The Governor of the Bank of Spain has joined the chorus of voices warning that, while the central government might well be doing something about levels of debt, the regional governments are still running rampant. The response of the latter has been to ask what on earth he knows about local finance. Or, indeed, anything. I suspect this is a not uncommon (ad hominem) Spanish reaction to criticism. Especially from Madrid.
I once tried to lampoon Spanish females name by inventing some that couldn’t possibly be true. I think they were Purgatoria and Penitencia. Then someone kindly wrote to say these did, in fact, exist. I thought of this today when reading that Pontevedra has an exhibition of work by a lady called Purificación. Honest. So, how about Flagelación?
Talking of events in town . . . Today I received the program for the 2010-2011 Philharmonic Society. As ever, the events run from mid October to mid May, giving the impression the four months between June and September are really not worth bothering about. Which does seem to rather true about several aspects of Spanish society. Education perhaps being the most important. I note, though, that the money for my membership still leaves my account during this hiatus. So we’re not all on holiday, it seems.
I’m afraid I couldn’t resist lifting this little piece of (allegedly) Pope doggerel from a Times column. It’s on the graves of two young people of his village killed by lightning in 1718. Even if you’re a native speaker, it may test your English a little. Possibly a lot.:-
Here lye two poor Lovers
Who had the mishap
Tho very chaste people
To die of the Clap.
It seems that the take-up of Sky’s 3D option has not been up to expectation. Could this be because the glasses are seen as something else to lose down the side of the bloody sofa, along with the five or six remote control sets you usually need?
Finally . . . The reference to negritos yesterday inevitably led to some reader comments (all of them gratifyingly civil) and here is a letter from my Dutch friend, Peter. This is very pertinent but too long to fit in the Comments box. So, since it’s positive – and as he buys me a glass of Rioja from time to time – I’m doing him the dubious honour of posting it here:-
My dear Colin,
As the proud, happy and very Whitey father of a blooming black Ethiopian boy, I guess I can presume to be something of an authority on the matter of racial linguistics in Galicia*. And if you ask me how to regard the use of ‘10 Negritos’ in the name of a shop, my answer is: don’t fret about it. There is no harm intended. Galicians are remarkably laid-back about racial issues, and if anything they show a certain innocent, child-like, dazed attitude towards darker folk. Blacks are different. Blacks are a little strange. But that doesn’t mean there is any reason to treat them worse than you do other people. Probably too many Galician remember perfectly well how it was to be a stranger in a strange land, during those long emigrant years in Switzerland or Holland or Latin America, to slip into cheap shot racism.
Illustration: when our neighbour, a farming lady of no education whatsoever, heard we were going to Africa to adopt a child, she frowned, and made a face, and then exclaimed: ‘Pero….¿No sera un niño negro, no? ¡Un niño blanco es mucho mejor…!’ This made us worry just a little about the reception our son might receive in the village. But that was unnecessary. As soon as we introduced the boy to the lady, it was love at first sight. Cuddles, sweets and invitations. Familiarity with the negrito as an individual wiped out any abstract feeling of discomfort on the spot.
This is not to say that it is a free ride all the way. There are hidden racist undercurrents in Galicia, as there are in any other place (the things I’ve heard some people here say about Jews, for instance, made my hair stand on end). Particularly in the schoolyard, friendly 5th and 6th graders [10 to 11 year olds to Brits, I think] can always be counted on making a nice racist slur (‘Cara de caca’ etc) if they wish to put a playmate in his place – and the teachers are too busy trying to understand the latest Ukase about Galego versus Castillano, and too busy fighting the enemy (i.e. the parents), to do much about such trivial matters. But it is my personal impression that the words Negro or Negrito are rarely used with any denigrating intention – much as they may be used without due consideration as to the effect they possibly have. It may be insensitivity to the issue; but it is not deliberately demeaning.
Meanwhile, in Galicia as in the rest of Spain, the word Moreno is now in vogue to denote blacks… Which makes me fear that the PC lexicon is presently being written, and that in a few years time I will be the proud, happy and very Whitey father of a blooming Afro-European boy….
But what’s in a Word, eh…..?
* Editor’s Note: Or at least in his Galician village.
Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter has now net-published seven chapters of a novel which is “A fast-paced political thriller but, above all, a personal tale of pride and paranoia.” Set in a fictionalised Cuba, it’s being e-published at the rate of at least a couple of chapters a week. If this entices you, click here.