Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Cervantes Institute in Madrid currently has a small exhibition of reports from various non-Spanish Civil War correspondents. These include evocative pieces from Hemingway, Orwell and Jay Allen, who was in Badajoz during the appalling slaughter of 4,000 Republicans there. Well worth a visit. If only to discover that the UK’s Daily Mail was even more of a scaremonger then than it is now. For one thing, it could never bring itself to describe the [legitimate] government forces as anything but ‘The Reds’. Hardly a model of objective reportage but maybe this was thin on the ground then.

Spain is currently riveted by an outbreak of racially-driven gang warfare between Spanish and Ecuadorian youths in a suburb of Madrid. Despite their attitude towards the large gypsy element here, the Spanish like to believe they’re not racist. Often, though, the assertions you hear sound awfully like those of the UK’s infamous Jane Goody, who has denied she’s a racist even though she makes statements most would regard as blatantly such. They usually include something along the lines of ‘I can’t be racist because I didn’t mean my comments to upset anyone’. The inference is that it’s all the fault of the offended party who, perhaps, can’t take a joke. The classic recent case was of the national football team trainer, who couldn’t understand why black Arsenal players were upset at his calling them niggers. Anyway, the riots will do little to reduce the growing public concern here that there’s too much immigration. And they may well bring the latent racism to the surface and prove to the Spanish government that it’s not just France and Britain who have serious integration and assimilation problems.

To be more positive, I am constantly impressed by how the young people of Spain show respect towards the elderly. Some, I suppose, would say I have a vested interest in this.

Galicia Facts

Anyone who’s tried to rent property in Galicia knows that – despite the fact there are 230,000 empty properties here – it’s virtually impossible to find anywhere except in the holiday months of July and August. When you have to pay through the nose. My impression is this situation is paralleled throughout Spain and the governments of the Basque County and Catalunia have now decided to address it by taxing vacant properties. The minister of housing in the Galician Xunta – as in other regions – has said they won’t be following this ‘punitive’ example but will be incentivising owners. Am I alone in shivering at the thought of a government interfering in the housing market? Or in fearing that any rules will be skilfully manipulated for the benefit of a few?

Anyone who want to get a [lucrative] pharmacy here in Galicia would do well to master Gallego. In the points-based system used to maintain this long-standing guild, you get 10 points for knowing Gallego but only 2 for having a doctorate in pharmacy.

Footnote: For anyone wanting to read Orwell’s essays, here’s a useful reference:-

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