Such a hot summer. As we slide into September one story that has saddened the Spanish is the apparent death of the Mar Menor, the Murcian inland sea that is cuffed on the Mediterranean side by the La Manga resort. This ecological tragedy would appear to be due to the run-offs of fertilizer – nitrates and phosphates – into the saltwater lagoon, poisoning all the creatures that live there.
It’s been on the cards since 2016, when the waters suddenly gave up and turned brown and the fish and plant-life began to die. Without light reaching the bottom, the algae expires. Without algae producing oxygen, the fish die.
There are endless ‘illegal’ farms surrounding the water and – as often happens – more effort is spent on blame than on resolution. The provincial authorities blame the national government rather than simply policing the area and closing down all the surrounding farms who allow ‘spillage’. In reality, the Statute of Autonomy puts the entire responsibility on the maintenance of the Mar Menor with the Murcian regional government.
There are 8,500 hectares of illegal farms on the 63kms of shoreline that circles the Mar Menor says the WWF. But, farmers are voters too…
There have, in point of fact, been over 200 denuncias in the past year for farmers fouling the lagoon, but none of them have been resolved.
And how about the effect of a stricken Mar Menor on the local tourism? Besides apartments, holiday homes and so on, there are 11,000 hotel beds in La Manga. The head of the regional tourist federation says that bookings are down to nothing and next year looks bad. He also says, "All this has been caused solely and exclusively by the lack of political action. The neighbourhood and business associations have been demanding a solution for the Mar Menor for years. But nobody has done anything".
As the agriculture has intensified – thanks in part to the extra water from the Tagus/Segura pipeline – so has the resort. Compare these two photographs taken ‘before and after’.
Like other similar problems along the coast of Spain, doing nothing is not a solution.
Property prices in the boonies are low. As Cinco Días says here, ‘Depopulation fills rural Spain with real-estate bargains. Pricing is driven by very low demand, despite the pandemic and the increased interest in leaving the big cities behind’. For 60 or 70 thousand euros, it says, you can find a decent house in the smaller towns of the interior…
The safest cities (population of 75,000 and up) to live in Spain with Expansión here. (Albacete of all places wins the prize!).
From Think Spain here: ‘Staycation tourism above pre-pandemic figures and at least 60% of 2019 foreign holidaymakers are back’. Hotel bosses are quoted as saying that recovery is very slow, but constant and moving in the right direction.
‘After considering the worsening coronavirus transmission indicators, the 27 members of the EU agreed on Monday (30 August) to remove the United States and Israel from the list of destinations considered safe until now. The new decision translates, in practice, into not allowing "non-essential" travel of people from these countries…’. Sur in English reports.
‘Balconing’: the practice enjoyed by certain British tourists that like to jump off their hotel balconies into (hopefully) the swimming pool some stories below. The phenomenon is explained by a Palma doctor who has been awarded the MBE for his labours in the arcane art of repairing dented foreigners. El Español has the story here.
From Think Spain here: ‘Barely €5 in cash in the average Spanish purse as 63.4% prefer cards. Two-thirds of Spanish residents now pay for everything they can by card or mobile phone, and seven in 10 carry less than €5 in their purses, according to the most recent Bank of Spain survey…’. Looking in my pockets at the moment, I find I’m in the minority that carries a little more…
Don’t pay with cash (you’ll get fined if it’s over the limit)… and don’t hoard cash…! We read in Las Provincias that ‘cash under the mattress doesn’t earn interest’ (a persuasive argument if ever there was one); that money must be reported to Hacienda and anyway, one needs to justify possession of a wad of spondoolicks hidden under the toaster.
‘Customs duties levied on Spain's olive oil exporters by former US president Donald Trump have been lifted by new leader Joe Biden – and business between the two countries has soared’. Item from Think Spain here.
Inflation is up (an increase of 3.3% in August year on year thanks to the electricity bill) and the government has announced a modest rise in the minimum wage later this year (currently 950€) of between 12 and 19 euros. elDiario.es reports on the first day in the new parliamentary session. Sánchez also warned a truculent Pablo Casado that there yet remains 850 days in the current legislature, due to run until late 2023.
The ex-editor of the ABC, ex-president of the EFE and member of the RAE Luis María Anson (a conservative columnist) reckons that Pedro Sánchez will rewrite the Constitution and axe the monarchy, making him ‘the first President of the Third Republic’. An item from Jotapov here. The reality is that, while the PSOE is a Republican party, there’s not much will to change the system quite yet, depending on the behaviour of the Royals. Meanwhile, The Economist, says Spanish Revolution, takes a dig at Juan Carlos here.
La Razón publishes its latest poll – giving victory to a PP and Vox government (one day). Something called Electrocracia publishes all the different polls here. Público says the PSOE and UP coalition needs to show results to stem the swing to the right.
The church leaders against euthanasia and other modern ills promise a ‘warm autumn’ says elDiario.es here.
From El Diario de Córdoba, an interview with the Hispanicist Paul Preston over his book ‘A People Betrayed’ (here), who says in the title: ‘Spain is a very conflictive country; with many people who still think highly of Franco’.
The spokesperson for Vox in the Congreso is Iván Espinosa de los Monteros. He says this week in an interview with the local paper that Murcia farmland needs much more irrigation.
The Podemos mayor of Cádiz José María González, better known as Kichi, has donated so far (since 2015) some 92,500€ of his wages to charity. He also eschews a second income as mayor, relying instead on his salary as a provincial deputy. The Cádiz municipal debt has also fallen under Kichi’s rule – from 185 million (2015) to today’s 125 million euros. Still a way to go. Both reports come from El Diario de Cádiz.
Opinion from The Guardian here: ‘Brexit is a failure: but, to Remainers’ frustration, it’s not a spectacular one’.
‘The end of international evacuations leaves tens of thousands of people behind: "How can we say 'mission accomplished'?". After terminating their missions, Spain and other European governments acknowledge having left Afghan citizens who were on the evacuation lists in the country. They promise to find a way to get them out, but the closing of the borders of neighbouring countries complicates their escape…’. An item from elDiario.es here.
Spain reached 70% of the population fully vaccinated (78% of the over-twelves) this Wednesday.
Medicos por la Verdad – Doctors for Truth – is a bogus conspiracy group that publishes fake news about the Coronavirus and other issues. Newtral investigates the peculiar group here.
The Judicial agency known as the Consejo General del Poder Judicial should be relieved every five years by a two-thirds majority in the Government. So says la Constitución Española. For the past 25 years, the CGPJ has fortuitously been in the hands of the conservatives and now, 1000 days into ‘overtime’, the PP still refuses to allow a renewal. As Público points out, ‘Carlos Lesmes has been in charge of the CGPJ and the Supreme Court for seven years and nine months, in one of the most controversial periods in terms of judicial independence with highly questioned appointments, while social distrust of the Administration of Justice grows’. The CGPJ is ‘…composed of judges and other jurists, who exercise government functions within the Judiciary with a view to guarantee the independence of the judges during the exercise of the judicial function…’. The explanation comes in English from the Poder Judicial here.
The Madrid regional government recently changed the line-up of directors at TeleMadrid with the results all too evident. From VerTele here we read that audiences are dropping (4.7% in July) as the channel is politicised. The article mentions cowboy films. Here in Andalucía, we get a lot of cowboy films on Canal Sur, along with bullfights, hunting shows, flamenco shows and highly biased news programs.
From The Guardian here: ‘Days of wine and olives: how the old farming ways are paying off in Spain. The ‘no-plough’ regenerative methods adopted in small vineyards have spread to olive groves and leading wine producers – boosting biodiversity and profits’.
From El País in English here: ‘Locals mourn the disaster at the Mar Menor: ‘How could they let something so beautiful end up like this?’ Patience is wearing thin among residents and visitors alike, as more than 4.5 tons of dead fish wash up in the saltwater lagoon due to the surge in nutrients from agricultural fertilizers’. From the same source here: ‘Some 70,000 people form a human chain to protest the environmental crisis at the Mar Menor’.
‘Las Tablas de Daimiel (Wiki), in Ciudad Real, a national park and one of the most important areas in Europe for birds, is in an ever-worsening ecological situation. The flooded area of this wetland has been drastically reduced (it is now only 3% of the total), despite the efforts that are being made to stop its deterioration…’. Verde y Azul has more.
‘Antonio Turiel from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC): "If the global temperature rises by just three degrees, in Spain only the Cantabrian coast would be habitable"’. The claim comes from the RTVE here.
‘King Mohammed VI of Morocco has contacted Spain's president Pedro Sánchez and expressed his wish to 'turn over the page' and 'start again' – an announcement Sánchez calls 'great news'. “This will be a great opportunity to redefine our relationship and the pillars that support it – a relationship between countries which are allies and brothers,” says Sánchez…’. Item from Think Spain here.
It was a hot summer, with Montoro in Córdoba taking the medal with a new record: 47.4ºC.
The Conversation looks with a critical eye at the high speed rail system in Spain. It begins: ‘2022 will mark 30 years since the launch of the first high-speed line in Spain, Madrid-Seville. After more than 56.000 million euros invested in the second largest network in the world (3,086 km), the social, economic and environmental arguments in favour of the Spanish high-speed rail model have faded in light of the accumulated scientific evidence.
The climate emergency urges Spain to rethink its transport policy with concrete and credible measures, consistent with the climate commitments of the Paris Agreement…’.
A few chunks of toll-motorway are now free to users – the AP-7 (262kms between Alicante and La Junquera) and the AP-2 (215kms between Alfajarín in Zaragoza and El Vendrell in Tarragona). Also listed are the C32 between Barcelona and Lloret de Mar and the C33 between Barcelona and Montmeló. Several toll-routes remain, as listed in the article at 20Minutos. While this is good news, the Government admits that new traffic-toll will be introduced in the next few years.
More traffic-fines, more rules, says DiarioMotor gloomily here.
‘Ana Patricia Botín, Head of State and the President of the Government of Spain’. Now there’s a title! ‘The Banco Santander has controlled the main political parties through loans, as has been seen in the latest data available during August’. Diario16 reckons that the bank calls the tune. It also explains how the Santander copped the Banco Popular for just one euro in June 2017.
From The Guardian here: ‘Spain launches inquiry after dams drained for profit during drought. Firm used water to generate cheap electricity while price to customers in grip of heat-wave is at record high’. The company mentioned is Iberdrola.
Laws on promoting the gambling dens known in Spain as Casas de Apuestas (they are found almost on every corner) have been tightened says Xataka here. Best of all, there’ll be no ‘Bet and Win’ – style promotions on footballers’ costumes.
The Vox deputy Mireia Borrás said the other day that Federico Gárcia Lorca would have been a Vox supporter if he were alive today ‘because he loved Spain’. A Unidas Podemos deputy called Txema Guijarro answered this remarkable claim by saying ‘don’t be silly, it was your lot who shot him’. El Español has the story here.
‘Afghanistan is in the news at the moment, but here’s an old story: ‘The Ministry of Defence says it has no information on the 17,000 tons of weapons that President Aznar donated to Afghanistan in 2004. A declassified document from the US State Department indicates that the PP Government sent tanks, guided missiles and pistols. The delivery of that material was hidden from the Spanish parliament’. Público has the story here.
The Spanish Inquisition and its effect today. An article from Friendly Atheist here.
‘If you want to feel closer to Spanish culture and have fun at the same time, you should consider learning card games that originated in Spain…’. The Olive Press teaches us four Spanish card games here.
They might not think much of bullfighting in Catalonia, but, as Catalan News reports, ‘We’ve gone cricket crazy. Barcelona residents vote to build new €1.6 million cricket ground in recent city-wide participatory budgets’.
From El Levante EMV here: ‘Mourning in journalism and in the British community of the Marina Alta for the death of Jack Troughton. The 62-year-old journalist collapsed while he was playing paddle tennis with some friends in Xàbia’. Jack worked with The Round Town News (then, after it was swallowed by the EWN, Jack started the short-lived Expat News) and later at The Costa Blanca News. Costa News obit here.
Travel broadens the mind – a piece of mine at Eye on Spain here.
Tim Moore from The Guardian and ‘A cycle through Spanish history: retracing the 1941 Vuelta de España’. Some fun reading here.
From YouTube here, Camarón de la Isla and Tomatito in the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1991. A shorter video at 12 minutes concentrates on some bulerias here (Wow!). A write-up on this famous concert is at Esquire (en español) here.