Tuesday, December 27, 2011

X-mas interview on ABC Radio Australia

I was interviewed again on Christmas Day for an early morning radio audience in Australia. I told them how we do it here, how others do it here and how it isn't done at all.

Amongst a few other more important things, I mentioned the importance of volunteers and how hospitals are increasingly giving patients so-called "informative invoices" to show how much their 'free' operation would cost if it had to be paid for directly.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

200,000 reasons to join the protests

The Catalan government continues to provide an ugly model for the new Spanish PP government when it comes to ways to cut services and public servants work conditions.

This week thousands of public servants took to the streets of Catalonia on Wednesday to protest upcoming cuts that will affect over 200,000 people and save regional coffers around 625 million euros.

These include pay reductions and fewer social benefits for workers, such as six vacation days for personal matters rather than nine, no more government contributions to the workers' pension fund, and no more restaurant coupons for personnel.

In the city of Girona, three of the fifty teritary students who confronted Catalan President Mas about university cuts were arrested.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

If you are Spanish and reading this…then you are probably a man

Latest news: women in this country have better things to do (or at least other things) than using the Internet.

Read more here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mini-jobs for mini-pay

The faceless, unelected of the European Central Bank (ECB) have told the new Prime Minister-elect Mariano Rajoy what to do and he will happily do as they say.

The ECB wants wage cuts and the creation of "mini-jobs" to address the issue of youth unemployment in exchange for buying Spanish government bonds. These "mini-jobs" would pay salaries below the minimum wage, which in Spain is 541 euros a month.

Rajoy told union leaders that he would also use the letter from the ECB as a road map for policies aimed at ensuring that Spain remains in the vanguard of the euro zone.

Just the latest step in turning the Euro zone into a low-wage zone.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A hole in the wall for Barcelona’s unwanted babies

Up until only a few years before the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s…

Hiding inconspicuously in the heart of El Raval is a small wooden inlet that was once attached to the House of Mercy. Although it looks like ornamentation, or a small shrine of sorts, the inlet was in fact a rotating wooden, turntable used to anonymously drop off donations for the church, including unwanted infants.

Originally founded in the late 16th century, the building at 17 Ramelleres became an orphanage in the 19th century. Like many other orphanages and convents at the time, a main feature of the building was its wooden turntable, which allowed the destitute to place their babies on it and anonymously spin them into the arms of a staff member inside the home.

Active from 1853-1931, the turntable saw hundreds of babies come through its portal into the orphanage. Other donations were occasionally dropped off including money and groceries, but mostly, babies were left by parents that did not or could not take care of them. Today, a small wooden inlet is the only remnant of Barcelona's walk-up orphanage and baby drop-off.

[Source: here.]

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Spanish literature prize goes to 94-year-old 15-M protestors' role model

It takes two 90-year-old men to show the doubters that the protests across Spain and Europe are not just young people complaining.

A 94-year-old writer, economist and humanist...José Luis Sampedro is this year's winner of the National Literature Prize because of his defense of a "more human, more caring economy that is able to help develop people's dignity."

Sampedro, who says the terms "productivity, competitiveness and innovation" should be replaced with "distribution, cooperation and recreation," has turned into an intellectual and moral role model for the members of the 15-M movement (which inspired Occupy Wall Street and other social protests across the globe). The nonagenarian author and thinker gained recent notoriety among a younger audience by writing the foreword for the now-famous protest essay, Time for Outrage! by [Nazi concentration-camp survivor] Stéphane Hessel, also 94 years old.

[Photo of José Luis Sampedro by ULY MARTÍN, El País.]

Paying homage to the Catalan singer Serrat

An interesting new musical release this week, some of the biggest names in flamenco have collaborated to honour the great Joan Manuel Serrat.

"Cantares" (You will sing) gets it's title from one of the most emblematic songs of this singer-songwriter and includes such luminaries as fellow-Catalan Mayte Martin, Jose Mercé, Carmen Linares, Josemi Carmona, Tomatito and Enrique Melcho.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A new prize for creativity in Catalunya


The Exile Memorial Museum (MUME), in collaboration with the Democratic Memorial of Catalonia, is holding the Walter Benjamin Memorial International Prize. The prize, based on the cross-disciplinary nature of the German-Jewish author’s intellectual work, has two main objectives.

On the one hand, given Walter Benjamin’s consideration of the creative act in general, the aim is to foster artistic practice in the fields of the visual and audiovisual arts. On the other, it is to support the theoretical task undertaken by professionals associated with the study of art, photography, architecture, city planning, cinema, philosophy, history, literature and sociology. In both cases, priority will be given to projects that incorporate questions concerning the history and memory of the 20th century. The prize will be held every two years.

Read more here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"The skin of a bull" by Salvador Espriu

Sometimes it is necessary and right
for a man to die for a people.
But a whole people must never die
for a single man:
remember this, Sepharad.

Keep the bridge of dialogue secured
and try to understand and love
the different minds and tongues of all your children.
Let the rain fall drop by drop on the fields
and the air cross the ample fields
like a soft, benevolent hand.

Let Sepharad live forever
in order and in peace, in work,
and in difficult, hard-won

"La pell de brau" by Salvador Espriu (1913 - 1985)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Three thousand "thank you's!"

Today this blog just had its 3,000th viewing (this time, by someone in Russia, a special Спасибо or "Spasiba" to you) and last month alone had more than 500 hits!

Since its beginning in May 2009, about 30% of visitors to the site have been (surprisingly to me) from the United States, then Spain, Australia, Germany, Russia and Britain.

Also, somewhat unexpected was finding that there are plenty of readers of this blog sitting in South Korea, France, the Ukraine, the Netherlands and the Ukraine.

Up to this point in time, the most-read blog entry (285 pageviews) was this one I wrote about Islam and Sharia law (in Catalonia) from December 2009.

Again, I want to say that I greatly appreciate all visitors to this humble blog and invite you to comment and/or “come back again ‘real soon!”

Friday, November 18, 2011

2011 is becoming 1968

With the Spanish national election tomorrow almost certain to throw up a government from the right-wing of politics, we can only brace ourselves for greater social unrest.

Mainly because of 20% unemployment and extreme budget cuts to vital public services, we are seeing increasing numbers of protests with increasing numbers of protesters.

Yesterday, one of Barcelona’s main boulevards (Diagonal) was occupied by about 10,000 students. The road I use to get to work (B-30) was also cut off by a different group of students from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB).

Other student protests included throwing coins at the entrance to the stock exchange students and a short sit-in at the headquarters of the Santander bank branch at Plaza Catalunya.

Personally, I am very happy to witness students getting involved in public issues. (In the last 20 years in Australia, almost the only thing university students ever got animated about was the issue of student higher education fees.)

A Rajoy government will cause more people to get out in the streets and some of it will certainly get violent.

The institution called the extended family has been the glue holding society here together but this cannot stick tight for all seasons.

1968 was a high-point of student activism in the USA, France, and even Japan. Co-incidentally, it was the year I was born in.

It may prove better to have been born then. At least better than having children in this coming decade of discontent.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When the Hendrix-loving, French born Cornellá-raised half-Gypsy comes to town

She is Ginesa Ortega and she is doing her musical thing in Vilafranca del Penedès next Saturday night (19 November) at the Auditori Municipal. We will be there to enjoy this hybrid of flamenco, jazz, Billie Holliday and Dulce Pontes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Japan in Barcelona

The Japan Photo Project is launching its new book, simply titled “Japan” at an exhibition at the Private Space tomorrow night (Thursday, the 10th of November) at 7.30.

(Excellent follow-up reports here and here.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another interview with Australian national radio

The other day I was interviewed again by ABC radio for their Overnights program and, amongst other subjects that I have blogged on, I talked about:

How Barcelona and dozens of cities united in world-wide protest

The stealing of children in Spain (compared to Australia's Aboriginal
"stolen generation")

Doctors at a Barcelona hospital offering to perform free operations on
cancer patients

"Catalan Footprints" exhibition in Australia recently

The economic crisis in general here (ie. More than one in five people
in Spain now live below the poverty line.)

Link to MP3 recording of the interview here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Taking the time to live well

Just in-land from the Costa Brava, Catalunya officially has two towns, Begur and the friendly-sounding Pals, in the extraordinary world-wide Slow Cities movement.

Slow cities are characterised by a way of life that supports people to live slow. Traditions and traditional ways of doing things are valued. These cities stand up against the fast-lane, homogenised world so often seen in other cities throughout the world. Slow cities have less traffic, less noise, fewer crowds.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When words do no justice

A brilliant cut-up job on the political manipulation of The Word “austerity.”

"In the Spanish case, the ideology of austerity has some background music: the song about the inefficiency of the public sector, and of the regional government system as a machine for waste. Any new trial balloon or proposed cutback is accompanied by verbose rhetoric about the incompetence of the public sector, the frivolity of its spending criteria, the uselessness of its investments.

It matters little that in this country, private debt weighs far more heavily on our economy; and that the uncontrolled leverage of many companies and the irresponsibility of the financial system, cheerfully giving away money, have resulted in company closures, mass layoffs, unemployment and a throttling of the supply of credit necessary if the Spanish economy is to get back on the path of growth.

[Spanish journalist JOSEP RAMONEDA in the English language version of El País.]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Barcelona and dozens of cities unite in world-wide protest

140,000 people came together in Barcelona today, according to El País.

This, under a banner reading "De la indignación a la acción. Toma la calle" (From indignation to action. Take to the streets.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A lot of good in Olot

My partner (wife) Paula bought me a lovely jumper the other day and instead of some logo or a picture of a skinny model on the label attached to it there was a large photo of a (smiling) older woman sitting at a sewing machine.

This impressed me.

But what impressed me also when I had a look at the company’s website, was that they have created and are maintaining jobs for women over 40 and are continuing the rich tradition of the textile industry in the Catalan town of Olot.

They also claim to spend half of their profits on supporting environmental or social projects.

It turns out that the original idea of their first jumper was called The Marcelino Camacho, in honor of the well-known politician and trade unionist, whose trademark was this type of zipper-jumper.

I almost never plug products but this one is something to crow about (and of course I am not being paid in any form for this endorsement.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The stealing of children on opposite sides of the world

Australia had its own “stolen generation” (Aboriginal children who were permanently taken from their families, as recently as the 1960’s) and it is now coming to light that here in Spain a systematic practice of baby stealing also occurred.

Enrique Vila, a Barcelona lawyer who specializes in adoptions, estimates there might be as many as 300,000, about 15 percent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989 [fitting into this disturbing category.]

Read more here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The kindest cut

Doctors at Barcelona’s Bellvitge Hospital this week offered to perform free operations on cancer patients.

A group of surgeons there have stated that they will work overtime without pay to lessen the impact of recently slashed health services budgets.

[Source: www.ara.cat]

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Atlas Obscura, which calls itself “the definitive guidebook and friendly tour-guide to the world’s most wondrous places” has now recognized Barcelona’s Chocolate Museum as one of it’s world wonders.

"Upon entrance to the museum, guests are greeted by a massive white chocolate ape named Snowy, along with their own chocolate bar as part of their admission. As they gnaw down the confectioner’s chocolate, guests walk past glass-covered sculptures made entirely of chocolate. The sculptures include some famous cultural icons such as Minnie Mouse and Louis Armstrong. However, the bulk of work focuses on Spanish architecture, proudly featuring Sagrada Familia, one of Gaudi’s famous houses and creatures from Parc Guell."

Sunday, September 25, 2011


...is a great little site for keeping up with the dizzying range of festivals, concerts, shows, and general event-mania that is the Catalan capital.

Available in three languages, it even has a "last-minute" ticket offer section and another link to rental spaces available for hire at the Institut de Cultura de Barcelona.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ticket to read

This week the Catalan publication El Punt Avui featured an article on a new joint venture by Catalonia Today magazine and Abacus bookshops: English language groups that discuss a different novel every month.

Along with (amongst others) Peter Law and Anne Adamson (below left and centre) we are co-ordinating and chairing a number of groups across Catalonia and into Valencia. The response from the public has already been very strong and my own meetings in St. Cugat, L'Hospitalet and St. Boi begin next month.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"The Catalan Footprint in Australia"

...is an on-line exhibition presented at The Immigration Museum in Melbourne (Australia) this month. It presents stories and images of the Catalan pioneers in Australia and the human side of this migratory movement.

[Source: The Australian New Zealander Catalan Society.]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"That smell of wet ash and tiny particles of decayed flesh"

"There were no EL PAÍS correspondents there at that particular moment. Elvira and I had arrived in New York just 10 days earlier with three of our children..."

Great Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina recalls how a day meant for sightseeing was transformed by the imperative need to document the horror caused when two planes were flown into the twin towers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wise words on immigration in Catalunya

Journalist Germà Capdevila has some very thoughtful things to say in this article about the place of immigrants and religion both here and in the rest of Europe.

I couldn't agree more with what he wrote. His point that "an extra effort is needed" makes good, humane sense. Equally, it has to be consistent that no religion "has more rights than another."

I fear that increasing numbers of people all across the planet believe that just being born in a particular place or worshipping the most popular god gives a special privelege that newcomers should not have.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are Thatcher and Blair's same mistakes about to be made here?

It seems so.

There is a letter posted on Facebook today from a nurse working at a Catalan public hospital that is extremely frightening.

She claims that from the first of this month she has not been able to go to work because, along with 56 others she will not be paid. Her view is that the severe budget cuts being made are a first step to the current CiU government selling-off public health into private company’s hands.

This is not a rare opinion any longer.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A voice that moves you

The Barcelona-born flamenco singer Mayte Martín, who has said that she seeks inspiration and calm in the city’s Montjuïc mountain.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Another dimension"

"Catalonia seems to understand the Jew as few other nations have. And so too the Jew can have some special understanding for Catalonia. The cry “perro catalán” (“Catalan dog”) or “mercader catalán” (“Catalan businessman”) is one that will not be lost on a Jewish ear.

For centuries, after the Expulsion and up to this day, there has been a persistent Jewish fascination with Spain, felt no less by Ashkenazim who may be quite indifferent to their own Eastern European origins than by Sephardim. On one level, it is due to an admiration and a nostalgia for a brilliant epoch in Jewish history. In the case of Catalonia, there is perhaps another dimension..

Frank Talmage in an article from Commentary magazine.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Spanish Civil War as local (recent) history

Yesterday I visited an exhibition about the Spanish Civil War specifically relating to the area of the Penedès that I live in.

What affected me even more than the old hand-grenades and rifles inside the glass displays or the photo of the victors making the fascist salute behind a smug Franco was seeing images of familiar landscapes.

Except these scenes showed uniformed soldiers in places I go through often. I also saw maps showing sites where bombing took place on roads I use every day.

It is the sense that history here is so near, so close behind you. These horrific events of the recent past give me a stronger feeling of connection with this land in the present.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sick cuts

One of the many reasons to live in this part of the world is Catalunya’s very good public health system. Sadly though, it seems that is all about to change for the worse.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

“Between the sky and the earth”

The stunning photography of Cristina Garcia Rodero...

"I tried to photograph the mysterious, true and magical soul of popular Spain in all its passion, love, humor, tenderness, rage, pain, in all its truth; and the fullest and most intense moments in the lives of these characters as simple as they are irresistible…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wise words on Spain and Israel

"I am not referring...to legitimate criticism of Israeli policies. But the talk one hears in Spain often crosses the line of legitimate criticism. In this newspaper one commentator, who shall remain nameless, said that the creation of the state of Israel was a mistake, and that it would be better if it disappeared. In a recent opinion survey, 10 percent responded that the disappearance of Israel would be the preferred solution to the Middle East conflict. Israel is now the only country that is the object of such remarks."

Raphael Schutz, the Israeli ambassador to Spain writing in El Pais.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Francoism isn't over in Spain"

91 year-old Galician man who as a youth lost both parents to the extremes of the era asks "...What can you expect from a country that does not even dare say that Franco was a dictator?"

He is here refering to the recent controversy over a biographical dictionary published by the Royal Academy of History that only mentions Franco as "head of state."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spain's "whistling island"

"On the small mountainous island of La Gomera, one of the Canaries, the children speak to each other from miles apart using one of the most unusual languages in the world. Known as Silbo, the whistling language of Gomera Island has a vocabulary of over 4,000 words, and is used by "Silbadors" to send messages across the island's high peaks and deep valleys."

Read more here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Barcelona professor supports warnings on seafoods

Joan Llobet, a pharmacy professor at Barcelona University, is backing the call by the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) on its stricter recommendations about the consumption of certain seafood.

In an El Pais article, he described the recommendations as "reasonable" even if they create "social alarm" and are "economically dangerous."

Read more here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Video: An inside look at FC Barcelona

La Masia is a training school for future Barcelona stars.

This video gives you an inside look into the training school, which is based on the three pillars of athletics, values and academics. Only one of every 10 graduates typically makes it to the Barcelona senior team. Current squad members who are also alumni include Xavi, Messi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol.

La Masia is a place where art and science are fused together to create the finished product you see on the pitch each week during the season...It's a pretty guarded place when it comes to media intrusion, and you won't get too much detail out of the school's coaches about their training techniques (they guard it like Coca-Cola protects its secret recipe). But it's interesting to see Xavi and Lionel Messi talk about their experiences at the academy -- how they played all day, every day, learning the Barca way...

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Singular" - A Poem for Barcelona

fold tomorrows rain

and under the loose world night

play blind on young ground


one earth full of single stars

blown here by unrelenting years

those seas of sorrows know

written in liars lines


come and become the past

full like her darkest pity

to show

such thought is mine


might I tonight

pocket a kinder hour and

look long into todays spare quiet

(B.Hetherington, 2011.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Barcelona neo-Nazi's go free

In a disturbing decision this week, Spain’s high court has overturned the conviction of four men involved in circulating Nazi propaganda from a Barcelona bookshop.

(Pedro Varela, the owner of the now-closed bookshop is already well-known for being the first person to be jailed for similar crimes in Spain following the reform of the Penal Code in 1996. On that occasion, he received a five-year sentence, reduced to six months on appeal to the Supreme Court.)

Along with the three others, including a publisher from Molins de Rei, Varela was acquitted on Monday of fostering xenophobia and anti-Semitism through the selling of literature.

In 2009, the four men were each sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail after being found guilty of selling publications that justified the Holocaust and praised the Nazi regime.

In the Supreme Court's ruling, Justice Miguel Colmenero wrote that the selling of Nazi propaganda that promotes genocide is only a crime when there exists a danger that it could create a climate of hostility that would incite violence.

"Jews in Spain view with extreme concern the fact that the Spanish judiciary, so sensitive in certain situations, does not consider as criminal conduct the sale of books denying the Holocaust and promoting racism, in spite of standing criminal legislation to the contrary," the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain said in a statement.

Before the court's decision this week a prominent Israeli Rabbi had praised Spain's progress with Jewish relations while touring the city as the first Jewish religious leader to visit Granada since Jews were expelled from Spain over five centuries ago.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Leonard Cohen wins Prince of Asturias award

"Veteran songwriter and musician Leonard Cohen has won a top Spanish literature award for a body of work which has influenced three generations around the world" it was reported today.

Amongst many others, his inspirational classic 'Who By Fire' has stood the test of time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who is in Plaça Catalunya...(and who is not.)

An inspiring short video that seems to beautifully capture the atmosphere of the huge (prohibited) protest camps in Barcelona’s Plaça Catalunya.

"“There is no ‘we are.’ There is a ‘doing’ or a verb....What we have here: It’s not that they are students. I am not a student. It's not workers, it's not revolutionaries. It is something; it's debate, it's [social] movements and in that way it's interesting. But it's a verb. An action." (Alberto Villaneuva, an activist at the site.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spanish photographer freed after 6 weeks detention in Libya

Manu Brabo, a Spanish photographer who had been detained with several GlobalPost journalists, was released by Libyan authorities and crossed the border into Tunisia with Spanish officials earlier today.

Forces loyal to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi first captured Brabo and three others on April 5.

Brabo had languished in a series of detention centers in Tripoli for weeks, during which time the Libyan government allowed them little to no communication with the outside.

Covering the Libyan conflict has proved dangerous for journalists.

A number of Libyan journalists are missing and several other foreign journalists remain in custody, Human Rights Watch said.

Several journalists have also been killed while covering the fighting, including British photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington [no relation] and American photographer Chris Hondros. The two were killed in April during clashes between rebels and government forces in the Libyan city of Misurata.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In Majorca, Atoning for the Sins of 1691

"They gathered Thursday for a memorial, the first by a local regional government in Spain, to confront a dark legacy of buried memories. Jews, who secretly practiced their forbidden religion during the Inquisition, were burned here in Gomila Plaza in a “bonfire of the Jews” in May 1691, and the descendants of Jews who converted were subject to discrimination that flourished even into the 20th century."

Read more of this fascinating New York Times article here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Catalan eye

It was announced today that Manresa photographer Jordi Cohen Colldeforns has won an award for Travel Photographer of the Year in the category of Best Single Image in a Portfolio - World in Motion (above) which is now being shown at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Audio slideshow here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How good is it to be a mother in Spain?

Mothers in Spain have some more good reasons to celebrate Mother’s Day this year.

A report published this week puts this country in 12th position out of 43 “more developed” countries when it comes to the best places in the world to be a mother and a woman.

While Spain lags just behind other fellow western European neighbours, it also appears that it can learn quite a bit from the highest placed Scandinavians nations (and even Australia, who surprisingly to me came in at number 2 in the ranking, though their conditions for children were as low as number 30.)

The report criticizes the United States for placing lower than 30th for both categories relating to mothers and children.

Researchers from the Save the Children organization used indexes on criteria such as percentage of women using contraception, female life expectancy, maternity leave benefits and educational opportunities in assessing women’s status across the globe.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The science of success in Barcelona

[The following blog was also published as a short article in the new Monocle Guide to Barcelona.]

Reimund Fickert, project director at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), points to a plethora of businesses and projects that make Barcelona a European hotspot for biotechnology.

“Almost 50 new firms have set up here in the past decade and we now have six independent research centres with close to 1,400 people from 52 different countries working on the site.”

He puts PRBB’s success down to a change in clinical research methods across the pharmaceutical and medical industries that now emphasise biotech, and heavy local government investment in facilities and infrastructure since the 1990s.

“We have some of the most sophisticated imaging technology in Europe so when the King of Spain got sick last year he came to Barcelona for specialist treatment,” he says.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Occupying rare ground

This week in Barcelona (and it is good to be back here again) the British writer Sarah Waters did something almost “un-British”. She has written about social class.

In her new novel “The Occupant”, according to Spanish media, she has dealt with the conflict between classes and reflected the moment of tensions over social change that was affecting England at the end of the 19th century.

"Granddaughter of illiterate servants, Waters has criticized the enthusiasm of the English for an out of date system of social classes."

Friday, March 18, 2011

No new posts here for the next month...

Because of a family illness I'll be away in Australia until late April. Best wishes until then to you, my valued readers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A pluralist Spain...?

This guy talks a lot of sense in an area where common sense is rare...

"...the pluralist fervor that was alive in Spain during the final years of the dictatorship, when young people from Granada would sing Lluís Llach [a Catalan song-writer] as if he were one of their own, half understanding the lyrics of his songs."

Friday, March 4, 2011

New listing...

This blog (described as "a sharp look at the often baffling world of politics and social issues in Catalonia and Spain...) is now linked to the Barcelona Blogosphere page on BarcelonaLife.com - a good quality site with plenty of strong info on the city and the region.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A new idea (for many)...

"A considerable part of our intellectual and journalist class still thought poorly of resistance to dictatorships other than fascist ones. I happened to be watching the [November 1989 scenes of people breaking through] the Berlin Wall on TV, in a house where the company included several writers, publishers and critics of apparently progressive inclinations. They watched the images of people embracing in Berlin with long faces, as if viewing the broadcast of a funeral."

[Pointing out a clear example of hypocrisy, Spain's Antonio Muñoz Molina comparing his own joy at the Cairo revolution with a similar historical event, in El País. ]

I share his feelings but there is one problem here. Liberty is a universal desire for mankind, including the men and women of the Arab world. But (unlike the Western world) democracy is a new idea, an unknown experience and barely understood in an Arab society that instinctively regards the strong leader as the best kind of leader, maybe the only kind of leader.

[La libertad es un deseo universal de la humanidad, incluyendo a los hombres y las mujeres del mundo árabe.

El problema es que (a diferencia del mundo Occidental) la democracia es una nueva idea, una experiencia desconocida y apenas entendida en una sociedad árabe que instintivamente considera al líder fuerte como la mejor clase de líder, tal vez la única clase de líder.]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catalan speakers denied a voice in Valencia

In a pig-headed piece of small-minded politics, the right-wing People’s Party (PP) in Valencia have created a law that meant that after 25 years the Catalan language broadcasts on channel TV3 in that region stopped yesterday.

This move is in spite of the fact that (as one report put it) “in this territory, around 40% of its inhabitants have Catalan/Valencian as their mother tongue, and in some… towns or counties, they are the vast majority.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Una mujer que tiene duende

Video: A perfect example of some of the best flamenco you will ever see or hear. Concha Buika, from Palma de Mallorca is a Spanish singer whose family came from Equatorial Guinea and who grew up among gypsy people.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Considerate words in black times

"I’m not worried about my professional future, but rather the future in general. It’s a great time for me, and I have work for the next year, but what about everyone else?

Agustí Villaronga, Mallorcan director of the Catalan language film Pa negre [Black bread] which won nine Goya awards, including Best Film and Best Director.

(Last week I lost my teaching job, incidentally.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A universe of pain

Video: This week an exhibition in Barcelona. Photojournalist Gervasio Sánchez culminates a decade of his work with a new exhibition called 'Disappeared'. He has pictured the pain of family members who face the loss of a relative disappeared by a dictatorial regime. The work is shown simultaneously in Madrid and León.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Attacks on Catalan reporters in Egypt

Joan Roura, a correspondent for TV3, a Catalan public television station, was attacked [yesterday] by men who tried to steal his mobile phone while he was conducting a live broadcast for the 24 hours news channel.

Assaults were also reported against Sal Emergui, a correspondent for Catalan radio RAC1 [and] Gemma Saura
(amongst more than 30 other members of the international media.)

Source: here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Brit, the lesbian, the priest...and a terrible miscarriage of justice

In 2001 Dolores Vázquez was found guilty of murdering Rocío Wanninkhof, a 19 year old woman in a small southern town.

During testimony, Vázquez was described as hombruna, [‘man-ish’ or butch] with a violent temper. A host of witnesses were called in, including a spiritual medium, a priest, two (Ukrainian) maids, and a barman. The priest said that when he told Vázquez of the death, she began vomiting, which could have been a sign that she was possessed.

Vázquez had been involved in an intimate relationship with Wanninkhof’s mother and one of the first ever public juries eventually found that she had killed Wanninkhof because she blamed the teenager for problems between them. The court sentenced her to 15 years in prison, but after serving over a year in prison on appeal, DNA on a cigarette butt at the murder scene shifted the investigation’s attention Tony King, a British expat, already serving a 36-year sentence for the August 2003 rape and murder of another teenager.

In 2006 King was sentenced to 19 additional years for the murder of Wanninkhof.

According to a recent news report, “Dolores, or Loli as her friends and family call her, is now waiting for the State to compensate her for the miscarriage of justice, confirmed by the arrest and imprisonment of Tony King. Her solicitor has asked for four million euros to compensate for the time Vázquez served in prison and the media harassment and personal damages she endured. The Ministry of Justice has made an offer of 120,000 euros.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Money for something

Faced with new, tougher European stress tests and international concerns over their exposure to the property bust, Spain’s savings banks, or cajas, are very likely to soon be partially nationalised.

A very good idea to get what is actually public money back in public hands, but the decision to do this would only be a fair one if Spain’s larger commercial banks were also dealt with in the same way.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A photograph (of what is there)

(Photo: Javier Berasaluce Bajo)

In this diary entry Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina makes the crucial observation that "often literature does not consist of inventing but in telling clearly what one has seen with one's own eyes."

Another great writer, George Orwell who spent time here (fighting against Francoism in the 1930's) said a similar thing. "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year Warning!

The (Catholic) bishop of Córdoba has a New Year revelation for us all. He believes that UNESCO has a program to make half the population homosexual and says that this United Nations organization is bent on “implanting an ideology” that already supports this theory in schools.

He then goes on to warn that sexuality is not “a game of pleasure “and on the subject of abortion states that “Spain walks proud of her progress towards her own destruction” due to a declining birthrate.

I look forward to more pearls of wisdom from church spokesmen over the coming twelve months.