I read recently that the tabloid British press was taking advantage of the weakness of the government to ride roughshod over legal restrictions on the reporting of alleged crimes. But I wonder whether anything has been as bad as the case here this last week of the media ‘lynching’ of a young man who’d taken his partner's baby to hospital and then, in short order, found himself accused not only of killing but also raping her beforehand. And with his face and initials all over the newspapers and the TV. Less than a week on, he’s been released and the air is thick with apologies from various bodies - including the police and the hospital - for devastating his young life. Over the years, I’ve often wondered about the assumption of innocence here in Spain and the reporting that takes place immediately after a murder. But never as much as after this episode. No wonder there was a fulminating editorial in El Mundo today, calling for heads to roll.
On the same page in El Mundo there’s also a cry of pain around Spain's poor ranking in the 2009 Index of Corruption. Which shouldn’t really come as a great surprise to anyone, given the diet of accusations and arrests to which we’re accustomed. Inured even.
The most current of these is a contract killing of a mayor in a small village where, according to one commentator, every single inhabitant there had a good motive for the crime. The background is said to be the (ex) mayor’s refusal to go along with some huge construction deal. Or was that another case I read of?
Gibraltar is back in the Spanish news, with the right-of-centre PP party whipping up a storm about alleged British advantage-taking of Spanish government weakness. There was, of course, a cartoon in one of the national papers, in which a Spaniard was featured standing knee-deep in water, facing up to a Briton also knee-deep in water and surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, with the Rock behind him. As ever, the Brit was wearing a sort of bowler hat and sporting a moustache. The Spaniard, however, was not dressed in a matador costume. I guess we should be grateful the former wasn’t toting an umbrella. Possibly to stop other Spaniards from taking him to be a Galician.
In Spain, the departed are usually buried in a small niche in one of the walls in the local cemetery. Which are actually rented from the church, I believe. In the small town of Cee, up our coast, one of these was broken into last week and the body removed. As the deceased had been a property millionaire and there was a family dispute – or possibly would-be family dispute – about inheritances, it’s suggested the corpse was removed to assist DNA testing. Which is not something those of us involved in discussions with Alec Jeffreys in 1984 ever envisaged as being a future application of his astonishing invention. But, then, we probably didn’t imagine he’d get a knighthood and a Nobel Prize out of it either.
Finally . . .
Galicia: I will be posting my notes tomorrow from the book Otro Idea de Galicia. For today, I just wanted to reproduce these paragraphs from the chapter on the Galician language. Of course, my reason for doing so will only be properly understood by those who’ve followed the comments of a certain Galician gentleman – I use the term loosely – who lives in Britain but has strong – albeit absentee – opinions on the subject. The rest of you might want to knock off here for today.
It has to be said that one of the problems in the way of normalising Gallego has been some of its defenders. It’s always been difficult to explain why, almost 100 years after its foundation, the Royal Academy of the Galician Language hasn’t been able to deliver a proper grammar, dictionary or spelling scheme. This fell to another organisation, the Institute of the Galician Language(ILG). But, unfortunately, the ILG used a pretty controversial methodology, in line with keeping as far as possible the Spanish spelling used hitherto through ignorance. In the face of this, the ‘reintegracionista’ philologists proposed spellings more in keeping with the language’s history so as to ‘re-integrate’ it into its Portuguese-Brazilian family. However, the ‘reintegracionistas’ promptly fell out among themselves in an interminable debate about how close Gallego should be to Portuguese. So it was that, in the 80s, Galicia was witness to an unusual fact: a highly technical discussion of comparative linguistics carried out by graffiti and personal insults.
Ultimately victory went to the linguists of the ILG, who had the support of the Xunta, who were nervous of the secessionist implications of Portuguese spellings. More prosaically, the Xunta worried that, as the spelling favoured by 'reintegracionistas' was quite difficult to learn, it would be a barrier to literacy among the new generations of speakers.
To be honest, the 'reitegracionistas' are technically correct that Gallego and Portuguese are variants of the same language . . . . That said, the perception that they are distinct languages is so great that, in this case, that’s how things are. Portuguese culture tends to ignore Galician culture and, in this sense, the insistence of the 'reintegracionistas' is unrealistic.
Amen to that. Of course the ‘interminable debate’ carried out by insults is not yet over, having been given a boost by the internet. This despite the fact the reintegracionista cause is now even more lost than it was in the 1980s. One almost admires their perseverance. Even those odd souls who carry on the campaign from the UK. Marching to the beat of their own solitary drum.