Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 16.9.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'* 

Covid 19 

Some good news. Maybe.  

The Swedish question we’re all asking.   

Living La Vida Loca in Spain and Galicia  

Rules, Regulations and Customs: As I lunched outside the Moroccan restaurant yesterday, I was saddened to see all 5 of the 16 year old girls at the table of a tapas bar on the other side of the street taking turns to smoke a couple of metres away from their companions.  

And I was angered by 2 smokers at our table who didn’t even do that, despite prompts both from the restaurant owner and me. Spanish individualismo at its worst

So . . . Aggressive orcas are not as newsworthy as we’re being led to believe: On the net, from November 2012: On Friday we were sailing from La Coruña  to the UK. A few hours north of there, our rudder was hit numerous times. We couldn't tell what was causing it at first and then an Orca appeared alongside. We turned the engine off and the Orca swam away. We were left with a damaged rudder and no steering. We had to be towed back in by the coastguard. The Orca then came back for some more and bashed us while under tow, so hard that the towing line snapped. All in all pretty scary. It's been happening to other yachts as well. 

Over the years, I’ve been told several times by South Americans that the language here in Spain is more - shall we say - robust than back home in their own countries. And as shocking to them as it it is to us other foreigners. Last Saturday, at the pool in my community, I heard a mother castigating her 4 year old son as a coño. Which, yes, is the biggest taboo word in English. This isn't at all unusual and, in truth, this 1845 comment from Richard Ford remains apt today: Few nations can surpass the Spaniards in the language of vituperation. It is limited only by the extent of their anatomical, geographical, astronomical, and religious knowledge. The last reference is to the habit of using the communion wafer and holy persons in Spanish oaths. Such as Cago en la (puta) hostia; I shit on the (effing) host. And Cago en el cuerpo de Jesucristo. Though I might have made the last one up, just to give you the picture. Though not Cago en la madre que te parió; I shit on the mother who gave birth to you. My elder daughter was once gobsmacked to hear a woman say this to her own son . . . What I haven't invented is Cago en Diós or Cago en la Virgen. Which you can probably translate for yourself now. And which are included in this list of similarly profane exhortations. Which, to my surprise, contains one or two I've never heard.   

María's Fallback Diary: Day 2 

The UK

The BBC's star DJ, Zoe Ball, has been given a salary increase of one million pounds, taking her income from 0.4m to 1.4m pounds. The poor woman must have been living in relative poverty. Other 'stars' didn't do quite as well but, as the Times says this morning: The 6-figure increases awarded to presenters who were already on lucrative deals risk criticism from viewers and politicians, with enduring anger at the move to abolish free TV licences for over-75s. Lucky for the BBC that times are so good for everyone else in the country.

The EU

Nick Corbishley of Wolf Street is none too impressed by government policies in respect of what are called ‘zombie companies’. His views can be read here, where his final para is: Allowing zombie firms to proliferate in order to protect banks from the consequences of their bad lending practices and investors from the consequences of their bad investment choices doesn’t just reward — and by extension, incentivize — bad actions and decisions; it stores up bigger problems for the future.  


I believe Nick is English, writing for an American web page. So, I’ll have to forgive him for ‘incentivize’.

Does anyone under, say, 40 say whilst instead of while?



The amusing J-l Cauvin once again.   

The Way of the World 

I see that my spellcheck recognises womxn but not mxn. Intolerable discrimination, in my view. I wish to be a real mxn.


Finally . . . 

Today is the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower of The New World.  Especially for American readers, here’s nice article on the consequences of this event:-

The story of the passengers that built America — and shaped Britain. A small ship that set sail in 1620 would change the course of history: Mark Bridge. The Times

When the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth 400 years ago today, she was a small ship carrying a motley group of pious religious Separatists and opportunist colonisers — one of many vessels making the perilous crossing to the New World. She might easily have been forgotten if her passengers’ settlement had failed. Against the odds, Plymouth Colony endured and its founders have become icons of American history, albeit with a legacy that is hotly contested.

The Times spoke to historians, descendants of the passengers and members of the native American Wampanoag tribe about the events that helped shape the US — and build Britain.

‘It’s as much a British story as an American story’

The Mayflower famously carried religious Separatists seeking freedom to worship in autonomous congregations outside the Church of England. Yet the voyage was backed by hard-nosed London merchants and carried a majority of non-Separatists, including traders and administrators. As such, a historian says its passengers represented allied religious and mercantile groups that would change the face of this country as well as North America.

Graham Taylor, author of The Mayflower in Britain, by Amberley Publishing, said: “It’s as much a British story as an American story and as much an economic as a religious one. The voyage was a commercial operation by London merchants, using a London ship, a London crew and embarking London passengers.

Referring to the affiliation of many Mayflower Separatists to the “Brownist” movement and their sojourn in the Netherlands before the voyage, he said: “Even the passengers who left from Leiden were organised from London. It is perhaps the City of London’s most celebrated contribution to world history. The merchants were the sponsors of the Brownists because the religious intolerance of the state interfered with trade and the merchants wanted freedom of trade. He added that the voyage’s roots lie in developments in British history going back decades before 1620 that had consequences here long after. “The Brownists who did not emigrate to America pursued the same struggle for freedom of belief after 1620 as before and were involved in both the Civil War and the 1688 Revolution.” He added: “One factor in the Civil War which has perhaps been underestimated is that New England served as a model for the parliamentary cause. Having another English-speaking [region] already exercising the freedoms you wanted in your own country, but weren’t allowed to have, was a big incentive and inspiration. New England seemed to offer not only free trade and freedom of belief but also economic prosperity. In 1645, for example, the New Englander Hugh Peter told parliament that freedom from oppression was already achieved across the Atlantic: “I have lived in a country where in seven years I never saw a beggar, nor heard an oath, nor looked upon a drunkard.’ This wasn’t the American dream of the 19th century but the British dream of the 17th.” “One governor of Plymouth Colony, Edward Winslow, came back to England and became an adviser to [parliamentary leader, then lord protector] Oliver Cromwell. He helped Cromwell set up the modern British Navy, most of whose officers were New Englanders.”

He believes that, by first demanding, then achieving, a separate church, the Brownists blew apart the Church of England’s monopoly on worship. “As soon as the Civil War started, the Brownists re-emerged. They and the Baptists were the people who opened the way for Nonconformists to be Nonconformists. In turn this enabled the modern Anglican Church to be the modern Anglican Church — liberal, and tolerant of other beliefs.” He said the Glorious Revolution of 1688, backed by the same Separatist and mercantile factions that built Plymouth Colony, resulted not only in toleration for most dissenters but also the ending of most royal trade monopolies. “Suddenly a huge swathe of the economy was liberated from state control. The merchants’ joint-stock companies now proliferated, British merchant capitalism came into its own, and in the 18th century Britain became the strongest economy in Europe.”

‘Their moral strength lives on today’

Eighteen adult women sailed on the Mayflower and only five survived beyond the colony’s first winter. Until recent decades the stories of the women and girls of the Mayflower were almost wholly neglected in scholarship. However, a series of breakthroughs has been made by researchers such as the British-Canadian author Sue Allan, revealing their central role in passing on the Separatist tradition. In her latest book In the Shadow of Men: The Lives of Separatist Women, she shows the web of family connections that linked many Separatists of the Mayflower era, including the backgrounds of passenger Elizabeth (Barker) Winslow who married her husband, the future governor of Plymouth Colony Edward Winslow at Leiden in 1618 and who died, in her late 20s, at the end of the first winter after the Mayflower’s arrival. Ms Allan discovered that Elizabeth was born in Chattisham or nearby East Bergholt in Suffolk and was the daughter of two Separatists, named in local records in 1598 for their refusal to attend church services. Among the handful of others named was Mary, the wife of Bartholomew Allerton, a local tailor, and mother of Elizabeth Winslow’s fellow Mayflower pilgrim Isaac Allerton. She told The Times: “We need to learn from the women especially that they are an important part of this story. What did they do? They were raising the children, but actually they were passing on their legacy: this moral strength coupled with a resolute, can-do, will-do attitude, which seeded New England and clearly lives on today. New Englanders are often laughed at for being puritanical but a strong sense of morality is not weakness. Looking at the [Separatist] women, they were all Separatists themselves; they didn’t come to it through their husbands, they were born to it.  “If these folks had not stood up, we probably wouldn’t have had Congregationalism; we would have only had the one church in England and, under the Stuarts, we probably would have gone back to being Catholic. They did change history; they stood up to be counted and not only did they open up the way for other people to believe in the manner they wanted; they also opened the way for people not to believe, so it’s a wider freedom.”

While great strides have been made in learning about the Mayflower women, one in particular remains elusive. Ms Allan said: “The most compelling is the one we can’t find. She’s there, I know she’s out there and I know she has to be from a strongly Puritan family and that is Mary, wife of William Brewster [a leader of the pilgrims]. She was ‘the mother of the mothers’, the one they would have looked towards for guidance, in the New World especially, and we don’t know her [maiden] surname or where she even came from and the hunt for her is just all-consuming.”

The study of women can also help to bust myths. Ms Allan said that William Bradford, a Mayflower passenger and governor of Plymouth Colony, is often depicted as especially puritanical but it is noteworthy that he wrote a spirited defence of Thomasine Johnson, the wife of a Separatist pastor who was accused by her brother-in-law of “abominable immodesty” for wearing fashionable dresses that flattened her stomach and pushed her bust upward, and “scoffing” at anyone “grieved or offended” by her attire. To make matters worse, she was accused of being fond of wine and loathe to get out of bed in time for worship. In his writing, Bradford, who appears to have had a soft spot for Thomasine, pointed out that she was “helpful to many, especially the poor” and that her outfits were typical of those worn by women of her rank at the time.

‘It’s like finding a royal ancestor’

It is estimated that about 35 million people are descended from one or more Mayflower passengers and finding a connection is a common goal of family historians with roots in colonial America. Tom Gede, a 72-year-old lawyer from Davis, California, has traced his own descent from four of the Mayflower’s passengers: Huntingdonshire-born John Howland, his wife Elizabeth, and her parents, John and Joan Tilley. He said: “Seeking Mayflower ancestors, among those interested, is like trying to find a royal ancestor, [giving] the same sort of elation at finding one. What’s interesting is that they were not royalty, they were a mix of yeomen and tradesmen and artisans — distinctly commoners. For many who find their Mayflowerconnection it [brings] a distinct pride in the middle-class roots of American society. So there’s a bit of irony in it in that this is about the accident of birth and who you’re descended from by birth but it’s all about cherishing the meritocracy.”

Referring to the harsh conditions, which saw five of the Mayflower’s 102 passengers perish at sea and 45 more die on land in the winter of 1620/21, another descendant, Ryan Woods, of West Somerville, Massachusetts, said: “Their voyage shows tremendous courage and perseverance and overcoming of adversity. Using this story and family history to teach about history and culture is very important to me and I think one of the real values is in highlighting not only the Mayflower story and the story of the native people, the Wampanoags, but also how genealogy can be applied more broadly to teach history, social studies and all of the various elements of that to young people, and adults for that matter.

Mr Woods, 38, a former history teacher, is chief operating officer of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, an organisation founded in 1845 that has published voluminous research on the passengers’ connections. Having learnt of his own Mayflower descents from relatives in childhood, he said his four-year-old son Nathaniel is following in his footsteps by already taking a keen interest in their shared lineage. Nathaniel told our reporter how his ancestor John Howland fell overboard during a storm, only to be rescued when he grabbed on to a trailing rope.

Many descendants argue that the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony, signed by 41 male settlers, laid the foundations for the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, with momentous consequences. Karen Pogoloff, 69, of Newport News, Virginia, said: “The Compact, which some historians say was very influenced by Stephen Hopkins, my ancestor, does have great import to later democracy in the United States. It allowed the Saints and the Strangers [Separatists and others], who had very different perspectives, to agree on how they would do things and so those early governments and early decisions certainly shaped the country we are now.”

Hopkins, interestingly, was a non-Separatist who had previously settled for a time in the more worldly colony of Jamestown, Virginia, after being shipwrecked on Bermuda. His mutinous conduct while marooned has led some to propose him as the inspiration for the comic character Stephano in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Descendants also describe friendly relations between Plymouth Colony and the native American Wampanoag people with whom the settlers made a treaty. Heather Rojo, 58, a retired teacher from Manchester, New Hampshire, said: “Previous colonies did not have good relations with the native people here, but the Plymouth colony took a different attitude with the native Americans and established good relations right away, which were very successful for over 50 years. I think that if they hadn’t done that they would have been as unsuccessful as Jamestown and colonies north of here in Maine that failed because they didn’t get along with the native people. Over the years there have been so many treaties broken and so much animosity but looking at Plymouth Colony and its success, let’s hope that in the future relations with native people continue like that.”

Naturally, the Mayflower had its black sheep. Miranda Duval Dunkle, a 43-year-old housewife in Orange County, California, and descendant of passengers John and Elinor Billington and their son Francis, explained: “The Billingtons were the ones who had the most colourful history. John was accused of murder and tried and convicted and hanged for his crime. His wife Elinor, she was awful, she’d be in the stocks all the time; another son John caused all kinds of trouble. Their younger son who I’m descended from didn’t want anything to do with it. He was the good egg and distanced himself from his crazy family and was able to prosper.”

‘It’s basically viewed as an invasion’

The Mayflower settlement at Plymouth was founded on top of the former Wampanoag settlement of Patuxet, the inhabitants of which had been wiped out in the preceding years by disease brought to the region by European settlers and traders. While many descendants of passengers today hold a positive view of the settlers’ relations with the Wampanoag, the local tribe, Wampanoag historians see things rather differently.

Paula Peters, a historian and member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, said: “To colonise someone is to take away their own heritage and replace it with something else and that is what happened here and it’s not something that is seen by the Wampanoag as a benefit. There were benefits to trade and interactions with Europeans, for sure. There were novelties, whether it be glass beads or metal pots, but overall our ancestors were taken advantage of.” She believes it was because the Wampanoag were so weakened by the “Great Dying” at the time of the Mayflower’s arrival that they countenanced an alliance with the settlers whose first acts had included pillaging Wampanoag corn stores and clearing the bones of Wampanoag plague victims from their former dwellings. She added: “The Wampanoag did not understand the English intention to make them subject to the Crown. [Massasoit] Ousamequin who was the leader at the time that the Mayflower arrived here was a great leader of the Wampanoag and would not have agreed to an alliance that made him subservient to a king he had never met or known. Why would they agree to having another law rule over them?  “There was deliberate misrepresentation in the pilgrims’ treaty with the Wampanoag. The evidence is in [William] Bradford’s own writings, in the journals of the pilgrims, that they left certain language out of the agreement that indicated that they intended the rule of law to be under the Crown.”  “One of their missions was to convert us both religiously and to their way of life, instead of accepting our people who were here for thousands and thousands of years. Even though the lifestyle was simplistic it wasn’t primitive — they weren’t barbarians. They had a knowledge of the circle of life around them, the environment, the climate and even celestial knowledge that showed that they were very sophisticated but in a much simpler way, a way that was in balance with the world around them.” She said that the story of the Wampanoag Tisquantum, better known today as Squanto, was instructive. Tisquantum has often been fondly depicted as an English-speaking Indian who helped the pilgrims learn how to plant and fertilise native crops and served as their indispensable interpreter and guide in relations with the English.

Ms Peters said: “Everybody knows who Squanto was but they don’t know why he spoke English. He spoke English because he was kidnapped [by English sailors in 1614] as a potential slave [and] lived in London for five years before going home to find his whole family dead of a plague and the village he was a part of [Patuxet] had become Plymouth Colony — it’s a back story that people don’t know and should know.”

In the 1670s, half a century after the pilgrims’ landing, tensions between the Wampanoag and other native Americans and New England settlers, including those of Plymouth Colony, erupted into bloody war. The tribes were defeated, incurring losses from which their communities would never recover.

Ms Peters said that Mayflower 400 commemorations provide an opportunity for the Wampanoag today to have a voice. “It has been really important for us to step up onto this international platform and speak our truth and lend balance to the story of the Mayflower which is truly a story that can’t be told honestly without the inclusion of the Wampanoag voice. Today there are around 5,000 of us, where in the 17th century there were literally hundreds of thousands. We are politically, culturally and socially a very active and vital tribe.”

Linda Coombs, another Wampanoag historian, said: “Generally speaking, we don’t perceive the Mayflower landing very well at all. It’s basically viewed as an invasion — people came in, took over our territory and curtailed us in our way of life and that’s a process that’s still going on today. She said: “The Mashpee [Wampanoag] went through a battle for several months this spring just to retain their federal status. If they had lost they would have lost their land and their status as a tribe. This just harks back to colonial times, with someone else deciding for us who we are.”

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant. 

1 comment:

Maria said...

Yes, the Pilgrims created Plimouth Colony to be able to worship as they pleased, in freedom, but that freedom did not extend to other forms of worship. In later years, Anne Hutchinson, involved in the Antinomian controversy, was expelled from the Bay Colony. She and her family were accepted by Roger Williams in his more tolerant Providence Plantation. Mary Dyer and three other Quakers were hanged for maintaining their beliefs.

I didn't know that Squanto had spent time in London as a slave. I had learnt that he spoke English because of contact with English traders. That is another aspect of U.S. history that needs to be investigated and disseminated. Till now, everything taught in schools has been only Eurocentric.