Two little local vignettes tonight. I have no idea how representative they are of Spain as a whole, or even of Galicia. . . .
In Galicia, land is important enough to fight and feud over. And occasionally even to kill for. Given the history of land devolution here, there are an awful lot of plots, many of them small to tiny. And they tend to be physically marked off with anything to hand – granite blocks, painted sticks, bits of rag, plastic buckets, etc. But, whatever their size, they’re subject to taxes and no one likes paying these. Certainly not at the extortionate rates applied by the Spanish government to property transactions. So it’s common for owners here to understate the size of their properties in any official documents. By and large, this situation is not problematic until a plot is sold and things have to be ‘regularised’. But in a village nearby, a large area of multi-owned land is being compulsorily purchased for the expansion of an industrial estate and everyone has been offered an initial 10 euros a square metre. In the blink of an eye it’s become critical to stop understating your plot and to overstate it as much as you can - possibly having got up in the middle of the night to move whatever your neighbour had marked his land off with. Yesterday, all the owners, their lawyer and a surveyor descended on the place for an exercise in official measurement. The result was an angry riot in which the surveyor and the lawyer had to be separated before they resorted to fisticuffs. I've written to Alejandro Amenábar to suggest the whole thing be filmed under the title Terra Adentro. I’m thinking of a more violent version of The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. Or something like that.
Just outside Pontevedra, there’s a donkey sanctuary which doubles as an animal-assisted therapy centre, primarily for mentally or physically handicapped children. It’s called ANDREA and is situated at the top of a large, forested hill, where there is a ‘nucleus’ of 6 or 8 houses. ANDREA was about to receive its first grant from the local government to assist with minor expansion but the neighbours protested at the enlargement of what they called a ‘zoo’. And the money has been withheld until they move to another place. Meanwhile, on the other side of the river and up in the hills behind Pontevedra, a brothel has opened in a small village where one of my friends lives. It’s said to be owned by someone who’s currently in prison and has brought with it everything you’d expect of a brothel. But no one has complained. Or, if they have, they’ve been roundly ignored.
Back on this side of the river, I don’t know what objections ANDREA’s neighbours have to the sanctuary-cum-therapy centre. Having been there several times, I know there’s no smell and I doubt the donkeys make much noise. Almost certainly not as much as the local dogs. Possibly they’re upset at the sight of the handicapped kids arriving and leaving. And perhaps ANDREA would have been well-advised to call it a Donkey ‘Club’ and festoon the place with pink neon lights.
I suppose this sort of thing happens everywhere.