Monday, January 15, 2007

The Record Book

Mojácar leads the way once again! The town was the premier tourist destination thirty years ago and its totem, the Indalo, hanging from a gold necklace, was recognised as readily in the Kensington High Street as the Faubourg St. Jacques. The town’s name was known throughout Western Europe, even though no one knew what province it was in. Walt Disney came from Mojácar: Antonio Bienvenida the famous bullfighter had a home here. The one day vice president of Spain, Alfonso Guerra had a place as did the future president of Andalucía Rodriguez de la Borbolla. Famous Spaniards and some notable foreigners, together with a clutch of jolly bars and a well-founded reputation for fun made Mojácar the best known resort in Andalucía after Torremolinos and Marbella.
So, it took a while, but our inept political class eventually trashed it.
Soon, we filled the beach with houses, apartments and basketball courts, brought in the tour operators and sold the Indalo logo to the Almerian tourist board. We removed the statue of the mojaquera with her cántaros from the route of the new motorway (and, for several years, even the road exit signs for Mojácar). We overbuilt with no thought to the infrastructure and the beauty of the area; we dumped Walt Disney while – at the same time – we attempted to turn our small and agreeable community into an embarrassing copy of Disneyworld.
Soon, the pueblo, the real Mojácar of old, became so difficult to reach, that many people, admittedly attracted to the area because of the box-like white village on the hill, spend their time ruefully admitting that they never go ‘up there’ any more. There’s no parking, they say, and the town now sells little more than tee shirts and comical ashtrays anyway. Much of the old charm of the pueblo has been pulled down – the original arches that led out of the Plaza Nueva, the Arco de Lucinda, the old fuente, the old Castillo… Structurally speaking, the town hall appears to be decorating the pueblo in a similar ‘tee shirt’ style, with little winking coloured lights and sunken spotlights and orange street lights and some neon…
Our summer guests appear to be more concerned with graffiti than with history, with reproduction pottery than with art and with bathtub gin rather than a cocktail at The Laughing Gibbet.
So, from being not just the leader of the province in fame and notoriety, Mojácar has now slumped behind Roquetas, El Ejido, Almerimar, Aguadulce, Vera, Cuevas, Albox and probably Carboneras as well. It’s now ‘small fry’ which is why we don’t get much support in infrastructure from the Junta de Andalucía or the Diputación Provincial. Well done, our local politicians!
However, it is appropriately in the subject of politics where Mojácar has once again risen to the top, broken the mould and astonished the type setters at the Guinness Book of Records.
As readers may recall, Mojácar fielded nine parties at the last election (a record in itself) of which six groups received enough votes to produce our thirteen councillors. After various changes, betrayals, court cases and accusations of impropriety, the situation by Christmas was that the two councillors from the PSOE (although, without the support of the rank and file membership) were running the town with the help of three other councillors that had deserted their own parties (and their voters) in favour of continuing the agony that this legislature has become. How many voters do they think that they are representing?
At Christmas, Angel Medina resigned from the GIAL (one of the opposition parties) and actually…. Went home!
Well, nothing like that had ever happened before. A councillor resigning and giving way to a fresh face; instead of… taking another group’s shilling and staying on as a ‘turncoat’, a ‘transfuga’. Very twenty-first century! Where will it all end?
With Angel’s departure from the opposition benches, a new councillor, the next on the list, arrived to take his place. This was Matthew Shatford, the first foreigner to get into a town hall anywhere in Andalucía and the first, of course, for Mojácar.
This excellent news, to have a ‘European’ in a local council, must be tempered slightly by Matthew’s unconventional ‘first day in class’- where he left his party and crossed the floor to join the government of Gabriel Flores who now controls a rag-bag of six councillors – just one short of a majority.
The prize for all this is a large chunk of publicly owned land which the mayor is anxious to sell, to contribute towards old debts incurred by the massive fireworks, free pop concerts, lights and decoration of the past eighteen months. With still one person short of this prize, the mayor must turn to other sources to pay the bills. A previous mayor sold off the Indalo – perhaps this one could sign Walt Disney over to Vera…

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nationalism in the Basque Country

To the surprise of much of the population of the day, the world didn’t end, as most Christians had feared, with a roaring of trumpets as the year 1000AD rolled around. Many people had given away all their possessions in anticipation of the arrival of the Heavenly Kingdom, and, one hopes that they had the grace to feel a bit foolish after the snows receded. Shortly after the world didn’t end, some six years after the non-event, Sancho el Grande became king of Navarra. His reign was marked by the Moors to the south, still in control of what would one day become Spain, and the provinces to the northwest, which form the present Basque Country. As Sancho absorbed these provinces by war – and later parts of southwestern France, the Kingdom of Navarre, mainly Basque speaking, became, for a short while, the apogee of Euskal Herria, or ‘the greater Basque homeland’.
The world moved on. The three northern provinces, part of Aquitaine, became the French 'Pyrenees Atlantiques’, the three Spanish provinces to the west became the Basque Autonomy and Navarra and its capital city of Pamplona became its own autonomy. While officially bi-lingual, unlike the French provinces, Navarra is divided between its under-populated northern Pyrenean area which shares spoken Basque with Spanish, and the rest of the province, including its capital, where Spanish is practically the only language used.
The Basque freedom movement, for want of a better term, is stuck on the history of Sancho’s brief kingdom, and wants the entire area, including the French provinces, to be re-united under the nation of Euskal Herria, with its capital city as Pamplona!
According to a Basque website, in Nafarroa (Navarra), only 10% of the inhabitants speak Euzkara, despite being officially a ‘two-language’ province.
The Batasuna party describes itself as representing the izquierda abertzale, or the ‘left-wing patriots’. They are, of course, the political wing of ETA, or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (literally ‘Basque Country and Liberty’), the terrorist organisation that is prepared to kill for a Greater Marxist-Leninist Basque State.
Not all Basques are supporters of Batasuna, and a milder form of nationalism has generally ruled the Basque Country as the PNV (Partido Nacionalista Vasco). This group is, if anything, slightly rightist or at least pragmatist in its policies and had considered itself a member of the International Christian Democrats before the Partido Popular engineered its ousting. It is now within the European Democratic Party coalition. Certainly, the PNV is keen on holding as much power locally as possible – a form of nationalism - and it looks towards an eventual independence, but it is not as forthright as, for example, the Catalonian equivalent.
Returning to the extremists in the Spanish Basque Country (they are considerably quieter in France as the French will not allow regional languages at all and will fall heavily on any independence talk), the Batasuna want three things of Madrid. That Basque ‘political’ prisoners should be held in Basque jails (they are usually shipped as far away as the national courts can send them); that the government lifts its ban on outlawed political parties and associations such as Batasuna and, impossibly, that the traditional seven provinces should be granted their own state - even if the majority of the inhabitants were against such a proposal, the true Basque considers (what the founder of the PNV Sabino Arana might describe as) the purity of the Basque race and its moral supremacy over other Spaniards.
The Basque condition is, of course, utterly different from the Catalonian idea of nationalism, which, while once again based on historical anecdote, is more concered with the economic implications of its actions. The Andalucian version of nationalism, currently under discussion in the Seville parliament, hasn’t even that to go by, as, historically, Andalucía belongs to the Moors.

I would be glad to receive any correction on the foregoing - keeping political opinion down as far as possible. Thanks.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Second Class Europeans

With the arrival of 2007, two new countries joined the European Union: Romania and Bulgaria, making us 27 countries and half a billion people. However – at least in socialist Spain and New Labour Britain – the new citizens of our great European Experiment are to be deemed ‘second class’ for two years. They can join, but they can’t work freely. So, lucky things, they can wear the twelve stars underwear, they can even present their ghastly songs in the Eurovision Song Contest (and perhaps even win just to show how much we love them), but they can’t work in the rest of Europe.
In point of fact, there are already over 450,000 Romanians and 60,000 Bulgarians living in Spain and registered on the padrón (ya know – who the hell wants to live in Bulgaria where the average wage is fourpence a week?).
Now, Angela Merkel, the President of Europe for the next six months, wants to have another go at 'selling' the European Charter, but she is going to have to ignore the Romanians and the Bulgarians, since, you know, they are not going to be able to work in other parts of Europe than their own and are, rather obviously, not going to vote yessah-marm for that unlovely constitution that the French and the Danes shat on a couple of years ago.
Angela should probably consult with the twenty or fifty million Europeans who live in other parts of Europe – true ‘Europeans’ when you think of it – people who would like to consider themselves as Europe’s genuine ‘Second Class Citizens’ since they will not (according to the European Constitution) be able to vote in either their own or their adopted country’s national and regional elections and who will not be represented – for obvious reasons – in Brussels. So, these sorry-ass Romanians and Bulgarians will just have to wait in line: they are Europe’s Third Class Citizens!