My favourite meme for La Semana Santa is the picture of sunbathers in their swimming outfits somewhere on a Spanish beach and just beyond them, there's a platoon of costaleros (float-bearers) bearing the heavy wooden base and statue of Jesus or sometimes a rather well-wrapped-up María as they trudge past on their way either to or from the iglesia. The sacred and the profane. Those platforms, says Canal Sur TV, can weigh up to 20,000 kilos.
One should allow the faithful their pious week of devotion without any sly remarks from me, but as always these days, most of Easter Week is centred not around Jesus, but rather his opposite number, the Demon Lucre.
In the fancier cities (Seville being the obvious choice), the narrow balconies on some apartment buildings along the route where the processions pass are rented out by the afternoon to the prosperous for a veritable fortune, canapés and a bottle of wine included.
So sorry, there's this rich group from Barcelona that have taken the balcony for the processions, maybe try us again next year. Indeed, the tax people have already warned the apartment owners not to forget to declare their extra windfall.
Many places will have the streets full of visitors, frantically waving their mobile phones as the fellows in their cone-headed outfits (capirotes) march slowly past, to the sound of the municipal band playing the vaguely sacred music, or maybe there's a gypsy singer performing a saeta. The larger processions will be sticking to the main avenues, where the 25? seats are. OK, in Seville they cost rather more - anything between 70 and 160?. Apparently the cofradías (the guilds) share most of that between them, with a cut allotted for the people they have been obliged to hire to carry the saints (volunteers among the faithful being at an all-time low this season).
It's a good time to dress up a bit. Maybe wear a shirt for once. Many of the women will be dressed with ruffles: and peinetas, fans in their hair.
This year there are more people than ever hoping to acquire a seat in the choicest area and ticket holders will soon be sat possessively upon them, upon a rented cushion.
Somebody is selling cold drinks and chucherías - assorted commercially-wrapped nibbles.
-'Scuse me, can you pass that down to the caballero?
It's the Easter school hols, with the kids out for a noisy week. Take 'em to the beach or the aqua-park, or maybe the parque de atracciones with the rides or the cowboys or the clowns. Wear them out, stick them in front of the telly and then go out for a decent evening meal.
Only, there's a shortage of waiters to go around this year - it seems that we aren't paying them enough and some places have even had to cut back on their tables.
The tourist departments have been busy posting adverts in all the media and are helping to fill the hotels to the brim. The regional government takes out a page every day in all the newspapers with institutional advertising (less of course the local foreign-language newspapers) to keep everybody on the message.
It's the beginning of the season, and here in España, every tourist counts.
Slightly over half of all house sales are paid for without the trouble of a mortgage says Público here. Put another way, 51% of homes in Spain are now bought by investment houses or vulture funds. Or wealthy foreigners. (Last week, Cinco Días claimed 88,800 homes were bought by foreigners in 2022).
'The travel agencies are "extremely optimistic" with the Easter 2023 campaign, in the words of the president of the Spanish Union of Travel Agencies (UNAV), José Luis Méndez, since the reservations they are receiving "are being very good, similar to those before the pandemic", pointing out a clear trend towards recovery.' The item is at Hosteltur here.
'Five things you need to know before travelling to the Balearic Islands this summer' - item at SVI here.
From CadenaSer here: Employment figures rose again in March with 20,376,000 now on the Social Security register (the highest figure ever). The paro fell by 48,755 to 2,862,260.
From The Financial Times here: 'How Spain has taken on the problem of precarious work.
A country famous for temporary jobs is experimenting with new types of contract to boost permanent employment'. The article looks at '.Spain's left-wing government last year set out to "recover workers' rights without hurting business" in a deal it thrashed out with employers and trade unions. The new rules aimed to put a stop to the use of back-to-back temporary contracts and make new permanent jobs the rule rather than the exception. A new "open-ended contract for intermittent work" was introduced for employers in seasonal sectors, under which staff would remain linked to the company when the season ended and called back when demand resumed.'
'Spain's inflation rate eased more than expected in March, reaching its lowest level in 20 months as energy prices sank from a year earlier, when Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent them surging. The consumer price index--which measures what consumers pay for goods and services--increased 3.1% in March on year measured by European Union-harmonized standards, down sharply from the 6% on-year rise registered in February, preliminary data from the Spanish statistics office INE showed last week. This marks the lowest inflation rate since July 2021, and came in below the 4.2% expected by economists in a poll from The Wall Street Journal.'. Item from Market Watch here.
From Sur in English here: 'More than three million people in Spain set to benefit from 30% increase in their pensions. A new pension reform will affect three out of ten beneficiaries of the Spanish system'.
Along comes The Corner's opinion: 'Listening every day, every hour, to the statements of the ministers takes us to a happy world: everything is going well; everything is historic; impressive achievements. But with the coda that the PP and Feijóo are the worst, capable of ruining everything. So much propagandist mumbo-jumbo that embraces the strategy of information flooding, pounding and pounding.
The latest instalment corresponds to the public deficit data for 2022, an exceptional year of revenue (+145) and growth (+5.5%) according to the official thesis backed by data, a year of good harvest that in classical theory it would be advisable to take advantage of to store, to be able to see us through the years of bad harvest, which always comes. In such an exceptional year, the deficit reached 4.8% of GDP, more than ?65 billion of credit provided, mainly by external creditors, mainly the holy European Central Bank.'
From Reuters here: 'Spain's Sareb said on Thursday last week that its losses had dropped by 7.4% to 1.5 billion euros in 2022 compared to a year earlier thanks to higher revenues from asset sales. The so-called bad bank, set up to take on bad loans from the financial crisis which enveloped Spain in 2012, has been struggling since its creation as a slump in real estate prices depressed the value of the loans and assets it holds.'
From the official president's Moncloa site here: 'Pedro Sánchez meets Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Beijing and the two countries sign four cooperation agreements. The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the Premier of the People's Republic of China, Li Qiang, have held a bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The meeting comes under President Sánchez's official trip to China at the invitation of the Chinese authorities'. The visit is also covered by the VoA here '.Sánchez made the trip to China not only in his capacity as the leader of Spain, but also as a member of NATO and as a member of the European Union. Spain will assume the rotating presidency of the council of the EU in July. Sánchez's visit comes less than a week before European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Beijing to meet with Xi.'. Not everyone was delighted, of course. Here's Núñez Feijóo accusing Sánchez of disdain towards the Chinese culture since he failed to attend the opening of the superb Xi'an warrior exhibition in Alicante - which occurred the same day that Sánchez was in Beijing.
'The PP says in Brussels that the "problem of the rule of law in Spain is its Government" and Vox reiterates that it is "the worst in history". The conservatives return to their activities in the European Parliament to sow doubts about the democratic situation in Spain'. The story at elDiario.es here.
Alfonso Guerra, who was Felipe Gonzalez' vice-president from 1982 to 1991 (wiki), considers the Socialists' current alliances 'to be one of the PSOE's worst ever errors'.
Over at the PP headquarters (Calle Génova 13, Madrid) nobody can understand how Pedro Sánchez manages to retain his popularity ahead of Núñez Feijóo. An article at ECD here.
Analysis from 20Minutos here: 'The general elections at the end of the year will have two contests: who comes first or second, to which the PSOE and PP will aspire; and then who is third or fourth, positions that will be divided between Vox and Sumar, so the continuity of the eventual government coalition will not be at stake so much in the first contest as in the second. This at least is what they believe in the Moncloa (presidential palace), where they already admit that the key to victory will be for the recently released platform of Vice President Yolanda Díaz to win out over the Voxxers.'
Yolanda Díaz (Second Vice-President and Minister of Labour) duly held her meeting on Sunday to present her party, Sumar, for the forthcoming general elections (probably in December). She was joined by leaders of a dozen or so far-left groups, with the exception of Podemos. Ms Díaz's intention being to run for president. elDiario.es was there. The problem for the far-left is obvious: united they can become a powerful force - disunited, they could even be the direct cause of a PP / Vox government from December. One observer present at the meeting noted 'That fact that Podemos was not there also relaxed the atmosphere and gave prominence to other reunions between old acquaintances who are now trying to forget why they split up in the first place'. A banner at the meeting, where around 5,000 people gathered, read 'Hoy empieza todo: everything starts from today'. Several foreign left-wing groups also publicly supported the creation of Sumar says LaSexta here, including the president of the Party of the European Left, Walter Baier. From El Huff Post here: 'Yolanda Díaz, talking about a Sumar without Podemos: "It would not be a failure at all", adding that "Sumar from the beginning wants primaries with citizen participation, but not bilateral ones"' (includes a short video summary). The whole Sunday presentation is available on YouTube for those interested here. Sumar is hard to translate, but means roughly enlist, join, unite or add.
What does Podemos want? I think it wants continuity and control of the new, larger far-left movement. El Mundo says it wants participation. The Guardian says 'Pablo Iglesias, a founding member and former leader of Podemos, who has opposed joining Díaz, said it would be "an electoral and political tragedy" if Sumar went ahead without Podemos's support. However, the polls show his party in electoral free-fall. With some party members weary of what they see as the autocratic rule of Iglesias and his wife, the equality minister Irene Montero, many may gravitate towards Sumar.'
The two parties will try again to resolve their differences after the local and regional elections (where Sumar won't be participating) says El Español here. From the El Español news-letter: 'Being an unknown party, Sumar won't be eligible for funding or electoral promotions for the general elections'.
We can expect a lot of attacks from the right-wing, hoping to mix things up. The RTVE runs an article saying 'PP, Vox and Cs charge against Yolanda Díaz's project: they quip that adding (sumando) is a subtraction (una resta) for Spain'. The PP calls Sumar 'the white-label of Pedro Sánchez'. As some Podemos politicians seek to join or work together with Sumar, ECD reports that 'The hard-wing of Podemos plans reprisals against the 'yolandistas' deputies'.
A story goes at 20Minutos that Pedro Sánchez doesn't want Podemos to join with Sumar - well, no, he wouldn't - but would he have the influence within the two parties to keep them apart?
From Catalan News here: 'Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra police have taken down the cybercriminal (foreign-based) group RansomHouse's website, as was confirmed by the Catalan News Agency on Tuesday morning. This operation was similar to that which took place shortly after the attack on Hospital Clínic, a major public hospital in Barcelona, in which officers were able to block two of the servers the hackers were using.'
Catalan News again: '50% of Catalans against independence and 43% in favour, says local poll. 9% of residents prefer a unilateral decision but 33% are in favour of a deal with Spain'
'The worst waiting list in the history of Public Health: almost 800,000 Spaniards are waiting to be operated on and it takes an average of 122 days'. Item from 20Minutos here. The worst regions for the average waiting time for an operation are the Canaries, Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura, Cantabria and Cataluña (all at 154 days or over). The best are Galicia, País Vasco, Madrid and Melilla. One part of the problem, says Público here, is that many people use the 'Urgencias' at the hospital rather than go and see their doctor at the Centro Médico for straightforward or minor issues.
Juan Enciso, the one-time mayor of El Ejido during its golden years of wealth and expansion, has been sentenced to five years in prison for 'the embezzlement of over 58 million euros of public funds'.
There has been an ongoing fuss about policemen being planted into various protest groups and grass-root organisations in Barcelona and Valencia - acting as supporters. Which brings us to 'The Government admits that the Police have authorization to secretly infiltrate social movements' says Europa Press here.
An alarming example of manipulation comes from Tuesday's El Mundo, which, failing to have an appropriate picture of Yolanda Díaz with Pablo Iglesias together (because there isn't one), says that they simply asked an AI to furnish one to show how easy it would be. That's to say - for their front page. The newspaper says that it is surprised by the alarm over the photo. They later show on their Facebook page another - Pablo Iglesias arm in arm with Santiago Abascal, both of them smiling. And to think, a photograph used to be worth a thousand words.
Reporters News brings 'the news from south-east Spain' here.
It's going to be a hot summer by the look of things. From Maldita here, several records were broken in Spain in late March (including the Canary Isles seeing minimum temperatures of 25ºC, and a max of 38.2ºC in Las Palmas on March 30th). Bilbao in Northern Spain was over 30ºC on March 29th. In France, the TV weather forecast now shows the daily change from the average temperature (YouTube video).
La Marea says - either plant more trees in the cities, or suffer more deaths from heatstroke.
From The Olive Press here, the NGO Ethical Consumer 'slams violations of migrant workers' rights in Almería's 'Sea of Plastic' greenhouses'. From The Guardian here, 'Abusive working conditions endemic in Spain's strawberry farms, report claims (Cádiz)'. The original report from Ethical Consumer titled 'Migrants in supermarket supply chains face "horrific" conditions' is here.
Spanish News Today reports that the new Animal Welfare Law will come into effect in September, no doubt causing a few headaches then for pet owners.
Readers of Facua, the consumers group, have voted for the companies offering the worst service to their clients in 2022. 'CaixaBank, chosen The Worst Company of the Year 2022 by consumers. In this 13th edition, Vodafone and Endesa were the runners-up'.
From elDiario.es here, 'Evangelicals: a creed that pushes towards a conservative society with prayers. The Pentecostal cult to which Yadira Maestre, the preacher who participated in an act of the PP belongs, is the dominant branch in Spain of this minor but expanding religion, and which bases its appeal on services that appeal to emotion and proximity'.
From News24 here: 'In the background, Zara heiress sets tone for revamp'. We read that 'Marta, the youngest child of founder Amancio Ortega, became non-executive chair of Inditex on April 1 2022, just a few months after Oscar Maceiras took over as CEO'.
Vehicle inspection (ITV) will be coming in 2024 for electric scooters says Motor16 here.
El Salto visits Pazo de Meirás (La Coruña) (wiki), the home illegally held - until 2020 - by the Franco family for eighty years. The photographs are stunning.
From The Economist here (received 'as a gift'): '.Michael Reid's new book, "Spain: The Trials and Triumphs of a Modern European Country" (Amazon), is not written just to identify the problems that transfix Spain today, but also to suggest a constructive way forward. In so doing, he tackles a host of issues, ranging from immigration, the environment and the abandonment of rural areas to women's rights and the family, the decline of bullfighting, the crisis of Catholicism, the media and corruption. The upshot is a lively, highly informative and nuanced portrait of contemporary Spain'.
Hollywood film stars who speak excellent Spanish? Here ya go. From 20Minutos.
From Science News here: 'Native Americans corralled Spanish horses decades before the Europeans arrived. DNA and skeletal clues rewrite the tale of how horses came to the Great Plains by the 1600s'.
They are building an amusement park in Garrucha (Almería) to be called La Isla del Tesoro (Treasure Island) in remembrance of a film starring Orson Welles that was partly shot in nearby pueblos. The story is here.
An interesting article from Fascinating Spain here, explains about los capirotes, the cone-shaped headgear worn in the processions during Holy Week. Centuries ago, a version of these hats were placed on the head of those being investigated by the Santa Inquisición: similar in appearance to the British dunce's caps (Wiki) that were worn in earlier times by schoolboys being punished.
EuroNews says that 'Cobbled streets, home-grown treats and all-year heat: Foodies will love Gran Canaria'.
Spain's most unusual Easter events are noted by The Olive Press here. At this time, there's not only the ornate and solemn processions, as Spain also has some flying children, drunken mobs, Cleopatra, drums and, in León, the remarkable burial of the drunken Genaro Blanco.
Here are Los Ángeles Azules ft. Natalia Lafourcade with Nunca Es Suficiente on YouTube (Thanks to Chuck).