They’ve not done much in the past thirty years as regards the building of social or cultural projects in our town. There is an ‘artisan centre’, which was built with finance from the Regional Government, in a town which has never produced much in the way of ‘artisans’. No mad desire on the part of our local politicians to help those mysterious basket-weavers and toy-soldier makers perhaps, but there was a handy piece of land there that, let us say, increased its value overnight. The whole point of the building was finished before it was started, if you know what I mean. We eventually managed to fill it up, more of less, and convert it into something ill-planned but vaguely useful. Many years on, the building has been repainted and had the locks changed - and has been reborn as the ‘Centro de Usos Multiples’, the multiple-use building. Very clever, that, although now no one can quite agree on what this seamlessly integrated building is now called. Streets, buildings and so on are always having their names changed in Spain. We give them nicknames and say to the taxi driver, ‘the street after the pink church’ or ‘just past the Mayor’s folly’.
Besides our Artisan Centre, which has a mixture of free and, inexplicably, paying-for social attractions inside, plus a converted ‘sort-of’ concert hall, a theatre, a conference room, a bar, a library and some offices, the town now boasts a new (if unusable) swimming-pool and sports centre, along with a two storey car park all built on what used to be the Campo de Fútbol, which means in English ‘the Football Field’, although it no longer fulfills that function at all. Oddly, there’s no political will to change the name. Perhaps the taxi drivers put their feet down for once.
We also have a new – unopened – art museum, several marble statues of local girls in traditional dress scattered about and the fairly new remodelled area around our castle. The castle, described in the 1910 edition of the Encyclopaedia Española as ‘inmutable’, or ‘unknockdownable’, was knocked down the day after the ‘M – P’ volume of that worthy reference book came out and long before the tourist boom and the idea (around here) that castles might be of interest. There’s a pretty nice house there instead. We call it ‘El Castillo’. Such irony. Surrounding this is the remodelled area known either as the ‘lookout’ or the ‘bunker’, depending, perhaps, on your politics. The Junta de Andalucía dug deep for this construction in the early nineties, hurriedly removed the archeological traces they found, plus a ‘number of bones’, and ‘castellated’ with heavy stone the approaches and surroundings. They put up some spiffing lights as well.
Unfortunately, the area has been adopted by the world’s foremost graffiti artists as their unofficial headquarters. The tone of the decorations here is, essentially, juvenile politics with just a touch of personal epigrams. We are entertained principally by messages - in Spanish - such as ‘¡Viva las FE de los Jons’, or ‘Yay for the Junior Fascists’, which may have been crossed out by the next yoof in favour of ‘Nacional Sindicalísmo’ or ‘¡Viva Lenin!’ Which, essentially, all means the same thing.
It’s a curious fact that you never find a graffito, which says ‘Hooray for the Agreeable Centrist Party!’
The area surrounding the top of our town is built with porous stone blocks covered by the aforementioned graffiti. In August, it’s covered by panting tourists as well, all taking videos of the view (which removes the necessity of contemplating it ‘en vivo’ as it were). But they are, al least, easy to remove.
On the approach, next to the tattoo parlours, there are some handy spray-paint outlets for the artist who came: inspired yet unprepared.
Which leads me to ask, if the Government is prepared to add a ‘special tax’ to the price of a CD or a DVD to pay the impoverished pop singer or film director whose work it is assumed that you are stealing (!!), an extra euro on every purchase, then why not add a few bob to the price of spray cans and give the money to the unfortunate department that has to clean all this crap off the walls every day?
Moving to the cities, these painted messages change. Granada is now totally ruined by the grafiteros or ‘street artists’ as they are quite revoltingly called. A brave judge has just fined one of these cretins 1,000 euros, but a practical magistrate like this is rarer here than a clean city wall. In Murcia, the tone is beastly paintings of people’s initials in various colours, plus some sexual innuenda. However, I should pause here and acknowledge one superb graffito in that city which has been painted on the wall of the Foreigners’ Centre, the ‘Centro de Extranjería’, and has remained there for years. It looks down at the long queue of hungry and sad looking foreigners and asks in violent black paint: ‘¿Burocrácia o apartheid?’
Bloody good question that.
In the Valencian community, the main thrust of the graffiti artists is to paint-out place names which smack of sounding Spanish, and replacing them with their Valenciano versions. Thus Jávea will be blacked out on all of its approaches, and Xàbia put in its place. Elche becomes Elx. Since road signs are useful only to those who are not familiar with the way, and since these (wealthy tourists...) will almost certainly be unfamiliar with the Xàbia place name, one might expect some attrition or spoilage among the visitors. Nationalists are such shallow and inconsiderate people.
In Almería, we are concerned with just the two languages: Spanish and, in all its many flavours, English. We live, as the Cajamar savings bank would have it, ‘in a sea of profitability and tranquillity’.
As the rusted orange paint gently falls from our inert cranes, and discoloured posters advertise half-built urbanizations in Águilas, our town has concerned itself for once with the padrón, the population registry. As we all know, this register helps get extra funds for the municipality (so artlessly spent) and also allows for extra licences, schoolteachers, police and medics. However, the government of Zapatero, keen to stave off a popular insurrection at its complete ineptitude, has taken to sending out lolly to the town halls in what is known as the PlanE which is meant to create short-term (at least until the next elections) jobs.
Jobs for the boys, judging from what I’ve seen.
So, more souls on the padrón equals more cash for the project, which explains the rather pointless parking lot and, now, two padel courts for our citizens (it’s a form of Mexican tennis apparently).
Plus a 1.7 million euro football field (Boy – that’s really going to confuse the taxi drivers) somewhere on the beach and carpeted, unusually, with Astroturf.
No. Hold on, we have to pay for that.
One day, the local wannabe politicians who talk of fixing our community will do so from the viewpoint of experience and solidarity rather than the tired old mixture of ignorance and greed which has so blighted our communities. We half-heartedly listen to the ‘experts’ as they flap on about tourism or ‘rural tourism’ or ‘golf tourism’ or, God forgive us, ‘gastronomic tourism’ as if these are the simple answers which will fix our municipalities and bring work, even to those poor coloured people queuing forlornly in Murcia. Sometimes, the braver politicians even talk of ‘residential tourism’. Do you know, I think they mean us.
However, whether we can see it, read it or not, there is little doubt that as things stand for our small mistreated community, short of a big change in our thinking, we won’t need a spray can to know that the writing is on the wall.