E is for Espinete

I can hear you saying:

“Come on, Pilar, is that the best you can do?”

All I can say is:

“Yes. Sorry.”

I could have changed the unwritten rule about this series and placed Enrique Tierno Galván at the centre of this post, but he was known as “Tierno Galván” and so should be under “T”. (Tierno Galván was a politician who was very active during Franco’s time, opposing the regime. He became mayor of Madrid in the 80’s and was incredibly popular amongst the capital’s citizens.)

I could also write about Esperanza Aguirre, who must be the most unpopular or popular woman in Spain at the moment (depending on who you are talking to) as she heads the Comunidad de Madrid. As much as she is playing a key role in Spain’s current political climate, I don’t think I should be placing her alongside Cervantes or Plácido Domingo.

So, I’m taking a big risk and giving Espinete pride of place in this post.

Espinete was the star of Barrio Sesamo, the Spanish version of Sesame Street where the “street scenes” were replaced with ones taking part in Spain, with Spanish actors and children. Espinete is representative of Spanish children’s television in the 80’s. For those of us who grew up in that decade, he represents an era now full of nostalgia.Don’t take my word for it, you only have to surf the net to see the number of blogs that have been opened with the 80s at their centre, or the number of children’s programmes from that decade that have been released on DVD.

When I first moved to London in 1990, nobody understood why I talked about the 80s with affection. In the U.K., the 80’s were marked by greed and an iron lady. In Spain, however, they signified freedom and artistic expression.

Following the death of Franco in 1975 (and no, he’s not going to be heading the chapter on “F”), the country went wild. It took the population a few years to understand what it was like not to have to worry about what your beliefs were or with whom you could share your opinions. To understand what’s going on in the country today, it is worth remembering how young Spain’s democracy is and that Spaniards are still experimenting with ways to influence the government.

Now back to the 80’s when everything exploded, particularly in Madrid, with La movida. Movimiento means “movement” and so, la movida referred to all the movement that started to take place in the arts and in the streets as people discovered the freedom of going out and speaking their minds.

Espinete had nothing to do with this movement. In fact, thinking about it now, he was theanti-movida, nice and cuddly and sweet and maybe that’s why we liked him so much. For those of you who’ve ever watched Sesame Street, he was Spain’s answer to Big Bird. (Well, that’s not strictly true as we used to havela gallina Caponata,who was more a cheap copy of Big Bird than a localised version.)

This pink hedgehog was proud to have spikes on his back but not on his front, so that he could hug you without hurting you. By the way, Espinete comes from espinas, spikes. It is an endearing name, such as Juanete  for Juan or Tomasete for Tomás. In the blog “Yo crecí con Espinete” (“I Grew Up With Espinete”), the blogger mentions how odd it seemed that, an animal that walked around naked, should put on a pyjama to go to sleep.

If you want to get to know this endearing character a bit better, you can visit this wikipage. For a quick insight into a different type of programme for young audiences that marked an era, see E is for Electroduende.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, or have read The A to Z of Spanish Culture, then you will know that the years I remember best in Spain were the 80’s. For that reason, I just couldn’t leave Espinete out of the A to Z of Spanish Personalities. He certainly was one.

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