Category Archives: Spanish Culture
Well, I missed most of it, I’d completely forgotten it was on, so I only caught it half way.
Not sure who’s won, but if Greece don’t win… well, they were the best, life is unfair…
The best act had to be Sweden’s own incredibly witty, well-written, self-mocking song, with lyrics like “seasoned with a hint of horse” (referring to their meatballs, of course). A great act to keep us staring at the TV while the audience voted.
Ironically, while there is so much talk in Britain (or should I say England after what happened in Scotland) of leaving the EU, most of the songs were in English. Plus, the Swedish song at one point could have been about Britain: people loving queues , standing in trains, not really making eye contact…
Are we really that different?
I suppose the answer is yes, but then, aren’t we constantly being bombarded here about the benefits of Diversity? Or has that agenda just gone out the window now? I suppose not, considering most of the countries sent singers to launch their careers, whereas the UK decided the festival would be a great full stop to the career of a legend.
As promised, here are the other suggestions I was sent through when I asked for Spanish personalities to feature in a post on the letter K.
60′s pop singer.
Spanish artist still going strong.
Kaka de Luxe
A punk-rock group formed in the late 70′s, headed by Alaska. Olvido Gara, who has always been known as Alaska, has managed to reinvent herself through the decades and still remains in the public spotlight.
Kiko (from Verano azul)
Most probably spelt Quico, but what a great excuse to talk about Verano azul in this blog.
Verano Azul (Blue Summer) made its mark on Spanish teenagers who watched TV in the 80′s. I remember the gang, on their bicycles, happily riding around the town where they spent their summer holidays. And the tune, oh the tune. If you’ve got two minutes, have a look:
In February I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to help me come up with the subject for a post on Spanish personalities, as I was pretty stuck on the letter K. I got some very interesting suggestions, some of which I had already thought of, some of which I would never have come up with, like the one heading this post (thanks @grahunt!).
It’s taken me a while to write this post – especially as I realised that in my angst to talk about Juan Carlos I, the king who has fallen from grace, I missed out the post on “I”. So, before I tackle that one, here is my post on Karlos Arguiñano. It will be followed by an extra post on K, to include all the other interesting suggestions that were posted (or sent) my way.
As is often the case, until I started writing this post, I knew very little about Arguiñano. as he shot to fame in 1991, just a year after I left Spain. He’s not just a celebrity chef, but a very charistmatic entrepreneur who owns a restaurant (which he set up way before he hit the spotlight), one of the co-founders of the Basque Culinary Centre, film producer and he even runs a moto-racing team. Oh, and he’s the father of eight children, two of whom are adopted.
Arguiñano grew up as the eldest of four children whose mother had become disabled. That was probably the reason why he had to start cooking at an early age and, by the time he was 17, he had decided he wanted to become a professional cook.
In 1978, he opened a hotel/restaurant in the town of Zarautz, in Gipuzkoa (native spelling). For 199 Euros, you can have a double room, a “taster” menu and breakfast in the KA, Karlos Arguiñano hotel.
In 1991, after hosting his own cooking programme on Basque television, he began to present “El menú de cada día” on TVE1, the main channel of Televisión Española. The programme got people talking about cooking, even if most of the audience rarely put any of the chef’s tips into practice and was just happy to watch this funny, charismatic man.
A man increasing the ratings of a TV cooking programme. That is why I thought it would be worth dedicating a post to him. I’m willing to be proved wrong, but the average family still favours women being the ones who cook and it was great to remind men that spending time in the kitchen was ok. Things are definitely changing and women my generation might still land someone to share the culinary chores with them.
Back to Arguiñano, having conquered the small screen, Karlos now has turned to another one of his passions: motorcycle racing. In 2011, he introduced the Arguiñano Racing Team when it took part in the Moto 2 competition. I watched an interview with him on YouTube and loved his relaxed manner as he talked about what is no doubt, the realisation of a dream. A dream which probably (my guess, not his words) began to look possible when he cooked for Carlos Sainz during the racer’s stay at the hotel where Arguiñano worked. I leave you with the interview, which I much prefer to the many clips there are of him telling jokes. I wish him the best of luck with this parallel career!
Image by By Ana Sánchez Cruzat [CC-BY-SA-2.1-es (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/es/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
If I’d sat down to write this two years ago, it would have been a very different post. I really feel like the Spanish monarchy has fallen from grace and, pretty much like the other European monarchies, it seems like the time has come to change their role or disappear all together.
During the last years of his life, Franco began to ease prince Juan Carlos gradually into Spanish life as the next ruler in line. Whether out of a particular liking to this future king or just out of dislike for his father, don Juan de Borbón, Franco preferred to leave Spain the hands of Don Juan Carlos.
In 1975, after Franco’s death, Juan Carlos returned to Spain to become her king, restoring the monarchy to the country and, many hoped, democracy as well. I’m sure many Spaniards were very grateful for the king to go down the democratic route rather than prolong the dictatorship. I was too young then to have any news or understanding of this. What I do remember is never hearing anything against the king or his family for most of my life (apart from the common jokes about royal in-breeding. These jokes were affectionately made by playing on the fact that Borbón, the royal name, is extremely close to bobón (from bobo, stupid). You can imagine how the omission of one letter could lead to very popular jokes.
Many sighs of relief were heard when, instead of taking full advantage of his role as head of the army to rule by force, Juan Carlos showed his commitment to change the way Spain was governed by appointing Adolfo Suarez as Spain’s president, very soon after he became king.
I grew up being slightly curious about the Royal family. The elegant Queen Sofia, who is Greek, playing to perfection her role of mother and monarch while her three children smiled at the camera – poor things, I always thought, who would want to be stuck in that world? But the royal family always seemed to remain human, with their smiles and sporting lifestyle.
When I was just seven years old, I was skiing with my mother and we were staying in the same hotel as the king. My mother always said the king winked at me. She also told me that a girl had approached the king and asked him, “They say the King is staying at this hotel. He’s the one whose face is on the coins.” I don’t think the king embarrased her by introducing himself.
As the prince and princesses grew up, they also began to date, bringing the Spaniards into the debate of who should marry whom and whether the next in line (the man of course, in spite of being the youngest) should be allowed to marry someone of non-royal blood. The Royal Family has always filled the pages of magazines such as Hola and their love lives have given the prensa del corazón plenty of stuff to talk about. A divorce, a fraud scandal and the marriage to an ambitious journalist have all been part of the Royal children’s lives.
Unfortunately, the royal family has now become front page news. In 2012, Iñaki Urdangarin (Princess Cristina’s husband and also an ex-olympiad handball player, I told you they were sporty) was accused of siphoning funds from the not-for-profit company he was running with the princess. Allegedly, around 2.3 million euros from the Balearic Islands’ government (that’s Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca) and 3.7 million from Valencia’s government had ended up in Urdangarin’s pockets, after being diverted through the organisation he owned, which was originally set up to run sports conferences and other events. (Source: elmundo.es on 17/4/2012)
At a time when the country was already more than disillusioned with its politicians, to see that corruption extended to the Royal Family (for the role of the princess and king played in all of this is still not completely clear) came as a big, royal blow.
That same year (an Olympic one as we can see, from more than one point of view), Juan Carlos broke his hip… while shooting elephants in Botswana. I could say “enough said” but actually, it isn’t. Not only was the king of a country in social and economic pain out in Africa playing a dubious “sport” but, let’s just say, that the queen wasn’t faithfully by his side. Although the whole episode was once more carried with dignity by the Greek member of the Spanish Royal Family, this incident really highlighted how much of a farce the Royal Family had become. In fact, 2012 was extremely farcical for the Royal Family, as it included someone shooting themselves in the foot – literally!
An apology from the King for the Botswana episode (which was made even worse by the fact that he was honorary president of the WWF at the time) was nowhere as near a poignant TV appearance as the one I will always remember. On the 23rd of February 1982, when the military tried to take over parliament, Juan Carlos calmly appeared on the T.V. screen to reassure the population that we weren’t about to go again down that very dark dictatorial path. In sad contrast, this last Christmas during his annual message to the Spaniards, he urged separatists (of which there are many now, from all regions) to keep Spain united. Completely wasted words from a figure recently fallen from grace.
Photo credit: By Juan_Carlos_I_Rey_de_España_2009.jpg: *Andrus_Ansip,_Juan_Carlos_I.jpg: Estonian Foreign Ministry derivative work: DPC (talk) derivative work: Escarlati (Juan_Carlos_I_Rey_de_España_2009.jpg) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I was a little stuck with ‘H’. I have to admit that the first name that came to mind was ‘Horacio Pinchadiscos’, 80′s girl that I am. (I will come back to him at the end of the post, even if it’s just to make my cousin laugh.)
Instead, I am dedicating this post to Hernán Cortés, which, if he had been alive today, would probably have been an unpopular figure.
Hernán Cortés was one of the famous conquistadores. He started looking for adventure in 1504, just 12 years after America was discovered by Columbus. Cortés was only 17 years old then and had abandoned studying law to become an explorer. After being involved in the conquest of Cuba, he was the conquistador responsible for taking over the Aztec empire, conquering Mexico in 1521.
The conquistadores were ruthless, taking over new lands by force, with the sole purpose of building an empire. Things have most definitely changed: the Spanish empire has not only completely disappeared (although there’s still Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands to remind us that Spain used to own land beyond their borders) but Spain itself seems to be falling apart. At a time when the economic crisis should be pulling everyone together, the regions are voicing their desire for independence more strongly than ever and it’s difficult to talk about “one Spain”. I wonder whether a song which was popular in the 80′s “The Empire Strikes Back” by a group called Los Nikis could have been written now. Probably not, but that’s not a bad thing.
But I digress (once more). Having had eleven children from six different women (including natives from the lands which he was invading), having owned land and slaves in Cuba, having been in jail for “conspiring” against the Cuban ruler and having led various wars and invasions in Mexico, Cortés died in 1547. His body, like that of Felipe el Hermoso, did not rest in peace but was moved around various times due to different reasons such as refurbishment of the temple where he was buried and an attempt to follow his will, where he changed his mind various times as to where he wanted to be laid to rest.
Let me introduce you to Horacio Pinchadiscos. He was the best D.J. in the 80s, delighting children like yours truly, with his marcha. It would have been too much to dedicate a full post to him, but I’m happy to give him my last few words.
What would you like me to “Boo” about? Or would you like an audio version of any of the posts on this blog? Please Tweet your suggestions to @aspanishculture.
I had planned to create lots more podcasts on Spanish culture, I was even thinking of turning The A to Z of Spanish Culture into an audiobook. However, I can be a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to creating pieces of audio (one of my jobs is as a Voiceover), so creating a podcast became very time consuming. The ones I have already created have a bit of music in them and also some special effects, such as S is of Siesta y Sobremesa, where I turned my voice into that of a man.
So now I have started to use Audioboo, I can create short podcasts and not feel bad if they are a little bit rough. They can only be 3 minutes long – I record them through my iPad (amazing microphone) via the Audioboo app and upload them. I don’t think about it too much and I don’t even listen back to them.(Wow, I’m such a rebel!)
So, here is the link to the Board, which currently has four podcasts about travelling on the metro, gratitude and the Ma Yansong exhibition in Madrid.
If you are flying into Madrid Barajas and are then planning to take the “metro” or tube, these tips might come in handy.
You can listen to them on this audioboo about travelling into Barajas, or you can read more below.
Barajas has four terminals. To make things a bit more complicated, terminal 4 is divided into two: 4 and 4S, where “S” stands for “satellite”. The walk from the airplane to the exit if you land into terminal 4 is a little bit long. First, follow the Baggage and Exit signs. You will go up an escalator. Then you’ll pass passport control, after which you will need to take a small train to the main terminal 4 building. It will take you around 20 minutes, if not more, from the airplane to the terminal 4 exit.
The good news is that the exit is really close to the Metro entrance.
If you are travelling into terminal 1, exiting Arrivals is much easier, although sometimes it can also involve a ten minute walk. The walk from the exit to the Metro takes a long ten minutes. If you are arriving into terminal 2, you’ll have a much easier time. It’s only five minutes away. (I’ve never used terminal 3, so I can’t really help you there!)
Once at the Metro entrance, you can buy your ticket from a machine or a person. A single ticket, un billete sencillo, into town will cost you €4.50. A normal single ticket costs only €1.50 but there is a supplement of €3 when you travel to and from the airport.
If you are going to travel a bit by tube, I suggest that you buy a Metrobus, which has ten trips by either bus or tube and costs €12.50. The advantage of this over a short stay pass is that you can share the trips between more than one person, so it’s perfect if you know you are not going to be using public transport much. You can also use it for your return journey to the airport, although you will have to pay the extra €3.
Well, that’s it, I hope this was useful. Do let me know in the comments box if it was or if you have any more questions!
NOTE: Straight after posting I got this very useful comment from Relative Imperfection. As comments are not visible on the posts page, here it is:
Pilar, there is also the Cercanías option. and it’s cheaper than the Metro, it all depends on where you have to go.
it leaves every 30 min. ( xx:28 & xx:58)
Línea C1: Príncipe Pío – Atocha- Recoletos -Aeropuerto T4
Príncipe Pío, Pirámides, Delicias, Méndez Álvaro, Atocha, Recoletos, Nuevos Ministerios, Chamartín, Fuente de la Mora y Aeropuerto T4.
the Metro Sencillo’s price depends on how many stations you have to go through (this is new).
La Cesta de Navidad – the Christmas hamper.
The way in which businesses thank their employees at the end of the year. The way in which businesses remind their clients that they exist. From large boxes full of drink, food and sweets to the more trendy fruit baskets or luscious boxes of expensive chocolates. I wonder what’s going on this year…
If you are curious as to what’s inside a Spanish Christmas hamper, have a look at the one Graham Hunt from Houses for Sale in Spain got this year…
Maybe you were waiting for something a bit more original, a little bit more obscure, but Goya IS my favourite painter (up there with Hieronymus Bosch, whose work can also be found in the Prado Museum), so I really have no choice.
to his Dark Paintings, including my favourite Saturno devorando a un hijo (Saturn Devouring a Son).
Like all great artists, Goya commented on the world around him. He reflected the horrors of war in his series Los desastres de la guerra (The War Disasters) where he shows the effects on society and the individual of the Independence War that Spain fought against the French from 1808 to 1814. One of his best known paintings, currently at the Prado Museum in Madrid is the Fusilamientos del tres de mayo (3rd May Executions), which shows Napoleon’s troops executing the Spanish population that had rebelled against them in Madrid in 1808. The painting saw the light in 1814, after the French were expelled from Spain.
Through his Caprichos, a series of 80 prints, he laughed at ignorance, superstition and society in general. (To see the whole series, visit wikipedia.) By the way, if you teach any kind of performance art (or creative writing) and ever need inspiration, these drawings are wonderfully surreal and inspiring.
Francisco de Goya was one of Spain’s most prolific painters. Born in 1746, he painted over 2000 works of art, including paintings, sketches, drawings, portraits and self-portraits until his death in 1828.
He left an amazing legacy and through his varied artistic styles, he showed that variety is the spice of life.
Felipe el Hermoso, who ruled Spain in the 15th Century, is interesting in a “gossipy” kind of way, as he has gone down in history as the man who drove Juana la Loca to madness with his infidelities.
I could have also talked about Felipe González, who played an important part in post-Franco politics as the leader of the PSOE, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party.
Or this post could also be about Felipe de Borbón, Spain’s handsome Prince. It will be interesting to see what happens to him as the country becomes disenchanted with Spain’s monarchy (the King breaking his leg while shooting elephants in Botswana in the middle of the crisis, his son-in-law being judged for corruption and his nephew shooting himself in the foot, literally.)
In the end, I have gone with Felipe el Hermoso, because of his connection with Juana la Loca, Spain’s mad queen. (Who knows, I might have to come back to write about Felipe de Borbón and his fairy-tale marriage to ex-journalist Letizia soon.)
Felipe El Hermoso
Felipe el Hermoso heads a story of intrigue, scandal and power struggle.
Felipe “the handsome one”, ruler of Burgundy, became part of Spain’s royalty when he married Juana, daughter of the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Kings) in 1496. This arranged marriage protected their kingdoms from the French threat. It suited Felipe, who already owned a few dukedoms, (Luxembourg and Flanders amongst others) and was hungry for power, just fine.
When the Queen of Castille, one of Spain’s biggest kingdoms, died in 1504, Felipe began to lick his lips as he saw himself sitting comfortably on the throne next to his wife Juana, who would inherit the land. However, the Queen had asked in her will that the throne remain with her husband Fernando if Juana showed any signs of madness. Oops, Juana eventually became Juana la Loca, and already then she began to show signs of mental instability.
Juana’s jealousy was slowly beginning to drive her mad and became visible in actions such as her attacking with a comb one of the court’s women, whom she suspected of having an affair with Felipe (or pulling out her hair with her hands, depending on which internet source you believe). However, King Fernando was not able to hang on to Castille for very long, and soon Felipe became the ruler of Spain. (If you are interested in the long list of coincidences which resulted in Felipe becoming King, visit the Wikipedia page.)
His ruling did not last long, which was probably a good thing as it was characterised by corruption and cronyism. In September 1506, six months after becoming King, Felipe died after drinking a glass of cold water during a game of ball.
Poisoned? Most probably typhus fever, but that was one of the conspiracy theories at the time.
Shed No Tears
For a start, she didn’t weep at all for her husband’s death, even though her love for him was uncontested. There were rumours that the mad Queen asked for Felipe’s heart to be taken out of his body, so it would not belong to anyone else. A few months later, when Juana was adviced to leave the City of Burgos to escape an epidemic, she decided to take Felipe’s body with her, to stay close to him at all times. Her journey became a pilgrimage with her husband’s body and it wasn’t until her father came to look after her, that she was separated from Felipe.
Juana’s father, Fernando, came back to Castille to reclaim the throne. Fearing his daughter would at some point try to reign again, he confined her to a convent in Tordesillas, Valladolid, proclaiming her insane. One of her six children, Carlos, eventually became King and also made sure his power wasn’t challenged by making sure his mother remained in the convent.
Juana died in 1555, aged 51, having spent the last year’s of her life wailing in captivity.