Thursday, March 22, 2007

Interesting to see that, the day after El Mundo insisted Muslim women must not be allowed to cover their faces in Spain, the UK government has announced that state schools will be free to forbid this practice. At least as regards pupils. Not sure about teachers.

That’s enough social commentary for today as I’m exhausted from making today’s compilation of blog entries for the last three years. This one deals with Prostitution. A later post will cover the related subject of Sex. Meanwhile, though, here are a few more Spanglish examples I missed earlier:-
Glamour/Glamur
Croissant/Cruasán
Paddle/Pádel
Scooter/Escúter

And now for the numerous posts on a subject to which I have been accused of ‘tellingly’ returning rather too often. Truth to tell, there are a lot. So I will just light the blue touch-paper and retire to await the flak from those accusing me of traducing Spain:-

PROSTITUTION

2003-4

One of the more arresting sights of modern Spain – where Archbishops’ opinions are still sought by TV interviewers - is the number of roadside brothels just outside each major town. These days they are not called American Bars but Clubs and they nearly always have their name emblazoned in garish pink neon lights. I have sought opinions on this from Spanish friends but have never gained a clear view of whether they are legal or not. My guess is that they are but that the employment of foreign workers without papers certainly isn’t. I base this judgment on the fact that every now and then the police raid a local establishment or two and arrest the owners for employing illegal workers. The usual excuse given is that the owner of the ‘hotel’ was simply renting rooms to the 20 or more foreign ladies and had no idea what they were using them for. Or that they lacked the right papers.


One strange thing about brothels in Spain is how openly Spanish males talk about them. And about visiting them. This contrasts with my experience of never hearing a single Anglo Saxon friend mention even a massage parlour. Perhaps I have led a sheltered life. Or perhaps it is a reflection of British hypocrisy. Or perhaps there is an absence of shame about the activity in ‘Catholic’ Spain. Quite rum, really.


It says in one of the local papers today that there are 8,000 prostitutes in Galicia. The article conjectures that each of them turns an average of 2 tricks a day at a unit price of 60 Euros. This means, says the paper, that almost 350M Euros a year is being lost to the taxman. I am struggling to understand this. It’s not the maths; that’s quite easy. It’s the concept that the tax authorities can’t get to grips, as it were, with the business. For, at the back of each local newspaper – just after the heavily religious ‘gravestone’ reminders of the illustrious dead – there are 2 to 3 pages of ads which leave nothing to the imagination. Including the name, address and phone numbers of the establishments offering a bewilderingly wide range of services. And then there are the pink-lit, roadside places [with discreet parking and names like ‘Venus’] which have the word CLUB in 5 metre neon-lighting on the roof. This, as we all know, is short for ‘puti club’ – puti being a corruption of the Spanish for whore, puta. So, you’d have to be a particularly dense taxman not to know where this ‘missing’ revenue is being generated. But perhaps there is another explanation…


A high court in Andalucia yesterday pronounced that the owner of a brothel was obliged to include his employees in the social security system and, thus, pay taxes on their income. The judges made an analogy with illegal immigrant labourers and so the inference to be drawn is that brothel owners have this obligation even though prostitution itself is against the law. Three of the twelve judges went out on a limb and said they had misgivings about the brothel owner being able to dictate working hours [and practices?] to female employees. I wonder whether he will be similarly liable for accidents at work, whatever these might include. Pregnancy, for example. The mind boggles…


The Association of Brothel Owners [yes, there really is one] is up in arms against the decision of the Andalucian court I cited yesterday. They say that it institutionalises pimping. For their part, the Association of Progressive Women say that it is a small step in the right direction but that they reject the suggestion that the work of prostitutes is analogous to that of [illegal] waiters. The brothel owners also claim that the decision infringes the human rights of the prostitutes to work the way they want to but so far the press has not been able to find any prostitute who shares this view. And the Red Queen says that the law is whatever she says it is…

To be honest, it’s not called the Association of Brothel Owners. It’s called the Association of Owners of Places of Sexual Contact. Or Locales Alternes, in [unusually brief] Spanish…


Finally, there was an ad at the back of my local paper yesterday – amidst the hundreds promoting the charms of various Houses of Relaxation – which read:-
We are looking for a gigolo
Not professionals
To look after ladies
High earnings
So, all you amateurs out there in need of a penny, contact me at my email and I will put you in touch.


Among the back-of-the-paper ads in our local rags there is always an eye-catching box for La Casita de Elena in Vigo. This grows in size and detail by the week. So business must either be very good or very bad. This week I happened to notice that the latest addition is ‘Massage and Masturbation €30 only’. No beating about the bush there, if you will forgive the expression. Last week’s innovation was along the lines of ‘Our Special – €60 for 45 minutes. Make love twice’. But what I really like about this box ad is that it always includes a line stressing that the place is only a few metres from Vigo’s big department store, Corte Inglés. This presumably means that you can drop off the wife, park the car and repair to Casita Elena for a lie-down in the round bed next to a fire and large mirror, possibly for around 45 minutes.


Flicking through yesterday’s Faro de Vigo in pursuit of the sports pages, my eye was caught by something unmissable on the small ads page. Not only has The Little House of Elena [‘The Queen of Vigo. Favoured by the Elite’] upped the size of its box ad but it is facing serious competition from Piso Relax [‘Number one in Vigo, where quality makes the difference’]. In addition to a perplexing range of in-house services, both of these offer home and hotel visits. But neither mentions forests. On the other hand, The Little House of Elena is promoting its new ‘Boat and Limousine’ services. So it can only be a matter of time. Thank-God this is a Catholic country. Who knows what would go on otherwise.


Piso Relax in Vigo has taken off the gloves – doubling the size of its box ad and adding the strap line – ‘Number 1 in Luxury, Selection and Distinction’. Plus it has both Miss Brazil and Miss Argentina on its staff, it would seem. And air conditioning throughout. Can I hold out?


Two brief comments about the Madrid Planetarium – It probably isn’t worth visiting unless you speak Spanish and have a keen interest in the heavens. And I doubt that all the rather garishly dressed women in the car park were waiting for their husbands to rejoin them with their kids. Even at 5.30 in the evening. Actually, I rather doubt that they were all women.


To the west of Madrid – visible from the grounds of the royal palace – there is a huge park, the Casa de Campo. During the day, this serves as a recreation area for the Madrileños but come the night it is the domain of, reputedly, thousands of working women of all races. Reading tonight an excellent book about the Great Fire of 1666, I have learned that the seventeenth century equivalent in London was Moorfields. This was London’s first civic park and was strategically situated – just outside the city walls - between the artillery practice ground and the Bethlehem [Bedlam] Royal Hospital for lunatics. For more on this – and the intriguingly entitled Bawdy House Riots of 1668 – I refer you to Adrian Tinniswood’s By Permission of Heaven.


In the local paper, my eye was drawn to an ad for the Xanadu ‘Music Hall’. This was something of a surprise as only last week I read that the owners had been arrested for using illegal immigrants for prostitution. Maybe they are out on bail. By the way, the ad for the Xanadu invites you to ‘experience a new world’. I imagine this is what happens to most of the unfortunate employees as well…


Perhaps only in the Hispanic world of Madonnas v. Whores: One of the teams playing in a women’s soccer competition in Guatemala this week is composed entirely of prostitutes. Or was. They have been thrown out on some specious ground or other. Probably too strong in the leg. Or too good with a ball. Time to stop.


Flicking [again!] through the back pages of the Faro de Vigo today, I noticed that the ad for the Casita de Elena is now bigger than ever. Mind you, it needs to be to hold the details of all its special services and new offerings. The latter include boats, limos and - would you believe – planes. And it seems that they ‘now accept large groups’. Outings from Portugal, perhaps.


In a recent blog, I cited the latest offerings from the Little House of Elena in Vigo as being “boats, limos and … planes”. In the automatic translation commissioned by someone in Spain today this emerged as “los barcos, los limos y … los planos”. I believe I’m right in saying that this is “boats, limos and … flatlands”. An intriguing prospect.


26% of Spanish men are said to regularly avail themselves of the services of a prostitute. A busy woman, then. Of course, this isn’t what the report actually said. With admirable accuracy, it gave the percentage as 25.6%.


Spain’s highest court has taken what might be the first step towards the legalisation of prostitution. It has said that the Ministry of Labour must recognise an association of hotel owners whose business is letting out rooms to people who ‘enter into contracts with third parties’. Only there must be no pimping and everyone must be acting of their own free will. There seems to be some confusion as to how this all fits with the prohibition on people – hotel owners, for example – from profiting from prostitution. More Spanish pragmatism?


Regular readers will know that this blog is plagued by Spanish men [I assume] seeking details of a certain institution in Vigo I’ve occasionally mentioned. As pages from my blog already represent 90% of the citations these gentlemen get from Google, I will refer to it merely as the C de E. I mention it again only to report that the stakes have once more been raised in its ferocious back-page war with the other institution catering for Vigo’s clientele of alto-standing - El Piso de Sandra. Each of them is now taking up half a page with its respective ad. I would say they were going head to head in this war, but with hammer and tongs might be less open to misinterpretation.


2005

I’m not convinced it’s true but Spanish papers have reported on a German girl’s loss of unemployment benefit after she declined to work in a bar where the hostesses were expected to offer sexual favours. Given the prevalence of such places in Spain, this could be a dangerous precedent for many young woman here. However, it all apparently hinges on the fact that such bars are legal in Germany and my impression is that this is not exactly true in Spain. Insofar as anything is exactly true here.


It’s unlikely that Spanish cuisine will ever be much of a threat to that of its northern neighbour but this is not to say there’s an absence of culinary passion. At dinner last night, I was advised that there are 16 key criteria for the preparation of perfect octopus. These include the copper cooking pot, the wooden serving tray and the precise angle of tentacle slice. Even more surprising was the assertion that the best octopus in Galicia is not to be found along the coast but in a town way up in the mountains, a full hour inland. I can’t help wondering whether this is due to its proximity to a village which is said to have become fabulously wealthy on the back of the prostitution trade in Mexico. I must go up and ask.


I’m more confused than ever on whether prostitution is legal in Spain. I suppose it must be when the public prosecutor is seeking 8 months in jail for a chap in Lugo who declined to cough up the 600 euros he’d promised to a lady who’d stayed the night with him. On reflection, I can see why this might be a civil offence [breach of contract] but am hard pushed to see why it would be a criminal offence justifying a prison sentence. Another of my unfortunate phrases.


I don’t think I’ve mentioned the C de E for a while, which is a shame. For, in the interim, it’s progressed from being ‘The Queen of Vigo’ to become ‘The Queen of All Europe’. Plus it has 2 new suittes – a Suitte Japon and a Suitte Arabe. And its own website. Its advert in the local press leaves even less to the imagination than ever but what I love most is the prosaically helpful line that follows the address – ‘Next door to the Train Station’.


I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of Spain but here it’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t offer you desserts from a short list comprising whisky cake, ice cream, cheese cake, egg custard, yoghurt and, if you’re lucky, tinned fruit. It’s as if Franco issued a decree making these 6 items compulsory and no one’s bothered to repeal it. When the waiter goes into the dessert routine, I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But now and again there’s something different. Today we were up in the mountains - in a village of large, if tasteless, houses said to be financed by the prostitution trade in Mexico – and we were offered brioche. Naturally, we fell on it like famished vultures. And were pleasantly surprised.


A doctor friend tells me the lab testing services of the Pontevedra hospital were overwhelmed on Friday by concerned gentlemen from Vigo. This followed the death from ‘fever’ of a prostitute working there. Vigo, it should be said, has a much bigger hospital than Pontevedra but, for some reason, the men in question felt compelled to make a journey of 30 kilometres to check out their fears in our little facility. Perhaps there was a group discount.


I wrote yesterday of Vigo in the context of the Civil War. These days, of course, it’s the centre of the Whore Wars between The C de E and a place which appears to be called Night and Day. Each of these promotes itself – in increasingly graphic detail – in the back pages of several local dailies. As I wrote a while ago, in its half-page ad the C de E stresses that it’s conveniently located next to the railway station. So, when I dropped someone off there today, I naturally took the chance to cast an eye around for it. Surprisingly, there was no standard garish sign in pink neon lights. But my suspicions were duly aroused by a 3 storey building whose windows were all painted bright red. I suppose it could have been the Communist Party’s HQ.


Intriguing comparison in the papers yesterday. On the same day the Vatican proposed that the clients of whores be penalised, the head of the Spanish Prostitutes’ Union again called for the legalising of their profession, presumably so that they can avail themselves of social security benefits. I guess it’s theoretically true that these aren’t mutually exclusive aims.


A young Frenchman has been jailed for 5 months this week for ‘offending moral integrity’. He drove a prostitute to a park in Pontevedra, availed himself of her services and then made off with her possessions, leaving her there naked. I’m looking forward to my Spanish friends explaining which part of this saga constitutes the criminal offence. And why the very public nature of brothels in Spain doesn’t appear to ‘offend moral integrity’.


One of the perils of writing with irony is that you run the risk of being misunderstood. So, responding to the comment posted to yesterday’s blog, I just wanted to clarify that I am no admirer of the macho Spanish attitude towards prostitution. My comment yesterday was intended to convey that, whereas I [like my anonymous reader] would regard all that happened as despicable, some at least of my Spanish male friends probably wouldn’t. For what it’s worth, my own view is that prostitution should be legalised and regulated so as to at least reduce, if not eradicate, the widespread abuse of women ensured by the current situation of collusion between the brothel owners and the authorities. As for returning to the subject regularly … well, whatever one thinks about it, it’s a pretty prominent aspect of Spanish society. And that’s what I comment on.


I wrote a few days ago that prostitution is a prominent aspect of Spanish life. Increasingly so, it seems. In only 5 years, the number of women employed in roadside brothels has grown from 9,590 to 19,154. As less than 100 of these are Spanish, it means an awful lot of woman from poor countries in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe are being exploited in this booming but unregulated industry.


In my blog of 11 September I asked whether we’d soon see football matches sponsored by one of Spain’s ubiquitous brothels. Well, not quite but last weekend a match involving Deportiva La Coruña was disrupted when 4 or 5 young women stripped off their tops to reveal naked torsos on which, bizarrely, had been painted shirts in the colours of the team. And on their backs? Why an ad for a local brothel! Needless to say - because of the bare breasts - Spanish TV gave the incident maximum publicity.

By the way, I’ve been accused [‘tellingly’] of returning rather frequently to the issue of prostitution in Spain. Absolutely true, but can I really be blamed, against this backcloth? Perhaps I wouldn’t if I patronised them.


Yet another comment on prostitution, upon which there was an interesting comment posted yesterday. Up in Lalín, the police chief and a town councillor have been arrested for involvement in this activity. This leaves me more confused than ever as to the legality or otherwise of this ancient profession. I’m advised that prostitution itself [as in the UK] is legal, so I’m left wondering whether these local dignitaries [or undignified locals] weren’t involved in the crime of bringing in illegal immigrants. Doubtless I’ll soon be made wiser and sadder by the Galician press.


You just can’t keep the Catalans out of the news at the moment. They’re about to bring in a law making it illegal to be involved in prostitution in public places. This will penalise both service providers and customers, it seems. Which seems very fair.


And on another regular theme – the Spanish government has declined either to make prostitution illegal or to regularise it. To quote the relevant minister – ‘In a country like Spain where there is enormous tolerance of prostitution, abolition is not an option. We believe it would worsen the plight of the women who are brought illegally into the country and who make up 85% of the prostitutes in Spain. Our preferred priority is to break up the networks which bring them in.’ I can’t help wondering how many wives and girlfriends are to be found among all these enormously tolerant bystanders. Or perhaps the minister just meant among customers.


‘Spain is the brothel of Europe’ according to a women’s group which doesn’t appear to be as ‘immensely tolerant’ as others of the country’s booming prostitution business. If they are to be believed, 900,000 men a day avail themselves of the services on offer, generating a turnover of over 40m Euros a day from the 300,000 women on the game here. Can the Spanish government really continue to turn a Nelsonian eye to all this?


Only in Spain?: A local prostitute is suing a client for the 10 euros she says he agreed to pay before forcing her to perform what’s called here ‘Frances sin’ [you’re own your own] and departing without paying. She then chased him through the local streets until they ended up [a nice touch] in the doorway of the town’s courts. Here they were both arrested.


I read that the number of British men using prostitutes has doubled over the last decade from 2 to 4% of the [male] population. This is truly appalling but the figure must still be low compared with [Catholic] Spain.


2006

Someone hit my blog last night after googling ‘Sanxenxo Pontevedra sexy nightclubs’. Good to know the quality of our tourists is rising. The endless brothel ads in the back pages of the local papers will surely be in English soon.


Sky News today told us there are about 70,000 [female] prostitutes in the UK. The number for Spain – still a Catholic country – is usually said to be around 300,000. Adjusting for population difference, this would become a comparable figure of 450,000. Or a ratio of more than 6 to 1. I am occasionally taken to task for making too many references to prostitution in Spain but, as these numbers show, it’s a hard thing to avoid. No pun intended.


Only in Spain?: The government of Catalunia has issued a 2006 calendar which not only refers to the anniversary of a brothel but also contains ads for its wide range of services, including ‘shows eróticos’. But at least it doesn’t, like all our local papers, features dozens of pictures of transvestites who’d be at home in the UK’s Lib Dem party.


And talking of young women, I wandered off Gran Via this afternoon, in the general direction of my daughter’s flat, to find myself coming face to face every 5 metres with ladies who seemed to have little else to do but lean against the wall. I must look very poor as I wasn’t propositioned once. More seriously on this theme, the Catalan government has become, I think, the first in Spain to announce they’re going to take action against the prostitution that shames Spain. According to El Pais earlier this week, Spain has, pro rata, double the number of prostitutes as Germany, with 95% of them being foreign women thought to have been tricked or forced into the activity. Something, said the paper, needs to be done about this. For what it’s worth, I suspect little will be achieved until Spanish women stop turning a blind eye to what visibly goes on all around them. As to why they do this, I wonder whether they regard an uncommitted dalliance as less of a risk to their marriage than an affair of the heart. Just a thought.


Well, maybe nothing much will happen for some time but at least a dialogue appears to have begun on the issue of prostitution in Spain. El Mundo today followed up the recent El Pais article and gave us a potted history of the trade here, emphasising once again the very high level of tolerance of something that was once an important source of state revenue. True, the article concluded it was a huge problem without obvious solutions but there has to be a first step and this might just have been it. Though I wouldn’t hold your breath.


There was an odd connection between the bizarre El Mundo article I quoted in full yesterday and the earlier article [also in El Mundo] about solving the problem of prostitution. The latter had a large cartoon in the middle of it, essentially composed of a woman’s legs with chains around them. But, in the bottom right-hand corner, there was a silhouette of a man. Not a man with a sombrero and a guitar, however, but a man in a suit wearing a bowler hat and leaning on a furled umbrella. Quite what the hackneyed stereotype of a English gentleman has got to do things is anyone’s guess.


Observations of my drive back from Madrid yesterday:-
- It’s remarkably easy to get out of the city, at least on a Saturday morning

- Most of the vehicles going past me at speeds somewhat above even the ‘unofficial limit’ of 140kph, were black or dark blue 4WD SUVs. I concluded all Galicia’s drug barons must have been for a night out in Madrid, treating themselves to the region’s best seafood that’s routinely shipped to the capital.

- It’s nearly always raining or snowing when you reach the mountainous passes between Castile and Galicia. No wonder the people up there seem so miserable when you stop for a coffee. They live in the middle of a bad-weather sandwich.

- If, in your search for somewhere to eat, you take the exit for Verin east, the first two buildings you come across on the edge of town are brothels

- Ditto, if you leave the A52 and take the ‘old road’ to Pontevedra. In this case, the building is painted pink, has a large silhouette of a naked, horizontal woman on its side and is called ‘Las Nimfas’. But I must admit I’m only guessing it’s a brothel.



In an article on university courses, I read feminists were demanding a full degree course in Gender Studies, rather than merely its inclusion as part of others. As far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ve come across a reference to feminists in over 5 years in Spain. I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of them protesting, as a group, on issues such as the stereotyping of women or the permissive attitude to prostitution. On the latter, my daughter tells me this is no longer confined to nocturnal hours in the infamous Casa de Campo park in Madrid. A family outing on Sunday, she assures me, can now take in the sight of semi and even totally naked women. I would have checked this out last Sunday but Ryan is easily embarrassed.


A luxury brothel with a difference is being opened in Valencia. It’s exclusively for women, with the target clientele being ‘professional, single and free [liberal?]’. The owner says one of the major differences between men and women is that women like to stay quiet about using a bordello, whereas men like to boast of it. True enough for Spain, I would say, but not for all cultures.


It’s not just me who drones on about prostitution in Spain; a columnist on a local paper wrote a critical article today which included the following comments:- Spanish highways are plagued with little red lights which billow up like spores on the edges of her towns . . The highways and their evil little lights indicate places out of control, free trade areas of modern slavery, where women are forced to sell the only things they have – their dignity and their bodies. The writer naturally called for something to be done but, sadly, there’s no evidence of a political will to tackle this blight.


No sooner do I write there’s no political will in Spain to tackle the appallingly open sore of prostitution than the Catalan government announces it’s going to regulate the ‘trade’. Among its proposals are that mega-brothels will be banned, cooperatives of maximally 12 rooms will be encouraged, and the ladies working there will be limited to 8 hours a day and treated as self-employed. The latter will mean them paying the €200+ obligatory social security payment each month. No wonder the Catalans are seen as being canny with money.

Right on cue, a report suggests about 25% of Spanish men between 18 and 49 visit brothels. Galicia is in the top three, at 30%. Of course, this is an artificial age limit; if it were raised, the percentage would surely significantly increase.


According to the Diario de Pontevedra, there are 400 prostitutes in the city, 320 of whom are from Latin America. The newspaper placed this report on its front page, just below a picture of 3 priests officiating at Mass in nearby Marín. An encapsulation of modern Spain, it struck me.


Another impressive feature of Madrid is its zoo, though these are not, of course, to everyone's taste. This lies in the middle of the Casa del Campo, a park during the day but a huge open-air brothel at night. But not only then, in fact; even at 4 in the afternoon a handful of prostitutes ply their trade on the main avenues, blithely ignored by picnickers, joggers, hikers and most of the cars. Very Spanish, as Time Out puts it. Which reminds me, while waiting for my younger daughter to finish some shopping on Gran Via, I went into a little church in one of the nearby squares. Hard to avoid noticing were the 4 prostitutes leaning on the wall on either side of the entrance. At 11.30 of a Saturday morning. Madonnas and whores again, I guess. Very Spanish.


One of the national papers today carried an article on prostitution in Germany during the World Cup. It headlined this with a quote from a Swedish Minister to the effect that the Swedes regard the buying of sex as a form of assault on women. I fear we might have to wait a while for this view to become common currency here.


The small ads for prostitutes and brothels at the back of the local papers are increasingly explicit, something I wouldn’t have thought possible a year or two ago. Today’s gem was a picture of an ‘Ex Miss Brazil’ who had the phrase ‘Final Days’ written along her naked thigh. As if she were in a sale. Or, like a pop diva, on tour. A perfect woman for not-so-Catholic Spain – A Madonna-like whore.


I read today of another booming business in Spain going international with great success. On the border with France – in a town which will remain unnamed - there’s a huge brothel which has 500 French customers a day during the week and double at the weekend. I wonder if they do things differently in France. Or whether it’s just a question of price. I also wonder if they still offer ‘French without’ or whether it becomes ‘Spanish without’.


At last some good news about prostitution in Spain. After 9 years of trying, the council of a town in Murcia has finally managed to shut down a large brothel convicted of numerous offences, including the exploitation of more than 20 East European minors. Reading the details of the charges levied, one is forced to wonder why it all took so long. Incidentally, the place was situated on an industrial park called La Polvorista. This mean pyrotechnist or firework-maker. But polvo has a sadly appropriate slang meaning.


The north east wind is still blowing and Galicia is still burning. The number of people arrested has now risen to 27. One of these is a Venezuelan accused of starting a huge blaze around the village of Avión, up in the mountains east of Pontevedra. This is a village of large, if style-less, mansions infamously financed by the proceeds of prostitution in one of the South American countries. Possibly Venezuela.


There are said to be 10,000 prostitutes operating here in Galicia, with 97% of them being foreign. In this case, I assume ‘foreign’ means they come from overseas and not just from one of Spain’s other regions. So whores are not like banks. And banks are not like whores?


I’m reading “Ghosts of Spain” by Giles Tremlett, a Guardian journalist who’s lived many years in Madrid. Here’s one of his observations on the Spanish. By the way, like me, he says this sort of thing as someone who loves living here:-
The tireless pursuit of pleasure, the tourist ghettoes flourishing on the coasts, and even those gaudily lit brothels on Spanish motorways all have something to say about the priorities and attitudes of modern Spaniards.


Giles Tremlett may well have answered the question I posed only a few days ago about how all the local papers finance themselves. In his chapter on Spain’s unique approach to matters sexual, he writes that even the national papers garner a significant amount of their income from the numerous, highly graphic ads for male and female prostitutes adorning the back pages. Just after the sombre gravestone announcements re the recently deceased.

In the same chapter, Tremlett reports the comment of one brothel owner that, unlike in the colder establishments of northern Europe, here you can have a drink and a chat before getting down to business. “It somehow seemed very Spanish” he adds “to put talking on a par with sex, even if both were paid for”.


I occasionally refer to the several pages of small ads for male and female prostitutes at the back of most local and national newspapers. And I’ve described these as rather graphic. Here’s the text from one I saw today – “Lina. I am mature and an expert with beginners. Come and learn with me”. It may be unfair but this seems to me to be in line with the Spanish view that it’s much better to have whores around for, amongst others, young men to practice on in preference to them fumbling with your teenage daughter.


But it’s not just Malasaña [in Madrid] which is bedevilled by road-works; much of the city is infested and nowhere more so that south west of the capital, where there’s a massive project devoted to improving the city’s inner ring road, the M-30. This has featured much in the news over the last week as it’s presented an impassable obstacle, would you believe, to a thousand sheep. These were being driven across the city in celebration of the right of shepherds to cross Spain on historic routes. Halted by the works, the [remarkably clean] sheep have been grazing in the city’s notorious Casa de Campo park, where they’ve been forced to mingle with the 4,000 prostitutes reputed to operate there every night. Though there’s been no suggestion they provided any competition to the saddest of the desperate nocturnal ramblers.


Talking of wealth, another of our regular surveys advised us today that only 2 of Galicia’s 315 townships have per capita income above the Spanish average. These are Beariz and Avion up in the hills, where they have their own little aerodrome. The article stressed the wealth was based on business success in Mexico on the part of emigrants from these villages. Though, interestingly, the writer could not bring him/herself to explain the business in question was prostitution.


The local Pontevedra football team is under offer from a group of Galician émigrés who ‘have business interests in Mexico’. I wonder if these are the same people I recently cited as the rich ex-Galicians who made a fortune in the prostitution trade there. If so, it’s a few steps down from being bought by a Sheikh from Dubai. Or even a Russian ‘industrialist’.


The British media is dominated today by the arrest of two suspects in the case of the murdered 5 prostitutes. There have been numerous articles in the press but these heartfelt comments caught my attention today, for what they said about how British society has changed:-It used to be taboo to go with a prostitute. Something to be done furtively. Something that brought shame if you were found out. But now it’s something to do on a stag night or a night out with the boys. It's considered a bit of a laugh to go to a lap-dancing club or a brothel and pay for sex. It's disgraceful this has been allowed to happen. This is basically society saying it's okay to exploit women in the 21st century. The statistics quoted were well down on those I’ve seen for Spain, both as regards the number of prostitutes in the country and the percentage of British men who resort to them. But the gap is clearly closing, as southern European attitudes take hold in the UK. I wonder how they view this in Brussels, given the importance placed there on ‘convergence’. They certainly must look askance from Stockholm, where it’s now a criminal offence for a man to rent a woman’s body. Too much to hope for Spain, I fear. And for the UK too, it now seems.

4 comments:

Xoan-Carlos said...

Surely 'Croissant' (literally 'Crescent') is Franglais rather than Spanglish?

Hope you don't mind me linguistically normalising your blog with some "Galeglish" entries:

'Arranxar' to 'Arrange' or 'fix' (also used in Portuguese).

or

'caique' for "Cake",

I've also heard Galicians in England speak of the "marquete" (market) and "fallamán" (fireman).

Xoan-Carlos said...

Talking of croissants, my mother has always called them "media luas", but whenever I've used this it's resulted in confused looks

Colin said...

Oh, Xoan Carlos . . .

I wondered as I re-read the croissant entry who would pick it up. But I should have guessed. . Actually, It's probably most accurate to say 'crosan' is Spancais. Or Frañol.

Franglais is English spoken by the French, as you will know. Not French stolen by the English. Anything stolen by the English and used in the same way is just English, I guess. I suppose the test will be if 'croissant' features in English dictionaries.

Thanks, though, for the normalisation. I quite enjoyed it. By the way, if you search the web hard, you will find a Brit living in Santiago who hopes his 9 month old kid will growu up trilingual. Now that's the sort of Brit you really need here! Not us old reactionaries.

I guess 'lua' is moon.

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