Showing posts from February, 2016


When I left Boston I was twenty-two years old. I left against my will. But I was an only child, my parents were retiring back to Spain, and they used the guilt trip to bring me back with them. When I first arrived I missed living in a neighborhood of a busy city, where I could go easily from place to place on public transport and find almost whatever I wanted. I missed the cadence of New England English. I even missed commercials on television in English. I had to resign myself to live surrounded by Spanish and someday find a way to move back to Boston. What a difference time makes. Come July I will have been living here twenty-five years. I have gotten used to this place. My ear has gotten accustomed to different Spanish cadences. So much so that when I first heard a movie on our new DVD in English a few year s ago , I had difficulty following the cadence and understanding the actors. It didn't matter that I had always spoken English to ou r d aughter, my ear had falle n out

We Need an Education

My daughter is majoring in philosophy at college. She has been reading the major philosophers and learning about its history and different interpretations, and other things philosophers philosophize about. She likes it and is interested in most of her classes (except Logic, but she has never liked to follow logical thinking). A liberal arts education here is not the same as in the U.S. Here a student studies only what they major in, never subjects that pertain to other departments. For example, the only class that can be called scientific in the philosophy major is Logic. And it is taught because it is pertinent to forming a good argument. Which is necessary for philosophy students to learn, because they will be forming arguments at some point in their studies. My daughter is learning other things, though, through her involvement in student associations. She has also been learning about student politics and activism. She is currently involved in a protest that students in both the De

Thirty-Five Years

Yesterday was a special day in history here in Spain, but I only remembered it by a chance remark and by then looking at the calendar. As I have mentioned before, history is not well-thought of here, even recent history that just might repeat itself. The thought of someone walking into the Congreso de los Diputados , the lower house of parliament, and shooting into the air sounds too scary, too possible, and too recent. Because thirty-five years ago that's just what happened.  It was a different Spain in 1981. The forty year dictatorship had come to an end with Franco's death in 1975. A new democracy had just been born and another constitution had just been added to the list of Spanish constitutions in 1978. The monarchy had been restored, along with a multi-party parliament. The Communist Party had been legalized in 1977; the end-all for some who still thought the Soviet Union would one day engulf all Europe. ETA, the Basque separatist group had been planting bombs and killi

White Elephant

Ah, the boom years. The years in which everything was being paved over with concrete. The years in which buildings appeared like magic mushrooms. The years in which land no one had previously wanted was sold for millions. The years fortunes were made. The years for which we are still paying.  In 1999, then-regional president Manuel Fraga got jealous of Bilbao's new Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry and Valencia's Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) by Santiago Calatrava. They were flashy new buildings that brought attention and visitors. Fraga (who had been Minister of Tourism under Franco and then recycled himself after the Transition to be democratically elected president of his native Galicia) wanted to leave behind such a legacy that he would be remembered forever. No, we won't be forgetting him any time soon. Or the treasury he emptied to ensure his remembrance.  He thought up a scheme to be built on Monte Gaiás, just outside and overlooki

History is a Story

When I find that a teenager doesn't know something about history (such as who the Moors were), or considers it dull and not important, my mouth drops open. Their attitude reflects their education and what they are taught that is considered important. No, knowing the reason behind the crossing of several boats from the Moroccan side to the area of Gibraltar in 711 will not get them a job, but it will help understand that the arrival of those people made computer programming much easier by using the Arabic numbers they introduced, rather than the cumbersome Roman numeral system. I can't remember a time I didn't like history or know something about it. When we got our textbooks in September of fifth grade, there was a U.S. history book included. I remember looking it over and comparing it with a high school history book I already had, while the remains of Hurricane David doused us with rain and I occasionally looked out the kitchen window at the bowing trees. I had had old t

Unloved Heritage

Spain is a country rich in cultural heritage. You can find a piece of the past down almost every byway and road you take. From the internationally famous and well-preserved relics, such as the walls of Ávila, the aqueduct of Segovia, and the Roman walls of Lugo to crumbling and ignored ruins, such as the Torre de Sandiás in Ourense, or the hundreds of disappearing, abandoned monasteries and fortresses, such as the one atop the hill at Mota del Marqués in Castilla-Leon, next to the modern A-6 speeding from A Coruña to Madrid. One would think that with all the rich history behind us, as a nation we would want to preserve the vestiges that remain. Well, the law says we must; our individualism says, "what's in it for me?" If it turns out that the recognition and preservation of a piece of history will make it more difficult for the neighbors to go about their daily lives, some are not above destroying or hiding a ruin. Near here a dolmen has been "discovered&q