Introduction to the 3rd Edition of The A to Z of Spanish Culture

The third edition of The A to Z of Spanish Culture is now out, as Kindle, e-book and paperback. You can find out how the book has been updated in this post. If you purchased the previous edition and would like the updated sections, please comment in this blog (all comments need to be approved first, so I won’t publish them) and let me know. I will send you a PDF will the updates.

Many thanks again to Paul Read for his contribution. There’s no way this update would have happened otherwise. You can listen to Paul and Pilar talk about the update here:

Here’s the introduction to the third edition:

The A to Z of Spanish Culture. Updated Third EditionWhen I originally wrote ‘The A to Z of Spanish Culture’, I was hoping to sell a few books and make enough money to cover the costs of book formatting and cover design. So I was very pleased with how well the book was received by those with an interest in Spain and to my surprise, my little book about my country of origin made the recommended reading lists of academic programmes in both schools and universities.

An A-level Spanish teacher called Cristina told me that she recommends the book to the students in her London school precisely because it is such a condensed read. “Once they’ve read the book, they can identify which aspects of Spanish history and culture interests them most, and they can go and study those topics in depth.”
When I first found out how the book was being used, I considered updating it but felt too removed from the country to be able to do so. I’d also stopped publishing the ‘Spain Uncovered’ podcast, so I had little motivation to catch up with and share what had gone on in Spain. But when last year a generous reviewer pointed out that “An update to 2017 would be great as a lot has happened there,” I thought, “Right, now is the time to do this.”
I’d written ‘The A to Z’ to show how much Spanish society had evolved during the 1980s, 90s and first decade of the 21st Century. I thought the country had evolved and changed massively during that time. What I didn’t expect was there would still be more twists and turns on their way.

Introducing Paul Read
In the first edition of ‘The A to Z’, I said everything I had to say about Spain. I’ve now been away from the country for more than 25 years and I don’t stay much up to date with what’s going on there. This means I’m not the best person to update this book, so I reached out to the only other writer who I knew would enjoy putting down some brief words about those aspects of Spanish society and politics that had undergone the most significant changes since the last edition of the book.

Luckily, in between his own projects (which mainly involve teaching TaiChi online), Paul Read aka “Gazpacho Monk” accepted to take on the task of writing a few paragraphs to bring this ‘A to Z’ up to date.

So, what’s new then?

– There is a new, M is for Más Movidas chapter which summarises the recent change in Spain’s political landscape, as well as the rising number of corruption cases. Paul has done a brilliant job of explaining some very complex court cases, some of which are still ongoing (which means we had to tread carefully when laying them out in front of you).

– Speaking of corruption, I’ve expanded the chapter on C is for Corona to include the recent scandal involving members of the Spanish Royal Family using some of Paul’s notes.

– The chapter Ñ is for Ñ has been expanded to include the current situation in Cataluña. In the original chapter, I didn’t go into the different nationalist movements in much depth. That was because I have never had much of an identity as a Spaniard, and so I’ve never empathised with those holding strong nationalistic views. Even though I’ve been aware of the quest for independence from both Basque and Catalans all my life, I never took much interest. However, at this point in time, to have a book about Spanish culture that didn’t cover the Catalan movement in some depth would be to miss out a very important moment in contemporary history.

– In the new section When Ñ Becomes NY, I have left Paul’s words almost intact. He’s always had an interest in the history of Cataluña (which is at the centre of his book ‘Forgotten Stories From Spain: 1984 and The Spanish Civil War’) and once again, he’s been able to summarise clearly a very complex situation. Unfortunately, this chapter has an open ending, reflecting the unresolved status of this episode in history.

Paul has also provided me with bits and pieces to bring other chapters of the book up to date. I’ve peppered them around and adapted them to my own voice as much as possible.
Finally, in the interest of balancing his own opinions with facts (or at least with other opinions in the public arena), Paul has provided us with the long list of sources he used while writing the new pieces. You can find them all in the appendix Vocabulary and References.

I hope you enjoy this new edition, which, as well as facts and my own stories, now also includes someone else’s voice.

Pilar Orti
London, March 2018

Podcast on Spanish Podcasting

I am delighted to let you know that Craig Wealand (from La mansión del inglés)  and myself have teamed up to produce the podcast En clave de podcast – uncovering Spanish podcasting, in order to find out what on Earth is going on in that medium in Spain.

So far, we’re loving it.

But instead of writing about it, let us tell you about the show in this introductory episode cero. (And if you want to read about it, here’s the blog:

I hope you enjoy it – espero que os guste.

The A to Z of Spanish Christmas – Podcast

In the first of two special episodes on The A to Z of Spanish Christmas, I talk about

Estoy como unas pascuas
Fruta escarchada
Gallo (misa del)
K – no K, sorry.

Please follow this link to listen to the podcast,

or look for Spain Uncovered in iTunes, Stitcher of your favourite podcast app.

U is for Uvas

It’s Christmas time!

I’ve completely neglected this blog while I’ve been setting up the Spain Uncovered podcast and building up that site. But I’m back! And as it’s Christmas time, I wanted to share with you one of the chapters from the A to Z of Spanish Culture: U is for Uvas, where I talk through some of the Spanish Christmas traditions, or at least, through some of the ones I’ve come across throughout my life.

Here it is.

Feliz navidad.

G is for Guiri. Happy Guiri.

Who is the Happy Guiri?

He (or she, they can also be a she) is a person currently away from the land they grew up in.

That doesn’t mean they’re not happy. On the contrary. The happy guiris, by their very name and nature, manage to find happiness everywhere they go. Why?

They look around them and wonder at the wanders of human nature. They also wonder at the wanders of nature, full stop.

They take in what’s different, they take in what’s new. They compare, maybe, and then they move on.

The happy guiri is warm, not indifferent.

The smile behind his eyes takes in the whole world.

If he carries a camera, he still takes in life as he breathes and doesn’t just see the world through a rose-tinted lens. He might be “away” for two days, he might be “away” for two years, two decades…

Happy guiris know that there’s no place like home, but they also know that home is where the heart is. (They also speak in clichés every now and then.)

He’ll always feel like a guiri because he knows there’s a different way. But he will always be happy. A happy guiri.

“What is a guiri?” Guiri is the term that the Spanish use for foreigners, mainly for tourists, but not exclusively. I mainly hear it used affectionately now. In Spain, you can still spot a tourist or a foreigner; in London it’s a little bit harder. So a guiri is someone who breaks the mold, if only because their points of reference are different to most people around him/her. I now consider myself a guiri in Spain; I even look like one, especially when I walk around with my Dutch boyfriend who really looks the part. So, I’m a foreigner in the UK and a guiri in Spain. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner…

E is for Eurovisión 2013

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.

E is for Extras on the Letter K

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.

Kiko Veneno
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: