In 1905 the Spanish writer Vicente Blasco Ibáñez described the horrible conditions of day laborers in the vineyards outside Jerez. Barely paid, almost starving, and sleeping on hay, the day laborers in Blasco Ibáñez’s novel, La Bodega, stumble through life as “cadavers, with twisted spines and dry limbs, deformed and clumsy.” But Blasco Ibáñez—a sort of Dickens of Andalusia—imagines a different fate for his protagonist. Our hero escapes with his fiancée to South America, “that young world” where land ownership is not a prerequisite for a good life. “What an Eden,” the narrator interjects, “so much better for the eager and strong peasant, a slave until then in body and soul to those who do not work.” The lovers “would be new, innocent, and industrious.” The novel ends happily—there is no doubt of that—but on a mixed metaphor, with an Eden where people work hard. Indeed Blasco Ibáñez’s term for “industrious”—laborioso—also translates as “toilsome.” What sort of Eden is this, where women and men till the soil? In Genesis, Adam and Eve simply pick fruit from orchards in perpetual bloom. At the Fall, God invents work as punishment and commands his children, “You shall gain your bread by the sweat of your own brow.” Blasco, however, views a certain form of labor as a reward, and most social critics have shared this perspective. Like most myths, Eden tolerates ambiguity.
Tag Archives: Spain
We need to talk about the Spanish and Catalan reactions to the Barcelona attack – even if it’s not a nice conversation
Unless you were a Catalan – or a Spaniard – you might have missed the signs of grave political division behind the Barcelona massacre. International reporting almost willfully dodged the tricky bits of the story. We were invited to gape at the horror, fear and sorrow created by Islamist murderers – without contemplating for a moment that some of the reactions to this act of barbarism were quite different from the stories of national and international “unity” that Europe and the world were supposed to share.
There was a guilty clue to all this when the first reports emphasised the “unity” of the Barcelonan and Spanish people, merely mentioning the 1st October referendum on Catalan independence which the Madrid government claims is illegal. Terrorism, ran the message, could heal such divisions. Indeed, the subliminal story was thus quite simple: some things – terror, murder and pain – could not be beaten by notions like regional independence and freedom from central government control.
No diré que no tengo miedo, porque lo tengo.No diré que no tengo rabia, porque la tengo.No diré que no me siento impotente, porque así me siento.No diré que no estoy triste, porque desde el jueves estoy muy triste.¿Y saben qué otras cosa no haré? Hablar de religión, de civilización, de “nuestros” valores, de libertad y convivencia. Y lo que no voy a hacer de ningún modo es hablar de los peligros de la islamofobia. Con los cuerpos de las víctimas aún calientes no entraré en esto, no dejaré que la paranoia que ellos mismos han sembrado me haga trazar una línea inexistente, una separación que ya he borrado desde hace tiempo entre ‘nosotros’ y ‘vosotros’. Los terroristas forman un ‘nosotros’ suyo hecho de odio y muerte. Mi ‘nosotros’ es el de la persona y no van a conseguir que, de nuevo, empiece a fijarme en los rostros de quienes me rodean para averiguar si me miran de un modo distinto. Porque hay dos tipos de personas: los que rechazan y los que no, y a los primeros no les hacen falta terroristas para justificar sus posiciones. Ahora sacan toda la bilis porque tienen la oportunidad y se sienten legitimados, pero no se equivoquen, son los mismos de siempre.
THE Gonella Hut, more than 3,000 metres up on the Italian side of Monte Bianco, should be bustling with climbers in August. Instead, it is empty. Davide Gonella, the manager, closed it at the end of last month for lack of water.“The snowfield we use for our supply had gone,” he says. The high summer temperatures that have seared southern Europe this year were only partly to blame. When he reopened his refuge in early June, Mr Gonella could already see the snowfield was much smaller than usual, because so little snow had fallen last winter.
Every August, the traditional vacation month for Spaniards, those Barcelonans who can afford to flee the city and its hordes for the green hills and pretty beaches of the nearby Costa Brava. The legendary boulevard of Las Ramblas, in Barcelona, snaking from the city’s downtown along the ancient Gothic quarter to the Mediterranean Sea, is a must-do for all foreign visitors, and it is thronged with people at the best of times. Earlier today, Las Ramblas became the latest soft target for terrorists, when a man, evidently swearing allegiance to the Islamic State, drove a rented white van for hundreds of feet, hitting dozens of people who were walking along the tree-lined avenue. Zigzagging back and forth in an apparent effort to maximize the death toll, the driver killed at least thirteen people and injured a hundred.The earliest images to emerge from the scene, a few hours ago, had a ghoulishly reminiscent quality: one of them was an iPhone video clip, without any narrative or commentary—nor needing any—evidently shot in the first shocked aftermath of the attack. It showed several people, most of them in summer shorts and T-shirts, lying dead or unconscious and badly wounded, bleeding, on a sidewalk, as stunned survivors stumbled past.
Though Francisco Franco’s totalitarian Spanish regime was toppled nearly 40 years ago, its legacy is still present in the country. Walk through the cities of Spain, and you’re likely to find streets named after regime members like general José Millán Astray, attorney Adolfo Muñoz Alonso, minister José Enrique Varela, and many more (link in Spanish).
But not for long.
In February, the government—applying a 2007 law that promised to get rid of the marks of autocratic heritage in public spaces—announced it would retire these street names. Now, cities around the country are renaming them after women, answering the complaint that about 90% of streets in Spain’s cities are named after men—and those honoring women usually reference saints (link in Spanish).
Democracy is often on a collision course with economic elites, sometimes in less subtle ways than others. Spain’s current plight is one such example. Last month, the country’s Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez was toppled in a party coup, paving the way for his fellow MPs to abstain in a vote to allow the conservative Mariano Rajoy to resume office. For many traditional Socialist voters, Rajoy’s Popular party is the political wing of a venal, corrupt right-wing establishment: allowing them to form a minority government was an act of betrayal. But Sánchez’s subsequent revelations exposed the machinations of powerful Spanish interests.
On October 12, 1492, a geographically misguided voyager by the name of Christopher Columbus happened upon the so-called New World.
Five centuries later, famed Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano would refer to the day as the one on which “America discovered capitalism” as Columbus, “financed by the kings of Spain and the bankers of Genoa, brought this novelty to the Caribbean islands”.
In his journal, Columbus enthusiastically “prophesied that ‘all Christendom will do business here'”. Galeano remarks: “In that [prediction] at least he was right”.
And a violent business it was, as meticulously demonstrated in the now-deceased Galeano’s masterpiece Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.
Una vez más, el desenlace de las elecciones no es el que se esperaba ni el que predecían las encuestas. Mariano Rajoy sale fortalecido con 137 escaños, una cifra que supera todas las previsiones, mientras todos sus rivales retroceden.
Los resultados son malos para el PSOE y pésimos para Podemos y Ciudadanos, las dos fuerzas emergentes, castigadas por el electorado, que en cierta forma ha vuelto a confiar en el bipartidismo.
Aunque siempre es arriesgado especular sobre las motivaciones de los individuos, da la impresión de que el PP se ha beneficiado de un trasvase de votos de Ciudadanos, de un sector del electorado que ha preferido apoyar a Rajoy para evitar el temido sorpasso de Podemos, que luego no se ha producido.
King Philip VI of Spain has announced that in the four months since the last elections, the elected members of parliament, and especially those representing the four main parties, were unable to make an agreement that would produce a viable government. He therefore announced new elections forJune 26, 2016.
Spain, like governments in west European parliamentary systems, has long had two main parties: the conservative Partido Popular (PP) and the social-democratic PSOE. They have been alternating in parliamentary majorities since the end of the Franco regime and sometimes they formed a coalition government. As in most such systems, other parties were essentially insignificant by-standers that could get at most a few concessions for their political objectives.