Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 29.3.18

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.

  • Scottish developments
  • Cataluña developments here and here.
  • A sensible overview: The Spanish government is fully within its rights to defend its unity and its constitution. And European states are right to give the Catalan secessionists no support. But now that Berlin has been thrust into the dispute, it would do well to tell Madrid that treating the ill-conceived Catalan independence drive as treason gives the movement a moral authority it does not warrant. A conciliatory gesture toward Catalonia would do far more to defuse a confrontation that has gone too far.
  • But . . . Not only Rajoy thinks he's winning the Catalan fight . . . Here's Sebastian Faber, Professor of Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College in the USA: Rajoy and his party, the Partido Popular, have avoided to the extent possible any kind of actual political negotiation over this conflict. . . By handing the issue over to the courts, in effect the executive branch has let go of all control.  . . The executive branch cannot now undo that. . . . At this point everything is in the hands of the judiciary in Spain. . . Initially I would say it has strengthened his position in Spain as a whole. It has shored up a base that was getting sick and tired and distrustful of the PP party due to the many corruption scandals that have been plaguing it. More recently, though, that support, what you could call the conservative Spanish base, has been abandoning the Partido Popular regardless and shifting toward the younger party on the right, Ciudadanos. So what you see now is a new rivalry within the centralist right between Partido Popular and Ciudadanos, who are vying for the centralist conservative vote. . . . You could really say that the right-wing parties have received a lot of advantage from the shifting of the axis that has directly damaged the electoral prospects of the left.
  • Returning to the subject of Spain's failings . . . It's impossible to judge modern Spain without knowing quite a lot about her history of at least the last 100 years. I've no idea whether Vernon Werner does or not. At the risk of over-simplification . . . By the end of the 19th century and after decades of totally corrupt governments of all stripes and of endless political/religious warfare, Spain's development was way behind that of her European neighbours. And then things got a lot worse. One aspect of this was the rise of a massive anarchist party in Andalucia and Cataluña, representing the millions of Spaniards downtrodden under wealthy (mainly)absentee landlords. These poor souls and their supporters were eventually eliminated (see Orwell) by the communists during the Civil War, despite the fact they were all fighting to defend the Republican government. But, anyway, before that Spain had endured a dictatorship in the 1920s and then a violent see-saw between the Right and the Left in the early 1930s. And then things got worse again, with the outbreak of Civil War in 1936. With the victory of Franco's Nationalists in 1939 things got worse yet again and Spain endured almost 40 years of a tyrannical regime which, inter alia, imposed ultra-Catholicism on the entire country. Just to give one example – To leave your village, you needed a certificate of good conduct from your parish priest, which you'd only get if you'd at least pretended to be a good Catholic. So, is it any wonder that Catholicism is dying on its feet in modern Spain? More widely, is it any wonder too that Spain continues to suffer the effects of the Franco repression and his early ludicrous economic policies? As Maria suggests in her comment of yesterday, Francoism is possibly less dead (my words) than the Catholic church in today's Spain. And there are many who see Francoist elements in the current PP administration, several members of whom, as I noted the other day, belong to the Opus Dei sect. Looking at the 'Gag Law' and the approach to the Cataluña problem, it's hard to disagree with this.
  • As for getting a more balanced view of modern Spain, I recommend John Hooper's brilliant book The New Spaniards, first published in 1986 and then revised in 1995. I've just discovered it was revised again in 2016 and have ordered a copy. There's also the excellent – if more personal and less wide-ranging – Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett. Both of these writers, like me and (I'm sure) Vernon Werner, are Hispanophiles, but neither of them is blind to Spain's deficiencies and problems. John Carlin is another of this group and also well worth reading.
  • The problem for the white-collar defense bar’s crème de la crème is that Donald Trump is so blatantly the client from hell. He won’t listen. He won’t obey instructions. He is headstrong. He is a bully. Sometimes, he doesn’t pay his bills. Most of all, it’s possible that he isn’t capable of discerning fact from fiction. This last foible could get any lawyer who represents him into very deep legal hot water. No one wants to get disbarred for the fame and fortune of representing President Trump.
  • Christian nationalists are people who believe that the USA is a fundamentally Christian country. They have a lot to answer for. More each day, in fact. Click here and here on this.
  • La fakenews. One word, in a headline I saw this morning.
Social Media
  • Pontevedra's gem of an old quarter is, at night at least, nothing but a huge bar. So I was surprised to read that 15 bars close in the city every month. This is surely a misleading statistic, as is the claim that we have 13% fewer bars than last year. For a start, bars are constantly changing their names. Possibly under new ownership but possibly under the same (money-laundering?) ownership as before. Secondly, new ones are opening all the time, whenever a mom-and-pop store closes on the retirement of the owners. It's an iron Spanish law that fun must be had. Especially from Thursday evening on.
  • The police have issued warnings about theft from cars over the holiday period. I should be so lucky. My car will be at least 3 weeks in the shop having cosmetic stuff done to it. As Mr Warner would surely tell me, this certainly wouldn't take anywhere near as long in Holland or the UK. But all the walking up and down the (long) hill is surely doing me good. It's an ill wind . . .
  • Here's a surprising thing – An article (in Spanish) on the control of the drug industry here by gypsy clans. But no mention at all of our 33 clans engaged in bringing in Colombian white powder. I think a formal complaint should be make to the paper. HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this item.

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 28.3.18

1 comment:

Sierra said...

The local Nationalists are awake at all hours: