If you someone were to guess your top 6 interests as an English Speaker in Spain and they included Crime, Tax Evasion and Cruises how would that make you feel?
A few days ago I installed on my phone a new app. It is called Prismatic. It claims to be able to find posts, web sites, articles of interest that are particularly relevant to me and deliver them to my phone every day. Ive tried a few similar apps like this before…Zite for example, and they generally act pretty well, if a little limited in scope.
Stereotypes from Where?
To register with prismatic, you must give a few details about yourself, the first being where I lived and what language I wanted the articles delivered in. As I live in Spain and my first language is English, I gave these details to the app. I was then presented with my first list of subjects that the developers (or their algorithm) had selected for me…subjects they assumed I would be naturally interested in. Take a look at the photo above (a screenshot I took in disbelief at that moment) and see if any of the categories fit your interests.
Spain….yup…Well done! But as I live here, it was something of a safe guess.
Portugal…well, its next door I suppose.
Tax Evasion…hmmm. This is beginning to sound a little dodgy.
Great Britain…well, Ive said that I am an English Speaker, but why assume I´m British?
Curises….What? Have I said I´m retired and sitting on a suitcase full of disposable cash?
Crime…OK! Thats enough….this is getting offensive.
So lets recap here a moment. In the eyes of the app developers, If I am English speaking and live in Spain, there is a high probability that I´ll be from Britain, have more than a passing interest in defrauding the state, spending my presumably illegally acquired income on cruises whilst keeping up with the global crime scene.
Well, that pretty well summons up the stereotype of the Brit abroad I suppose. Only, I thought this only existed in UK tabloids during the 1970's? Yet the apps developers are from San Francisco - so is this the standard stereotype that they have of Brits abroad? Maybe Im being a little harsh. Then again, maybe its just another example of ignorance, parochialism and the perpetration of stereotypes from this once-more-complacent country over the pond. Oops….isn't that a stereotype?
So do you have a smartphone? Give it a go. Download the app and see what racial stereotypes will be thrown at you? Muslim and living in London? Maybe you would be interested in Knocked off Weapons and Semtex?
African and living in Andalusia? How about illegal boat trips across the straits, a DVD burner or work prospects in the Plastic Greenhouses of Almeria?
Anyway, whats the app like? Well, not bad really. Its gradually producing some more interesting stuff and of course over time, again like ZITE - it learns more and more of your real interests and less and less of the developers projections. Let me know how it was for you?
Interested in more Apps for an Easy life Abroad? You may like this too.
Obviously in August it can get a little busy, with the camp-site alongside full up, the bars busy with weekenders and the surrounding towns packed with locals looking for a spot to cool off. But the area is vast and you can nearly always find a spot to yourself. There are a few bars close by, including the camp site restaurant that offers a lot better value - in the humble opinion of this user. The water is warm, clear and although there is an absence of golden sand, more of a muddy shore-line really - once you are in the water the 360 degrees view is better than you will find along any of the busier coastal resorts.
The commotion over the "raids" on two supermarkets by present day "Robin Hoods" has caused a interesting ruffling in the political feathers of many activists and social commentators over the last week. In particular, insults, political jibes and death threats have been hurled at local mayor - Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo after he organised the Mercadona trolley convey raid on Tuesday. Even Twiiter has been flooded with the old reactionary ex-pat vehemence seeping out between its 140 characters as Tweets denounced his "extreme" Communism" or salivated over their flag-waving support on behalf of the innocent Mercadona Victim.
But then something strange happened. When one interviewer asked what his next plan was to be, Gordillo replied: “We are going to march to every Andalusian province, and we are not ruling out reoccupying Las Turquillas. We are obliged to grab attention in this way so that somebody stops and thinks. They have to understand that people here are desperate.”
Now, where had I heard this story before?
"Pronto llegará la hora, que la tortilla se vuelva. Los pobres comerán pan, y los ricos mierda, mierda."
Land issues and the history of the Latifundistas (large - often absent - land estate owners in Andalucia) is a touchy subject. Even as late as the 1980's the injustices of landownership and mass unemployment in the region were still under discussion. GIven the discussions began over many centuries ago, you may perhaps begin to see how some people would begin to tire of this debate. If we take one modern example - the 1930's and the 2nd Republic - it was the failure by the progressive coalition to resolve the issue of land distribution in the eyes of the Left, and the visible threat of actually doing so in the eyes of the political Right, that greatly contributed to the outbreak of the civil war.
But there is even yet a more poignant example to draw upon: That of the Bread and Cheese Revolution of 1861.
"In the middle of the nineteenth century, Andalusia was still crippled by feudal laws that permitted semi-absent landowners to treat their vast land-estates as they wished. They could leave them un-worked if they preferred or turn the land into a fertile source of food and employment for local people. Everything depended on the whims of these wealthy land barons. The majority of Andalusians - hungry, landless peasants - were consequently often unemployed for half the year, forced to daily scavenge for food and scrape a living from an unjust economy and politically turbulent system.
As if seeing good arable land go to waste each year was not enough, the history of how the land had been originally acquired was one more slap in the face for the starving local populace. The arable land had never been distributed fairly. Since the Catholic Conquest, it had been inherited according to a complex system of privileges and favours. Nothing short of a revolution would wrest these vast tracts of land in Andalusia from the apathetic ruling class, and a starving, illiterate peasantry was rapidly coming to this conclusion."
(From the book: Inside the Tortilla.)
On to this scene suddenly steps the smartly bearded: Rafael Pérez del Álamo and he brings with him, the collective muscle to ignite the fire of Revolution: The "Revolution of Bread and Cheese."
Pérez - a vet during the mid 1850's - was based in the town of Loja in the far western frontier of Granada. He was also a keen activist in local politics. The problem was, local politics was not actively encouraged. In fact it was illegal to hold political meetings and form political representative groups (unless of course you were a member of one of the elite landowning minority...clergy, aristocracy, military)"
So, when an armed conflict broke out against some of the clandestine political activists and the local Guardia Civil, Pérez gathered about him the rest of his supporters and began to take matters into his own hands.
From the Cordoban town of Iznájar, the small band of committed men marched back to Loja, gathering forces until they reached over 10.000 strong and took the city from the local authorities without resistance, declaring it an independent republic and presumably redistributing Bread and Cheese supplies from all local Mercadona outlets. The energy and enthusiasm spread out to neighbouring towns all the way as far as Santa Fe and Alhama de Granada, but by the end of the week, the Army had arrived to the gates of Loja and violently toppled the revolutionaries from their temporary utopia.
Though the short revolution failed in a military sense, in another more profound political and social sense it achieved great success. This was one of the many inspirational acts that inspired the First Republic in 1873, the Second Republic in 1931, and who knows what echos will appear in Andalucia amongst the bearded and politically active workers (And, I should point out that I'm not referring to a certain Sr. Rajoy here.). History, does indeed move in circles.
The whole Loja Republic story appears as: The Revolution of Bread and Cheese in the new book Inside the Tortilla including what happened last year when the town celebrated the 150th anniversary of the revolution. You can get a copy of the book here.
In China it has been said, that many city dwellers have returned to the country as the cost of living soars and accomodation and work becomes increasingly competitive. The numbers quoted are in the millions.
In Spain, a similar, but obviously smaller exodus has been reported - and it would be wonderful to believe that the acequias, the bancales and the old stone terraces were about to be restored before they become lost altogether - but how true is this urban/rural legend?
Certainly here - in the city of water - many more people are talking about growing their own food as a way to make ends meet and there has certainly been land cultivated that just last year was abandoned.
Well, this weeks recommended podcast is From our Own Correspondant - and the very first part is a report by Chris Stewart (of Alpujarran Lemon fame) who claims (via a conversation with "Paco") that a simar movement is adrift here too. Listen to the episode listed below and let me know if you were convinced.
One of the curious aspects of traveling though Galicia is that tourism is predominantly made up of Galicians, as opposed to Andalucia where the autonomous region is flooded by millions of sun worshipers amongst the already desperate Andaluces searching for the beach.
In Galicia, small coves are frequently populated by residents or city dwellers from Coruña or Lugo down for the weekend. Of course there are those spiritual travellers on the Camino, but they pass by relatively unseen after the first few. .
On the campsites you will always see the obligatory French and Belgians, some Germans, even a Portuguese but few Brits.
Irish yes, but Brits no. The Irish I have spoken to seem to find an affinity in the green landscape, the drizzle and the fishing economy of the region. Not that I know the emerald isle well, but much of this coast somehow reminds me of what Im told the south is like. Then again, given the number of Dubliners living in Andaluica there are clearly alternate theories.
For many years I have wondered what the Med coast must have been like before the onset of mass tourism. After reading the adventures of those brave travelers edging their way along the littoral during the 40's and 50's I was left with a dormant perspective and vision that has only just been revived here in the the Rias Baixas.
There is an impression - as you stumble through one cove after another, with gleaming white sand, green forests tumbling down to the waters edge, an absence of hotels, kiosks or shops to buy flippers and a post card - there is a strong suggestion that this is perhaps what Spain's Med must have once been like. .
And our incomphension of this language, the lyrical almost Argentinian lilt, the song of the Gallegos - this vaguelt familiar Castilian, yet distinctly separate tongue leaves you with an altogether foreign flavour.
Iberian beaches, 1950's, Latin America, good beer, good food, fresh food and a hospitality long absent from those suffering southern shores.
Of course, there is not the intensively of the invasion of Andalucia nor the long history of exploitation and of development of the costa brava...but still, the Gallegos hang onto something long lost in other regions and it is this undefinable quality that will bring me back.
Yesterday, members of the Andaluz Workers Union made two symbolic gestures by expropriating goods from supermarkets in Écija (Sevilla) and Arcos de la Frontera (Cádiz) with the aim of distributing them to those most in need (Take a look at the video below). The idea was simply a protest, although some have twittered that the protest was in fact a riot, bordering on revolution. Personally, I wish it were true given the failed economic austerity measures being followed and the bankrupt political agenda being recklessly pursued by government. What surprises me is that we are not seeing anything like the looting that occurred in Britain last year - given the absence of hope and the presence of 6 million unemployed. I like to think that people have their threshold of tolerance. Spain has very clear history of what happens when voices are not listened to in times of crises: Back in the early 1930's the King was sent packing when he was seen as too distant from the needs of the population and a new progressive Republic was elected into power.
Yesterday the two major Union leaders (UGT and CCOO) warned of an Autumn of Discontent if the Government does not listen to what the people are saying, and so have requested the king to intervene by asking for a referendum on the continuation of such extreme austerity measures, before things get drastically worse.
Perhaps, yesterdays supermarket raids indicated that it may already be too late. What was it now that Santayana said about the repetition of history?
Why Orwell is essential to understanding Spain today. More here - Forgotten Stories From Spain
Find out More about the ebook and audio
Forgotten Stories From Spain Book HERE
AND WATCH THE TORTILLA VIDEO HERE