Autonomy and Anarchy

I do not mean to suggest that Catalunya is in a state of anarchy.

I do wish to remind myself that historical memory can inform politics today.

During the Civil War, an ideological conflict, the anarchists, some of whom committed anticlerical murders, were associated with the Republicans centered in Barcelona.

The central government’s decision to send in the National Guard to shut down the October 1 referendum elections, with a focus on Barcelona, reminded me that Spanish elected officials, and maybe a few citizens too, may still harbor fears of a Catalan uprising.

I do not believe the October 1 referendum elections amounted to an uprising and the Catalans who chose to leave their homes to vote did not deserve the forceful shutdown of the elections they endured. Did the Catalans have the right to vote on the referendum? Maybe not. But what good did it do to disrupt the process by force?

The central government’s decision to unleash the National Guard on Barcelona’s voters served the public relations function of making it appear that the referendum voters were staging a dangerous revolt. Hence old perceptions of Catalans as anarchists may have been inflamed.

The President of Catalunya, who never declared independence, has refused to rescind his independence movement. Madrid has used Article 55 of Spain’s constitution to seize control of Catalunya’s government including the Catalan police (Mossos d’Escuadra) which group, it is judged, colluded with the separatists by not supporting the National Guards’ use of force.

The upshot is that Catalunya is no longer an autonomous community. The formation of autonomous communities in 1978, nineteen in all, was a major step in Spain’s transition to democracy. Each “autonomía” has a parliament from which a president is named.

Without autonomy, Catalunya will not fall into anarchy. But it will be difficult for Madrid to call regional elections from outside Catalunya and ensure that the majority of seats points to a leader not for independence. In other words, I do not how fair the electoral process will be from inside or outside Catalunya.

If Madrid appoints a president it risks further painting Catalunya as a region of anarchists. This perception could have far-reaching consequences for Catalunya’s image in Spain and in the world.

If the Catalans were anarchists, they would not generate 18.9% of Spain’s GDP (Catalunya’s economy is roughly the size of Finland’s).


January marks thirty years ago that I lived and studied in Barcelona. I lived in the Sagrada Familia neighborhood (but never entered the cathedral), went to classes at the University of Barcelona, visited friends at their flat in the Raval, escaped to Sitges each Tuesday during the bus strike, and ate falafel in the Plaça de Catalunya every weekend in the early hours of the morning before going to bed.

Jordi Pujol was the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya (and later I named a cat after this leader who served from 1980 to 2003, Jordi) and catalans had been free of Franco’s regime for a decade. Everywhere “catalán” was heard, spoken and seen.  The separatists had already formed but I observed that the assertion of independence was mostly expressed linguistically and culturally. At the University, for example, the professor of the art history course I was taking chose to teach it in Catalonian.  This classroom experience, and the friends I made who spoke to me in Catalonian, is how I learned to understand the language.  But I used Castillian to reply or write course work.

I have not returned to Barcelona since my study abroad semester there because I never felt at home.  The homestay from hell was a trial to be sure but the city itself felt unwelcoming to me.  The double language conversations in all places, including my homestay, were engaging but ultimately exhausting, I think, as I reflect back today.  Even my first hour in Barcelona was stressful – a taxi driver at the airport who pretended to not know the address I gave him in Bona Nova and who drove circles around town to increase his fare.

My college adviser had strenuously warned me that Barcelona was not the place to learn Castillian but I overruled him, withdrew from school, and attended the program through another university.  The academics were life-changing but the city was overwhelming.  To be fair, I had never lived in a city that large and the culture shock literally choked me on the smoggy streets during my daily walk to class.  Anti-American demonstrations were more common than separatist rallies.  I spent one 24-hour period in my homestay apartment out of fear.  Crowds protested (rightfully so) the U.S. bombing of Libya and it felt scary to be an American in that metropolis.

Still, the Catalonian language grabbed me and did not let me go.  I considered Catalonian Studies for my Ph.D.  The independence movement that has taken hold in Catalonia fascinates me, but strictly as a scholar.  Today I identify myself with Castille and Madrid, a city I would be willing to make my second home.



Tapas for Donna

Cuándo tapear

  • Bars, cafés and cafeterías are open for your first coffee and your last glass of wine before dinner; they are open to professionals, retirees, families, young couples and students – that is, everyone
  • Spaniards go out for tapas before the big meal at 3pm because the Spanish breakfast is so light
  • Spaniards go out for tapas between 5 and 11pm during the “paseo,” a leisurely stroll through the streets (which can include shopping) with family and friends
  • It is not unusual to visit 5-15 bars during the “paseo”
  • Bars, cafés and cafeterías usually close by midnight and do not serve dinner
  • Bars that open after midnight serve cocktails, play loud music, and do not offer food; they charge a cover
  • Clubs for dancing, “discotecas,” open at 2am and close at 8am; they charge a steep cover
  • Go out for “churros y chocolate” or “falafel” before bed if you stay out till sunrise

Cómo tapear

  • In bars, cafés and cafeterías every beverage, hot or cold, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, is available except cocktails
  • Sherry is fun to order: “fino” or “amontillado” is dry and cold; “oloroso” is sweeter and room temperature
  • For a quick, single serving sangría-like drink, order “tinto de verano” which is “vino tinto” mixed with “Fanta limón”
  • During the “paseo” Spaniards order at the bar and remain standing up
  • Sometimes you have to wade the crowd and issue gruff commands to bar staff for the best service:  “Oye, dáme un vino tinto y un pintxo”
  • A free tapa or pintxo is frequently served with your drink
  • If you want a plate for sharing with 3 people or more, ask for a “ración”
  • Beer is ordered by the size of glass:  “una caña” holds 6-8 ounces and “una copa” holds 12 ounces or so
  • Ordering tapas is easy if you don’t speak Spanish because they are displayed on the bar counter or listed on a big menu – just point
  • Don’t leave Spain without trying:  croquetas, chipirones, patatas bravas, jamón serrano, pulpo gallego, tortilla, aceitunas, gambas al ajillo
  • In busy establishments, bartenders keep track of how much to charge you by the size and color of plates or the number and colors of toothpicks served with your tapas
  • If you sit down for service, maybe at an outdoor table, expect slower and more formal service; refuse bread if it arrives because it will be charged to you
  • At the bar or seated at a table, pay at the very end, asking directly and gruffly, “Cóbrame, por favor” or “La cuenta, por favor”
  • Tip very lightly for table service, maybe 5%
  • Tip nothing for service at bar counter
  • All water is bottled; order with or without “gas”

Dónde tapear

In general, stay off the beaten path by exploring safe neighborhoods where locals go.  Bars located on main thoroughfares are for tourists, with exceptions.

In Barcelona

Strolling down the Ramblas to the urban beach, Barceloneta, is a good idea, even visiting Mercat Boquería on your right hand side (if you are facing Mediterranean) but keep close to the Market without penetrating its surrounding neighborhood; on your left hand side is the Barri Gòtic which is worth exploring for its rustic wine-drinking establishments (and underground Roman ruins) if you take care around Plaça Real known for drug use

In Madrid

The neighborhood between El Paseo del Prado and La Plaza Mayor boasts more taverns than all of Norway; use Calle de las Huertas to guide your stroll

Leaving the Plaza Mayor, the Cava de San Miguel and Calle Cuchilleros streets hold amazing possibilities

For an after-hours experience, there are several ice-bars in Madrid worth visiting

In Sevilla

For the best, authentic nightlife cross the Isabel II bridge to visit La Triana, turn right or left at the end of the bridge for great tapas bars on the Guadalquivir River; these bars serve food late into the night.  Order “sangría” here, not in Barcelona or Madrid.  If you are lucky, a flamenco performance will spontaneously erupt from the crowd

In Granada

Calle Navas is a must-stroll because it is wall-to-wall tapas; locate la Plaza de Carmen on Calle Reyes Católicos; then walk through plaza to this street spur

Another fun neighborhood can be accessed by leaving the Plaza Nueva on Calle Elvira and strolling down side streets; if you are headed uphill this means your ascending the Albaicín neighborhood which is mostly residential and not one hundred percent safe at night

Strolling downhill, by crossing Calle Gran Vía de Colón, you will discover bars and shopping together in this upscale commercial district where the Cathedral is located; visit the Plaza de Bib-Rambla for lots of choices

Stores in Spain are open 10-2 and 5-9, generally.

Terminal 4 (Brenna H.)


España es un país muy visitado de viajeros de todo el mundo. Si vas a España, pasarás por el aeropuerto Barajas, específicamente T4. Durante el año 2013, más de 39 millones de viajeros pasaron por el terminal nuevo. En España, turismo es una clave a la economía. Pero, la crisis económica de 2008 ha puesto muchas cargas en los desarrollos de España.

Has llegado a Barajas, el aeropuerto internacional de Madrid. El terminal más nuevo se llama T4, y tiene una área superficie de 1.2 millón metros cuadrados. El terminal es una extensión que empezó en 2000. El proyecto tuvo un precio de más de mil millones de euros. La construcción usó 45.000 toneladas de acero estructural y 250.000 metros cúbicos de hormigón.

El diseño de T4 tiene muchas metas. Primero, la flexibilidad es importante para aumentar capacidad de aviones y adaptarse a cambios del futuro. El diseño del terminal 4 apuntó a ser relajante y calmado para eliminar el estrés de viajar. Muchos de los diseños tienen enfoque en la arquitectura moderna, por ejemplo el uso de materiales blandos y brillantes de la naturaleza. El techo de T4 está revistado con bambú para evocar relajación y simplicidad.

Hoy en día, el terminal tiene muchas identidades. La arquitectura del terminal es muy importante porque produce la impresión primera a los turistas. Pero ahora, la construcción en T4 está incompleta y por encima del presupuesto. Relativo al aeropuerto principal, T4 está muy lejos y hay distancias muy largas entre puertas de embarque. Más allá del puesto de control en T4, no hay restaurantes, pero solo máquinas expendedoras. En diciembre de 2006, hubo un atentado del grupo terrorista se llama ETA. Pusieron bomba por el aparcamiento de T4, y produjo dos muertes y 55 heridas. ETA es un grupo terrorista extremo que lucha para la autonomía del país vasco. Su atentado representa el uso de los recursos para beneficiar a Madrid porque ETA está en contra de los usos de los impuestos. Aunque extrema, es una identidad muy negativa de T4.

En otras palabras, terminal 4 es un ejemplo de un aeropuerto fantasma. Estos aeropuertos tienen construcción incompleta sin fondos para terminar, y son insuficientes para usar. España tiene 7 más aeropuertos fantasmas, por ejemplo en Ciudad Real, León, y Murcia. El futuro para estos edificios no es muy optimista porque la economía está sufriendo. En mi opinión, la solución es para trabajar con el ministerio de Fomento de España porque el financiamiento de los proyectos de construcción es escaso e insuficiente. Sin embargo, España puede mejorar y usar los beneficios del turismo para terminar los aeropuertos y hacer desarrollos.


Tales from T-4


Like a rat maze, escalators going nowhere but up and down, opaque glass walls obstruct our view of what’s ahead, and “under construction” panels make the space inhospitable.  Billed as a model of legibility, Madrid’s Terminal 4, which includes a Satellite Terminal (T4s) two kilometers away, was designed to handle up to seventy million passengers per year.  It cost one billion euros to build.

Ranked third in 2013 for the number of visitors received, Spain is a tourism marvel.  Its allure is the old and new, side by side.  Sometimes called “el culto de lo nuevo,” Spain has been distancing itself from its past by funding the most daring construction projects in history.  T4 is no exception.  There is one problem:  the building is unfinished.

We left T4 twice, once to San Sebastian then, on our return from the beach vacation, to Dallas.  We arrived the first time to be told by Iberia that we could not fly out early for our destination even though there were plenty of seats on the flights.  But our search for food was the true test of endurance and patience.  Not wishing to eat at McDonald’s, we walked in circles, and up and down escalators, for close to an hour before finding a Spanish restaurant I had identified.  My inquiry at the information desk was not fruitful; I was given a map that lays on my desk as I write this blog.

Published by the Ministerio de Fomento (roughly, Ministry of Development, but I prefer this translation twist, Ministry of Encouragement), no restaurants or restrooms appear on the map.  More a colorful artwork, than a map, we are instructed to put this paper in the waste basket when finished with it.  This is the farce of Spanish bureacracy:  there is an appearance of order where there is chaos.

On our way to Dallas, we spent another hour searching for the passage from Spain to Concourse U.  We finally exited immigration into a concourse with little air conditioning and no services except a limited coffee bar and vending machines.  Having left the Basque country for Madrid’s airport, we were subject to more security questions at the gate.  In fairness, all passengers were expected to again present their passports and answer questions.  However, the gate agent spoke with me for 30 minutes:  Who packed your luggage?  When did it leave your hotel?  How did it travel to the airport? Did you check it in?  I knew the airline was concerned about my daughter’s 85 bouncy balls (think hard, rubber super balls) but I did not want to seem impertinent or too knowing.  I kept my mouth shut about the bouncy balls.

The same year it opened in 2006, the T4 parking lot was blown up by a van bomb put there by ETA, Spain’s internal Basque terrorist organization.  Two people died, immigrants asleep in their car, and 52 were injured.  This bombing ended the ceasefire which had been in effect since 2003.  I believe terrorism is simply meaningless violence, without comprehensible motivation.  But T4 had become the symbol of Madrid’s central government and its big spending.

Today many projects stand unfinished in Spain’s capital, the real estate boom gone bust.  T4 is serviceable for sure, but not perfect as originally proposed.  An opinion writer for Spain’s newspaper, Jerónimo Andreu for El País, sums up the problem in the title of his article, “Los cadáveres de Madrid” published February 22, 2013, a little over seven years after T4 opened.  Andreu tells us of a related T4 project.  On the new, pink Metro line to T4, an underground check-in terminal was built at Nuevos Ministerios with 34 counters.  It now stands empty.

With a boarding pier of 1.2 kilometers, T-4 has 174 check-in counters and 64 stands for planes.  In 2010 and 2011 49 million passengers traveled through the terminal.  I read the slogan on my T4 map, “Acortamos distancias.  Acercamos personas.”  Ironically it reads, “We shorten distances.  We bring people closer.”



Salamanca (Nichole D.)

Si te gusta ir de compras, el barrio Salamanca es conocido por sus tiendas de lujo que están en la calle Serrano.  Una actividad muy popular para turistas son los escaparates porque las tiendas son muy caras.  Para algo más intelectual, visita el Museo Arqueológico que es conocido por una réplica de las pinturas rupestres tempranas.  Para más arte, visita el Museo Lázaro Galdiano que está en la calle Serrano.  El Museo Arqueológico está en la calle Serrano también.  Para llegar a los museos, baja el Metro en Serrano en la línea marrón.

Retiro (Gonzalo G. R.)

Si quieres relajarte, visita Retiro. Está localizado en el centro de Madrid y al este del Museo del Prado y del Museo de la Reina Sofía. Es conocido por el parque “Jardines del Retiro de Madrid.” El parque fue construido como parte del palacio del rey Felipe IV en 1632. Con el tiempo Madrid se expandió y en 1868 el parque se abrió al público. A causa de guerras, varios monumentos del parque fueron destruidos y más tarde fueron remplazados. Si visitas el parque encontrarás el monumento para Alfonso XII, el Museo del Ejército, el Palacio de Cristal, y la estatua del ángel caído. Afuera del parque hay varios eventos turísticos. El distrito es conocido por sus varios colegios privados que preparan a los mejores estudiantes para ir a la universidad. Si deseas visitar Retiro, puedes llegar tomando el metro 1,2,6, o 9 hacia la Estación de Atocha.