Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.
Life in Spain
Life in Spain
- Cataluña 1: So, yesterday was about as bad as it could have been. Given that this was not only bound to happen in retrospect but also inevitable in prospect, one wonders how long it'll be before the PP party replaces the hapless President Rajoy with someone with a better chance of achieving a negotiated settlement between Madrid and Barcelona. Assuming one is possible. If not right now, then later.
- Cataluña 2: Listening to Rajoy's address yesterday evening, it was hard not to agree with him point by point about how the Catalan (minority) government's illegal actions had provoked Madrid's reaction, while at the same time realising he'd completely misread the situation and basically played into the hands of the secessionists. No wonder he's now regarded by some as the patron saint of Catalan independence. Not that this is ever likely to happen, of course.
- Cataluña 3: So, 90% of those who voted did so in favour of independence. Possibly the most unsurprising news of the year. Century even. The Catalan president claims that Cataluña has won the right to statehood. And: The Catalans have earned the right to be listened to, respected and recognised. Well, no, Sr P. You've really only won the right to be listened to and to have your views respected as part of a genuine dialogue about increased autonomy. But you already had this. The problem was/is that Spain's rightwing PP party, under the hapless President Rajoy, didn't respect this right. Hopefully, they now will, once the temperature reduces. The worst thing that could happen now is that you, in triumphalist martyr mode carry out your insane threat to issue a unilateral declaration of independence that no one in the world will respect. Nor possibly the majority of Catalans. If so, the current mess will get worse.
- Cataluña 4: Headline in The Times this morning: Spain torn apart as 850 hurt in Catalan referendum clashes. Well, not quite. Or not at all really. Rather more accurate is this sentence in the paper's report: Many EU diplomats have been highly critical of the way that Mr Rajoy has handled the Catalan crisis, which is tearing Spain’s richest region apart.
- Cataluña 5: Rather bizarrely, there's the possibility that – if Cataluña were to achieve independence and then become an EU member – Spain would default on its debts and then be forced to leave the eurozone.
- Cataluña 6: In his address last night, Sr Rajoy offered talks with all major parties including Catalan nationalists to try to restore “harmony”. Not going to happen with you in charge of the ship of state, mate. It's stalemate. You need to depart as elegantly as you can and leave the challenge to someone who is less stubborn - allegedly a trait of the Gallegos, of which he is one.
Cataluña and the EU: See the article at the end of this post on the nascent terror in Brussels. The Commission has been accused of taking a much laxer stance on Spain than it would against other member states. For some countries like Poland there are strict standards but when it comes to Spain, there seems to be a lot of complacency, said one Catalan politico. Very possibly accurately.
Talking of politics . . . A valid observation on current developments around the world: How bizarrely similar are the manifestations of the populist Right and the populist Left. They both encourage the ritual repetition of mindless slogans, the incitement of collective hate, and the idolatry of a leader. But, 'twas ever thus when it came to scurrilous populists. Would-be dictators like Erdogan are even worse, of course.
English: My last comment reminds me that last night I came across– in a history of gin in the UK over the last 2-300 years – the word scurrility. I think it should be brought out of retirement.
Spanish: My thanks to my friend Jennie for the phrase Me quedo ancho/a. Which means something like 'And I'm proud of it' or 'And I don't care what you think of me'.
Gallego: Allegedly because it's an old Latin-born language, Galician is rich in variants of the word carallo (carajo in Spanish). Which means 'penis'. These are used in all sorts of expressions and include:-
In addition, the word itself can be used – in the appropriate phrase – to suggest surprise, anger, resignation, offence, flattery, doubt, courage, denial. Inter alia. A versatile little word, then.
Finally . .
The mention of carallo has reminded me of this bit of odd news I read about in the current issue of Private Eye:-
Dickometrics - You couldn't make it up.
Alarm bells are ringing in capitals across Europe: Bruno Waterfield, The Times.
The bloodied heads, the violence and the firing of rubber bullets as riot police stopped Catalans voting will ring alarm bells across Europe but, however uneasy or reluctant, European governments have no choice but to back Spain.
Catalonia’s independence referendum violates the EU’s most sacred taboos: it defies Spain’s highest constitutional law and threatens a separatist challenge to the unity of Europe’s states.
Governments fear that the fallout of the violent confrontation over the vote will fester for years, fuelling radical separatism across Europe. From Spain to Scotland, to Belgium and France, or the patchwork of peoples in former Austro-Hungarian countries such as Slovakia, Romania or parts of Italy, separatism threatens the European order.
Footage of bloodstained voters fleeing as masked police officers in black uniforms destroy ballot boxes has already triggered public revulsion. Heavy-handed Spanish state repression will make the Catalan nationalist demand for a referendum the most burning issue for Spain and Europe while other separatist movements will find a new moral impetus.
The EU and its governments have been reluctant defenders of Spain because the country’s constitution and judges made it clear that the referendum was illegal. It is about the rule of law. The idea of higher constitutional law glueing or bonding the unity of states and binding them into a European legal order, with the highest laws and court of all, is intrinsic to the EU’s existence.
The European Commission can but watch while issuing weak appeals for calm and restraint. Spain’s government has compared itself to John F Kennedy, who used the force of the federal state, including the National Guard, to uphold civil rights and the US constitution in 1963. He has history’s approval for using repression against racist segregation backed by elected governors in America’s south.
An entirely different impression of injustice is given, however, by the scenes of the Spanish police upholding the 1978 constitution that decrees Spain’s “indissoluble unity” as “the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards”.
Separatists threaten the existence of EU member states by threatening to unpick the territorial integrity and statehood of many of Europe’s nations.
Spillovers from Catalonia could encourage separatist movements among Basques in Spain, the Flemish in Belgium, or breakaway movements in Italy’s Tyrol and Padania. It might radicalise Scots in Britain or Corsicans in France, inspire unrest in Romania or among Slovakia’s Hungarian minorities or give legitimacy to a breakaway Turkish Northern Cyprus, jeopardising peace talks. So strong is hostility to secessionist or breakaway states that Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece blocked EU recognition of Kosovo, even after Nato’s defence of the country from Serbia.
Fears are growing across the EU that Spain’s action, especially if it uses emergency powers against Catalonia, could make the clamour for independence unstoppable, unstitching the fabric of the Spanish state and beginning a chain reaction across Europe.
If separatists in any of Europe’s many semi-autonomous regions see that organising an illegal vote can deliver gains in popularity, moral authority and concessions, up to and including independence, the momentum could become unstoppable.