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1. Gaudi in Barcelona by Margot Justes















If you love architecture, and whimsical work that makes you smile, feel happy and celebrate life, then there is no better place for you than Barcelona. That is where you’ll find Antoni Gaudi’s work, and where you will commune with nature in a most wonderful way.

There are the Dali, Picasso and Miro museums, but Gaudi’s work alone is worth a trip to Barcelona, many of his buildings were designated World Heritage Sites. In 1878 upon receiving his degree, the Director of the School of Architecture of Barcelona, said. “I don’t know if we have given this qualification to a madman or a genius, only time will tell.” Time has told, an unequivocal original genius.

Gaudi is considered a major contributor to the ‘Catalan Modernism’ style of architecture, and the leading proponent of the Art Nouveau movement, but the end result refuses to be qualified as anything but ‘Gaudi’. His style cannot really be classified, it’s unique, extravagant, original, earthy, beyond whimsy, and simply stunning.  

Gaudi was born in 1852 and died in a tram accident in 1926. His last days were spent at his most famous unfinished work, La Sagrada Familia. There is hope that it will be finished by the 100th anniversary of his death, in 2026. He left enough detailed information that the basilica can be completed, and with public donations it is a work in progress.

The interior of La Sagrada Familia is now open to the public, and the use of light from above and through the stained glass windows is mesmerizing. The columns reach the top to support the structure, and it reflects his love of nature, showing a dazzling and lively interpretation of a forest with branches reaching for the light.

His use of ceramic tile, wood, wrought iron, brick, colorful paint results in a stroll through a fantasy, as can be witnessed in the Pedrera, and Casa Batllo buildings, as well as La Sagrada Familia, and Park Guell, where a serpentine bench provides a respite, along with a pure sense of joy.

His work is truly amazing, and once you’ve seen it, you’ll want to see it again, and never forget it.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

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2. Spain’s Latest Animated Feature ‘Possessed’ is A Tale of Supernatural Horror

The debut stop motion feature from an Aardman alum will screen in competition at Annecy.

0 Comments on Spain’s Latest Animated Feature ‘Possessed’ is A Tale of Supernatural Horror as of 5/5/2015 6:34:00 PM
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3. Montserrat, Spain by Margot Justes














Barcelona is filled with amazing and whimsical architecture, Gaudi’s work is a prime example,  the people possess an unbound zest for life, there are world class museums, and of course delicious food.

Barcelona and the surrounding area is Catalan country, and to this day they are extremely proud of their Catalonian heritage, and many Catalonian flags could be seen flying from apartment windows in Barcelona. There was even a political movement for the Catalans to secede from Spain. 

A short hop away is the Montserrat Monastery. It is one of those places not to be missed. High in the mountains, about 38 kilometers from Barcelona, an hour by bus, and the ride itself is quite an adventure, slinking along a narrow street with twisting and tight curves that seem never ending.

There are a few ways to reach Montserrat, car, private limo, or bus. If you take the train,  you will need to take the cable car or rack railway to get to the top.  I decided it was best to leave the driving to the professionals and took a bus. Driving to Montserrat is not for the faint of heart, nor for that matter, riding in a bus.

At the highest point, about 1,236 meters above sea level, the view below is breathtaking. With steep rock formations the monastery is nestled beautifully into the mountains. The setting is glorious, and the views stunning wherever you turn.

There are quiet and peaceful garden areas, and many paths that allow for that  perfect silent, and contemplative walk. That being said, it is a huge draw, both for tourists and locals alike. It is considered a place of pilgrimage, that is what I was told by a local visiting couple.  

The monastery began about 1025, the rich archeological history dates back to 3,000 years BC. The credit for the monastery’s existence is given to Abbot Oliba, a powerful figure in Romanesque Catalonia.  An aristocrat, elected Abbot of Ripoll, and he along with a group of monks decided to build the monastery next to the chapel of Saint Mary.  

Beside the church, the monastery, a library, the meandering roads, beautiful gardens, and artistic treasures, there is also a hotel. I plan to go back and spend a night or two, the few hours I was there just wet my appetite for more.

At the time of my visit on a Sunday, the church was packed, it didn’t help that a noon performance by the boys choir happened at the same time. You could not squeeze in, it was truly filled to capacity and beyond. Packed solid-even a well oiled sardine would have had a problem. I got a glimpse of the ornate church, but couldn’t handle all the humanity, it took me fifteen minutes from the very back of the church to get out the door, and into fresh air.

There were a few tents set up on the main road, and local artisans sold their wares, the most prominent items displayed were the local delicacies, various cheeses, honey, hams and fig cakes. I can vouch for the local hams, cheeses and fig cakes. Positively yummy.

I just touched on Montserrat, if you find yourself in Barcelona, Montserrat is not to be missed. I still hope to spend a night-I’ll need to go back and do more research, my next hotel book is set in Barcelona.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Fire Within
and coming in June A Hotel in Venice
www.mjustes.com

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4. Barcelona, Spain by Margot Justes




I’m working on the fourth hotel book, and this one is set in Barcelona. It is a city filled with art, amazing architecture and an incredible zest and appreciation for life.Barcelona is exciting, vibrant and the locals know how to enjoy themselves, they possess the joie de vivre that is hard to miss, and often times hard to find.

The architecture is unsurpassed, modern and old blends well together, and of course there is Gaudi-it is worth a visit to Barcelona just to see his work. It is unforgettable. I loved it so much that I posted a separate blog about his stunning and imaginative style. The amazing thing is that once you see it, you want to do it again, and again, simply because you probably missed the marvelous details the first time through. His work is beyond whimsy.

There are museums to be sure, Miro, Dali and Picasso have a foundation in Barcelona. The stunning architecture will take your breath away, everywhere you turn you see a magnificent building, from Gothic to Art Nouveau to the indescribable Gaudi treasures, to contemporary and everything in between. Landmarks abound.

At any given time stroll on La Rambla, and you’ll see locals and savvy tourists sit down in a cafe and enjoy a beer, tapas, coffee, along with a dish of green olives, or just stroll arm in arm on the wide avenue that is both romantic, hectic and invigorating. There are many souvenirs shops that line the famous paseo, all the kitschy tourist stuff, pottery, foods and other items made locally, along with entertainment, and all of it delightful.

The street is filled to capacity, and I for one at this stage in my life don’t like crowds, and if truth be told-never did-but I really rather enjoyed the lovely walk, and a stop for the obligatory delicious coffee. I had a wondrous adventure just walking down the street. You see people smile, nod their heads in acknowledgement as you stroll along as if in a romantic dream.

The city also boasts a beautiful coast line, and one of the biggest ports in Europe, along with some beautiful parks, even one designed by Gaudi.

Have I forgotten to mention the food-it is delicious-they create a mouth watering delight   with just potatoes. Okay, I’m Polish and happen to love potatoes, but the Patatas Bravas are truly yummy, roasted potatoes, a yummy sauce with a slight bite that you feel on the tip of your tongue. The excellent bread and incredible local hams would have kept me happy for a long time.

A huge array of cheeses, hams, breads, olives, an amazing selection of fish, all that is available in many tapas bars. The offerings are small, so you can visit many places and taste the amazing variety of appetizers. A delightful and delicious way to sample the local cuisine.

Shopping abounds on Passeig de Gracia, favorably compared to other famous boulevards with prices to match. I enjoyed the walk, and window shopping, the displays are imaginative and fun, and I was grateful that I travel light with little room for souvenirs.
That being said, I managed to buy a few small trinkets for family and friends, the souvenir shop at the Gaudi Casa Batllo was amazing, and yes-all my souvenirs came from that shop.

There are many hotels and as always prices range from low to high, it all depends on your budget. You will find delicious and reasonably priced tapas bars off the main tourist areas, but if you’re in with the tourist crowds be prepared to pay. I do a bit of research  before I leave, but I always allow for a tourist trap or two.

I booked the Casa Fuster Hotel, on Passeig de Gracia 132, on my first visit, a beautiful hotel reminiscent of Gaudi’s work, the service was superb, the rooms a good size, the breakfasts superb, and  the staff always eager to help with directions and available tours, they were friendly and caring. I hope to return and stay there again.

The second hotel was the Majestic, also on Passeig de Gracia 68-70, was a little more centrally located-by just a few blocks from Casa Fuster. That being said, I would rather walk the additional 4 or 5 blocks than stay at the Majestic again, lack of overall service, and a snippy registration cured me of ever staying there a second time.

The Majestic staff lost interest after I didn’t want to book a private car to Montserrat to the tune of 600Euros. After a discussion on booking a reasonable tour failed, a short 10 minute walk took me to a travel agency, where I was able to book a round trip ride for 29EU that would take me to the Montserrat  Monastery for the better part of the day. It is a trip not to be missed. I’ll post a separate blog on the location-it is in the mountains and it is magnificent.

I’m a breakfast person, and tend to eat the meal at the hotel to save on time, and the breakfast at the Majestic was outstanding. I couldn’t have asked for a more varied or delicious selection, and the coffee was delicious, but the lack of care and concern from the registration staff ruined any chance of my return to the hotel.

Barcelona has it all, and is definitely worth a visit or two, or three.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com








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5. Tenerife, Canary Islands by Margot Justes












Tenerife, is the largest of the Canary Islands, and according to our guide has a population of about 800,000 people.

The capital and major port is Santa Cruz, that is where we docked and spent the day touring. It is a the major port of the island, and Santa Cruz has a population of about 220,000 residents.

It is bright, lively, like many tourist attraction there are beaches, high rises-at least high rises for a volcanic island-shops, gardens, restaurants along with many houses that have staircases that seem to climb up to infinity-a perfect venue for rest and relaxation. The climate and landscape are very diverse, and there are more things to see here than the other two islands I visited.

A short bus ride took us to the beautiful market, neatly laid out, one aisle after another offers produce, meat and sausages, cheeses, flowers, spices-you can stop for coffee and soak up the atmosphere. The items for sale seem never ending, and the aromas were divine, especially from the spice areas.

The next stop was the Archeological Museum that has impressive exhibits of the life and death of the Guanche society-the first inhabitants of the Canary Islands dating back to the 1st and 2ndcenturies BC.

A fascinating exhibit that lists many of the plants found on the islands, reminiscent of the Audubon style, they were beautifully drawn and labeled and framed. There is a knob on each of the framed exhibits and when you pull on the knob you open a door, and it has a picture or drawing of the discoverer of the plant. Very neat indeed. This museum serves as a learning center for all the schools in the Canary Islands. 

Our next stop was La Laguna, a World Heritage Site. Designated a site because of the buildings, the intrinsic layout of the city, its colorful and distinctive architecture and beautiful patios. Smaller than Santa Cruz, it is more intimate and somewhat less touristy.

We stopped and visited another market square, this one smaller and older, but equally charming. Then on to the Cathedral and a couple of the famous interior patios. We had a few minutes to shop and stop for coffee. I opted for the coffee and a wonderful local delicacy, fried bread that I swear had custard inside, it was soft, gooey and delicious.

 Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
and coming in June A Hotel in Venice
www.mjustes.com



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6. Gran Canaria by Margot Justes











The second island we visited in the Canary Islands was Gran Canaria, an island much more open to the present, visible oil rigs along the shore, and a modern approach to tourists, high-rises everywhere and beautiful beaches for tourists and locals to enjoy. Colors of homes and buildings were varied and plentiful. It is larger than Lanzarote and seemed for more cosmopolitan.

The island is volcanic in origin, and part of the island was formed somewhere around 9 million years ago, give or take a million, or two, or three...suffice it to say, it is indeed old.

Maybe as far back as 500 BC, the Guanches first settled in Gran Canaria. A varied and often brutal history followed, the island was finally captured with the help of Queen Isabella I, and the conquest helped expand unified Spain.

Las Palmas, is the capital city, founded in 1478, the history is simply amazing. It is a vital sea port, where about a thousand ships visit the port a month; anything from fuel ships, to cargo and cruise ships, and all sizes in between. 

Gran Canaria is touristy, and commerce seems to be thriving. The island is far greener than Lanzarote and doesn’t quite leave such a distinct and memorable impression.  It is more commercial, still exotic but ready for the summer onslaught of tourists. It is known as a “Miniature Continent” because of the different climates and landscapes found in a relatively small, round island that is approximately 50 km in diameter.

Whereas Lanzarote was a sleepy, quaint village style of an island, with an unforgettable landscape, Gran Canaria was lively, exuberant, celebrates Carnaval in a grand style, and
is ready for tourists even in late October. The cultural side is not at all neglected, and the Museo Canario, is an important and incredible archeology museum that depicts the history of the archipelago.

There is the potential of oil development, and several rigs were already in the port. In Tenerife, I later found out that the locals are opposed to the plan, and the prospect of the oil rigs occupying their ocean coast, but as our tour guide indicated, Madrid, the seat of political power thinks otherwise.

We took a hair raising bus ride to Cruz Tajeda (Cross of Tajeda), up 4,800 ft.  The roads are really narrow, the curves many, and every time we came upon a bend, the bus driver sounded his horn-because the bus could not be seen from the other side, and the road wasn’t big enough to share even with the smallest vehicle, and the bus wasn’t big to begin with. The views were fantastic, we even caught a glimpse of a kitchen of a modern cave dweller, the hole was small and it was too dark to take pictures.

We saw two rock formations that were supposedly worshipped by the Guanches, the first cave dwellers of the area. They, like the ancient Egyptians embalmed their dead, for a safe passage to the new life.  The next island of Tenerife, we saw some of the mummified remains in a museum.

As many know, cruising is my preferred way to travel now, and sometimes spending a day in one port is never nearly enough, but it gives me a glimpse of the area that in many cases I would not have had. Happy travels!

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

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7. Beautiful Galicia, Otra Vez

It's hard to believe that we arrived in Spain 8 days ago. Time flows by in a different way, even though we bring work with us. The trip is long, we arrive exhausted, but we have rituals along the way. The trip is more than 24 hours (door to door) and spans two days. We leave Saturday morning, have a long stretch in Dallas/FW Airport, where we have battered and fried green beans and a glass of beer at TGIF, waiting for our next flight. We arrive in Madrid around 10:30 a.m. Sunday, and have a lunch of smoked salmon, bread, and wine, then fight sleep while waiting for our connection to Santiago de Composetela. We arrive in Santiago a little after 5:00 p.m. and collect baggage. Our friends, Terri and David,  meet us, drive us back to our house in Trasulfe, where we "turn on the house" (electricity, water, gas-tank connections, etc.), then we all go out to eat at a restaurant in Monforte, called O Pincho, where we split delicious raciones. (Rations are smaller than dinners, bigger than tapas.) 

Here's a picture of Terri and David from last summer (we haven't yet gotten around to pictures of friends on this trip.) As soon as we got to O Pincho, we woke up and had a great time catching up on news, eating rations and drinking the house wine. The next morning, waking with the sun (about seven-ish), eating lunch at 2:00 p.m. and dinner around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., Rajan and I realized we'd fallen into Spanish time right away, with very little jet lag!

Friends and neighbors tell us it was a continually rainy winter, but our first few days were sunny. There was the usual morning mist and intermittent sprinkles through the day that vanished in afternoon heat. Still, we felt free to bring out our patio table and chairs. Then things changed.
The small pasture across the sheep
path in front of our gate. The thin
tree in the foreground is a volunteer
peach tree that so far doesn't bear.

A neighbor's pasture below ours.
See those little fruit trees? The storm
blew all the petals away. No fruit
this year. 


After four beautiful sunshiny days, on Thursday afternoon a fierce hailstorm struck. First thunder rolled and roared for about an hour, and then hail beat down for about thirty minutes. This was the result :
These aren't snow drifts. Just lots and lots of hail.


I wanted to put a video here, with all its great sound effects, but I couldn't get my video to play. (I've sent to Google for help.) But this should give you some idea.
On another note, we've been making a point to walk at least two miles a day. In about a year, I want to walk a portion of the Camino that ends in Santiago. (One item on my bucket list.) I won't be able to make it to Santiago, but a friend informed me that if you walk 100 km, you can get a certificate. That's about sixty miles. Next spring I'd like to do about 30 miles, and then in the fall of 2015 do the second set. So far, a few times we've parked at Gadis, one of the big supermarkets at the edge of Monforte, and walked up to the Parador.
Here's the Parador, seen from the Gadis parking lot.
Below is Gadis, seen from Parador, to give you and
idea of how far we walk.
Gadis, where we parked, seen from the Parador: See the thin pale blue
stripe about two thirds up in the middle? Above the center green? To the
left of that is a teeny yellow sign. That's Gadis.

Other walks have been along country roads. Beautiful nature walks, really. This will give you some 
idea: The picture on the left is an example of most of the scenery here. 


The picture to the right is of a pretty church in Toiriz. We don't have pictures yet of the stork nests, but on tall posts nearby, there are two separate stork nests, and we sometimes see one of the parent birds feeding the baby birds. All you can see is the upended body, so we aren't quite sure how big those babies get. Hopefully we'll get a good photo sometime soon.



And now, it's time for a walk! But stay tuned, because the next post will be about a wonderful Fado singer we heard Sunday night. 


Meanwhile, if you have special items on your bucket list, I'd love to hear what they are.






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8. The Town of Toro - Part Two




Originally we had planned to spend all three days, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in Salamanca and return Monday afternoon. But the desk clerk advised us that on Monday everything would be closed. So we decided to go to Toro that day instead.

Toro is an unbelievably beautiful municipality in the province of Zamora, part of the autonomous community of Castille-Leon. It's high above a fertile plain known for its wines (from the Tempranillo grape), and recently Rajan has gotten interested in Toro wines, so that was also part of the inspiration for the trip. You can see how the buildings beckon one from afar.

This is the kind of country we traveled through to get there. Beautiful, and lush and green. Appartently a lot of farming goes on in this region. But the Toro region is becoming more and more known for its wines. When we arrived and parked, we started walking around and one of the first areas of interest we came to was an overlook point with a plaza around an old, intact wall enclosing a rectangular area with round towers at various points. A gardener told me was from Roman times. (My Spanish is still limited, so I couldn't really learn much more from him than that.) Here it is:

One view of the structure at one corner.
There were towers at each corner and
also in the middle of each side of the
rectangle.
 From the enclosure's condition, it may actually be from a later date. I looked Toro up in Wikipedia, and Toro was once a Roman town. The article mentions remains of a wall going back to 910, but, as you can see here, this is far more than "remains."
Another view. Each corner
had a round tower.

Heavy doors were in walls on each
side of the structure.
 Since battles took place in Toro between heirs vying for the Spanish throne, this might actually have been a fortress. Plaques mentioned the crowning of King Ferdinand III in 1230, and that Isabella I of Castille defeated Juana La Beltraneja there, and that her father, Juan II of Castille, was born in Toro in 1404. But if anyone else can find out more for me about the structure itself, I'd appreciate the information. (Isabella I, by the way, was the Isabella who married Ferdinand II of Aragon, and they are the famous couple behind the Inquisition in Spain and the financing of Columbus's voyage to what became known in Europe as "the New World.")


The Rio Duero


Red tile roofs that seem so typical.

Since it really is a grand look-out point, Rajan and I took tons of pictures of the vast plains and the Rio Duero below. (The Rio Duero cuts through northern and Central Spain and flows on south to become the Rio Douro in Portugal, which ends at Porto.) Here are a couple.


Here is a video he took that I think you will enjoy:


Then we all wandered around the beautiful city, admiring the architecture and the color of the buildings. Here are some pictures of a church that is considered a "must see" in Toro, Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor.

The buildings have such a
golden tone. 

I felt like I was in Oz, at the
end of the yellow brick road.

Here is the building in all its
splendor.
One of the wine shops was open and the man inside was very knowledgeable about wines and wineries from the region. He spoke in Spanish, and we could understand most of what he said, but luckily our friends David and Terri are quite fluent, and so they were able to tell us whatever we missed. There are a number of wineries all around, but, again, most of them were closed. Still, it's good information for the future, and we bought some wine from the shop.

Meanwhile, the town was bustling with people out and about. I saw a beautiful arch at one end of a street, and a woman told me that it had been made with wine. Seriously. I think what she meant was that wine was mixed with the clay instead of water. But what a unique feature! She also tole me there was another arch at the other end of town, so of course I had to go there.

People out and about.

The arch made with wine,
which may account for
its color.

The other arch. Presumbably
not made with wine. 
After that, it seemed time to go, as there was a long drive home to Galicia and our part of Galicia. But it was a day well spent, and we were so glad that we had decided to take this little side trip on such a beautiful day. 

I  hope you enjoyed this little peek into this area of Spain. The next posts will still be about the earlier weeks in Galicia, before our trip to Braga, Portugal; and then I will follow up with pictures and posts about Braga, a most remarkable and wonderful city.

Till then, please leave a comment, and if you have any questions, I'll try to answer them. Also, if you have any additional information for us about Toro, please leave it. The turism office was closed that day, and there isn't an awful lot on line about this beautiful town.

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9. Lo Siento

Lo Siento on grainedit.com

Lo Siento is a small Barcelona-based studio that enjoys exploring the intersections where graphic and industrial design meet.

 

Lo Siento on grainedit.com

Lo Siento on grainedit.com

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10. ‘Wrinkles’ Coming to DVD and VOD Next Week (Exclusive Video)

The 2011 Spanish animated feature "Wrinkles," based on Paco Roca's graphic novel, will be released onto DVD and VOD in the United States on July 15.

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11. Watch An Animated Feature and Help The Alzheimer’s Foundation At the Same Time

In a unique partnership with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, a portion of digital sales of 'Wrinkles' will be donated to the organization.

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12. The Dolmen of Abuime, in Galicia, Spain

Five big rocks that may surprise you.
Here it stands, a collection four immense standing stones, the fifth one fallen to the side, tucked back in the far end of a field nearly hidden by trees, easily missed, if you didn't know about it. We knew about it because good friends in Galicia, Craig and Melanie, told us about it.

Craig, Melanie, and their
loveable dog, Slawit
A brief introduction here: Craig and Melanie are good friends in Galicia who sold us our house in Trasulfe.


They are from England, but they have lived in Galicia for about ten years, and Craig has written a book about their adventures. He also has a blog, and he wrote nice a post about the dolmen HERE  . Enjoyment of wine in Spain is contagious, and he has started growing his own vines and making his own wine (which is pretty good; we get to sample it whenever we go to Galicia. ) In addition, they have restored another home, and this one they rent out. (You can learn more about it at his blog site.)

So, back to the dolmen. And what is a dolmen? you might ask? Wikipedia gives a pretty good explanation of dolmens and where they can be found, HERE .  Basically a dolmen is considered a megalithic tomb. Usually it has a flat capstone on top of the standing stones. Rajan and I wonder if the stone in the picture above that is off to the right is the original capstone for this dolmen. Originally dolmens were covered up with earth mounds, and 5,000 to 6,000 years of erosion have uncovered them.
Even with enlarged photo, it's hard to tell. After all, the
trees are pretty tall, and it's hard to tell hear just how tall.

Even with Craig and Melanie's good directions and the picture on Craig's blog post, we had to look for it. Despite signs, from a distance, it's hard to appreciate the size.

This should give you a better idea:
How on earth did they prop these stones up?

Anyone who know me knows I have a thing about old buildings. I love to touch old man-made structures, whether 12th century walls or Roman era bridges, whether in England or Spain. But our British friends all find this somewhat amusing. After all, they remind me, they grew up surrounded by historic buildings and Roman bridges. It's no big deal to them. But I always have to touch these old edifices that, I feel, bear still the mystical aura of humans touching them long ago.

So, you can imagine how enthralled I was to touch something that humans touched maybe 5,000 or 6,000 years ago.
Yup! Pretttty impressed. And pretty happy, too.
On another note, this week I had two pieces of pleasant news:
 1. A blog friend, Julian Hones, gave me the "Inspiring Blog" award on her great site, My Writing Life . Julia is an editor of a magazine and writes poetry and short fiction. The blog carries some "pass it on and give information" duties that will have to wait for another post, but I was certainly pleased to get it. Thank you, Julia.

2. I made this announcement on Facebook, but for those of my blog friends who are not on FB, My Flash Fiction, "Persephone," is in the current issue of Fiction Attic Press and will also be in the Flash in the Attic anthology. You can read it HERE: If you have time to read it, I'd love your feedback.

Meanwhile, how do you feel about old buildings? Do have that irresistible urge to touch them and imagine who touched them so many years ago?


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13. Having Pulpo at the Feria in Monforte


A plate full of pulpo. You eat it with
toothpicks, bite by bite. Then you
break off chunks of crusty bread and
sop up the spiced olive oil. Yum!

Our wonderful neighbor,
Miguel
Today, despite the fact that it's nearly two weeks since our return from Portugal, I had every intention of writing a post about Fado, the Portuguese art form of song we both love so much, to be followed by a later post mid-week about the photography festival we attended when we were in Braga Portugal.

But then our neighbor across the lane from us treated us to pulpo at the feria in Monforte, 20 minutes away from our village, and, as usual, we were enthusiastically swept away. (This is the neighbor who keeps sheep, and sometimes in the mornings, we awaken to their soft bleating.) Off we went, my Fado post tabled for another day.

Pulpo is octupus, boiled, cut in small pieces, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pimiento - which in this area, means hot red pepper. All of our neighbors simply love pulpo, and their enthusiasm has been contagious. Though vegetarians, we do eat pescados and mariscos (fish and seafood), but octopus was a new experience for us. When done right, meaning boiled long enough, it comes out moist and tender and just delicious. It is served at long tables, in special buildings at all the fair grounds, and one of the servers comes around with a bottle of the house red wine and a loaf of fresh bread to go with it.

The woman boiling this pulpo
 is the neighbor of a woman in
Turiz, Melucha, whom we met
years ago when she was walking
  her cows down the road to graze.
The people in these neighboring
villages all know each other, so
Miguel was able to tell us this.

Rajan, adding his touch. We
actually see this woman and
another (who is distantly re-
lated to Miguel), at ferias in
the other villages, since the
market days in the villages
fall on different days. 

One of the long tables set up for this
event. For those who don't like pulpo,
 there is also barbequed beef or sausage.

Despite the note about beef, most of
these people are eating pulpo,
always the favorite.


Good to the last drop.
















Definitely a satisfied customer.









Feria is "fair" or market day, and in the mornings, nearly everything is sold at a feria: shoes, blouses, scarves, belts, beaded jewelry, plants, fruit, all kinds of produce, honey, bread loaves of all types, utensils for making wine, utensils for making the home-made brandy so popular here, aguardiente. One shot of that will blow your head off, but most people around here confine it to a little shot in their coffee when they do decide to have it. There is also a special drink they make, using aguardiente, called quemada, with orange peel, apple peel, coffee beans, and sugar, blogged about, beforeHERE.  (Scroll down to the very bottom of it, and you'll learn about the drink and the history behind it, as well as seeing the clay vessel they make it in and the clay cups they serve it in; the set is also called a quemada, and it is also sold at the ferias.)

While we were there, a gypsy playing an accordion came in and played some melodies that were so familiar to the crowd, some sang along. It was an absolutely charming touch (and he gained a few coins for that) but, alas, I didn't take pictures. A memorable lunch, for sure.

How about you? Have you ever eaten octopus? Have you ever found yourself eating a dish you thought you never would?

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14. Mort & Phil Will Take on ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ in Spain This Weekend

There's a fascinating box office match-up brewing in Spain this weekend between DreamWorks Animation's "Penguins of Madagascar" and the homegrown Spanish CGI feature "Mortadelo y Filemón contra Jimmy el Cachondo."

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15. Spanish Animation Legend Jose Luis Moro, RIP

José Luis Moro Escalona, who ran one of Spain's leading commercial animation studios and created the iconic Familia Telerín, died yesterday in Madrid at the age of 88.

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16. Artist of the Day: Islena Neira

Looking at the work of Islena Neira, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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17. The Last Song - a review

Wiseman, Eva. 2012. The Last Song. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra.

Some locations and eras appear regularly in historical fiction  - the US during the Civil War, the Midwest during the Dust Bowl Era, the British Isles in the medieval period, Europe during the Holocaust, the list goes on ... but seldom does it include Spain during the Inquisition.

In this first-person, chronological account, teenager Doña Isabel learns her family's deepest secret - her parents are not devout Catholics as she was raised to be.  Secretly, they practice the Jewish faith - a practice punishable by death under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella, and their Grand Inquisitor, Tomás de Torquemada.  Set in Toledo, Spain, 1491, Isabel is the daughter of the King's physician, a position that has always kept the family in wealth and privilege.  As the Inquisition grows more brutal, suspected heretics are forced to wear sambenitos (sackcloth), they are beaten, tortured, murdered, and burned alive at autos-da-fé.

I looked around to keep awake.  The church's walls were festooned with the sambenitos of the heretics who had been burned alive at the stake during different autos-de-fé. 

"So many sambenitos," I whispered to Mama.  "They should take them off the wall."

She rolled her eyes. "They are supposed to be reminders to the families of the condemned heretics.  They are warnings to them not to follow in the footsteps of their relatives," she whispered.  "They are a warning to us all."

 Her words filled me with fear.

Her parents decide that to keep Isabel safe from the Inquisition, they will promise her in marriage to the son of the King and Queen's most trusted advisor. Luis is loathsome, however, and instead of Luis, Isabel falls in love with Yonah, a young Jewish silversmith, Soon the lives of the entire family are in danger.

If Isabel abandons her lifelong faith a little too easily and if Eva Wiseman paints Isabel's future a little too brightly, this is a small price to pay for a book suits an older, middle-grade audience and draws attention to a terrible period of religious persecution that is not often covered for this age group, grades 6 and up.



Spoiler:
Ironically (in light of today's current political, social and religious climate), Isabel and her family leave Spain counting Moorish refugees as their friends.  Together they head to Morocco in search of freedom and a better life. How much has changed; and yet, how much remains the same.  We learn so little.


Note:
My copy of The Last Song was provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I'm sorry that I did not get to it sooner.

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18. Cartagena, Spain by Margot Justes


I love the Spanish cities I have visited in the past-all unique and all beautiful, and Cartagena, located in the Region of Murcia was no exception. 

A long maritime past and many cultures have left an imprint and a rich heritage that the locals are very proud of, and are hoping the rest of the world will soon discover. It is a city with a spectacular waterfront, and recently discovered Roman ruins that date back about three thousand years.

The Roman Theatre is a must see, along with some terrific Art Nouveau architecture, like the Grand Hotel, the Casino and City Hall to name just a few.  According to our guide, the ruins have seriously put Cartagena on the tourist map, and that is excellent news.
Funds are needed for additional architectural digs and discoveries. As recently as 1987 they found remnants of the Punic wall, and other treasures that date back to Hannibal.

The question of further digs is twofold, there are houses, businesses, and parks that rest on potential archeological treasures, and many who live on those sites would prefer to continue to do so, while others want the excavations to continue. It is not so easy to start digging, yet the sense of history and preservation is desirable, and besides ancient ruins tend to bring tourists in, and of course that builds the economy, but as always there are many sides to every issue.










Along with the recent discoveries, fortunately for Cartagena, they have a wonderful moderate climate, reasonable prices and lovely beaches to motivate the tourist industry. 
The development of the industry is still a work in progress, few tourist shops, except for the usual Flamenco dolls and the obligatory Cartagena stamped stuff.

However, there is progress if the one shop I visited is anything to go by. Our guide mentioned that the wine produced in the region was quite good, and recommended one store that would carry it. I looked for others in the main square but couldn’t find any. What I found instead was the glorious paseo, the wonderful Spanish tradition of a leisurely stroll on the boulevard. It seems everyone was out and that included the family pets.

The store sold some excellent local wines, tomato jellies, along with beautiful locally made pottery, and a few wine related trinkets. That was the only store I fund that sold locally produced items, reasonably priced and the pottery made for some beautiful gifts.

I also discovered a local liqueur, simply called Licor 43. The secret formula has 43 ingredients,  chief among them is citrus, fruit juices, with a hint of vanilla. It is luscious, and it is available on Amazon. I’m beginning to think everything is available on Amazon.

The owners were friendly and eager to expand their tourist trade, and were excited about their product. I was told that soon they will ship wines internationally, and they looked forward to growing their business.

Our tour guide went beyond the normal tourist offerings, and made sure we learned about his city’s important heritage and recently discovered ancient past.

The plaza is just down the street from the beautiful waterfront, I sat down in a cafe and enjoyed my obligatory coffee and the view.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

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19. Animated Fragments #24

Interesting animation is being produced everywhere you look nowadays. This evening, we’re delighted to present animated fragments from six different countries: Chile, Iran, UK, US, Japan and Spain. For more, visit the Animated Fragments archive.

“Lollypop Man—The Escape” (work-in-progress) by Estudio Pintamonos (Chile)

“Bazar” by Mehdi Alibeygi (Iran)

“Time” by Max Halley (UK)

Hand-drawn development animation for Wreck-It Ralph to “explore animation possibilities before [Gene's] model and rig were finalised” by Sarah Airriess (US)

“Rithm loops” for an iPhone/iPad app by AllaKinda (Spain)

“Against” by Yukie Nakauchi (Japan)

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20. Spain and the UK: between a rock and a hard place over Gibraltar

By William Chislett


The installation of a concrete reef by Gibraltar in disputed waters off the British territory, which is designed to encourage sea-life to flourish, was the final straw for Spain, which has long claimed sovereignty over the Rock at the southern tip of the country.

British diplomats say there is little room for doubt in international law that the waters are British, despite the Spanish government’s argument that they were not specifically referred to in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht under which Spain ceded the territory to Britain.

As a result of the 72 concrete blocks dropped on the seabed, Madrid imposed extra border checks on the Spanish side that have caused lengthy traffic queues of up to several hours. Spain has similar reefs for environmental purposes in various areas of the Spanish coast.

The UK government in London says the checks are excessive and break EU free movement rules. The conservative Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy insists they are needed to control smuggling, particularly of cigarettes. A European Union (EU) team is to monitor the border.

In a move that was reminiscent of the conflict over the Falklands in 1982 (another relic of the British Empire invaded by Argentina), the Royal Navy’s HMS Westminster docked in Gibraltar in the middle of August after a flotilla of Spanish fishing boats staged a protest about the reef.

In a reversal of the Spanish Armada, the Spanish fleet that sailed against England in 1588 and was defeated, other British warships joined HMS Westminster in what UK defence officials called a long-scheduled deployment in the Mediterranean and the Gulf. A British aircraft carrier, the Illustrious, sailed along the Spanish coast as part of the military training exercise.

Obviously, the two countries are not going to war. Spain, however, has threatened to join forces with Argentina and take the sovereignty issue to the United Nations, while the UK government might take the case of border controls to the European Court of Human Rights. In Spain, the spat is seen as a diversion from the country’s five-year recession and tough austerity measures, and the slush fund scandal in which the PP is embroiled.

The Rock of Gibraltar. Photo by Karyn Sig, 2006. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons

The Rock of Gibraltar. Photo by Karyn Sig, 2006. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons.

Unlike in the 16th century, Spain and the UK are allies and not sworn enemies today: both are members of NATO and of the EU. Some 12 million British tourists visit Spain every year, the largest country group, and two-way trade and direct investment is very strong.

The squabble comes at a time when Gibraltar is celebrating 300 years of British rule. The anniversary has been marked by a set of four Gibraltarian stamps, which bear the Union Jack, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth and the words from the Treaty “for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever” which Madrid regards as provocative.

While the previous Spanish government of the Socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (2004-2011) sought to ease the tone over the contentious issue of sovereignty by agreeing to set up with London a trilateral forum (Spain, the UK, and Gibraltar) to air grievances other than sovereignty, the PP killed this initiative by insisting on widening the forum to include local interests in the Campo de Gibraltar (the area in Spain close to the Rock). The UK and Gibraltar rejected this. Had the trilateral forum still existed, Gibraltar would probably have informed the Spanish government about the reef and the current situation might have been avoided.

The PP government hankers after a return to the 1984 Brussels Process, which established a bilateral negotiating framework with the UK for the discussion of all issues including sovereignty.

The trilateral forum was a modest step in winning the hearts and minds of Gibraltarians. The PP government’s heavy-handed response to the artificial reef, though it has legitimate concerns over other issues such as money laundering, has only served to harden Gibraltarian attitudes to Spain and remind them of previous crises, particularly the closing of the border in 1969 by General Franco, Spain’s dictator (1939-75). Last March, the US Department of State called the Rock “a major European centre of money laundering.”

The preamble to the Constitution declares that “her Majesty’s Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.” In other words, Gibraltarians have the last word and it is highly unlikely they would ever vote to come under Spanish rule or even some kind of shared rule (the idea, as opposed to an actual agreement, was rejected in a 2002 referendum by 98.9% of votes, although it carried no legal weight). The residents of Hong Kong were not consulted when handed to China in 1997 when the New Territories’ lease ended; Gibraltar has a different status.

My wife and I suffered the consequences of the closure of the border, which was not re-opened until 1982. We were married in Gibraltar in 1974 because during the Franco regime Catholicism was the state religion and it was difficult for a Catholic (my wife) to marry a Protestant. Civil marriages did not exist in Spain. The only way to get to the Rock from Madrid, where we lived, was either by flying to London and then to Gibraltar or by train from the Spanish capital to the port of Algeciras and from there to Tangiers by boat and then in another ship to the British territory, an arduous journey and the route we took there and back.

We are hoping that by the time I appear at the Gibraltar Literary Festival at the end of October, it will not take hours to cross the border and common sense will have prevailed.

William Chislett, the author of Spain: What Everyone Needs to Know, is a journalist who has lived in Madrid since 1986. His book will be presented at the Cervantes Institute in London on 9 September, in Madrid on 24 September and at Gibraltar’s Literary Festival at the end of October. He covered Spain’s transition to democracy (1975-78) for The Times of London and was later the Mexico correspondent for the Financial Times (1978-84). He writes about Spain for the Elcano Royal Institute, which has published three books of his on the country, and he has a weekly column in the online newspaper El Imparcial.

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21. On Our Way Tomorrow

By the time you read this, we will be on our way to Galicia, Spain, to the village and the people that have stolen our hearts. It's a long trip. But stay tuned. I'll be posting about our new ventures soon.

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22. Fusenews: I’m going back to Indiana! Indiana here I come!

Those of you familiar with the Jackson 5 song I’ve referenced in my title are probably now throwing virtual rotten fruit in my general direction.  Still, I can’t say it isn’t accurate.  This weekend I am pleased to be a speaker at the SCBWI Indiana conference in Zionsville, IN.  I haven’t been back in Indiana since my last college reunion in 2010.  It’ll be good for me to fill the lungs with some pure uncut Midwestern air once more.  A gal need to fill up before heading back into the NYC fray.  While you read this I may be zooming up into the clouds above, so enjoy some ephemera in my absence.

  • ReadingNet 300x174 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!Sure.  On the one hand Spain’s reading net, highlighted by Boing Boing this week, looks AMAZING.  But while it may work well for Spanish children, you just know that our kids would be leaping and jumping all over that thing within seconds.  Plus, there appears to be a gigantic hole in it that’s just asking for trouble.  Or maybe that’s how you get in.  That would make sense.
  • Views From the Tesseract has reached its 100th post and as a result Stephanie came up with What Stories Have Taught Me in 100 Small Lessons.  It’s nice without being sentimental.  Plus, if you’re in the market for good quotes from children’s books, this here’s the place to go for your one stop shopping!
  • My l’il sis is at it again.  This time she came up with a way to create comic book shoes.  I cannot help but think that this might be possible with old Advanced Readers Copies.  Or YA craft programs.  Yeah.  I think you can tell that the next time I go to the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet I’m recruiting Kate to help me with my outfit.  She made one shoe superheroes and one supervillains.

SupervillainShoe Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

For the record, she also did a post on how to make a hollow book.  If you read it, just remember that the world is FULL of extra Harry Potter 7s.  One or two less isn’t gonna hurt anything.

  • And while we’re feeling crafty, Delightful Children’s Books has come up with such a good idea: a Bookish Advent Calendar.  Genius!  I may have to steal this idea myself.  If I do, though, I’d better get cracking.  Start placing holds now.  December is practically nigh!
  • On the more serious side of things, Marjorie Ingall writes great posts no matter where she is, but it’s her titles that consistently blow me away.  At the blog Modern Loss (a site for “navigating your life after a death”) Marjorie wrote 5 Kids Books That Go There: The best of the ‘talking to kids about death’ genre (drumroll, please).  It’s a strong five.  I’m trying to think what I might add.  This year’s Missing Mommy by Rebecca Cobb, maybe.  That book ripped my heart from my chest and danced a tarantella on the remains.
  • *sigh*  Well, if nothing else, this clarifies for me who exactly “McKenna” is and why folks keep asking me to buy her books.  And Saige, for that matter.  Alexandra Petri writes a rather amusing piece on what has happened to American Girl.

WhatFoxSay 232x300 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!I’m far less upset about the fact that they’re turning What Does the Fox Say? into a picture book.  For one thing, I’m weirdly thrilled that the Norwegian YouTube hit sensation has a Norwegian illustrator.  And one that clearly has a sense of humor.  Hey!  Whatever it takes to get some new names from overseas into the American market.  At the very least, I want to see it (though I’m fairly certain it is NOT the first picture book to be based on a YouTube sensation).  Thanks to Playing By the Book and Matt for the info.

  • Daily Image:

Today, I show something I may have shown before.  It’s lithographs of famous books where the text from the story makes up the image itself.  Here are some examples:

A Christmas Carol

ChristmasCarol 500x324 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

Alice in Wonderland

Wonderland 500x324 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

A Little Princess

LittlePrincess 500x324 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

Thanks to Marci for the link!

 

printfriendly Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!email Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!twitter Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!facebook Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!google plus Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!tumblr Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!share save 171 16 Fusenews: Im going back to Indiana!  Indiana here I come!

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23. Collective emotions and the European crisis

By Mikko Salmela and Christian von Scheve


Nationalist, conservative, and anti-immigration parties as well as political movements have risen or become stronger all over Europe in the aftermath of EU’s financial crisis and its alleged solution, the politics of austerity. This development has been similar in countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain where radical cuts to public services such as social security and health care have been implemented as a precondition for the bail out loans arranged by the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, and in countries such as Finland, France, and the Netherlands that have contributed to the bailout while struggling with the crisis themselves. Together, the downturn that was initiated by the crisis and its management with austerity politics have created an enormous potential of discontent, despair, and anger among Europeans. These collective emotions have fueled protests against governments held responsible for unpopular decisions.

Protests in Greece after recent austerity cuts

Protests in Greece after austerity cuts in 2008

However, the financial crisis alone cannot fully explain these developments, since they have also gained momentum in countries like Britain, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden that do not belong to the Eurozone and have not directly participated in the bailout programs. Another unresolved question is why protests channel (once again) through the political right, rather than the left that has benefited from dissatisfaction for the last decades? And how is it that political debate across Europe makes increasing use of stereotypes and populist arguments, fueling nationalist resentments?

A protester with Occupy Wall Street

A protester with Occupy Wall Street

One way to look at these issues is through the complex affective processes intertwining with personal and collective identities as well as with fundamental social change. A particularly obvious building block consists of fear and insecurity regarding environmental, economic, cultural, or social changes. At the collective level, both are constructed and shaped in discourse with political parties and various interest groups strategically stirring the emotions of millions of citizens. At the individual level, insecurities manifest themselves as fear of not being able to live up to salient social identities and their inherent values, many of which originate from more secure and affluent times, and as shame about this anticipated or actual inability, especially in competitive market societies where responsibility for success and failure is attributed primarily to the individual. Under these conditions, many tend to emotionally distance themselves from the social identities that inflict shame and other negative feelings, instead seeking meaning and self-esteem from those aspects of identity perceived to be stable and immune to transformation, such as nationality, ethnicity, religion, language, and traditional gender roles – many of which are emphasized by populist and nationalist parties.

The urgent need to better understand the various kinds of collective emotions and their psychological and social repercussions is not only evident by looking at the European crisis and the re-emergence of nationalist movements throughout Europe. Across the globe, collective emotions have been at the center of major social movements and political transformations, Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring just being two further vivid examples. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the collective emotional processes underlying these developments is yet sparse. This is in part so because the social and behavioral sciences have only recently begun to systematically address collective emotions in both individual and social terms. The relevance of collective emotions in recent political developments both in Europe and around the globe suggests that it is time to expand the “emotional turn” of sciences to these affective phenomena as well.

Christian von Scheve is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Freie Universität Berlin, where he heads the Research Area Sociology of Emotion at the Institute of Sociology. Mikko Salmela is an Academy Research Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and a member of Finnish Center of Excellence in the Philosophy of Social Sciences. Together they are the authors of Collective Emotions published by Oxford University Press.

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Image credits: (1) Protests in Greece after austerity cuts in 2008. Photo by Joanna. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) A protester with Occupy Wall Street. Photo by David Shankbone. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

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24. ‘Chorus’ by Dvein

"Chorus" is a contribution to This is NOW, an exhibition that took place in Oslo, showcasing international talents in poster art and motion graphics. This project started as a poster but quickly evolved into a disturbing video with this mouthlike-character producing weird noises and fusing with the buzz of the exhibition visitors.

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25. What does the economic future hold for Spain?

By William Chislett


The good news is that Spain has finally come out of a five-year recession that was triggered by the bursting of its property bubble. The bad news is that the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at a whopping 26%, double the European Union average.

The scale of the property madness was such that in 2006 the number of housing starts (762,214) was more than that of Germany, France, and Italy combined. This sector, to borrow the title of a novel by Gabriel García Márquez, was a Chronicle of a Death Foretold. There are still an estimated more than one million new and second hand unsold homes.

The excessive concentration on the property sector, as the motor of an economy that boomed for a decade, created a lopsided economic model and fertile ground for corruption. When the sector crashed as of 2008 and house prices plummeted, 1.7 million people lost their jobs in construction out of a total of 3.7 million job losses in the last six years, households were left with mortgages they could not pay and property development companies unable to service their bank loans. This, in turn, severely weakened parts of the banking system which had to be rescued by the European Stability Mechanism with a €42 billion bailout programme. Spain exited the bail-out in January, but bad loans still account for more than 13% of total credit, up from a mere 0.7% in 2006.

Spain has emerged from recession thanks largely to an impressive export performance, achieved through an “internal devaluation” (lower unit labour costs stemming from wage cuts or a wage freeze and higher productivity). As a euro country, Spain cannot devalue. Merchandise exports rose from €160 billion in 2009 to €234 billion in 2013, an increase equivalent to more than 7% of GDP. This growth has been faster than the pace of powerhouse Germany, albeit from a smaller base. Exports of goods and services rose from 27% of GDP in 2007 to around 35% last year. The surge in exports combined with the drop in imports and a record year for tourism, with 60 million visitors, turned around the current account, which was in surplus for the first time in 27 years. In 2007, the current account recorded a deficit of 10%, the highest in relative terms among developed countries.

Unemployment is the most pressing problem. The depth of the jobs’ crisis is such that Spain, which represents 11% of the euro zone’s economy and has a population of 47 million, has almost 6 million unemployed (around one-third of the zone’s total jobless), whereas Germany (population 82 million and 30% of the GDP) has only 2.8 million jobless (15% of the zone’s total). Germany’s jobless rate is at its lowest since the country’s reunification, while Spain’s is at its highest level ever.

Mariano Rajoy

Young Spanish adults, particularly the better qualified, are increasingly moving abroad in search of a job, though not in the scale suggested by the Spanish media which gives the impression there is a massive exodus and brain drain. One thing is the large flow of those who go abroad, especially to Germany, and return after a couple of months; another the permanent stock of Spaniards abroad (those who stay beyond a certain amount of time), which is surprisingly small. According to research conducted by the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain’s main think tank, between January 2009 and January 2013, the worst years of Spain’s recession, the stock of Spaniards who resided abroad increased in net terms by a mere 40,000, which is less than 0.1% of Spain’s population, to 1.9 million. These figures are based on official Spanish statistics cross-checked with data in the countries where Spaniards reside. The number of Spaniards living abroad is less than one-third the size of Spain’s foreign-born population of 6.4 million (13.2% of the total population). Immigrants in Spain are returning to their country of origin, particularly Latin Americans.

Spain’s crisis has also resulted in a long overdue crackdown on corruption. There are around 800 cases under investigation, most of them involving politicians and their business associates. Spain was ranked 40th out of 177 countries in the 2013 corruption perceptions ranking by the Berlin-based Transparency International, down from 30th place in 2012. Its score of 59 was six points lower. The nearer to 100, the cleaner the country. Spain was the second-biggest loser of points, and only topped by war-torn Syria. The country is in for a long haul.

William Chislett, the author of Spain: What Everyone Needs to Know, is a journalist who has lived in Madrid since 1986. He will be talking on his book at the Oxford Literary Festival on 29 March. He covered Spain’s transition to democracy (1975-78) for The Times of London and was later the Mexico correspondent for the Financial Times (1978-84). He writes about Spain for the Elcano Royal Institute, which has published three books of his on the country, and he has a weekly column in the online newspaper El Imparcial. He has previously written on Spanish unemployment and Gibraltar for the OUPblog.

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Image credits: (1) Spanish Falg By Iker Parriza. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons (2) Mariano Rajoy By Gilad Rom. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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