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Romeria

I’m not quite sure of the origins of these events or, indeed, of a succinct translation of the word, but if you think of a picnic with equestrian activities and a religious origin, you’ll be getting close to the mark. A church organised point-to-point might seem convolutedly appropriate, except there’s no racing, not much religion and with more like an adult gymkhana as accompaniment….Oh! and lots of drinking and carousing before, during and after!

Here’s some pictures from Sunday’s  Romeria in Siete Pilas, a small village near us, set halfway up a mountain in the Guadiaro valley.

 

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 001

The opening parade of the virgin Mary from the church

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 003

Horse and riders (this one didn’t take part in the “games”) immaculately turned out

 

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 007

A view into the Guadiaro valley

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 015

Youngsters dressed for the occasion

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 022

Attempting to spear the ribbon…

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 028

…and again

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 034

Re-loading for the next run

Siete Pilas Romeria 2016 031

Determination from the older riders

 

 

 

 

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“Come outside…”

That was a song from 1962 by Mike Sarne and (famously) Wendy Richard.

“All Cops Are Bastards” and the acronym A.C.A.B. is an internationally recognised anti-police slogan dating to the 1970s and made famous by the 4-Skins British punk band.

What is the connection?

Well, with a few convolutions of the (my) thought processes there’s just a thought that might impress the “leave” campaign in the forthcoming referendum we are having in the UK.  As I have pointed out in my blog, many times, we do not, in my opinion, live in a democracy in this lovely adopted country of mine, although Spaniards think they do and grudgingly, I will admit they’ve come a long way since Franco died in 1975. No. We live in a bureaucracy with more than a hint of autocracy remaining from that era of dictatorship. The following newspaper article illustrates just one law that prevents the free expression of thought; and this law is not a throw-back to the days of dictatorship, it was only introduced last year!

 

Spanish cops issue fine over ‘All Cats Are Beautiful’ bag

A Spanish woman has been fined by police in Spain for walking through the streets of Madrid carrying a bag that declared “All Cats Are Beautiful”.

While the bag may not be to everyone’s taste and certainly won’t appeal to those who prefer dogs, Belén Lobeto, a graphic designer living in Madrid was surprised to discover that her handbag choice proved so offensive.

As she walked home on Sunday night she was pulled to one side by policemen and given an on the spot fine for the fashion article.

Despite the fact that the bag carried an image of a cat and the phrase “All Cats Are Beautiful” beneath the letters ACAB, the police insisted it was an acronym for the punk phrase “All Cops Are Bastards”.

She was therefore fined under the controversial Citizens Security Law –  or Gag Law as it has been dubbed by its critics – for disrespecting the police.

 “I was going quietly to my house when suddenly two officers ran up to me and asked for my ID and said they would issue a fine because I was carrying this bag,” Lobeto explained in a detailed Facebook post.

“I asked why and expressed doubt that my bag was attracting any attention much less causing a crime and told them they should take me in front of a judge to explain,” she continued.

The woman said she tried to make the police see reason but “changing their mind was impossible and if I didn’t shut my mouth I would have been taken away”.

“I asked them if there wasn’t (sic) more important things to worry about,” she added before ending her post with: “What a bloody disgusting country. But well, ALL CATS ARE BEAUTIFUL and anyone who says otherwise is lying.”

Full marks to the Madrid police for their knowledge of English!

My point is that Spain is part of the club that we joined, called the EU and this “gag” law (as it is commonly known) is just one reason why we might be worried about the rules of that club.

Spanish PC

Spain has long pushed to one side the desire of some intellectuals to promote political correctness, but it seems that even in this land of “machismo” (or is that Italian?…but you know what I mean), it seems we will have to examine our approach to such matters. The  main problem is that the perception of PC is rooted in language and the rigidity of it.

It is, of course strange to an english speaker to have to come to terms with a masculine or feminine gender being applied to any and every noun. We sniggered in French lessons at school I recall, as we had to remember that, for example, “tables” were masculine – le table – as were chairs – les chaises. We don’t snigger any longer but we have to know, if we are to speak correctly, that in Spain tables are feminine and so are chairs – las mesas y las sillas.

But, of course, with most rigid languages, there are strict rules to observe when apparent conflicts arise. The main area of concern to the PC idiots is where there is a group of people, some of whom are male and some female. The basic rule is that when addressing or talking about such groups, if the subjects are all male – no problem – you use the masculine plural. If all female, again, no problem – you use the feminine plural. But if it’s a mixed group, the rule requires you to use the masculine……and that’s unacceptable to the aforementioned idiots who, in this case (and unsurprisingly), come from the loony left, Junta de Andalucia. The Councillor for Education for the Junta de Andalucía, one Adelaida de la Calle, wants to wipe out sexist vocabulary (and values) with her ‘II Plan de Igualdad de Género en Educación’: (Second plan for gender equality in education). The plan is to eradicate gender violence and sexist attitudes and to oblige the use of inclusive and non-sexist language in the centres of education. Even the Real Academia Española  – the guardian of the Spanish language – is shuddering at some of the neologisms, such as instead of los alumnos – (students) – one must now say ‘los alumnos y las alumnas’. Los funcionarios – (roughly: civil servants) – must now be calledel funcionariadoand even our friends los andaluces – (andalucians)should now be referred to asla población andaluza’. Los politicos become ‘la clase política’. And so on.

….and in case you thought this was an April fool’s joke (they do have such a thing here) the newspaper article was published on 5th April!

Here’s their main areas of concern:

La Junta obliga a los profesores a hablar de 'alumnos y alumnas' o 'niños y niñas'

 

 

Rebuilding Ruins

I have noted the following before as it raises its head from time to time in Spain and that is the propensity to rebuild architecturally important ruins as a means of preserving them for future generations. It is a marked departure from what I was used to in the UK. Here, for example is a picture of the “ruined” roman theatre at old Ronda:

 

ruinas-romanas-de-acinipo-ronda-provincia-de-malaga_8005-726795

All around you can see the ruined state of whatever buildings used to be there 2000 years or so ago, yet with the reconstructed theatre wall standing newly built. It may look incongruous to some, but I don’t really have a problem with it if it serves a purpose such as educating our generation about a past civilization.

They’ve done the same in parts of the Alhambra Palace in Granada which, in my opinion, just aids the ability to present the palace as it used to be.

But, have a look at this latest example. A castle near Villamartin in Cadiz province:

Castle in Cadiz

The work carried out on the Castle of Matrera, in Villamartín (Cádiz), has been harshly criticized by experts on historical heritage sites.

“The landscape and the historical aspects of the site have been perverted,” says Carlos Morenés, vice-president of Hispania Nostra, a non-profit that works to defend Spain’s natural and cultural heritage.

Scholars are particularly critical of the restoration work on the tower, which has been raised back to its original height by adding a smooth, white, modern-looking wall

“It brings shame to Spain,” he adds. “The international press has called it the worst restoration in the world. Restoration legislation making it mandatory to clearly distinguish the original parts from the new has been taken to extremes, and the area has been damaged with this huge white thing. It goes against all existing regulations, including the Andalusian heritage law.”

In 2014, his association had included the Castle of Matrera on its red list in order to draw attention to its state of dereliction.

What’s the problem?

But the architect in charge of the restoration says he is surprised at all the commotion.

Carlos Quevedo explains that besides buttressing the walls, workers restored the tower’s volume using leftovers from original building material, then covering it with a layer of whitewash to distinguish the old parts from the new.

“It is a similar facing to the original one that used to cover the tower,” he adds.

The municipal archeologist, José María Gutiérrez, also supports the restoration work and says it meets all requirements of contemporary regulations.

Meanwhile, the Andalusian government’s heritage department says it has received no complaints to date.

So that’s all right then.

 

Corruption and the thoughts of Antonio.

 

We’re still in limbo as regards appointing a new government following last years (December 20th) general elections and until parliament votes to appoint a prime minister, then the incumbent, Mariano Rajoy, gets to keep the baton. He runs the PP party, roughly (very roughly) a sort of Conservative Party organisation.

 

As was widely expected, the Socialist Party (look at it like the Labour Party group) chief Pedro Sánchez was unsuccessful on Friday evening at a second investiture vote, at which deputies in Spain’s lower house once more rejected his bid to do the job of prime minister

Sánchez’s speech during his bid touched on corruption, which he defined as “the venom that weakens democracy.”

In the wake of this vote and according to the constitution, another two-month period will now begin during which the parties can seek a new agreement amongst themselves to form a government. If that fails (and by all reckoning it surely will) Spain will be forced to hold another general election, probably in June. That’s when the Brits will have their eyes on another vote elsewhere.

But what about that comment on corruption by Sanchez?

A poll published on Thursday by El País newspaper showed that 90% of Spaniards think graft and corruption is an endemic problem within the PP party (the other lot – the newspaper support the socialists). Many think that leader Rajoy has done a half decent job of getting Spain’s economy back on track after the financial crisis left the country on the brink of ruin. But they are sick and tired of the growing list of graft allegations that are finding their way to the door of the PP’s headquarters in Madrid, a building that itself was raided by police this month after the Madrid regional party was accused of taking payments in return for public contracts. The raid led to the resignation of the Madrid region’s leader, Snra. Aguirre “Corruption is killing us,” she said at a press conference, adding (of course!) that she was not directly responsible.

Since December’s election, as well as the allegations against the Madrid regional party, the PP in Valencia has come under scrutiny. Until last summer, the party enjoyed 24 uninterrupted years running Spain’s third biggest city. Last month 24 local officials were arrested on suspicion of alleged corruption ranging from money laundering and bribery to misusing public funds. The former mayor, Rita Barberá, who was made a senator last year when she lost office, has not been declared a formal suspect. But last week, in a bid to divert flack, she nonetheless told reporters she was innocent, saying it was all a communist plot.

You can see it’s all a blame game with each side going at it tit for tat.

So. Back to the title of this piece. Who is Antonio? Well, he’s a local chap and that almost inevitably means he is a socialist voter. (We don’t get many right-of-centre Spaniards around here). He’s a builder who, since the collapse of the Spanish property market, hasn’t had too much building to be getting on with. In fact his little business, sadly became a statistic that no-one really wants to hear about.  So he turned his hand to running a local bar with his wife. He made quite a good fist of it but has now closed for the winter and we all hope he’ll re-open in the summer. But not long ago he was asked by the local Brits about the corruption (that we’ve seen above) that dogs everyday life in Spain. “If it were me,” he said, “I’d take every penny I could get.”

 

In or Out part 2

So now we have it. It’ll be on June 23rd – the referendum I mean…and we still get to cast a vote for 15 years after leaving the UK albeit the “right” has to be renewed each year and there are more forms to fill in to get a postal/proxy or whatever, system set up. No matter. We don’t get a vote in Spain beyond local, town hall, elections so there is a symbolism there as well.

Many, to whom I’ve spoken, automatically think that an ex-pat will vote for staying in Europe – after all, we “benefit”, on the face of it, from much of what the European Union is all about. But do we? There have been Brits living in Spain for many years, just as there are many other nationalities nowadays doing so and some, like the Norwegians seem to have no sanctions applied to their residence. But Spain has always kept a tight rein on what benefits it offers non-citizens (which make one wonder just why the UK is seemingly, so generous, when it’s not a requirement of belonging to the EU club?) It’s a trifle difficult to imagine that anything really nasty would befall us Brits in the event of a brexit and, if it did, would it be an unsurmountable problem? Probably not.

What we do have, of course, is a direct, first-hand, take on what the EU means for Spain and the other less wealthy members of that club. We see – and it hasn’t really changed since 2009 – an unemployment rate of 25%, with youth unemployment nearer 50% and with those figures exceeded in Andalucia where most Brits choose to live. These are Greek levels. The lack of social unrest at this continuing and unacceptable state of affairs is more down to the maintenance of the family unit that you find on the mediterranean’s fringes, rather than to any progress to reverse the situation that the government is making.

We also see, because there’s so much incoming grant money, the waste and corruption that accompanies “free” money doled out from Brussels. You’ve only got to read some of my past blogs for examples of this. And it still goes on. The Spanish press is always reporting on some scandal or other and whilst not always involving Brussels, is an indication of the culture that prevails and that has to be traversed by those in charge of the EU’s coffers.

 

So, come 23rd June, I will have a great deal of soul-searching to do.

 

But I may just focus on the possible break-up of the UK if we exit…..and THAT would be a disaster.

 

Oh! it’s also likely that in June -probably the Sunday after the UK referendum – Spain will have another national general election to try and resolve the stalemate that still exists following the inconclusive one last year. Don’t you just love European politics eh?

In or Out?

Hello! It’s been a while since I added to this blog: not too sure why, apart from the fact that the previous chaos that surrounded Spanish life (lovable chaos some would say) has abated somewhat, although as we shall see, bubbling under are the seemingly perennial currents of unemployment, animal cruelty and siempre la politica – always politics.

Firstly (and I have written about this in the past) the European Parliament has been scrutinising what happens to some of the funds the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) allocates to farmers in the EU and we have previously noted that bull rearers in Spain (rearing for the bullfight rather than for human consumption) can be in receipt of EU funds based solely on the acreage they have rather than the use to which the animals is put. The figure we’re talking about here is a (mere) 130 million Euros. But don’t hold your breath! Whilst the parliament has voted against financing bullfighting using this mechanism, the parliament now has to secure support for its decision from the European Council, made up of the heads of state or government of EU members. After that, agricultural policy regulations will have to be altered to include these changes just voted on in parliament.

So, when you come to vote whether to stay in the EU or come out, remember that some of your taxes go to fund the spectacle you see in this photo….and there’s probably not a lot the northern european countries can/will do to avoid it.

Secondly, we are approaching a general election. The national Parliament has been halted until December 20th when we have the election (we ex-pats don’t get to vote) and it resumes on January 13th with whatever blend of politicos are elected. Mariano Rajoy (current PM) from the Partido Popular will face the three other main parties PSOE, Ciudadanos and Podemos (plus a few tiddlers, including IU and some regional parties.
The number of jobs is up, says Rajoy trying hard to point out what few positive changes have occurred under his regime
But not in Andalucía, where six of the eight andalucian provinces have unemployment over 30%. The highest is Cádiz at 37.2%, which is 25 points more unemployment than Spain’s lowest, Soria at 12%. Andalucía’s hardest working province is Málaga at 29% unemployed (thanks, no doubt, to the tourism). Almería is at 31%. As a ludicrous patch to this situation, the Junta de Andalucía (governed by -who else – the left wing PSOE) has announced that it is to hire an extra seven thousand one hundred ‘funcionarios‘ (public officials) to massage the figures.