things developed, hence the numbers after the first month. By now, it's been going on for so long, that life just gets in the way of reporting every day. Even when I write frequently, since there's little that's new, I don't tend to mention anything about Covid. I am getting the feeling, however, that this pandemic is going to stretch into the rest of the year, and possibly well into the next.

Contagion is up in the clouds. On a national level, it's around 650 per hundred thousand. The numbers are driven by the young, where contagion is close to two thousand per hundred thousand in the 20-29 group. This group, precisely, is the one that is going to start getting vaccinated here, in Galicia, as of next week. 

That said, without a state of alarm, it's up to the regional governments and their courts to install any kind of restrictions. Many regions have installed a curfew between one and six in the morning. Others, like Navarra, have had the courts strike down any such general restriction. In Galicia, I believe the court is upholding the decision to close night life in townships that are declared at maximum level, and the decision is pending on limiting get-togethers to six indoors, and ten outdoors, as well as a possible curfew.

Hospitalizations, the canary in the coal mine, are also going up, though not as alarmingly as during the winter. Most of those hospitalized and in the ICU are younger than 40. One of our newspapers carried a story on a young, 22 year old woman, with bilateral pneumonia. There are breakthrough contagions, too, among people who have been vaccinated. Most of those, however, have mild or no symptoms, which bodes well for the future, when at least most of the Spanish population will be vaccinated. 

The problem in that future is the interaction with people from abroad who will not have received the vaccine. I assume that most people will not be able to board an airplane without a Covid vaccine passport, but other European visitors may well come by road, which is not normally controlled. Much of the world outside the borders of Europe, North America, and other rich areas, are not vaccinated, nor will they be for, probably, years. Covid is here to stay for a good while.

Already, the health minister has mentioned that it looks like we will all need to get a booster shot sometime in the near future. In that case, will the massive vaccinations be around for a long time, or will the booster shot fall to our local doctor? If the last is the case, then regions like Galicia and Madrid need to hire more, and open clinics they have closed, particularly in Madrid. Right now, the brunt of the new contagion is being handled by the local practitioners, who also have to deal with their regular patients. I finished one of my medications, and tried to get an appointment to renew my prescriptions. Normally, I can find a moment the day after I call. This time, I called on Wednesday, and got my appointment for next Tuesday. Some clinics are even worse, offering appointments a month later. 

Last year, we were hoping that, through our shared ordeal, we would change, become more accepting, realize that there are things much more important than profits, that the health service is one of the most important services our tax money can buy. But we haven't, and we won't. We didn't change over a hundred years ago, when the Spanish flu left even more dead in its wake than Covid, and we won't change now. We must be the only species that, upon banging its head on a rock, will keep banging and banging it until its head splits open.

Life continues.

 Covid-19, Coronavirus, Hand, Globe

Like 0        Published at 22:33   Comments (0)

Not So Fast, 13 & 14. Lessons of Yesterday.
19 July 2021

Eighty-five years.

That's how long it's been since a rebelious faction of the army made a failed coup against a democratically elected government. It failed because it did not fulfill its intention of bloodlessly taking over the government. Instead, it created a civil war that ravaged the nation for three years, and ended in bloodshed and humiliation that stretched until after the dictator had died in his bed. 

On the evening of 17 July, at five in the afternoon, the leader of the troops in Melilla realized that his plans to take over the garrision the following morning, had been discovered, so he went ahead and took over key points of the city, and shot the mayor and all those who resisted. In Ceuta and Tetuán, the Spanish Legion took over the main government buildings, and shot the mayors and prominent leaders, including union leaders. 

On the mainland, radio broadcasts mentioned the disturbances in the African cities, but reassured everyone that things were under control. However, by the following morning, all of Spanish Africa had fallen to the rebels, and General Francisco Franco boarded a plane in the Canary Islands, where he had been stationed to avoid creating trouble, and flew to Casablanca, from where he then travelled to Tetuán on the nineteenth, where he proclaimed himself the head of the Spanish army in Africa. (The airplane, by the way, was rented by Juan March, a banker, and one of the richest men in Spain of the time, who also bankrolled most of the uprising and Civil War against the Second Republic.)

On the eighteenth, newspapers didn't mention much until the evening editions. Even then, they were very optimistic. In the paper, El Eco de Santiago, was written, in a stop-press article, "...puede considerarse desarticulado el movimiento sedicioso que, contra el régimen republicano, intentaron parte del ejercito que el Estado español sostiene en nuestra zona del protectorado de Marruecos cuya sedición no fue secundada por ninguna de las guarniciones de la peninsula." (...the seditious movement, that part of the army the Spanish State stationed in our zone of the Moroccan protectorate attempted against the Republican regime, can be considered wiped out, and this sedition was not seconded by any of the garrisons of the Peninsula.) Unfortunately, this optimism was short-lived, as in the following days some garrisions rebelled and controlled part of Spain, failing to take control of Madrid and most of the important cities, transforming the coup d'état into a full-fledged civil war. 

The war had been a long time coming, and grew out of the habit of military uprisings since at least a century earlier. Spain had been a military dictatorship in the 1920's, with General Primo de Rivera appointed dictator by King Alfonso XIII. After Primo de Rivera stepped down, the king attempted to continue with another two dictators, both drawn from the armed forces. But, in 1931, the last one was to continue in power only until the general elections that were to follow the local elections in April, 1931.

The results of the elections of 12 April were overwhelmingly in favor of republican candidates in all the major cities, where interference with voters was much less probable than in the countryside (the local landowners were notorious for telling town and village dwellers how to vote). Neither the King, nor his last government, decided to wait for the general elections, and the King decamped in the night for exile. The Second Republic was announced. 

It wasn't perfect. It suffered from a coup attempt in 1932 by General Sanjurjo, against the liberal reforms the government was trying to bring about. He went to prison for a while, and then was exiled to Lisbon, where he created the small group of military men who would bring about the attempted coup of 1936. (Sanjurjo was killed in a plane crash as that coup was starting.) It suffered yet another attempt in October of 1934, but this time from anarchists and communists who felt that the reforms weren't going far enough. No one gave the new republic a chance to fully cement its reforms and finish bringing Spain into line with the rest of Europe.

The conservative elements that were trying to destabilize the Republic were united in their efforts, using the time-proven method of fear. The right wing parties of the CEDA and the Falangists, urged their thugs in the streets to act against those they considered left wing, anarchist, or otherwise radically opposed to conservative beliefs, using inflammatory language in sessions of the Congreso. That engendered more violence in retribution. Then, after the spring elections, in which the conglomeration of  left wing parties were elected under the name of Frente Popular, pamphlets began circulating, advising of "discovered" documents stating that the government was going to hand the country over to communists, with the help of Stalin. Selective assassinations were done. The one of a Guardia Civil, who was killed for being a Socialist, led to the murder of José Calvo Sotelo, congressional leader of the right-wing party Renovación Española (Spanish Renewal), and former finance minister during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. That death, on 12 July, was the kick-off to the coup, six days later.

Even with all the fear-mongering, the majority of the Spanish people did not support the Falangists and the coup Franco and the other generals initiated eighty-five years ago, today. The major cities of Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona, and Valencia resisted against those troops that wanted to join the rebels, while other troops continued to defend the Republic. The rebel generals had thought that they would all rebel with them, and that the populace had been won over, or would simply surrender. But they were wrong, and with that mistake, they began a civil war whose shadow still covers us, almost a hundred years later. 

Life continues.



Like 0        Published at 09:53   Comments (0)

Not So Fast, 10, 11, & 12. Propitiating the Sea.
18 July 2021

Today is the 16th of July, and that means it's the celebration of the Virxe do Carme, or, the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel. 

The story begins way back when, to end a drought, the prophet Elias promised God, that a local king, King Ajaab, and his people would abandon the praise of Baal. Every few days, Elias would visit Mount Carmel, and one day, he saw a small cloud the size of his palm that brought rain. After that, a shrine was created, and the Order of the Carmelites established.

The Virgin Mary got implicated through a vision in the thirteenth century, to one of those Carmelite priests, Saint Simon Stock. In it, she held out a scapular, and said that whoever died wearing it, was promised eternal life in heaven. Simon Stock called this Virgin, Stella Maris, Star of the Seas, and mariners then took her as their patron saint. However, the implication was not of the physical sea, but of the spiritual sea. She was called that because the Virgin Mary was considered the North Star by which those lost in the seas of despair could find hope and redemption.

Before the Virgin of Mount Carmel, the patron saint of mariners had been Saint Elmo, of Saint Elmo's fire fame. He had supposedly rescued various mariners at sea, just like the Virgin did, later. Now, they both vie for the patronage of the sea, though the Virgin is much more popular. 

But this is merely one of the modern forms of appeasement of the forces of the sea, and one of the most humane. Today, there are processions of fishing boats in many portside towns, with the lead boat carrying the statue of the Virgin, and making an offering of flowers to the sea in honor of those that have died in it. Once upon a time, things were a little different.

Today it's the Christian God and the patron saints, but there have always been gods looking out for different parts of life, and the sea is no exception. In The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer describes how, in ancient times, a person would be thrown into the sea on the Greek island of Lefkos. The intention was for Poseidon to claim that one life and no more. In Polperro, Cornwall, there is a custom of weaving a frame with branches of willow, hazel, and rowan. A woman wears it to the cliffs, and, there, the frame is thrown into the sea as an offering. Perhaps in times beyond our ken, the frame held a weightier sacrifice. The writer Susan Cooper must have known of it, because she centered one of her young adult's books around it, Greenwitch. On the Isle of Man, there is the tradition of "paying the rent" to Manannan Mac Lir, the first king of the Isle, and the Lord of the Sea.  The rent is a bundle of rushes taken to a hill called South Barrule, which looks out over the sea. 

Now, it's simply a floral offering. Flowers that were born, that were cared for, that were plucked to give for their beauty, and for their fertility. They now symbolize the sacrifices that both propitiated the sea gods, so as not to take any more human lives, and that asked them to be generous, and grant enough fish to feed the people who went out to find food in their flimsy boats. 

But not this year, not in our township, at least. Covid has put a lot of things on hold, and there is no maritime procession today. At least, it's a local holiday, to think about the tides that ruled our ancestors, that we still haven't conquered, and never will.

Life continues. 



Like 1        Published at 23:49   Comments (0)

Not So Fast, 9. Fairness.
16 July 2021

Contagion just keeps going up, especially among the young people. In less than a month, Spain has become one of the European countries with the most spread of Covid. Luckily, we are also vaccinating quickly, now, and there are fewer hospitalizations. Still, this means that we are not going to have a freer summer. 

Thinking about some of the things I have written about, and that have caught my eye, I realize that my political views have always been left of center. Even when I was a child, I was obsessed with justice. "That's not fair!" was an exclamation that always made me mad. It wasn't fair that if one kid did something wrong, the whole class should be punished. It wasn't fair that a bully would take away a kid's cookies. It wasn't fair!

As I grew, and watched the evening news with my parents, I became aware that the world wasn't fair, either. There were wars, people killed other people, people lived in poverty, people went hungry next to others sipping champagne. But there was nothing I could do.

Then, the 1980 presidential election came around. At that time, I was eleven, and in sixth grade at a local parochial school. Our school had an agreement with Scholastic Publishing, which would send round catalogues for us to buy books with our parents' permission, and sometimes, they would provide information leaflets to the school for different activities. That year, I remember getting a leaflet about the election. In it, the three candidates were presented, as well as a synopsis of each of their intentions if they were elected. The candidates were President Jimmy Carter, Democrat, Ronald Reagan, Republican, and John Anderson, Independent. Forty years later, I don't remember all the details, but I do remember reading carefully, and deciding that John Anderson was the fairest one. I didn't like Jimmy Carter's presidency, with the Iranian hostage fiasco (he is a much better person than he was a politician), and Ronald Reagan's promises looked like he wanted to wage immediate war with Russia. 

That year, I realized that what I could do was vote, to help make things fairer. But, I couldn't because I was only eleven. That was when I decided I would become a U.S. citizen as soon as I turned sixteen, so I could vote when I turned eighteen. I did, and I have been voting ever since. With my dual nationality, I also vote here in every election. It's the civic duty of all citizens.

Ever since then, I have been left-leaning. Ronald Reagan changed America for the worse, in my opinion. He introduced trickle-down economics, and it has been shown that it just doesn't work. Since his time in office, wealth has gone to the top tiers, the middle class has shrunk, and the working class has grown and become even poorer. It's not fair for a few people to concentrate so much wealth, while so many suffer just to have the basics, let alone enough money left over to enjoy nice things.

There are people who will say, "Well, those that have all that money worked for it." Yes, they did. But that doesn't mean others haven't. Because the same people that say the former sentence, will also deny a struggling family any type of welfare, saying they are being lazy for wanting it. Yet that struggling family maybe can't work any harder. Maybe both parents are working two jobs. Yet they still don't make enough to put three meals on the table and pay all the necessary bills. That isn't fair. 

It also isn't fair that a woman who loves another woman can't marry her because the law doesn't contemplate same-sex marriage. Yet, they love each other to pieces. But because they are both women, society says their love isn't real. Or that they can't make good parents because they're both the same sex. 

Nor is it fair that a woman who never wanted to get pregnant, finds that her birth control didn't work, and then gets told she can only have an abortion if she travels hundreds of miles or kilometers. Or that, even if she was raped, abortion is a sin and she should just live with it and raise the baby. 

Being paid a living wage with which we can pay for necessities, and save up for niceties, shouldn't be considered something radical. We are all on the wheel of fortune. Sometimes, we are up in the clouds. The next moment we can be plunged to the bottom of bankruptcy and failure, and need to hold on to the rungs to rise again. No one should be stepping on our fingers, forcing us under the wheel, if that happens.

Having the freedom to marry whom we want, or to form a family when we want, does not oblige any of us to do so. Legalizing same-sex marriage doesn't oblige us to marry someone of our same sex. Nor does having abortion regulated force us to have one if we don't want. We are still allowed to make our choice according to our beliefs, but so are others according to their beliefs. That is fair.

Life continues.

 Fight, Box, Unfair, Weak, Strong, Small

Like 1        Published at 21:54   Comments (8)

Not So Fast, 6, 7, & 8. Where's the Beef?
13 July 2021

Saturday morning, we pulled up most of the potatoes. Those that are deeper still have to be dug out, though. It was a warm day, hot but not too hot, unlike the rest of Spain; areas in Andalucía and Extremadura had temperatures reach around 40ºC/104ºF, and spiked even higher on Sunday. Meanwhile, we reached 30ºC/86ºF and had a fine beach afternoon. Yesterday, our temperatures went down, and a small cold front passed through last night. Today we're having spring weather, with occasional showers, and summer will return along the week.

There is, officially, a fifth wave of the pandemic strolling through Spain. It is attacking mostly young people, from 12 to 29 years old, though the twenty-somethings are the hardest hit. In our region of Galicia, the government has gone so far as to close beaches, parks, gardens, and plazas from 1 AM to 6 AM, so that binge-drinking parties can't take place. Also, in townships that are in middle level risk, to enter music bars and discos, proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test done in the last 48 hours is obligatory. What will happen? That lots of kids in rural areas will gather in private fields, gardens, or houses to drink all night. Just like one of my neighbors did last year.

Last September, our township's main festival of A Guadalupe didn't happen (this year it won't, either, but there will be daytime activities), so some people made private celebrations on what would have been the last day of the festival, including our young neighbor out in his grandparent's barn behind their house. People downwind called the police, saying they heard distinct music and loud voices, but when the police showed up, they couldn't find anyone out of tune, and abandoned the search. Meanwhile, we were regaled with music almost until the sun came out. Scenes like that will probably now repeat themselves this summer, with the new prohibitions.

It is worrying, though, that most of the people in the ICU's now are under forty years of age. Perhaps, to help kids see what their behavior can lead to, they should be paraded around an ICU, properly protected, instead of being fined an amount that their parents will pay and they will shrug off.

Speaking of health, there is another uproar about the government. Specifically, about the Minister of Consumer Affairs, who happens to be Alberto Garzón, the leader of Izquierda Unida, which united with Podemos to form Unidas Podemos in the last election. He came out in a video on Twitter urging people to eat less meat, for two reasons. One is for our health, and the other is for the environment. Spain is the European country that eats the most meat, which uses more resources than vegetable crops. Per capita, we consume about fifty kilos of meat a year.  

Now, he wasn't saying anything new. Quite a few regions, including those run by the conservative PP, have guidelines in their ministries in that direction. The World Health Organization has been saying for years that we should reduce meat consumption. Even scientists have correlated ingestion of red meat with increased risk of cancer. Yet, upon the appearance of Garzón's video, it seems all hell broke loose in this country. 

First was the meat producers. Of course, they would feel attacked. They accused "communist" Garzón of making claims that were not based on science, and that he should be sacked by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. The Minister of Agriculture also took umbrage with the video, placing himself on the side of the meat producers. It is true that they move millions of euros. But it is also true that it is not the healthiest way to eat, especially the meat from the industrial farms. Garzón also mentioned that the best meat is that which comes from more ecologically sustainable farms, which are still much fewer in number in Spain than they should be. 

It is also true that extensive industrial meat farms accelerate climate change through use of unrenewable natural resources, from water to deforestation to grow corn and soybeans for animal fodder. It also produces about fifteen percent of the world's CO2 emissions.

But, for the conservative PP, Ciudadanos, and ultra right wing Vox, left-wing Garzón's video was "irresponsible". They also lamented that now the government would "tell" people what they can and can't eat. In fact, a few on the ultra right claimed that the government would begin "forbidding" us to have barbecues or eat meat, and end up practically converting to a communist dictatorship by telling us what to eat, what to think, and what to say (which is pretty much Vox's intention, by the way, minus the communism). 

Really, a mountain has been made out of a pimple. If it had been someone on the right saying that, the left would have applauded the main message, but would then complain about the meat industry hurting, and demand they be helped out, even though the message is simply advice. No politician can open their mouth, even to make the same recommendation as a scientist, without having the whole other side of the chamber of Congress going with pickaxes down their throats.  

If it had been the director of the World Health Organization, or a climate scientist giving that same message, no one would have raised an eyebrow. Probably they would even have agreed with the message, while the right would have started asking Sánchez what he proposed doing about it, as if the right had any plan worked out. Politics has always been dirty business, but now it seems too many in it relish wallowing in mud two feet thick.

Personally, I do try to eat less meat. But, mostly, because its price has been rising in the past few years. I will not become a vegetarian, though, because nature has made humans omnivorous. We need the nutrients found in plants, but also those found in meat, and plants tend to make a poor substitute, which is why vegetarians take B12 vitamins. Also, if I could afford it, I would buy ecologically produced meat, which comes from better-treated animals, and a production that uses less natural resources, making it more sustainable. Unfortunately, this type of production is still a minority in Spain, and much more expensive. Perhaps it would help if plans are put in place to convert the intensive meat farming into something more sustainable.

Life continues.

Abstract, Barbecue, Barbeque, Bbq



Like 0        Published at 14:54   Comments (0)

Not So Fast, 5. The New Garbage Pail Kids.
12 July 2021

This week, another issue of El Jueves came out, and the camp over at extreme right Vox went berserk. 

To begin, I will explain that El Jueves is much like the American Mad magazine. It is a satirical comic, which lampoons everything that walks on two legs. It doesn't matter who it is, if someone says or does something that catches the public eye, they will be satirized by this magazine. This week, it was Vox's turn. The magazine published a series of fake baseball cards, with different, disgusting characters lampooning actual members of the extremist organization. The artists made them look like the Garbage Pail Kids cards, from the 1980's. The images are a little too disgusting, perhaps, but the lampooning messages are the usual. 

On the official Twitter account of Vox, someone, probably the leader, Santiago Abascal, posted: "Se llama Ricardo Rodrigo Amar y es presidente de RBA, grupo que edita El Jueves. Su revista difunde odio contra millones de españoles a diario. Es posible que muchos de ellos le empiecen a exigir responsibilidades cuando le vean salir de su despacho de la Diagonal de Barcelona." (His name is Ricardo Rodrigo Amar and he's president of RBA, the house that publishes El Jueves. His magazine spreads hate against millions of Spaniards daily. It's possible that many of them will start to demand responsibilities when they see him leave his office on the Diagonal in Barcelona.) This was posted with the RBA president's picture.

They were, via tweet, asking some of their followers to accost the president of a publishing house because one of the magazines they run published a satire of their leaders. That someone might take it into their head to wait for the RBA president to come out and verbally accost him because of this tweet, is bad enough. But there are enough stupids out there, that someone might get into their head to do something a lot worse. Memories of Charlie Hebdo come to mind, and have been mentioned in passing. Journalists' associations have come out against Vox, citing that the tweet is a declaration of war on freedom of press. 

It's not the first time that a satirical magazine has been targeted in this country. Back in the early 1970's, one similar to El Jueves was founded, called El Papus. It was censored many times, and even received fines from Franco's declining government. Then, in 1977, when freedom of speech and press were newly approved, a small group didn't like the satire the magazine was making of those who still yearned for their dear, departed Franco. On the twentieth of September, 1977, a briefcase was left at the office. When it went off, it killed the doorman, injured eighteen people, and destroyed the offices. It didn't kill the main objective, though, which was the director of the magazine. A small terrorist group, Triple A (Alianza Apostólica Anticomunista), claimed the bombing. 

No one was ever charged with it, or with the murder of the doorman, nor with the grave lesions of the secretary, who was declared invalid for life. The act was not recognized as a terrorist act, and the death and the lesions were declared a "labor accident." Not even the Tribunal for Human Rights dared to call it terrorism for "fear of destablizing the young democracy." They got away with murder, literally.

We are not that young democracy any more, but, with the judges looking favorably on Vox, if anything happens to the president of RBA Publications, I fear that whoever is brought to trial will not receive a long prison sentence. Because, of course, Vox wouldn't mind that something happen. They will then blame the victim, saying he provoked a "true" Spaniard into action. Because they are experts at victim blaming. 

We haven't really come that far.

Life continues.



Like 1        Published at 21:25   Comments (11)

Not So Fast 2, 3, & 4. Bias.
11 July 2021

I fear for our society.

Last week, a young man in A Coruña was beaten to death. He was with a friend who was holding a video call with someone else, outside a recently opened night club and music bars. A brute and his girlfriend, thinking she was filming them, got belligerent and started shouting to her to stop filming them. The young man, Samuel, tried to explain it was merely a video call. The brute simply replied, "o paras de grabar, o te mato, maricón de mierda,"  (either you stop filming or I kill you, fucking fagot) and started punching Samuel. 

After having the fight broken up by a passer-by, the brute and his girlfriend left. But, while Samuel was sitting, with lacerations on his face, and his friend helping him look for his phone, which had fallen, the brute returned with twelve friends. They beat Samuel until he was unconscious, calling him, "maricón de mierda."  (fucking fagot) After they had left, the friend, who couldn't do anything to stop them, called an ambulance, but Samuel ended up dying.

There were protests yesterday evening all over Spain, against the homophobic murder (Samuel was gay.). But, in Madrid, when the marchers neared one of the richer neighborhoods, the riot police took batons to them. A few of the marchers then picked up garbage cans and other things, and flung them as well as they could against the police. The police's version? That they reacted to people who were throwing things against them. The truth is that that came after the agression, but the judge will only believe the police version.

A couple of weeks ago, a judge threw out a suit against Rocío Monasterio for document falsification. It seems that before she got her title of architect, she used another architect's stamp on plans for the renovation of a flat in Madrid. The judge's argument was that the falsification was so obvious, that there was no crime, because the obviousness anulled any fraud. That news was followed by memes of people mocking the sentence, with hand-written driver's licenses, and other things. If she is forgiven for such a bad falsification, everyone can be forgiven.

That's not what happened with Isa Serra, ex-representative of Podemos in Madrid's regional government. She was accused by various policemen of assaulting them at a protest against an eviction back in 2014. Despite acknowledging that the police officers' testimony was almost word for word among them, and that still pictures and video didn't show her doing anything of what she was accused, the fact that she was there when others assaulted the police is enough to presume she also participated, and the Supreme Court upheld her sentence of 19 months jail time. 

Bias, much?

Again, during the run-up to the Madrid elections this spring, Vox paid for a large poster to be put up with a picture of an elderly lady looking down on the left, and a picture of a dark-skinned young man in a hoodie and face covering looking menacingly towards the woman, on the right. In the middle, the affirmation that a MENA (unaccompanied minor, usually foreign) cost taxpayers €4,700 a month, and your grandmother's pension €426 a month. It is a false statement. The state took Vox to court over it, alleging it stirred up hatred against a certain group of people with its false statement. The regional court of Madrid handed down its sentence, saying that Vox had a right to put up the poster, despite the misinformation written on it. The judges said that it was simply a campaign slogan, and that ideas can't be forbidden, when others express even worse. They continued, and said that the collective of unaccompanied minors were a "an evident social and political problem" (un evidente problema político y social). No, your honor, you are.

Many of the judges sitting in many Spanish higher courts, are leftovers from Franco, or simply pronounce sentences according to their personal opinion. Most do not know what it is to be impartial. Too many take into account the affinity they have with some of the defendants, and roll with it, instead of taking into account all the evidence, or, even, the law itself. 

There won't be another military takeover in Spain, like in 1936. But there very well might be a judicial putsch. By handing down sentences like these, right-wing judges will allow the extreme right to go ahead and demolish our young democracy. Gradually, one trial after another, precedent will be set judicially. Nothing will be apparently against the law, and the next Caudillo will be crowned by a judge. 

Life continues.

Court, Judge, Gavel, Supreme, Fair


Like 0        Published at 11:02   Comments (6)

Not so Fast, 1. You Can Take it With You.
08 July 2021

It had seemed we were going into the final stretch of the pandemic, with vaccination going up, and infection going down. So much for wishful thinking. Right now, though vaccination is now coming along smartly, at least in Galicia, contagion is also going up strongly.

The fact is that contagion is going up among young people in two age groups, from 12 to 19, and from 20 to 29. Until the end of the month, the second group wasn't going to start being called up for their shots. Between that, and all the end of school parties, especially those in Mallorca, and the binge-drinking get-togethers that act like magnets for over a hundred young people a night, and people are starting to get sick.

The good thing is that, so far, hospitalizations seem to be holding. The youngest are the healthiest in general, so they aren't being admitted to the hospital in droves, like their grandparents were. Still, there are some older people that haven't received their shots, yet, for many different reasons. They are in greater danger. 

Deaths have also gone down. Still, I doubt that any of those that might die in the following days or weeks, will buy the coffin on view in the funeral home in nearby Ribeira. 

Funeral homes here are not family affairs, but, rather, run by insurance companies that have every necessary certification. When a person dies, the family contacts the company, and arrangements are made. Every funeral home (Mortuary, tanatorio, which comes from Greek thanatos (death) and Latin torium (place).), has a room in which caskets are kept to show families. There are those, cheaper ones, that are covered by insurance, and then there are showier ones that come out of one's pocket. 

Well, there's one in Ribeira's mortuary that is not for everyone's pocket. It costs €30,000, weighs over a hundred kilos, and is made of 24 karat gold. 

The sad part is that someone will probably buy it.

With time, other gold caskets will be exhibited in other mortuaries the company owns, as well as others made of noble woods, and inlaid with leather and mother-of-pearl. Their prices will range from about 5 to 10,000 euros. Yup, death is big business.

Really, I admire the Jewish and the Islamic views of death. In Judaism (traditional, at least), a person is dressed in a shroud and buried in a simple coffin, as a reminder that, in death, we are all equal. The same in Islam, which even tends to dispense with a coffin altogether. Christians have elevated death to a multi-million euro business, forcing people to buy burial insurance plans, or risk declaring bankruptcy if something goes horribly wrong.

The moment to show a person how much you love them is while they're alive. After death, they could be buried in a gold coffin, lined with rubies and diamonds, dressed in a mink coat, and an Armani suit, and they could care less. Or, the deceased might be looking down on those that had "loved" him, and he might be saying, "You had all that money squirreled away, yet you wouldn't take me out to eat last week at my favorite place one last time because it was out of budget? You're a special kind of bastard, aren't you?"

Life continues.    


Like 1        Published at 19:18   Comments (0)

Final Stretch, 29 & 30. Freedoms.
05 July 2021

Today is that glorious Fourth, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, in protest against a King that claimed his Divine Right still existed, over a century after King Charles I had been executed for that reason, among others. 

Despite having lived more in Spain than in the United States, at this point, Yankee Doodle still sings itself in my head today. If today hadn't been a Sunday, it would have been a normal day, here. Other years, I did try to grill some lunch, much like we used to do at the beach in days gone by. This year, it's too chilly and damp to try to light the fire.

I remember Fourths in my childhood in which we would go to City Point beach out by Castle Island, in South Boston. We would take a hibachi in those years, with steaks in a cooler to plop over the coals. My mother, who did not want anyone to go hungry, would also have made complete meals during the morning, and packed the pots with them into bags. My parents didn't care much about the Fourth, they were simply glad to have a day off in the middle of the week.

At night, some years we watched the Boston Pops concert at the Hatch Shell by the Charles River, and the fireworks that were televised right at the end. I would then say I wanted to go to the following year's concert. One year, my mother and I finally went. In our search for a spot to sit on the grass, we travelled along, almost to the end of the park. It was obvious we weren't about to find a spot in front of the Hatch Shell; that was all filled up days ago, as people started camping out on the spot to save it. There were loudspeakers set up, and the highlight was the fireworks, right after the 1812 Overture. I had bought a tripod just for the occasion, and was happily taking pictures I still have, somewhere. Walking back to the subway station, we discovered just how many people were squeezed onto the banks of the Charles. It took us over an hour to navigate our way onto the nearest side streets.

When I took my daughter to visit Boston, in 2005, we also went to the concert. We had spent the day in town, and towards evening we joined the hundreds of people walking in the same direction. I think, by that hour, Storrow Drive, a highway running parallel to the Charles River, had been cut off for traffic, to help the movement of large amounts of people. Again, my daughter and I traipsed long to find a small square of grass to spread our (folded) towel on to sit. Again, the high point was listening to the 1812 Overture, and then watching the fireworks unfold over the river. Again, we slowly found our way out of the maze to the nearest subway station, where we caught one of the last trains of the night out to Roslindale, where we were staying with a friend of the family.

But the Fourth is more than barbecues, concerts, and fireworks. It's about the founding of a country based on radical ideals from a century earlier. It's about a group of colonists fed up with having their wealth controlled by a King and a Parliament that were only interested in the money to be made from them. Which is ironic, since the United States has become one of the foremost countries in the world that believes amassing wealth any way one can is good. 

The reason for independence applied by the writers of the Declaration was that all men have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Over the years, the understanding evolved that the document declared the United States a free country. 

But the only mention of freedom was that the colonies declared themselves to be "Free and Independent States." It was a statement saying that the colonies were free from Great Britain, not that they were "free" in the sense we understand it now. It wasn't even declaring the foundation of the United States of America as the country we know, but the foundation of independent states. The document merely insists on "freedom" as the colonies being free of rule from London.

So, when some people affirm that the Fourth of July means that from that date we gained our freedom, it's not quite true. It's the date we declared we wouldn't continue to be exploited by King and Parliament. Besides, what is freedom?

Nowadays, many Americans will simply affirm that the United States is a country where you are free to do whatever you want, and that no other country in the world is as free. Well, that depends. In Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and other European countries, you are free to go where you want, live where you want, study what you want, work at whatever you want. You can say what you want, be with whom you want, read what you want, opine what you want. You can choose whether to follow a religion, or not. You can choose whether to stay home or join every get-together, party, celebration, meeting, protest, or sports event you want. So, the United States does not have a monopoly on those types of freedom.

There are other freedoms, though. There is freedom from want. Not every country does well in this respect. People who have low income in many countries, find that they have to do without necessities. Some countries try to help out with supplemental incomes, but they aren't always enough. Necessities also change with the area and the years. Internet is now a necessity in many places. In rural Spain, a car is a necessity. Yet, there are countries where many people can benefit from this freedom, much more than Americans. Finnish people can apply for many different kinds of assistance, for example, and be awarded varying amounts. There are less Finns lacking freedom from want than there are Americans.

There is also freedom from illness. With this, it depends on whether nature helps out, or not, but men have developed medicine as an attempt at that freedom. But the United States is far behind many other countries in that regard. Yes, it has very good facilities, but not everyone has access to them. In Europe, everyone is covered, and, in that sense, we can all claim we are free from illness. We simply have to go to the doctor whenever we suspect something wrong, without anyone saying, "Unless it's an emergency, we can't help you, if you don't have insurance."  

There's the freedom to form a family. In today's world, this freedom is related to freedom from want, and, unfortunately, many people find themselves unable to start a family because they don't have the means to do so. However, some are encouraged by paid parental leave that many countries offer. Some even pay parents a certain amount for each child until the child reaches a certain age, such as twenty years of age in France, if a couple has two children. There are generous payments in their first years, and generous tax deductions in many countries. But, not in the United States. There is no paid parental leave, unless the parent works for a generous employer, and then not for months, or even a year, like in other countries. 

Freedom? Freedom is relative, depending on what you are looking to be liberated from. But the United States is no longer the paladin of freedom it once was. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is in danger in the very country that once championed it. And the United States deserves more.

Life continues.

  Fireworks, Sparkle, Sky, Glow, Explode

Like 0        Published at 11:45   Comments (0)

Spam post or Abuse? Please let us know

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x