When, last month, the Basque armed separatist group ETA issued an apology ahead of its imminent dissolution, it also had to provide that apology with an explanatory note. The art of apology is never an armed group’s strong suit. But the need to explain why one is apologizing shows the extreme difficulty ETA has in coming to grips with its past. Between 1968 and 2010, in its bid to establish an independent socialist Basque state, ETA killed more than eight hundred people and injured thousands.
Apologies often take the form of addled justifications, an impossible quest for innocence, and so it is with ETA’s apology.… Seguir leyendo »
The first disagreement is about metaphors, and perhaps it is the most important one. How to speak of countries and nations? Some people see them as relationships. They use the language of couples and romantic feeling: a breakaway region is no longer in love or loved, seeks divorce, wants its freedom. Secession may be painful, but it’s her right. Others prefer the language of the body: a country is an organic whole, its component parts are limbs. What for some is just the right to seek happiness elsewhere, for others feels like mutilation: the pain is physical, unbearable.
I thought of these conflicting metaphors on October 1, while I was reporting on Catalonia’s referendum on independence from its capital city, Barcelona.… Seguir leyendo »
It was painful, conspicuous and easy: the sort of target terrorists are always looking for. Las Ramblas of Barcelona, Spain, where two men crashed a van Thursday into unsuspecting bystanders, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 100, is a wide, unprotected, mile-long pedestrian artery. It stretches from the busy urban center to the old seaport.
At one end, the Fountain of Canaletas is where Barcelona soccer fans celebrate their triumphs. At the opposite end, a statue of Christopher Columbus points a finger toward the Mediterranean, a symbol of Barcelona’s cosmopolitan vocation. Every year, tens of millions of people visit the city, and virtually all of them will, at some point, take a stroll along Las Ramblas, promenading amid the kiosks, the flower sellers and the sidewalk cafes, enjoying the scent of coffee, lilies and roses.… Seguir leyendo »
When the Parliament of Catalonia, an autonomous region in northeastern Spain, solemnly banned bullfighting in 2010, it was not simply a victory for animal rights. There was a political angle, as well, involving a battle over regional and national identity.
Catalan nationalists were beginning their push toward full independence from Spain, a movement that is reaching a critical point. Getting rid of the bullfights, seen by many as quintessentially Spanish, sent a message as blunt as a graffiti slogan: “Catalonia is not Spain.”
Now the Constitutional Court in Madrid has struck back. In a ruling on Oct. 20, it repealed the Catalan ban.… Seguir leyendo »
Is this the dawn of a new era in Spanish politics, as some suggest? Judging from the results of last Sunday’s election, we can safely say that the old era has, at least, been dealt a severe blow.
The conservative People’s Party, which just four years ago won a landslide election victory, has now lost more than three million votes. The case of Spain’s other major party, the Socialist Party, is perhaps more telling: It has spent the last four years in opposition, while its Conservative rivals were implementing unpopular austerity policies, yet it lost more than a million votes as well.… Seguir leyendo »
Things move fast in Spanish politics nowadays. So fast that pollsters are having trouble keeping pace with the mood of the electorate. Not long ago, the world was fascinated with the spectacular race to the top of the new anti-austerity, anti-corruption party Podemos, which became a political force in a matter of months. But if that’s the last you heard about Spanish politics, then you need to catch up.
Podemos is still riding high in the polls, but its progress has been stalled by allegations of corruption, and there’s a new party of the moment, Ciudadanos (Citizens), which is also rising spectacularly.… Seguir leyendo »
It was a sign of the times that the news that King Juan Carlos of Spain was abdicating his throne appeared on the Twitter account of the royal house before the king announced it in person. Within minutes a follower had already posted a response — perhaps tongue in cheek, perhaps with genuine dismay: “Who’s going to take care of this account now?”
Well, Crown Prince Felipe will — at least in a figurative sense, as he will succeed his father. In another sign of the times, it will be a rare direct transfer of the Spanish crown from a ruling king to his son, an indication of how bumpy the relationship between the country and its monarchs has been historically.… Seguir leyendo »
I saw the abdication of the King of Spain on TV. It brought back memories of black and white images from the morning in 1975 when my father woke me up to watch the proclamation of the same Juan Carlos as King by the Cortes Generales, General Franco’s mock parliament.
The dictator had died just days before, but it was difficult for me to interpret the connection. To some of my father’s friends who came to converse with him in whispers in a room full of smoke, the whole thing was a sham – the continuation of the dictatorship under a new name.… Seguir leyendo »
You know a monarchy is in trouble when the queen is jeered at the Royal Theater, of all places, and by a classical music audience. This happened to Queen Sofía of Spain last year in Madrid — a scene then repeated elsewhere with other members of the royal family.
A recent poll put support for the Spanish monarchy at a historic low: More than 60 percent of Spaniards want King Juan Carlos to step down. And all this is happening amid a series of scandals involving the royal household, the most serious of which are corruption charges against the king’s son-in-law, also involving the king’s daughter, Princess Cristina.… Seguir leyendo »
Wrecked trains are always an unsettling sight. Chancing on them on TV, they look like broken toy trains and make us feel like terrified children. But a train crash at 200 km/h, like the one on Wednesday in Santiago de Compostela, in the Spanish region of Galicia, goes beyond even our usual expectations. About a third of its 200+ passengers and crew died. Everyone else was injured, many of them seriously. Santiago de Compostela, a city that was built a thousand years ago with the sole purpose of burying the remains of a man, the apostle Saint James, is again a world centre of mourning.… Seguir leyendo »
Spanish Easter Fridays are famous for their collective display of painful religious emotions. But lately it is as if every Friday has become an Easter Friday in Spain: it’s usually on Fridays that the government meets and announces new austerity measures. More than just policy announcements, these briefings resemble litanies: one Friday we learned that we had to partially pay for prescription drugs (which means paying twice, since we already fund them with our taxes); the next Friday we were told that in order to have free legal aid we had to pay for it (quite a contradiction in terms).
Recently the pace of announcements has changed.… Seguir leyendo »
If polls prove correct, the leader of the conservative People’s party, Mariano Rajoy, will win the elections in Spain with a landslide. And yet he has been running such a low-key campaign that one commentator asked whether he intended to take office without anybody noticing. That may be an exaggeration, but if Rajoy is not becoming PM by stealth, he is certainly doing so by default. The economic crisis has made the ruling Socialists unelectable, and the rather uninspiring Rajoy happens to be the only man around. It’s as simple as that.
Even the Socialists seem to agree. They haven’t really tried very hard to win back the confidence of the electorate, and you can understand why: they themselves don’t know what they want.… Seguir leyendo »
The Spanish president, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is having a tough time. No, on this occasion it is not the economy. Actually, it’s something far removed from our everyday concerns; it couldn’t be more far removed, in fact: the desert. Protests in the Morocco-occupied (and former Spanish colony) Western Sahara have been met with a violent clampdown, but the Spanish government has so far resisted calls to issue a condemnation. The government says it knows little of what’s going on there, and that’s true, since Morocco is detaining and expelling foreign journalists from the area. The government keeps saying it has to consider Spain’s higher interest, but the Spanish public is outraged.… Seguir leyendo »