Thursday, February 10, 2005

Spain = The Twilight Zone

Shock, amazement, bewilderment… horror. These are only some of the emotions that I felt this afternoon when I was faced by the most mind-boggling situation to date since I have arrived on this side of the Atlantic. For those of you who have not yet read my previous article outlining the theory of “WT” or “Wounded Testicle” please do so now, for as Rod Serling famously stated, “You're about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind… Next stop, The Twilight Zone!”

Note to self: WT does in fact certainly exist
Another note to self: Spain needs to ice those WT’s down because they are swollen as hell.

I am now completely convinced that I am living in an alternate universe. If I was skeptical at how strange Spain’s regionalistic cleavages and customs first appeared to an American studying aboard, I am now fully going out of my mind. Given the substantial weight of this matter, I’m not sure how to prep you my fellow bloggers, but here we go.

In art history today, when discussing Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica” (1937) and the historical context in which it was created, our teacher revealed to our class something that made my jaw hit the floor. She told us how, as a Canadian who had moved here a number of years ago, she was forced to teach herself about the Spanish Civil War, for in many respects it remains to this day a taboo subject. Then, in the fateful moment, she revealed the indoctrinating factor of future generations of WT suffering Catalans and Spaniards. In her words, “I learned that in many schools, the Spanish Civil War is not taught. Professors will teach history up until 1936 and then say, ‘Time for the final exam!’” Matt is in fact also in my class, so when we heard this, we stared at each other in disbelief with the “deer-in-the-headlights” look. No wonder this country suffers from WT, they are too ashamed to even discuss their own history, let alone modern history, history containing events within the lifespan of less than two generations of Spaniards! Ultimately who is else to blame but the nut-kicker himself, Franco, for the deeply divided and regionalistic nature of Spain today.

To investigate firsthand, I asked my Catalan roommate if he ever learned about the Spanish Civil War. He responded by saying, “… a little bit, but not until last year.” This is coming from a first-year college student. Not only was the subject not until his final year in high school, he went on to further say, “The teacher was bad though. When we got to 1936 we had the final exam.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I couldn’t believe my ears, and I still can’t comprehend what I heard. I’m sorry but I need to take a break. Perhaps I will go repeatedly pound my head against the wall for several hours while listening to Rammstein. I’ll be back later when I can collect my thoughts… but I’m truly speechless. For the time being, do as Mike Myers would say, “Talk amongst yourselves.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though "The Twighlight Zone" ( still rules, I'm surprised by your reaction to institutional evidence of the Spanish Civil War. Perhaps because other vestiges of the same social sensitivity are gone now, after almost 60 years, that any residual effects stand out to a visitor.

When I left Barcelona, in 1974, Franco was still in power, the king was only a prince, engaged to a foreign princess, and the only public discussion of the CW permitted was the Falangist version. Regional dialects weren't spoken on the street, nor were they permitted in business, nor in schools. I don't know the intricacies of how they were enforced, but I do remember the formidable-looking Guardia Civil on every street-corner near important government buildings, and on inter-city trains.

The CW wasn't just Franco vs the Republic, it was brother against brother, and neighbor against neighbor. The status of the Church was an important aspect of the conflict, too. In some ways it was a religious war. And it was brutal, bloody, and lasted 3 years.

The scars were still there in '74, only worse. It doesn't surprise me that some manifestations of that tragedy still exist today.

As for WT theory, add the Greeks, and most of Latin America.


6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the hell are you saying, K.S.? 'Regional dialects' as you say -languages, actually- were spoken on the streets even during Franco's darkest period (until mid 50s). Just think that, contrary to the newly constructed myth that Catalans were as one against Franco, there were many Catalans, lots of them, who were Franco followers.

And from the 60s on, there were many schools in regional languages; I was educated in one. And the language could be used in business (although not in relationship with the government), and there were publications, books, even TV broadcasts in regional languages (a few, that's true, but sying they were banned is simply not the case.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Full disclosure: I am not an expert on Catalunya, let alone Franco's Spain, or the civil war that spawned it. I will certainly defer to any native who lived there during those times.

What you describe simply doesn't coincide with my memories of my own 9-month residence in Barcelona, most of that time with a Catalan host family. Catalan was spoken at home by the parents and older relatives, but I don't remember hearing it on the street (shops, taxis, etc). Perhaps people were reticent about speaking it in my presence, beats me why they didn't. Seriously, I had the impression that more than 3 people speaking Catalan on a street-corner would be arrested. And I didn't say speaking the language was prohibited, either. But all signage was in Castellano, and I was told Franco's government prohibited the use of Catalan in classrooms. I took 2 for-credit classes, history and philosophy, with the general (Catalan) student population. Those classes were conducted in, and the texts were written in, Castellano. I don't remember any university classes in Catalan, though it was spoken widely in the dorms and hallways. Whenever Catalan protest signs went up, the police shut the place down.

When I returned in the early nineties for a reunion, the signage was Catalan, and everyone spoke it everywhere, no surprise there.

As to the "newly constructed myth", I think my original post absolves me of that accusation.

As I dodder further into old age, I find I have less time for rude oafs like you. But I'm not opposed to learning something, even at the cost of exposing my own ignorance. I seriously doubt you and I share that personality trait. Also, I sometimes over-generalize with broad statements. I rather suspect we have that one in common. But I'll try to improve.


6:54 PM  
Blogger Aleksu said...

This is going to be amusing.

Because the version of the whole Francoist era is so sanitized in the USA that it moves to laugh.

What is next, are you going to act surprised when you learn that the USA went to bed with Franco just to get a few crummy military bases even after Ike promised that he would eradicate Fascism from Europe?

And to the Anonymous that talked about regional dialects, I certainly hope that does not include Euskera, Catalan and Galizan, because those are languages.

And Euskera predates Castillian.

7:31 AM  

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