There are a lot of pluses in being a foreigner. One of them is that you can be eccentric without anyone minding too much (‘ah well, foreigners, hey?’) and another is that you can learn a whole new culture: its language, history and customs.
If you want to. Or alternatively, when the moment comes, you can pretend absolutely no knowledge of the language whatsoever. No comprendo and a crazed grin can often work wonders.
A school-friend of mine, like me, is married to a Spaniard. Like me, his Spanish is perfect, but, again like me, with a marked English accent. At least we have better grammar than many Spaniards, knowing the difference between a ver and haber, or vaya and valla.
We are in celebration as my friend has just got his Spanish nationality – it took him over five years for the appropriate funcionarios to leave their mark, but there it is. Passport too! Me, all I’ve got is the new-fangled foreign identity card or TIE (a loathsome thing which celebrates my novel status of no-longer-even-being-considered-a-European).
He called me this weekend to tell me the good news about his new nationality, and so – perhaps in a burst of (his newly-acquired) Latin excitement - he spoke to me over the phone in Spanish.
He never used to.
The British living in Spain have a regular – and painful – squabble about whether they are ‘expats’ or ‘immigrants’ – most of them leaning for some reason towards the latter. Now, my school-friend – he’s an immigrant!
But do the Spaniards think of him as Spanish? Probably, at first look, not; unless he wears a rojigualda tee-shirt – or writes a book about Lorca (ejem: Ian Gibson, Spaniard. Wiki).
Sometimes, foreigners become belovèd Spaniards at the drop of a hat – usually those who are very good at sports (there’s a hundred of them who became speedily naturalised in the past quarter century listed here). Indeed, several Europeans got themselves a quick Spanish passport through this scheme.
Others have it more difficult. Lebanese pop-violinist Ara Malikian (Wiki) may have obtained Spanish nationality, but he’s still barred from the Latino Grammies even after being nominated. He says "In Lebanon they do not consider me to be Lebanese enough because I’m of Armenian origin, the Armenians did not consider me to be Armenian enough because I was born in Lebanon. When I settled in Europe they did not consider me European because I was not born in Europe. It took me years to be in peace with who I am and to accept being the eternal foreigner". Here’s a YouTube theme of his.
Returning to sport: something which is most encouraging can be found at this year’s Olympics. There’s a twenty-nine strong independent team of refugees coming from eleven different countries. They are the IOC Refugee Olympic team here.
C’est bon, ça.
The Spanish Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) is warning holiday-makers to be careful when renting an apartment for the summer in order to avoid falling prey to fraud. The story (and some of the tricks) is at The Olive Press here.
From El País in English here: ‘Two decades later, thousands of Marbella homes still in a legal limbo. Around 18,000 properties were built irregularly under former mayor Jesús Gil, but despite numerous court cases that cancelled permits, chances are good they will never be torn down’.
Two articles in Hostaltur talk of major enlargements at both Barcelona (1,700 million euros) and Madrid (1,600 million euros) commercial airports here and here. More on the Barcelona expansion at Catalan News here. Not that everyone is happy: ‘The expansion of airports collides with the Government's climate commitment’ says elDiario.es here.
From Sur in English here: ‘Foreign tourist arrivals in Spain hit new low in first half of 2021. There were 5.4 million international visitors between January and June, down 50% from 2020, and the industry fears new travel restrictions that could drive numbers down even further’.
‘The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control places Spain & Balearic Islands in Dark Red Category, warns against travel to the country’ says Schengen Visa Info News.
From The Majorca Daily Bulletin here: ‘Britain may toughen summer travel rules for Spain - The Times. A spokesman for Britain's transport ministry declined to comment’.
From The Local here: ‘Britons and other non-EU travellers face €7 fee to enter Europe for Visits. British nationals as well as all other visa-exempt non-EU citizens will have to get authorisation and pay a €7 fee to enter the Schengen zone when new rules come in to force before the end of 2022, the European commission confirmed on Tuesday.
The move is part of the Commission’s plans for a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) – and will affect all visitors coming from visa-exempt countries – like the UK, the US and Canada – who want to travel to EU states like France, Germany, Spain and Italy…’.
La Razón explains the whys and wherefores of how the ‘1,000€ rule’ works – the limit payable in cash. The idea is, of course, to combat the submerged economy, says the article.
From VozPópuli here: ‘The fiasco of the Spanish electricity market. The failure of the model represents a clarifying example of the economic and social risks of handing over strategic sectors to a small number of semi-monopolistic groups’. The article begins: ‘The national electric model is an unmitigated failure. It seriously damages families' pockets and represents a drag on our productive sector. Of course, it has been and is tremendously lucrative for its boards of directors and its main shareholders, mostly foreign capital. Not to mention the revolving doors, where former ministers and former political leaders pass without any embarrassment to join their boards of directors…’.
From The Corner here: ‘Spain Creates 464,900 Jobs in Second Quarter 2021’.
From The Economist (paywall) here: ‘Spain has a two-speed economy with high unemployment’. The article seems to be devoted to the failed industrial town of Linares in Jaén – ‘…Today it is a town with a reputation: at 33%, its unemployment rate is the highest in Spain…’.
From The Guardian here: ‘Deliveroo unveils plans to pull out of Spain in wake of ‘rider law’. The delivery firm says ‘disproportionate level of investment’ would be needed to achieve top-level market position’. La Ley Rider here. A few more bicycle delivery companies manage to keep going – for the moment – here.
From rents to shop-prices – the cost of living in Madrid or Barcelona is anything up to 30% more expensive than in other urban centres across Spain says El Economista here.
From El Mundo here: "The most furious and irresponsible opposition in Europe." Thus describes the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, the parties of the Spanish right, whom he accuses of weighing down the future of Spain with their endless lack of support and continuous attacks. "From the very moment of the constitution of the Government, the opposition has had a single purpose: to overthrow the Government," said the Chief Executive in a letter sent out this Sunday to the PSOE militancy.
The letter speaks of "a hostile attitude", that of the "right and far right", which has not prevented Spain from "resisting" the "brutal scourge of the pandemic" - "the emergency of the century", he says – as the country "advanced" in social rights, freedoms and justice…’ (we wonder why the newspaper doesn’t just reproduce the full letter).
Worries about a ‘possible betrayal from Ciudadanos’ are leading Pablo Casado to call for early elections in Andalucía this autumn says ECD here. Vox thinks that they’ll call them for January 2022 says the ABC here. The PSOE-A, having rid itself of Susana Díaz, now has Juan Espadas to lead it at the next election.
From The Guardian here: ‘Italy and Spain have helped drive the euro-zone out of recession after a stronger than expected 2% expansion in the second quarter of 2021, official data has shown. The 19-nation single currency area beat forecasts of a 1.5% increase in gross domestic product despite a disappointing performance from the bloc’s powerhouse economy, Germany. Figures from the EU’s statistical agency, Eurostat, showed the euro-zone growing at an annual rate of 13.7% in the April to June period, with this year’s bounce-back in activity a stark difference from the slump in output caused by Covid lockdowns in the same period of 2020…’.
From El País in English here (a week ago): ‘Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez: “Spain has a gold medal in vaccination”. The Socialist leader celebrates the progress of the country’s immunization drive, which has fully vaccinated more than 26.4 million people’.
From El Periódico here: ‘Spain is the European country with the most fully-vaccinated citizens at 57.61% (Tuesday): ahead of Belgium, with 57.21% of vaccinated, and even the United Kingdom (56.49%) and Germany (52.58%)’.
From InfoLibre (paywall) here: ‘42% of the 7,137 labour inspections in agriculture ended with fines for the companies involved. The campaign launched by the Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz against the irregular economy in the agricultural sector has imposed fines of almost 18 million euros, up until May 31’. About 30% were to do with un-licenced foreign workers. ‘Agrarian employer groups like Asaja or Coag insist that Díaz "is trying to criminalize the countryside", while the CCOO and UGT say that the data reflects reality: "There are even cases of slavery", they say’.
José Luis Moreno, the disgraced TV entertainer who was arrested in late June for fraud, had 900 million euros stashed abroad and had prepared a bolt-hole in Los Angeles, according to a late development revealed in La Vanguardia here.
From BoT Facebook page: ‘There's a long and interesting inquiry/scandal/plot called the Caso Kitchen - where several senior politicians plotted to subvert another inquiry/scandal/plot called the Caso Gürtel which was to do with their improper party accounting and accepting bribes and so on.
The case goes back as far as 1996 and involves the Partido Popular.
The inquiry, both inquiries, have taken a long time as there were many people to interrogate, including some senior ex-ministers.
Oddly, just as it was getting down to some very senior ex-ministers, plus an ex-president, the judge said - well it's the last day of July, August is off, and the case is over.
One can't help wonder towards which party his sympathies lie...
*From InfoLibre here: ‘The judge of the 'Kitchen Inquiry' files (pigeonholes) together the cases against the leadership of the PP of Rajoy, and of CaixaBank and Repsol, without investigating lines of interest requested by the Prosecutor's Office.
The judge does not see "any indication" to send (ex-secretary-general) María Dolores de Cospedal (Wiki) and her husband to trial for the espionage of Luis Bárcenas, which is limited to a police matter orchestrated by the Interior Ministry of the first government of Rajoy, with Jorge Fernández Díaz (Wiki) at the head.
Nor does he give credibility to the ex-commissar Villarejo when he says that he was in contact with the former president to inform him of the progress of the operation.
The judge calls the requests of Anti-Corruption to continue investigating as ‘impertinent’…’.
*Cadena Ser says that the judge refused to open ‘a dozen’ fresh lines of inquiry.
*elDiario.es criticises the abrupt closure of the investigation.
*Some Twitter jokes found at Público here.
*An unkind cartoon from elDiario.es here. She has a doggy on a leash and says ‘he can do tricks’. The Casado figure has a magistrate on his leash and answers, ‘tell me about it’.
*Diario16 says that ‘The Kitchen Case reveals the shame of the Spanish Justice system’.
A useful – albeit gloomy guide from elDiario.es here (updated daily). How hot is it in your province? Compare day by day the temperature of this summer with the historical average (going back to 1950). It shows how the maximum temperatures of this summer evolve in each province with maps and graphs to monitor the heat in Spain.
Do you solemnly put your trash in the different containers parked down the road? Paper in one, kitchen stuff in another and so on? Here’s a video taken in Alicante of the UTE garbage truck putting all the containers into a single load.
‘The Spanish ambassador to the Unesco explains why Spain did not support declaring the Great Barrier Reef to be "in danger", confirming that he had asked Australia in return to support his proposal for the Paseo del Prado and the Buen Retiro to be declared World Heritage Sights: "That’s what diplomacy is about", he said blithely. The story here.
The ex-king Juan Carlos I has been a year in Abu Dhabi now. Will he return (be permitted to return) to Spain soon? The Express says that the Spanish would like him to return home (!).
How much does the Royal Family cost the taxpayer? A lot more than is usually admitted, apparently. The official version is 8.4 million euros per year, but it now appears that various ministries – Presidencia, Hacienda, Defensa and the Interior – pay the wages of royal staffers, costing at least an extra 14 million... Patrimonio Nacional alone paid out 54 million in building maintenance between 2005 and 2020. elDiario.es has the story here.
What happened to the promise to give Spanish nationality to anyone with Sephardi roots? According to The New York Times here (or in Spanish here if the pay-wall strikes), many of those who applied have been turned down. ‘It would have been better not to have made the offer in the first place’, says Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez (New Mexico).
From El País here: ‘The bishops draw a catastrophic panorama of Spanish politics. A report from the Spanish Episcopal Conference (Wiki) claims that there is a deliberate attempt to dismantle the Christian heritage in the country’. ‘The bishops’ – the power in the Spanish church – run the COPE radio and TV Canal Trece (Wiki) under special conditions. Apparently, there’s a ‘neo-pagan’ plot by the government against the faith say the bishops.
The carcinogenic ethylene oxide discovered in a number of ice-cream varieties has now also been found in various other products imported from the Dominican Republic, Uganda, Turkey, Ethiopia and even the United Kingdom. Products with traces of this additive include ‘…ginger, onion powder, coffee, coriander, guar gum, durum wheat, pepper, celery, turmeric, amaranth, plantain, or spirulina powder (blue-green algae)…’ says Valencia Plaza here. The use of the pesticide ethylene oxide is banned in the EU.
A new kind of traffic radar detects and records noise (rather than speed). It should be in legal use from October says Tráfico. Autopista has the story.
Which telephone operators have had the most complaints made against them by Spanish consumers in 2020? The list is here.
The smallest film festival in the world is held in a village in Huesca later this month (August 31 to September 4) and celebrates its tenth anniversary. The tiny village of Ascaso, with only seven registered inhabitants, will enjoy its tenth festival this summer. The activity has an economic impact locally for a value of about 100,000€. elDiario.es has the story.
From El Mundo here – The Hotel Convento (four stars) outside Zamora in Coreses is the tackiest hotel in España. ‘A spa with Doric columns, medieval halls and a parthenon are some of the secrets kept by an old German seminary in Zamora converted into a hotel’. ‘It’s a triumph of bad taste’, says the reviewer with awe.
Ara Malikian Symphonic. Pisando flores. Live at Las Ventas Madrid on YouTube here.