Willamette World News

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Spain in 10 snapshots


Are you one of those who, in reading our posts, often find their expectations shattered by the way in which strange bits of info never make it into our blog entries? Are you one of those who often give up and get bored with long pieces of reading that reveal too much information about just one topic? If so, you will be glad to find that this issue of Willamette World News has been tailored to suit your ‘unconventional’ and brief appetite. These are the Ten Things about My Country you never really needed to know, but that I hope will make your life, at least today, a little bit more frugal and, if lucky, entertaining.


1) We are a country of great minds and scientific intellect. Yes, you’ve read correctly. Unlike what many people think, Spain is not just a country of lazy people always partying and having fiestas, though many take us to be so because of our open character and strong respect for holidays. If proof be needed to convince you of such an assertion, one only needs to check the records of life-changing and path-breaking inventions my country has developed in its long and convulse history. For it is to Spain that you owe not one but two, at least, of the most incredible inventions of all times: the ‘Futbolín’, a.k.a. table football, and the ‘fregona’, a.k.a. the mop. Yes, I know, you’re simply stunned by our sheer capacity to affect human lives at the deepest level imaginable. Others worry about such things as penicillin or else how to cure strange diseases. Well, what can I say, those are really fine inventions indeed, but I guess that we are just a race of super-brainiacs willing to make other people’s lives a lot better with small gestures and easy to copy inventions.

2) Football is, never mind Catholicism, my country’s most popular and professed religion. Indeed, El Marca, a sports journal based in Madrid with a daily readership of 413,252, is the publication with the most readers in my country. Thus, talk of football and the Spanish league is big in Spain and is often the subject matter of long discussions at the bar, the hair dresser or the supermarket.

3) Spain has FOUR official languages. Spanish is the language spoken in the totality of the national territory, but together with it, there are other three co-official languages, Gallego, Vasco and Catalán, that are spoken in the regions of Galicia, El País Vasco and Cataluña respectively. These three other languages are fully recognized as official languages—not dialects—and possess a distinctive set of culture specific characteristics.

4) We are the number one country in the world in the field of organ donation, both within the European Union and worldwide.

5) We are a warm people. As custom has it, it is not infrequent for the Spanish to often greet strangers and new acquaintances with two kisses, one on either cheek, instead of by a handshake—though that applies as well to more formal contexts. On a daily basis, two kisses, and sometimes even an extra hug, are a matter of common courtesy.

6) Gay marriage has been legal since 2005 thanks to the Ley de Igualdad which has also granted same-sex couples the right to adopt children. Ever since the legislature of the PSOE—Partido Socialista Obrero Español—in 2004, same-sex couples have been able to have their married status recognized and protected by law, which has largely contributed not only to the happiness of many same-sex couples in the country who have finally been able to marry after years of ostracism and fear, but also to the normalization of same-sex couple relationships and to less bias against gay people.

7) We have the largest and most famous TOMATO WAR in the world. La TOMATINA, celebrated in August in Buñol, Valencia, has more than 40,000 participants each year. There, trucks loaded with tons of ripe tomatoes are literally taken over by hordes of people dressed in white attire ready to get red and ‘bloody’ covered in tomato sauce from head to feet.

8) We are the inventors of La Siesta y El Tapeo—nap and tapas—and really proud of it. Many families in Spain, particularly of a summer afternoon, take la siesta as one of the most important times a day, and las tapas can pretty much be taken to be an act of social communion which contributes to both social cohesion and the economy.

9) Our main meal hours are somewhat different from those in North America. We generally have El Desayuno, breakfast, from 7 to 9 a.m.; eat La Comida, lunch, from 1p.m. to 3 or even 4 p.m.; have La Merienda, afternoon snack, from 5 to 6 p.m.; and end the day with La Cena, dinner, from 9 to 10 or even later on the weekend. In between those hours, countless coffees and cañas may apply, depending on personal taste, work schedule, and, of course, a person’s budget.

10) We are a Constitutional Monarchy, that is, we have an elected government and president that is chosen every four years through democratic election, but we also have a King and a Queen, Juan Carlos I de Borbón and La Reina Sofía, that play a symbolic role in our country’s political life ever since the end of General Francisco Franco’s long dictatorship in 1975. This double status is the subject of much debate and controversy in the country but, in general terms, the Royal Family is much cherished by the Spanish people and often feature in the covers of magazines and tabloids in the country.

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