After a month in Spain I hardly dare to offer an opinion about this nation of my father and my grandparents that I have shared, since November 20th, with my wife and her family, residents of La Vall d’Uixó, Castellón province, half an hour from Valencia, 180 miles from Barcelona and 240 from Madrid; cities I know from imagination and literature although their streets and monuments are still a visual and bookish reference for me.
I’ve only traveled the road from Madrid to La Vall and from there to Valencia, Castellón and its surrounding villages — Villa Real, Villa Vieja, Xilxes and Moncofa; as well as across the central Castellan plateau stopping in some medieval towns of Murcia, Toledo and the community of Madrid. Insufficient, right?
Yes, but I dare to express an opinion because every day I read El Pais, I watch the news, a couple of comedy programs — The Intermediate and The Comedy Club — and I talk with people from various social strata who speak from their experience and emotions about the political situation and the possible causes of the economic crisis and its consequences.
In my environment are predominantly people who cast the blame for the current disaster on the “housing boom promoted by Aznar,” as if Zapatero hadn’t been president for 8 years and the king, the courts, and other personalities and institutions didn’t have anything to do with it, along with the regional representatives and the provincial and local organizations.
In Spain they speak from the heart and ideological positioning. Generally I hear horrors about Esperanza Aguirre, a former president of the Community of Madrid, the former president Aznar and his wife Ana Botella, current mayor of Madrid, Rajoy and unpopular measures adopted by the Government.
The blame is extended with colorful shading to the banks, the European Union, the German Chancellor. It seems that almost nobody walks in someone else’s shoes, nor thinks it’s their own fault, as if those below were little angels forced to take on debt and now condemned to dismissal by the works and grace of those above.
I hear these and other points of view, some very sharp, but I try not to offer an opinion to avoid contradicting them. It’s outside my circumstances although the national situation affects me … In my case, the hardest part is avoiding questions about Cuba because my hosts perceive me as a fount of data, almost like a Odysseus about to drown in the wave of totalitarian injustice, rescued from the wreck by his Spanish Penelope.
About Cuba I don’t play dumb, I say what I think and sometimes I hurt the sensibilities of those who believe in the myth of Castro as a liberating process. They compare this half century dictatorship with Franco’s and I am even asked what positive legacy he leaves the Caribbean nation. As it is almost impossible to satisfy such curiosity I’ve been tempted to reverse the question: what achievements did Spain manage under the rule of Francisco Franco?
I do not follow that endless road because, up to now — and despite the crisis and the naive — I have received a lot of love and kindness from Spain and the Spanish. I perceive Spain as a year-end ballad. Spain is tragicomic but it is neither a tango, nor is it an eschatological lament that rends the voice of flamenco singers, so peculiar in the Andalusian cities.
Apparently, the crisis has not yet hit bottom in the old Hispania. If we compare it to Cuba, this it is a paradise full of cars, clean streets without dogs, crowded markets, half-empty trains and people celebrating with family or among friends, with wines, meats, fruits and other delicacies, while making jokes and cursing politicians.
Miguel Iturria Savon
December 31 2012