Monday, March 27, 2017

 

A Couple of Posters for our Town






Wednesday, March 15, 2017

 

A few Pictures from San José (Cabo de Gata) Last Weekend.






Wednesday, March 08, 2017

 

You Can't Say That!



The freedom of expression – the First Amendment to the United States Constitution – is the right to say or write (or sing) what you like. Within civilized limits perhaps? Here in Spain, we have that freedom; mostly. It was understood that one didn’t insult the Royal Family (‘lèse-majesté’) or champion ETA or other forms of terrorism (even though the ETA is a dead duck these days). It was also understood that one insulted Christianity and Islam at one’s own risk.
So, we have a number of cases recently of people being arrested and either threatened with prison or indeed being condemned for inappropriate songs, posts, tweets and commentary. Some of these are attracting a lot of attention, while the Courts evidently appear to the Public Eye to be dealing leniently with white-collar and political crime.
The gay creature that dressed up as the Virgin Mary and suffers a parody of crucifixion in Las Palmas as part of the carnivales there being a case in point. As The Olive Press says: ‘...The performance, by Borja Casillas (aka Drag Sethlas), has provoked an embittered debate, and at its centre is Bishop Francisco Casas, who accused Casillas of ‘frivolous blasphemy’...’. A proposal to investigate the issue further by the Canaries prosecutor has now been initiated following a complaint by the Christian Lawyers Association, says El Huff Post here. A Canaries imam says ‘I can’t even imagine what would happen if they tried something similar with an image of Mohammed’ (here).
Meanwhile, a bus in Madrid, painted by a far-right Christian group called Hazte Oir, is impounded for advertising anti transsexual propaganda (‘a boy has a penis, a girl has a vulva’).
Meanwhile, others are in deeper water. The current round of arrests began with the titiriteros this time last year, two puppeteers imprisoned for five days for ‘celebrating terrorism’ in what was described by one woman who saw the show in Madrid as ‘rather less violent than Spongebob Squarepants’. They were eventually pardoned. More recently, we have heard of Cesar Strawberry, the punky Marxist singer from Def Con Dos who faces one year of jail-time for his songs.
This week, six ‘Twitterers’ were condemned in court for various improper postings on the Twitter platform. They posted humiliations and pro-terrorist remarks and received anything up to two years each (the normal limit for not actually going to jail for a first offence). Another poster, a girl from Murcia, with her joke about the assassination of Franco’s successor Carrero Blanco, must wait for a new defence lawyer – her previous one was a great supporter of the Caudillo apparently. So much for ‘black humour’, she says. The Mallorquín rapper, Valtonyc, now facing three and a half years for two offensive songs, has one of them on YouTube here. Three hundred thousand people have seen it so far.
A liberal judge says in an interview with El Diario: ‘Our criminal laws are very harsh with conduct linked to freedom of expression, as well as the criminalization of poverty. But they are extremely gentle with political and financial delinquency’. So what to do?
Rather oddly, the Minister for Justice says this week that ‘in Spain, no one is condemned for their songs or their opinions’. He blames the courts.
We are left with only this: should the accent be placed on the content of inappropriate speech – or on a better education for the speaker?

Monday, March 06, 2017

 

Vera Bulls

On the last Sunday of February, there was a 'charity' bullfight in Vera. Because this was not a usual traditional corrida, the matadores didn't wear their 'suits of lights', but instead dressed in Andalusian cowboy fashion (picture). The event was significant because five of the six were top-of-the-line names, and the sixth was an up-and-coming Almería novillero.
I wanted in particular to see one of them, a young Peruvian called Andrés Roca Rey, as he has made a name for himself despite his young age (he's now nineteen) and he was unable to attend a fight I had gone to see in Almería City last summer (he'd been gored the week before in Málaga).
The Vera ring is one of seventeen bullrings across the province of Almería (most of 'em still in operation) and this particular one seats 4,800 spectators. They vary in size, with the Roquetas del Mar one holding 8,000 and the Almería City one at 9,800 (the world's largest, in Mexico City, holds 41,300 people).
The Sunday fight began with Diego Ventura, a mounted bullfighter, called a rejoneador. He would switch horses during his faena, and place his barbed banderilleras with skill into the back of the bull, ending his time with a lance through the bull's back and into its heart. At one point, the bull nudged his horse (not good) and he fell off (picture). He was awarded an ear, following lots of white hankie waving from the crowd.
Following Diego, the others were matadores, fighting from the ground. We saw El Córdobes, El Fandi (who also does his own bandilleras) and Cayetano (the bull stepped on his foot at one point). All were good but were unable to make clean kills.
Then came Roca Rey. Who was sublime. He's worth watching on YouTube (here). Here in Vera, he seemed to work at the peak of his talents, and he killed the bull at the 'moment of truth' with a perfect thrust. The crowd stood and roared and he was  awarded both ears and the tail by the president.
The sixth and final  fighter, Juan Carlos Benitez, was awarded an ear for a clean kill, but I had left by then. You can't improve on perfection.





Friday, February 24, 2017

 

The Entertainer (Offline)

The Entertainer was a weekly newspaper that started in April 1985. It was a 'free sheet' (as they used to call these things) serving the English-speaking population in Almería. This in the days before desktop publication, the Internet and colour printing. The next year, a second edition for the Costa Blanca, and soon after, a third for the Costa del Sol. Spin-offs included 'Entertainer en Español' - a monthly for Almería, and, briefly, another for Alicante. There was also a radio show called 'The Entertainer Show', broadcast from Radio Indalo, in Mojácar and Radio Marbella on the Costa del Sol.
The newspaper was sold in 1999, but, alas, things did not progress smoothly.
I ran a similar-sounding title from November 2003, a monthly called The New Entertainer, with support from a Spanish journalist called Ángel Medina (it ran to sixty issues) while also editing El Indálico (110 issues).  I also wrote/write for Actualidad Almanzora, La Opinión de Almería, El Mirador, The Reader, The Olive Press and The RTN.
I started The Entertainer Online (a blog) started in September 2002, when the title for the newspaper was substituted by the new owners. It was a advertising-free blog, with additional pages, including a large number of useful links about Spain.
The blog has continued since then, until early in January this year, following attacks from somewhere (let's suppose it was the Russians).
Briefly, another blog - a simpler one - with the GoDaddy people, but now I suppose it's time to give up and concentrate on my other projects.
Business over Tapas: A weekly subscription news service about Spain (Facebook here).
Spanish Shilling: Essays about Spain, since January 2006
...and now, taking over from The Entertainer Online, Lenox Napier: Local news and opinion.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

 

How Many Foreigners? Who Cares?

No one knows how many Brits live in Europe. Perhaps because we don't have any representation - either with a voice in London or in Brussels. This makes us second-class Europeans (third-class foreigners when the UK finally pulls the plug). How many are we? No one knows, because no one cares. Here in Spain, the number of Brits is figured by a voluntary registration in the town halls (called the 'padrón'). This gives our number at an anal 253,928 (INE statistics office January 2016). But many don't register (and some, if they leave the country, don't remove their names). As above - no one knows because we are not worth the trouble. We need a champion!
Since I have the INE page open, here's some other information:
Almería Brits (Jan 2016): 14,344
Total Almería foreigners: 137,507
Total foreigners Spain: 4,601,272.
The largest groups seem to be Romanian 715,136
Chinese: 199,961
Ecuadoreans: Internet broke down (Thanks Movistar)
Moroccans: 753,425




Friday, February 03, 2017

 

The Palace of Chávarri, Mojácar Playa

The Palace of Cháverri, as it was grandly known, is now the front bit of a huge box-like hotel in Marina de la Torre, run by the Fergus Hotel group and called the Hotel Alegría Palacio. Mojácar has succumbed to cheap all-inclusive tourism.
In another time, the palace was a summer-home owned by a wealthy Madrid family called Garrigues-Walker. Old Dad - Antonio - was the Spanish ambassador to the United States in the early sixties, later moving to a fresh posting at the ambassador's residence at the Vatican. His wife Helen was from Des Moines in Iowa and at least one of their nine children, Joaquín, was a regular visitor to Mojácar who, as a story in the Voz de Almería notes, spent his honeymoon with his wife Mercedes there (pictured here with the staff in attendance).
An American friend called Zach Allen stayed with Joaquín in 1956 and sent me the picture below. He writes: '...Recently, I turned to Google Earth and see some of the changes.  The "Palacio" itself was very rudimentary when I was there.  But, beautiful.  At that time, it was a tomato farm.  I have a number of photos showing the house, the fields and the (women mainly) workers who were planting the tomatoes then.  It used a gravity fed irrigation system fed from a very large pool, much like a swimming pool, on the hill in back of the house. The view from the stairway, out through the open (not enclosed like today) archway down the road to the beach was stunning...'.
The house was built by the first Marquis de Chávarri (Benigno Chávarri y Salazar), who owned a shipping line. His captains were (apparently) instructed to fire off a cannon salute from their ships as they navigated past the estate on the way to or from the port of Garrucha.
Good times. Mojácar was so far away from the cities, so hard to get to, that many used to come by sea.

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