Here is a concert of Pau Casals on music by Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria.
As a student of Philology in the early nineties, I first heard the name of Noam Chomsky in the classroom. He was going several steps beyond Saussure in the field of linguistics. It was something new.
It surprises me how big he has become in Spain where he even has a song dedicated to him. That does not happen very often. I never heard of any songs about Albert Einstein, for example, so I have decided to include it in this blog, because it is in Spanish and very suitable for the purposes of language learning. And also because I am amazed, by the way.
A few weeks ago died one of the most famous cartoonists of all times. His name was Antonio Fraguas, but he was known as Forges, which is the translation of his surname into the Catalan language.
Cartoons are a good way to improve Spanish as well as any other language. Forges’s style was characterised by its irony. Here is an example. I hope you can understand it. If not, and this is a challenge, try with Google Translate, write down the result and see if it makes sense to you. Maybe this is the reason to start learning a new language.
Spain has two towns in northern Africa: Ceuta and Melilla. They have been Spanish dominions for over five hundred years. I have never been there myself, but feel very curious. I found this video which shows the citadel of Ceuta and sings about its identity. Young people expressing themselves in Youtube. In Spanish, with certain Arabic additions, perhaps not unlike Southern Spain in the Middle Ages.
Comic stories or stripes are part of the Spanish culture. One of the most famous cartoonists is Ibáñez, the author of characters like Mortadelo and Filemón or Zipi Zape. Everybody in Spain is familiar with the agents of the TIA and always surprised with Mortadelo’s mastery of disguise or Dr. Bacterio’s ingenuity in creating new tools that will give Mortadelo and Filemón an advantage over the enemy.
Zipi and Zape are two twins, one blond, the other dark-haired, always ready for mischief. Other story lines show different heroes; Anacleto, agente secreto, La abuelita Paz, Carpanta, La familia Turuleta, Benito Boniato, El botones Sacarino, Guillermito, etc. The people of my age will surely remember them all. But they still are popular among the young, which is a reason for me to mention them here.
Everybody knows the outcome of the so-called Catalan crisis, a rearrangement. This is what will happen in the next decade or so. For me, it is easier to guess than what is going to happen in Britain with Brexit. I know where I come from better than were I live.
Spain has been rearranging herself for most of her history. But what will happen here in the UK? What do they want to do with the money? Where do they want to invest? Maybe that idea of people moving out of the country to somewhere else could come true. Is money all that matters? I am a country woman. To me there is land. Nationalism is just a mask that hides the dreams and hopes of people, which sometimes lurk far away from what their words intend to say. This is just a thought, I cannot guess how foolish, maybe not more than anyone else’s. I got used to hearing people talk, saying one thing when they mean another totally different.
There is land, there is history and there is a film by Kenneth Loach, who seemed to be very interested in our whereabouts in Spain, Tierra y Libertad, land and freedom, one or the main reason why people fought in the Civil War, since it was mainly an agricultural society at the time. Now it is different, so maybe the people will not be caught in the fight, and it is not even expected at this stage. They will be more watchful of their leaders. I do not like the future.
I wake up to a new reality in my home country, like Rip van Winkle. Things have changed since I moved away. I just do not know how much. People look the same, just a bit fuller, more overweight, small towns and villages are a better place to live, but they are empty, new terms in everyday language, homosexual marriage, express divorce, “mileurista” (a person, not that unlucky, earning 1,000 euros, the equivalent to £850 or £900 in today’s money).
All looking well, maybe better than things really are. Both in the couple working full or part-time, so, perhaps it is not such a bad thing to be “mileurista”. Unemployment changing from season to season, the same as in the past three decades or more.
In Central Spain things seem to have improved more than anywhere else I know, and I confess that I do not know much, but I know a bit of Castille. The wine and food industry must have contributed to this.
What is it like now to live in Spain? I could only guess maybe by watching Isabel Coixet’s film, Spain in a day. I will do it as soon as I get hold of it. You are invited, but, unfortunately, only to this promo. I have no more, but probably it is enough, since it only seems to tell of people looking at themselves, like in a looking-glass, who want to see themselves in the pictures, nothing else. That is Isabel Coixet depicting an era, like the realist painters in the Golden Century? Where am I, or we, who have emigrated? Do I belong? Do I have anything to do with the people who live there? With their 21st century?
I left my country twenty years ago now. It was not really my decision, but the circumstances of my then husband, a newly qualified doctor who could not find a suitable job or the training he wanted. He does not like criticism, and I do not like people who do not accept critics. So the story about my marriage should end here.
On the other hand, now I remember how critical he was with the country he left behind, Spain enjoyed a public health system, with lots of flaws, but, as I found out, the UK was also far from perfect. As much can I say without going into detail.
Some state that the public health system was created under Franco’s regime, and it certainly was, but it was not his idea, rather a necessity and a way to please his subjects. At least, the first stepping stone was laid.
Gradually people also accepted that it was in the best interest of their children to stay in education until sixteen and have more training. That was a difficult idea to understand for many. In short, progressive ideas gave way to a new country.
Not everybody welcomed these changes, the same that not everybody likes living in peace or even their country. Generosity is not for everyone. But, for a while it worked. Maybe because many were busy making money, or enjoying a lifestyle they did not have before, living la vida loca, as the song goes, whereas others were simply watching. Now, precisely, this new reality where the wildest dreams were entertained is the real monster, a reality which at times seems fabricated in some lab of social engineering. I keep my distance.
We all want to be happy, and that’s a real problem. Success wants more success, but maturity is something different. In a country with parts of it claiming independence perhaps people should stand and wait, see progress behind, deal with the humdrum of daily life, if they want to keep what they earned. The rest could be an illusion, like that other old song of the eighties goes. And it is, so let us sit, not stand, and wait. People cannot be that stupid.
When I sit down and imagine the future I sometimes think that the future generations will not remember us the way we see ourselves today. Things or people we consider all important, like Almodóvar, for instance, someone I could not love or even admire, will lose their shine or whatever it is that draws the attention on them, mostly due to the incredible campaigns of self-publicity they are able to launch.
What will they think of this modern Spain then? Is it really so modern or something like an old man or woman behaving like a rebellious teenager? I think that these new generations will not even ask themselves this question. They will ignore things that should have long been ignored for their lack of substance or depth, of meaningfulness, and cast their look on others the masamedia (the average people, comically defined as such in one of Almodóvar’s films, by the way) now adore. Because the topics in culture seem to be the same, and others have already said the same, will say the same. None of his characters will withstand the test of time.
Spain is full of fads, people need entertainment, but fads pass away, and once that happens, what is it that stays? Do you have a guess?
There is something I have found to be important to rule one’s life, even to rule one country, I would think. We always have to look twice, leave a first impression disappear, because what is left is more similar to the truth we could ever have imagined. “Pelotazo”, a word for dubious sudden success, strange source of income, something cheap that wishes to look expensive, a kind of drag, really. “Ganga”, again, something on the deceptively cheap with awful consequences. Now, is there a reason for us to look twice? They will say, this is precisely what we mean, in their deepest tone. No, this is not what you mean, you know that, because you mean nothing!
I remember myself as an eleven year old with the book of texts we had to read and interpret for school. I did not like everything I read, although I fancied reading, because not all writers are the same, talk about the same things, or tell the same story. You give an account to two people and you get two different versions.
I disregarded many of the texts of the aforementioned book, but was fixated on an excerpt from Crónica del Alba, by Ramón J. Sender, as my favourite. Just because he is such a good writer.
If I say I was eleven, that means that it was 1980, that Franco had died not long ago, the democracy was new, and that, introducing a fragment of this novel seemed a timid attempt to tackle the Civil War taking into account the side of the losers, since Ramón J. Sender participated in it as a military man of rank and, subsequently, was exiled in Mexico and the USA. There were the memories of someone who had fought against Franco, something that had been silenced until recently.
At the time I was simply a child who enjoyed a good read and did not care about politics. I have the feeling that some took advantage of the political climax for personal reasons. That will always happen. What stays is a good narrator, and also a good film based on his childhood recollections, which could be true or not, who knows?
Here is the film based on Crónica del Alba for those of you already fluent in Spanish.
Many years ago I met a couple who had walked the Camino de Santiago and some years before I spent the summer in a small village called Villafranca, where many pilgrims stopped on their way towards the shrine.
Lots of Europeans and non-Europeans, especially those with a liking for the outdoors, start their journey in France and follow the Milky Way up to Finisterre, in La Coruña, a land’s end where they throw away their scallop valve, which should have gone along with them as a symbol of good omen.
Not that many pilgrims know that there is a different route towards Santiago de Compostela, all along the coast, or at least a detour that takes them to the cathedral of Oviedo, where they should pay homage to El Salvador, the Saviour, because, as the saying goes, “whoever goes to Santiago, without having visited the Saviour, prioritises the servant over the lord”.
From there, there is a nine-stage walk, each between 9 and 21 km. long, that goes across the oldest, most intimate and less well-known part of Asturias.
You start in the cathedral, which keeps a Sindone like the one in Torino and other jewels that are preserved in its Cámara Santa. From there you head for San Lázaro de Paniceres towards La Venta del Escamplero, where still is the same medieval hostel for pilgrims. Go to Grado, ascend the Alto del Fresno, and take the path down to the riverbanks of the Narcea. There you can pay a visit to the monastery known as San Salvador de Cornellana.
You will cross the western councils of Asturias: Salas, Tineo, Pola de Allande, Grandas de Salime (here you should stop and visit the ethnographic museum). You will enter Galicia through the Puerto del Acebo. From there, go to Fonsagrada and follow the old pebbled road called “calzada” towards Lugo. It will lead you to the Camino Francés, the main path. The landscape you will have seen will contrast to the one the pilgrims who went along the best known route describe, something already obvious in these pictures.
“To be or not to be”, that makes perfect sense in English, but in Spanish we have two verbs for “to be”. We can use either “ser” or “estar”, unlike in other Romanic languages, with different meanings, as you might already know. They are not so easy to grasp. Intermediate students keep taking one for the other. It is one of those things that say that your grammar or command of Spanish is not that good. It is also very idiomatic. Have a look at the conjugation:
Now watch this video: