Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
A bit more on life in the Spanish army in North Africa i the early 1920s, from Arturo Barea's The Forging of a Rebel:-
- I learned enough in my years of apprenticeship in the bank to realise the power of the Society of Jesus [the jesuits] in Spain. I knew that the Sacred Heart had been enthroned in the factory plants of the north and that the big shipowners had Jesuits for their father confessors, and the big banks were so intimately bound to the Order that some of them were assumed to be its financial figureheads. I had seen that a letter of recommendation from a Jesuit opened all doors in Spanish industry and that a discreet hint from the same quarters had the power to shut those doors for good.
- Once you have selected your [literary] Master, you belong to him, unconditionally. If he's of the Right, you belong to the Right. If he's of the Left, you belong to the Left. It doesn't matter what you write. In this country, you have to belong to one side or the other, right or wrong.
- [Observing recruits arriving in Africa] There were men from the Castilian plains and sierras, taciturn, small, bony, tanned by the sun, wind, frost and snow, their legs of their corduroy trousers fastened with twine over their bulging pants, which in turn were tied with tape over thick blue or red home-knitted socks. Basques, Gallegos and Asturians usually came in a mixed lot on the same ship, and their discrepancies where astounding. The huge basques, in blue blouses, with the inevitable beret on the crown of their small heads, were serious and silent, and they spoke in that incomprehensible language of theirs, they measure their words. You felt the strength of their individual being and of their self-contained culture. The Gallegos came mostly from poor, forlorn villages, they used to be incredibly dirty, often barefoot, and they faced this new affliction, worse than the familiar penury at home, with a bovine resignation. The Asturians from the mountains were strong and agile, great gluttons and bawdy merrymakers, and they mocked at the wretchedness of the people from Galicia, as well as at the gravity of the Basques. Then there arrived pot-bellied, old transatlantic steamers with a load of recruits from the Mediterranean provinces, from Catalonia, parts of Aragon, Valencia and Alicante. The mountain people from Aragon and northern Catalonia differed in language, but they were much alike – primitive, harsh and almost savage.The Catalans, from the ports, in contact with all the Mediterranean civilisations, were a world apart from their own countrymen of the mountains. The people of the Levante, in black blouses and laced alpargatas, rather handsome, but lymphatic and flabby with promise of an early paunch, were a group by themselves. And it seemed to me that a Madrileño is less of a stranger to the New Yorker than a Basque is to a Gallego, with their villages a bare hundred miles apart.
- That mass of illiterate peasants commanded by irresponsible officers was the backbone of Spain's Moroccan field armies.
- One day a company of the Tercio refused to eat the rotten food of their mess. The first man in the queue shouted something like:”The sons of bitches in the Expeditionary Force get chicken and champagne in the officers' mess, while we have to eat this stinking muck”. He took the mess tin and shoved it back. The officer on duty shot him clean through the head. The next man refused the filled tin. The officer shot him. The third wavered, carried his mess tin away from the field kitchen and smashed in on the ground. The officer shot him. The others ate their portions.
- He threw fat stones into the sea and watched them ricocheting. “You know, barbarism is surely one of the most contagious things in life”.
- You see, Franco . . .Look, the Tercio's rather like being in a jail. The most courageous brute is the master of the place. And something of this sort happened to that man. He's hated, just as the convicts hate the bravest killer in their prison, and he's obeyed and respected – he imposes himself on all the others – just as the big killer imposes himself on the whole jail. You know how many officers of the Legion have been shot in the back during an attack. Now, there are many who would wish to shoot Franco in the back, but not one of them has the courage to do it. They're afraid he might turn his head and see them just when they have taken aim at him. . . .Believe me, it's sticky going with Franco. He simply looks blankly at a fellow, with very big serious eyes, and says “Execute him”, and walks away, just like that. I've seen murderers go white in the face because Franco had looked at them out of the corner of his eye. You know, that mans' not quite human and he hasn't got any nerves. And then, he's quite isolated. I believe all the officers detest him because he treats them just as he treats us and isn't friends with any of them. They go on the loose and get drunk but he stays alone in the tent. It's difficult to make him out and it's funny because he's still so young.
- The Legion grew quickly into a state within the State, a cancer within the army. Franco was not content with his promotion and his brilliant career. He needed war. Now he held the Tercio in his hands, as an instrument of war.
Tomorrow, life back in Madrid after the army.
I wrote yesterday that the Camino de Santiago is essentially about money these days. I thought there were now about 15 camino routes, spidered across Spain. But the web page of Mundicom lists a staggering total of 33, even if you exclude variants. Here in Pontevedra, spring has brought a sharp uplift in the number of pilgrims passing though Pontevedra. Most of these will be heading due north on the original Portuguese Way but some will be heading west or north west on one of the 3 'authentic' routes discovered in the last 5 years. All heading for a city which has, to my mind, been effectively destroyed by excessive tourism over the last 20 years. About which the residents of Barcelona are now up in arms. The gilt is off the golden goose, it seems. You can have too much of a good thing.
Finally . . . In the Voz de Galicia yesterday, I read that El segundo cerebro está en tu barriga. "Your second brain is in your guts". Well, for women maybe. For men it's rather lower down. Or, in the case of some men, in their head.
Today's cartoon: Another on the UK's NHS:-