16 December 2012

Belenismo - A Spanish Christmas tradition

In Spain, as in many Catholic countries, the Christmas nativity scene goes way beyond a stable and a manger. The belén (from the Spanish name for Bethlehem) often recreates in miniature an entire Palestinian village, and examples can be seen in shop windows and public squares as well as schools, businesses, churches and homes.  The custom is thought to be over seven hundred years old, and even has its own name - belenismo.

A lovingly-prepared Belén in the backstreets of Alcalá
The little figures are often hand-made, with incredible attention to detail, and there are entire markets dedicated to selling them. We came across one in Seville yesterday: the Feria del Belén is located outside the cathedral and has been going for nearly twenty years.  It  has over 20 stalls selling everything from miniature mechanical blacksmiths, complete with moving hammers (€149), to tiny eggs and vegetables to put in tiny wicker baskets (from €1 each).
The Feria del Belen in Seville

Miniature delights for your home-made crib scene
In Catalan regions, every belén will have a caganer or "shitting shepherd" doing his business somewhere in the background.  Nobody is quite sure of his origins, but he has become such a popular figure that he is tolerated by the Church.
The Catalan Caganer
As well as static scenes, some towns stage a belén viviente with real people, real animals and even a real baby.  One of the most famous takes place in the historic centre of Arcos de la Frontera, not far from Alcalá, on a Saturday in mid-December (sadly it was cancelled this year because of the weather).  Closer still, the town of Medina Sidonia celebrates its Belén Viviente on the Sunday before Christmas Day.

Belen Viviente in Medina Sidonia
Alcalá was due to have its first live nativity yesterday, in the Plaza Alta, organised by the Restaurante Territorio Flamenco with live music and other goodies, but I fear it will also have been rained off.  Details of other seasonal events (weather permitting!) can be found here:  Navidad 2012 Alcalá de los Gazules

20 November 2012

The Republican Urinal

Visitors caught short in Alcalá will search in vain for a public convenience, but ´twas not ever thus.  During the short-lived Second Republic of the 1930s, the town's socialist administration provided the good people of Alcalá with a number of facilities previously lacking: a museum, a covered market, a library, and a public urinal.  However, it was nearly as short-lived as the Republic itself.

Here is its story (an abridged translation of an article by Jaime Guerra Martinez on the Historia de Alcalá de los Gazules blog).

The hexagonal public conveniences, a short hop from the bus stop

What disappointment was suffered
By the sons of our city
Over the public urinal
Built opposite Bernal's

This verse, sung by a band of street musicians during Alcalá's Carnival in the 1930s, reflected the popular reaction among the less prudish citizens to the introduction of a charge for using the recently-opened public urinal in what was then the Paseo de la República.

The urinal was a symbol of liberty for some, offering an essential public service and demystifying a natural physiological necessity, while for others it was affront to decency, bringing into public view something which should be done at home. But one has to wonder how many houses had adequate facilities for such functions, apart from the tin bucket in which the “doings of the stomach” were kept until nightfall, zealously protected from the flies.

Either way, what is certain is that our public convenience was born, lived and died during the most hazardous decade of 20th century Spain, the 1930s. Today it survives only in the memories of the elderly, a few photographs and the not insignificant records held in our Municipal Archive, which I choose bring to light to indulge my curiosity over what went on in that ill-fated hexagon, what was written on its walls, what comments and presumptions were ingrained in its encrusted yellowing basins .... 

The work was part of a group of construction projects carried out under the local Republican administration to improve the infrastructure and facilities of the town. It was agreed to build a “lavatory” opposite the house of Don Domingo Bernal on the Paseo de la República [now the Paseo de la Playa]. It was built in the spring of 1932, in the form of a hexagon whose sides corresponded with the six urinals inside. It was finished with decorative brickwork, in a reasonably harmonious vernacular style.

Nevertheless its location wasn't ideal, and the level of cleaning wasn't up to scratch, provoking irate protests from various citizens, some of whom regarded as too public certain things that ought to be more private. The objections came to a head when users were obliged to pay a charge towards its maintenance and the cost of an attendant.

So in September 1933 Don Andrés Jobacho, master builder, wrote to the council offering to demolish it and replace it with an underground one nearby, in exchange for the materials used for the original. The reasons given were the lack of hygiene, the loss of visibility from the Paseo, and the unaesthetic appearance and layout of the hexagon. The new location would be underneath a house he was building, which later became a shop [today it is the Cafeteria Siglo XXI].

Andrés Jobacho's proposed underground loos
The council appointed a Committee to report on the proposal, which found some important details were missing.  Jobacho was given the opportunity to revise it, and in February 1934 he delivered a new plan of the underground toilets, with separate cubicles for men and women, using the existing materials, sewerage disposal and water supply.

On 7 February Jobacho's proposal was approved, with just one opposing vote, a local builder called Gaspar Muñoz, who had pointed out the shortcomings in the original proposal.

By September Jobacho had all his permits, including the approval of the National Body of Engineers for Roads, Canals and Ports of the Province of Cadiz, and the Town Hall gave its authorisation on 26 September 1934.

The new toilets would have been underneath the
building in the foreground, now Siglo XXI

Nevertheless, the hexagonal urinal was not pulled down and neither was the underground one built. The reason was the change in Alcalá's [socialist] municipal government after the victory of CEDA [Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right] in the October 1934 elections.

In March 1938 it was proposed to build a new installation on the corner between the bull-ring and Calle Sánchez Flores, on a plot where a ruined house had been demolished. It would have six toilet compartments and the tiles from the original construction would be re-used. The budget rose to 1407 pesetas.

The 1938 plan, which never came to fruition

But this project did not go forward either, temporarily prolonging the life of the much-maligned hexagon.  On 9 June 1938 it was agreed that the “kiosk of necessities” should instead be turned into a bar or cafe, and the proceeds from its lease would contribute towards the planned indoor market. But the resolution was not well received and there were no takers for the lease, mainly because they would have to refurbish the building themselves.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Juan Cubo Cid, the attendant, requested retirement (not before time - he was 87). His request was approved,  the Management Committee abolished the post and the facility was closed.

On 29 December 1941 it was agreed to proceed with its demolition, a job which was given to Gaspar Muñoz Márquez, the builder who had voted against the original construction, who bought the materials for 450 pts.

This finally brought an end to the controversy, breaking definitively with that symbol which at that point in history had to be removed at any cost – the Republican urinal.

11 November 2012

Suicide or murder? Spain's other banking crisis

Last Friday a 53-year-old woman in the Basque Country threw herself out of the window of her 6th floor flat while the bailiffs were coming up the stairs to evict her for failing to keep up her mortgage repayments to La Caixa.  She was a former councillor, married with a 21-year-old son.  None of the neighbours were aware of the family's financial problems.

On 23 October a young man threw himself off a road bridge in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, after losing his job, his girlfriend and his home in quick succession.

On 24 October a 54-year-old man in Granada hanged himself in his patio after receiving an eviction notice from BBVA.  He had lived in the area all his life, and bought out his brothers' share of the property when they inherited it, but could no longer afford the repayments from the little he earned running a street kiosk.

On 7 July a 56-year-old disabled woman facing eviction threw herself out of the window of her eleventh-floor flat in Málaga city.  She got caught up on some railings and hung there helplessly for several minutes before falling to her death, watched by over a hundred people.  There was little press coverage, leading to speculation that the news had been suppressed.

Asasinos - murderers
There are probably many similar tragedies, but the National Institute of Statistics stopped reporting the reasons behind suicides in 2010.   However it is estimated that a third of suicides in Spain these days are related to the economic crisis.  Some people consider that the blame falls squarely on the banks, and that these "suicides"  are more accurately described as murders, leading to a graffiti campaign in many cities.

Since the financial bubble burst in 2008, over 350,000 families have been evicted from their homes after defaulting on their mortgage payments.  There is no housing benefit in Spain, and no statutory requirement to re-house people who lose their homes, even though Article 47 of the Constitution states that "all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing".  Care of the homeless is largely left to charities like the Red Cross.

 Meanwhile, the number of jobless is predicted to reach six million next year, more than a quarter of the working population.  For those still working, wages have been cut by up to 20% in some parts of the public sector.

50-year 120% mortgages on offer
During Spain's property boom, banks were handing out  mortgages to pretty well anyone who applied, including construction workers, immigrants on temporary contracts and young couples on low salaries.  They were even offering loans greater than they value of the property; house prices were rising by 10% a year, much more in some areas.

When the bubble burst in 2008, the building stopped, unemployment rose dramatically and many people could no longer afford to make their high mortgage repayments.

Under Spanish law, homeowners who fall behind with their mortgage repayments see their property repossessed by the lender, but are still responsible for paying off the debt.  There is no personal bankruptcy option in Spain, at least not without a long and costly court procedure.  In their election manifesto the Partido Popular included a pledge to change the law to "allow for debtors to be freed of their debts".  Since coming to power, this appears to have been quietly dropped.

Waiting for the bailiffs in Almería, copy of the Spanish Constitution in hand
Resistance to evictions has been vigorous. The Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform for those affected by mortgages, or PAH) was set up in Barcelona in February 2009 and has branches all over the country.  Their  "Stop Desahucios" activists have prevented hundreds of evictions, protesting outside banks and blocking the entry of bailiffs.  They have also organised the reoccupation of empty buildings repossessed by banks.  Their long term goal is to have the laws relating to mortgages changed.

Last Thursday, the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, Juliane Kokott, handed down a non-binding legal opinion that criticized Spanish laws regarding evictions, saying they were incompatible with European norms. The ruling came in response to a query from a Spanish court on a 2011 lawsuit over an eviction due to an unpaid mortgage. Kokott said the Spanish system did not sufficiently protect consumers against possible abusive clauses in mortgage contracts.

Non-violent civil disobedience by PAH members outside a bank in Málaga
Meanwhile society is coming up with its own innovative solutions.  Last week the Mayor of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, José Manuel Bermúdez, carried out his threat not to work with banks who failed to negotiate terms with defaulters and withdrew 1.5 million Euros from the city's account with Bankia (the same bank which has been bailed out with billions of euros of taxpayers' money).   Bankia swiftly reversed its decision to evict three families in the town.  One was that of Carmen Omaña, a Venezuelan whose husband had left her and her children after she was sacked from her job as a domestic cleaner.  Carmen had been on hunger strike for five days outside the branch, accompanied by PAH activists and local councillors.

Carmen and her childen will be rehoused at a rent she can afford
Leaders of the Spanish Police Union, the SUP, have just confirmed they will back officers who refuse to take part in evicting people from their homes.

Prompted by the national and international reaction to the suicides (much harder to ignore than street protests), the Spanish government has put together a "task force" to examine the problem of evictions.  It is not expected to report until January 2013.  In the meantime banks are being requested (not ordered) to freeze all foreclosures currently under way.

Changes in the law will come too late for Amaia Egaña in Barakaldo ...
... too late for José Miguel Domingo in Granada ...
... and too late for Isabel in Málaga.

26 October 2012

Alcalá online

It is often observed, not without affection, that Alcalá is thirty years behind the times.  People still say hello to strangers, prefer corner shops to supermarkets, and have conversations in the middle of the street as if traffic were some newfangled nuisance they haven't got used to yet. Yet when it comes to online social networking,  the Alcalainos are right up there.

"¡Eres mi amiga en Febu!" exclaimed a middle-aged lady one day in the street, grabbing me by the arm.  I had no idea who she was.  "You are my friend on ..."  Febu???  It was a few seconds before the penny dropped.  Round here they don't pronounce the letter S and they ignore those pesky final consonants.  Try again ...

I started using Facebook when we moved here in 2008, to keep in touch with friends and family in other parts of the world, but soon started to receive friend requests from unfamiliar Spanish names. They came from all age groups and all walks of life, from the road-sweeper to the school headmaster.  At first I wondered whether it was OK to accept requests from complete strangers, but decided that in this context it didn't really matter.    Being a blonde foreigner with an unpronounceable name, everyone knows me, and it's a great compliment that they want to get to know me better.  I have been introduced to so many dark-haired, brown-eyed Marias and Manolos, however, that I still find it hard to remember who I am supposed to know.  (Not that they all look the same, you understand - I'm just not good with faces.)  So  I accept them all, not wishing to offend anyone, and always smile warmly at anyone in the street who appears to know me, just in case.

Chatting in Spanish on Febu is much easier than having face-to-face conversations with people who don't use consonants.  I know now who else supports FC Barcelona (we are a minority round here and have to stick together!)  I learn about people's political views, enjoy their music clips, laugh at their cartoons and try out their recipes, all without leaving the house.  They, in turn, like to see my photos, videos and paintings of the town, and occasionally try out their English on me.

Then of course there's the "guiri" page, used by Alcalá's dwindling number of expats to organise our social life, dispose of unwanted items and and put out pleas for urgently required cooking ingredients not found in the local shops ...

My absolute favourite Facebook page is Historia de Alcalá de los Gazules en Imagenes - a history of the town and its people, created by locals and exiles posting their own photos of days gone by.  Some of the images - and the comments - are very poignant.  Others reinforce the fact that even in the hardest times, the people here found ways to enjoy themselves.

Display of horsemanship in what is now the municipal carpark, from
the Historia de Alcalá de los Gazules en Imagenes Facebook page

It isn't only individuals here who use Facebook.  The political parties use it for their slanging matches (the subsequent comments are often more eloquent and enlightening than the original post).  The Ayuntamiento uses it to tell us of forthcoming events up to a week in advance, a great improvement on the same-day emails we used to get.  Bars and restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon to promote their menus, and for the last couple of years we have used it to publicise the annual classical music festival.   The local newspaper, Trafalgar Información, publishes articles daily on Facebook so you don't have to wait two weeks for the printed edition.  I've even had a friend request from a local crane hire company (I did actually decline that one!)

Find out what's going on by subscribing to ALCALÁ AL DIA

14 October 2012

Is Spain falling apart?

"In Spain, separatist fever rises in time of crisis", proclaimed the Washington Post yesterday.  "Independence for Catalonia? Over my dead body… and those of many soldiers!" retorted Francisco Alamán, a serving colonel in the Spanish army.  "Is Spain on the verge of another civil war?" pondered Paul Mason, Economics Editor of BBC Newsnight, referring to the growing desire for independence in Catalonia and the Basque Country as well as huge wave of anti-austerity protests sweeping the country.

A million and a half Catalans clamouring for independence
Under the Franco regime, regional identity was brutally repressed and languages other than Castellano (Spanish) were banned in order to achieve a unified Spain. When the country returned to democracy after his death, the 1978 Constitution defined Spain as a single indivisible unit made up of seventeen "autonomous communities", but with varying levels of autonomy.  For example, Catalonia and Pais Vasco have their own police forces and others, such as Valencia and Andalusia, obtained the right to run their own health and education systems.  

This "asymmetric decentralisation" was an attempt at pacifying the various demands of the regions and the national political groups, known as "café para todos" (coffee for all), but it remains an awkward, costly and over-bureaucratic compromise.  Some regions were given decentralised powers they didn't really want, while others were deprived of powers they felt they had a right to.

The last PSOE government made some attempts to negotiate new deals with the major players in Catalonia and the Basque Country, and claims the disarmament of the Basque Separatist group ETA as one of its achievements.   But the current regime is far less sympathetic to greater regional autonomy, and this, together with increasing anger and frustration among the population brought on by the austerity measures, has once again brought the independence issue to the forefront of Spanish politics.

So is this country really falling apart?  Let's take a closer look.

Last month a million and a half Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona, demanding independence for Spain's most prosperous region.  Catalonia (Catalunya in Catalan) has always regarded itself as a separate nation, with its own distinct culture and language, and as Spain's economic situation goes from bad to worse many Catalans are fed up with what they see as bailing out the country's poorer regions.

The Spanish government has refused to entertain their proposal for fiscal independence, so the ruling CiU (Convergence and Union party, led by Artur Mas)  has called a snap election - effectively a referendum for independence, since regional referendums are not allowed under the Constitution - to be held on 25 November.  The PSC (Socialist Party of Catalonia) have declared themselves against independence.

The Basque Country
Meanwhile over in Pais Vasco, or Euskadi as it is known in the Basque language, a regional election will take place a week today, on 21 October.   The Basque independence movement has its roots in a xenophobic ideology based on the purity of the Basque race, promoted in the late 19th century by Sabino Arana, founder of the the right-wing Basque Nationalist Party, the PNV.  Autonomy was granted in 1936 during the Second Republic, but promptly removed by Franco's nationalist forces.

The current president, Patxi López of the PSE-EE (Basque Socialist Party) is the first Lehendakari (leader) not affiliated to the PNV, and only came to power thanks to a coalition with the right-wing PP, who are also opposed to separatism.  López is unlikely to retain the leadership, as next week's election will for the first time include the leftist-separatist coalition Bildu, which means "Gather".  Bildu was born in 2011 from the ashes of the banned Batasuna party, the political wing of the armed campaign group ETA, who declared a ceasefire a year ago.  Bildu was initially banned too, like its short-lived predecessor Sortu, but the ban was lifted shortly before last year's municipal elections and Bildu picked up 26% of the vote.

"You are in the BASQUE COUNTRY - this is neither Spain nor France!"
Elections also take place next Sunday in a third autonomous community in northern Spain with aspirations to nationalism. The right-wing Partido Popular (PP) are likely to retain power. Galicia is traditionally a PP stronghold (Spain's current president Mariano Rajoy is a Galego), although from 2005 to 2009 it was ruled by a coalition between the Socialist Party of Galicia and the BNG (Galician Nationalist Bloc).

Unlike in the Basque Country and Catalonia, the PP in Galicia embraces the notion of galicianism - the defence of Galicia and its culture by the means of the establishment and strengthening of its own institutions. None of these parties want outright independence from Spain, but REGA, the Galician Resistance Movement have carried out a number of terrorist attacks in the name of nationalism over the last few years.

Down here in the south there is nothing comparable to the separatist movements of the north.    Nevertheless, there is a strong sense of andalucismo in terms of recognising the Andalusian people as a "nation", rooted in the peasant anarchism of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Later, these anarchist cores became protagonists in conflicts between local people and Madrid.  With the declaration of the First Spanish Republic in 1873, various nationalist currents began to emerge and in 1883 an assembly gathered at Antequera drafted a constitution styling Andalucía as an autonomous republic inside a federal state. The leader of this movement was Blas Infante, known as the father of Andalusian nationalism, and it led eventually to the region gaining its autonomous status following the end of Franco's dictatorship.

Today there are a few minority groups who believe Andalucía would benefit from cutting the ties with Madrid, but they have little popular support and no political presence.  The PA (Andalusian Party),  has a few municipal councillors, mainly in the provinces of Cádiz and Sevilla, but its focus is on achieving a fully autonomous status for Andalusia within a federalist Spain.   Few people believe that economically, Andalucía could survive, let alone thrive, as an independent state.

Proud to be Andalusian - and fed up with being looked down on

Aragón was once an independent kingdom, which merged with Castile to form what eventually became Spain.  It has its own language, spoken by fewer than 30,000 people in the valleys of the Pyrenees. While there is some pro-independence support, most of Aragon's population does not seek an independent state but wants to be fully recognized as a distinct and important region in Spain.

Like Aragón, Asturias was formerly a Kingdom and has its own language, which is spoken as a second language by almost half a million people and is optional in schools.  It has no strong motivation for independence, and the nationalist party Andecha Astur polled less than 1% of the vote at the last election.

Canary Islands
The CC (Coalición Canaria), which has governed the islands since 1993, aims for greater autonomy but not independence.   Although it defines Las Canarias as a nation, the CC is more of a lobby group to favour Canarian interests within Spain than a nationalist movement.

Valencian (a variant of Catalan) is spoken in most of the region, but the nationalist sentiment is not widespread and most of the population consider themselves as much Spanish as Valencian.  The BNV party (Valencian Nationalist Bloc) aims to "achieve full national sovereignty for the Valencian people, and make it legally declared by a Valencian sovereign Constitution allowing the possibility of association with the countries which share the same language, history and culture" [i.e. Catalan-speaking regions].  It has some representation at local level but has never achieved the magic 5% of the vote necessary to gain representation in the regional parliament.  Other groups such as Esquerra Valenciana and the Valencian Union have as yet no political representation.

None of the other autonomous communities have nationalist movements in the sense of wishing to define themselves as non-Spanish, though there are numerous regionalist groups campaigning for changes to the current territorial boundaries within the country.

The future
Clearly, Spain cannot continue with the current mishmash of semi-decentralised power relationships, which nobody is happy with. But what is the way forward?  The Young Federalists of Europe offer an interesting perspective:
The end of the “café para todos” means that Spain has to find a new way to structure itself and find new procedures to negotiate the future organisation of the country. Broadly speaking there are two options: going back to a Unitarian centralist state or advancing towards a federation.
The first option is defended by some members of the Partido Popular, the Spanish conservative party, and more especially by its former Prime Minister Mr. Aznar. However, this idea has little chances of succeeding, unless it is imposed by force - an unlikely scenario in the current European framework ...
The second option is to advance towards a Spanish federation. There are many challenges with this option, the first being that this option has a lot less proponents than the pro-centralisation one. In fact, the federalist cause does not have any prominent figure supporting it in Spain ...  
The federalisation of the parts is not something that can be agreed overnight by the two ruling parties; it requires a “federalisation process” based on trust in which the Spanish citizens should participate in the creation of this common space in which democracy and rule of law would organise the relationships between regions and peoples. Neither autonomy nor loyalty can be imposed by decree. 
Federalism and the future of Spain (The New Federalist, May 2011)

There is a third option of course, a  as hinted at  by EU President José Manuel Barroso in his recent State of the Union speech.  Could we envisage Catalonia, the Basque Country and even Scotland as mini-states in a "United States of Europe"? Hold that thought ...

13 September 2012

Romería 2012

It's that time of the year again, when the people of Alcalá pay homage to Nuestra Señora de los Santos (Our Lady of the Saints) at the nearby Santuario.  This lovely little video from ArteVisualCadiz captures the moment beautifully.  Thanks to Rosa Almagro Montes de Oca for permission to include it here.

28 August 2012

Death in the Afternoon - back on TV

Televisión Española (TVE), the state-funded Spanish TV network, is to start broadcasting live bullfights again in September, it was announced last week.

This practice was stopped in 2006, under the centre-left government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, because it was feared that children might be upset by seeing a matador killed or seriously injured in the ring (and because TVE were being priced out of the market for the major festivals by private broadcasters).  The edited highlights were broadcast late in the evening.

Last year TVE pulled bullfighting from its schedules altogether, saying it contravened its code of conduct for programmes before Spain's late evening watershed hour.  Bullfights mostly start at 6 pm, falling into children's viewing hours.   (Interestingly, there is no age limit on children attending the events in person.)  Furious fans accused the broadcaster of shunning a key part of Spanish popular culture. "This means that TVE, which belongs to us all, will deprive us of something that over the centuries has formed part of the cultural patrimony of many Spaniards," bellowed columnist Andrés Amorós in the newspaper ABC.

TVE is in the middle of a major shake-up that has seen its budget slashed by 37 percent this year. The current right-wing government have taken the opportunity to remove several prominent journalists who have openly criticised their policies, notably breakfast TV presenter Ana Pastor.  It has also removed the restriction on live bullfights from TVE's code of conduct.
Ana Pastor - sacked for speaking out

So TVE have decided to air live bullfights again, starting with a prestigious event in Valladolid on 5 September.  Breeders and promoters have agreed to waive their broadcasting fees, and top matadors Julián López – known as El Juli – José María Manzanares and Alejandro Talavante have waived their royalties.

The current President, Mariano Rajoy, is known to be a fan of los toros, but it is a deeply divisive issue across the country and has been banned in the Canaries, Cataluña and most recently, San Sebastian in the Basque country.  "Now the bullfighting lobby seems prepared to do anything in order to bring live fights back to our public television channel, even if that means trampling over European Union television rules," say PACMA, the animal rights party, which lobbies against bullfighting.

So we will once again be able to enjoy our afternoon tea or early-evening beer in the local bar accompanied by the roar of the crowd in our ears and TV close-ups of blood pouring from gigantic cloven-hoofed mammals goaded by men in skin-tight pink pants.

To be honest I always thought the ban on live broadcasts was a bit daft and rather un-Spanish, reminiscent of the British Elf & Safety culture much trumpeted by the Daily Wail.  Either ban it completely and be done with it, or let children see it as it is.  After all, Spanish kids are used to seeing blood on the telly: every road accident report is accompanied by close-ups of bloodstained tarmac, twisted metal and hastily-covered bodies.  Let them be the judges of whether this barbarous activity is part of their "cultural patrimony", to be protected at all costs.


22 August 2012

The Gallery Trail

Last week, coinciding with the 8th Festival Internacional de Música, Alcalá had its first Paseo de Galerías. It was organised jointly by the Town Hall and the Painting in Spain art school. Local artists and craftsmen from all over the region of La Janda were invited to display their works in bars, restaurants and empty shops around the town, for the public to drop in, enjoy a drink and  tapas, and hopefully purchase a painting or two.

Despite taking place in one of the hottest Augusts on record, and the failure of some of the participants to show up, the event was reasonably successful with several paintings sold, and was enjoyed by locals as well as visitors.

Here are some of the exhibits.

Watercolours by Benito García Morán on the Calle Real:

Acrylics by yours truly in the Peña Madridista (Real Madrid supporters club), hanging amongst the Cristiano Ronaldo shirts and trophy posters:

Oils by María Gómez in the San Jorge Hotel:

Oils by Carmen Aras Guerrero, in Restaurante Pizarro:

Mule harnesses and other decorative "Guarnicionería", by Lázaro Jiménez Venegas, in Bar los Ponys:

Oils by Manuel Rey Pulestán on the Alameda:

Acrylics by Andy Russell in the Flamenco Bar:

Paco "El dornillero", making traditional wooden bowls in his workshop on Calle Paulo Emilio: