Sunday, February 22, 2009

I’m getting a little tired of having my sentiments stolen by paid journalists. An editorial in El País today points out it’s one thing to use the excuse of ‘cultural heritage’ to stave of excess bureaucratic interference in Spain’s risk-ridden fiestas but quite another to use it to justify the chucking of goats off the top of towers. I suppose, though, it’s quite possible this thought occurred to the writer independently . . . Incidentally, the article mentioned the ‘aquatic sport’ of strangling live geese. Which is a new one on me.

Another thing which caught my eye in today’s El País was a long letter which essentially said that no country which had joined the wonderful EU should be allowed to criticise whatever came down from the decision makers. And this from someone who saw the institution as a welcome advance on the despotism of the Franco era. Que ironía. Or not, in this correspondent’s case.

Last week my younger daughter and one of her friends enjoyed four days here and spent each of them on the beach, relaxing in the sun we’d not seen for at least three weeks. When I mention this to Spanish friends, they virtually scream in astonishment that anyone could go to the beach in February, regardless of the temperature. This, though, is not a real surprise. After you’ve lived here a while, you appreciate that – while the Spanish can demonstrate an irritating individualismo – they’re really not very individualistic all. In fact, they can demonstrate something of a herd instinct. Which can, of course, be used to one’s advantage. For example, in these parts at least, it’s not done to go to the beach except between the 15th of July and the 31st of August. And then never between 2.30 and 5.30. So, chose accordingly and you can have a mile-long beach to yourself.

And while I’m pontificating about the natives . . . The Spanish like to see themselves as non-racist. One can differ with this take but it’s true they don’t mean to be insulting when they indulge in casual racism. Such as this remark from one of the Galician pensioners furious about being tricked into listening to a political address instead of getting the trip to Portugal he’d paid for – “They conned us like we were [stupid] Chinese.”

More seriously, the evidence continues to rise that, as the recession bites, the massive immigration of the last five years – leading to a 10% population increase – is beginning to generate high levels of racist antipathy. Sadly, I guess we could soon find out whether the Spanish belief that they’re not really racist is well-founded or not.

Switching on the TV this morning for news from the UK, I found that both the BBC and Sky were leading with the story of the dying 'celebrity' who’s being paid a fortune both to get married and to die in front of the cameras. In contrast, I read this afternoon, that on the evening of the first post-war elections in Britain, your radio choice was between a political commentary and the Benjamin Britten opera, Peter Grimes. Times certainly change.

Back to Spain . . . Come the end of the hunting season, come the abandonment of unwanted hounds. Here in Galicia, there were more than a hundred in the Lugo province alone. Something of a ritual, I guess. As is the recent announcement from the Galician Supreme Court that a huge block of flats in the centre of Vigo must be demolished as being illegal. This happens every two or three years and has been going on for twenty years now. And it will probably continue for another twenty, as various legal niceties are discussed in one forum or another. All very Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.

But to end on a positive note . . . The beginning of Lent brings us the Galician celebration of Entroido and, of course, the sort of processions associated with Mardi Gras in Rio. For the first time in years, I went down to have at look at Pontevedra’s last evening. It was huge fun and a tribute to the creativity and industry of a great many people. There’ll be more tomorrow but here’s a snap of one of the winners.

As you’ll all recall, Jules Verne had the Nautilus sail into one of the bays near Vigo, in search of the gold and silver bullion long-rumoured to lie on its muddy bottom. However, I bet he never had Captain Nemo indulge in the Spanish custom of parking his craft on a zebra crossing.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Mr Davies, hold your horses on that one, I think you are being a bit unfair on those poor galicians this time: "Such as this remark from one of the Galician pensioners furious about being tricked into listening to a political address instead of getting the trip to Portugal he’d paid for – “They conned us like we were [stupid] Chinese.”

Did that man say indeed stupid, or is it your own brackets, which means that:

a) it is you the racist, for thinking chinese are stupid,

b) you are just making assumptions about what that man thinks of chinese people, that is, you think (but can't actually tell) he is a racist.

c) You are just transferring to Spanish that English casual expression, "I can't understand, it's all (stupid) Greek to me!"

Colin said...

Sorry but your logic is poor.

1. We know what he meant.

2. For me to understand he meant 'stupid' is not to say that I believe the Chinese are stupid but to say that's what I thought his meaning was. Quite a difference. I could be wrong about his inference, of course. But this is a different point.

2. Saying something is 'all Greek' is not to make a remark about the Greek language but simply to indicate the speaker can't understand what's being said. It's not remotely racist as it implies absolutely nothing about the Greek language.

Please tell me what you think the expression "Nos engañaron como a chinos" means.

I guess it could have been worse. It could have been "Nos engañaron como chinos".

Lenox said...

'Chino' means 'piglet' - as well as 'Chinaman'. I have a Chinese friend down here in 'the sticks' who is known as 'El Indio' so as not to offend...
The Galicians may have had the idea of a 'marranico' in mind here...
Bloody Greeks, eh?

Anonymous said...

Colin, my logic is poor?!?!

1. Well, now, since you say he never said stupid, I know what he meant. It is you who doesn't know.

2. Saying "Nos engañaron como (a) chinos" is not to make a remark about the Chinese people but simply to indicate that one is deceived because one can't understand what's being said (as if one was chinese, that is, speaker of another language and therefore incapable to understand). It's not remotely racist as it implies absolutely nothing about the Chinese people.

3. About the meaning of the expression (with or without "a", don't think it makes a big difference), read again my point 2.

Colin said...

Why not take this up with the Royal Academy as this is what they say?

Engañar a alguien como a un chino.

Loc. verb.: Aprovecharse de su credulidad.

You can look up 'credulidad' and 'crédulo' yourself, I guess.

Colin said...

Of course, they also have this innocuous expression, which is equivlent to the English one about something being "all Greek to me".

Chino: Lenguaje incomprensible. 'No sé a qué te refieres, porque me estás hablando en chino'

I assume this is the usage you were really referring to. Not the one about the Chinese being [stupidly] credulous.

Anonymous said...

Well, I just checked the entry for "crédulo" and there is no reference to "estúpido", so I assume the link you suggest, Colin, between "crédulo" and "estúpido" may be one derived (understandably) from the English language, that link being alien to Spanish.

... and and Still, I am sure that galician pensioner wasn't thinking of the chinese at that moment, not even of the credulous or stupid ones ... So let's chak it up to an inherent tract of the Spanish language, prone to have racist idioms, even if not explicitly registered in their dictionaries ...

But come to think of it, I just checked in my English thesaurus the entry for "credulous" and their is not reference to stupid, either ... I checked too the entry for "stupid" and among the more than 50 words listed there is not the "credulous" one, either ...

So, on second thoughts, it seems to me that rather than being an inkling of stupidity in that Spanish idiom, the stupidity, in this case, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder ...

Midnight Golfer said...

..."I am sure that galician pensioner wasn't thinking of the chinese at that moment"...

If I hear this excuse for racist language another time here in Spain I will puke.


Colin said...


Funny but I knew this is what you would say next. Consistent with your tract [trait?] of abusing your intelligence.

Keep it up. You're impressing us all with your sophistry.

Or maybe just yourself.

Over and out.

Anonymous said...

Midnightgolfer, before you puke in Spain, nothing unusual for a brit to do in this and other countries, you should allow some time to consider the arguments explained in this thread. Otherwise you could risk mental atrophia.

Do you have anything intelligent to say? Are you going to back up your case, or just continue with your patriotic habit of puking in Spain?

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, it wasn't my intention to impress with my intelligence, quite average by the way, but to expose the falacy of your superficial and biased comments on Spanish and Galician culture. There is a Spanish saying, "ver la paja en ojo ajeno y no la viga en el propio", that you should ponder on when writing your opinions. Basically, you would be doing yourself a favour.

Brendan said...

Anonymous, we're all in denial about something... just try to learn not to be so sensitive. The world isn't such a bad place...

Colin said...

Thanks, Brendan.

I shouldn't trouble yourself too much about our friend Anonymous. This isn't by any means the first time he's played these silly games, arguing for the sake of arguing and, in the process, saying more about himself than anyone else. And, whilst citing a Spanish stereotype of the British, successfully strengthening the British stereotype of a stupidly argumentative male Spaniard who likes the sound of his own voice and will say whatever he comes into his head in order to hear it.

Doubtless he's checking regularly to see whether anyone has risen to his latest bait and will respond as he always does.

I suppose 'he' might be a 'she' and not Spanish. But I rather doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, I don't think I am playing silly games or arguing for the sake of it. I am questioning some of your own views and exposing their falacy but you can't be bothered to respond, perhaps because you can't be bothered to question your own views. I think that your assumptions on that galician pensioner's comment were baseless, but you won't discuss it, you have made your mind up on the racist nature of that people. You seem to have a chorus of equally biased and prejudiced brits adding to your own comments, which reinforce your own shortsightedness. A bit of challenge and debate won't do you any harm.

Leaving the stereotypes thing, You are being racist here: you are assuming Spaniards are racist, without opening yourself to debate. You assume that pensioner implied "stupid" and not "unaware" or "credulous". That is putting a label, and not a nice one. I suggest you offer more solid arguments whenever you leave your percepcions about that people so unambiguously explicit.

Anonymous said...

I will hang around here for a bit, depending on how quickly I get bored (which could be not too long a time). Try to make the most of it, Mr Davies.

Have a good day

Colin said...

I take it all back. You are right. Gullible and irrational people are not stupid. Except to me. Maybe you'd prefer 'simple'. But please don't bother to tell us. It doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, poor, very poor logic: equating stupid to credulous is not correct (as I told you before), unless by means of poetic licence ...

Even if that pensioner assumed the credulous aception of that Spanish idiomatic expression, and not the one that points at the uncapability of the chinese to understand Spanish (as I believe was the case), it is a far far fetched assumption to put the "stupid" between brackets word refering to what that man actually meant.

I may be credulous, but not by any means stupid.

Leaving aside your own perceptions on the gullible and the irrational concepts applied to humans, which are clearly baseless (is a great artist stupid, is a child stupid?!), I accept your apologies, in the name of the Galician pensioner. No worries.

Onagh Carolan said...

Hi Colin
I will be driving to Pontevedra from Dublin (on the back of my boyfriend's motorbike) in September. I stumbled across your blog and website and have found them very insightful. It's great to find some real opinions amongst all the mundane tourist info.

On the beach section of your website, you named a nudist beach which you were recommending instead of your actual favourite un-named beach. Please tell me the name! This will be our only trip to Galicia and I would hate to miss out after driving such a long way.

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