Spaniards generally still believe it is their absolute right – even their obligation – to enjoy themselves. This may be the reason, researchers suggest, why Spaniards live longer than other Europeans. Of course their diet, heavy in fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and olive oil, helps too. Inevitably, there is a down-side as well: the Spanish are
consumers of cocaine, alongside the British.
There is a dark side to
recent history. The atrocities committed
by both the left and the right during, and most pertinently by Franco’s regime
after, the Civil War of 1936-39 have to all intents and purposes been buried
with all those thousands of bodies. Only now, over sixty years later are
unmarked graves being exhumed and stories being told. Tremlett movingly follows
this tragic journey of the good and the bad, the victims and the killers.
Supporters of the communist cause were murdered and buried along countless
roadsides. About 30,000 children of communist Spaniards were abducted and adopted.
Even after the transition to democracy in 1975, it seems that a tacit agreement
of silence was made about all this. [Indeed,
these events inspired me to write the short story ‘Grave Concerns, published in
a magazine, and now in Spanish Eye
(Crooked Cat Publishing), paperback available post-free worldwide here].
Civil wars are often worse than other types of conflict, as it’s brother against brother, neighbour against neighbour. At the war’s end, 500,000 Spaniards were dead, not to mention the Italians and Germans who fought for Franco and those Russians and other foreigners who volunteered for the International Brigades. Thousands went into exile. Then the post-war regime systematically rooted out sympathisers of the enemy and sent them to labour camps or executed them. Now, though, you’ll be hard put to it to find a statue of Franco; even the national anthem has been expunged of words - Francoist words; only now are they considering writing new words for the anthem.
To balance the endemic networking and nepotism of the Spanish system, they have other values, such as nobility, fairness, valour and justice. In Spain, the politically correct brigade is never going to reach the idiotic levels it has attained in the litigation-fearful UK and US. That’s because the Spanish are radically opposed to banning anything ‘that smacks of restriction or prohibition, as it’s considered immoral, old-fashioned and fascist.’ When you’ve lived through one dictatorship, you’re unlikely to welcome another.
has grasped change with eagerness. Their
women won the vote in 1931, only three years after the UK and well ahead of France,
Italy or Belgium. Granted, many of these freedoms were
curtailed by Franco while he was in power. But now, for such an ostensibly male
chauvinist country, women can be seen in all walks and all levels of life,
including the Guardia Civil (since1988).
It’s estimated that Spain
has the highest plastic surgery rate in Europe,
and one of the highest rates of organ donorship.
Eschewing the mañana stereotype, Spaniards actually have a can-do attitude. For example, the
From new buildings to old. The
Isles is rich in history and castles and many British tourists
are saddened and surprised at the dereliction of many fortifications in Spain. But bear in mind that Spain has about 8,000 castles and other
fortifications and hundreds of monasteries and convents. It’s just impossible to allocate restoration
funds to all of them.
Tremlett strives to learn what binds gypsies, jails and flamenco. He attempts to discover the attractions of legal brothels – night clubs. He travels throughout the Basque and Catalan lands in the hope of learning the reasons for their demands for separation from
Spain, wondering why Galicia,
who also has a strong case, is quite content to remain without autonomy.
The foregoing is a random selection from an interesting, humane and well-researched book by a British journalist who married a Spanish woman and has lived in
for over a decade. Tremlett is clearly
writing about a country he loves, a country and a people who amaze and mystify
him. Spain’s history is still shaping him and his family and, indeed, all of those
expats who have chosen to live here. [The book has been updated and revised
since I read it. Latest print date, 2012]
It will also change several preconceptions about
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Spanish Eye e-book available from Amazon.com here