Monday, June 18, 2007

Well, this was the weekend when the newly elected mayors and councillors took office around Spain. I’d like to be able to give a summary of the recent elections – for Galicia at the very least – but I’m just too confused to do this. My general impression is that – except for Madrid and Valencia - the left wing parties made considerable progress at the expense of the right-wing parties, even where the latter gained most votes. This is because of numerous pacts between the socialist PSOE party and further-to-the-left and/or ‘nationalist’ parties. The overall picture is one of frantic horse-trading, some of which wasn’t actually consummated by Saturday’s deadline. Unsurprisingly, some commentators are calling for a change to voting mechanics so as to avoid what they see as a fraud on the electorate.

As for said Madrid and Valencia exceptions, one El Pais columnist last week explained this as a result of the Americanisation of these cities. Or of Madrid, at least. The theory runs that the economic success of the city is built on influx of aspirational immigrants who move up the ladder and are replaced by more of the same. The traditional stable Spanish working class and its voting patterns have thus disappeared. Seems plausible to me. And it must be nice for the rabidly anti-American Left to have the Yankees to blame.

It may be that the current No. 1 preoccupation of the Spanish is resurgent terrorism - especially when we’re being regularly told another ETA atrocity is imminent - but you don’t have to be Einstein to realise that ‘Immigration’ is knocking at the door. The country’s population of 45m now includes more than 4m foreigners. As others have said, this is a relatively new phenomenon here and it will provide a severe test of the Spanish belief that – except when it comes to gypsies – they’re not racist. My own perception is there’s a lot of low-level, ‘old-fashioned’ racism around and it will challenge a government of any stamp to prevent this becoming something worse. But at least they’ve had the opportunity to learn from mistakes in both Britain and France.

An interesting immigration wrinkle - Rumania is about to overtake Morocco as the primary source of foreigners. So they can’t all be pickpockets in Madrid or beggars in Pontevedra.

As I recall, April and May were quite dry and bright here. For the first two weeks of June, though, the sun appears to have gone on vacation. But what can you expect when you live on the Atlantic coast?

As my daughters well know, as an ageing pedant I’m easily irritated by the use of ‘amount’ when it should be ‘number’. As in Mr Sousa says the amount of people in the room hampered forensic work. But what chance have I got when it’s the BBC which inflicts this error on us? Where is the Royal Academy of English when you need it?

Finally, it’s reported the British theatre director Sir Trevor Nunn paid £27,000 for a Damien Hirst painting that was actually the work of the artist's two-year-old son. You couldn’t make it up.


Anonymous said...

The Rumanians have moved into the various low-paid jobs around - builders and bar-staff, cleaners and companions, but they have also taken control of the nation's knock-shops (botyh above and below stairs), much of the crime and, above all, the accordion (and occasionally saxaphone) street musicians. In our small resort, we have at least a dozen of these musical beggars.
I asked about their own prejudices - they are fine with the Bulgarians, but don't like those pesky Hungarians.
They appear to be ready to assimilate rather better than we Brits.

moscow said...

Mr. Davies, I quite like your blog. As a spaniard whose lived 10 years in the UK and is now living in Russia, I find your comments fascinating at times, interesting most of the time. Keep it up, please.

Eurasia Review said...

I think you have a small typo, immigrants represent 4.5 million now, and the population is 45 million.

I too enjoy reading your blog.

Robert Duncan

Colin Davies said...

My thanks to Lenox, Moscow and Robert.

BTW, Lenox . . . 1. I don't always understand the cartoonist Roto. Let's be honest - I frequenctly don't understand him. I guess it takes years of cultural assimilation. 2. As for the Rumanians assimilating more than us Brits, I guess you did mean that this included taking over elements of the crime scene. My immediate thought was that it's quite a long time since Noel Coward described the Costa del Sol as something like a hot refuge for shady people but then I realised that continuity didn't necessarily mean assimilation, and 3. I don't think we have many Rumanian musicians here yet, though one of the best combos certainly is from East Europe and I always happily donate. Which can't be said of the ragged youths with placid dogs who stand outside supermarkets inanely blowing into a reed pipe while holding out one hand. I guess these could be Rumanian.

Colin Davies said...

Damn. I've just discovered it was Somerset Maugham who described Monaco as "a sunny place for shady people".