- Typical Spanish... The bandits
- Featured City... Barcelona and the Diada
- Famous Person... Carmen Martín-Gaite
- Spanish recipe... El ajoblanco (White garlic)
- Popular Sayiing... “Cuando el diablo no tiene qué hacer mata moscas con el rabo"
- Vocabulary... False friends in Spanish
- Word of the month... “Melifluo” (sickly-sweet)
- Discovering Enforex...Our satisfaction questionaire
A romantic vision of Spain is bound to the figure of the bandit. The image of a man dressed in the style of the end of the 19th century, that due to his freedom idealsis forced to pursue the life of a bandit, generally in Sierra Morena, against landowners or Napoleonic soldiers is well known, but how much truth and how much of legend is involved in the concept of these mythic bandits?
Let’s start by the historical period: it’s true that the peak of banditry took placebetween the 18th and 19th centuries, but in Spain there have been robbers since Roman times: a letter addressed to Cicero mentions precisely the region that would be known one day as “Sierra Morena” as land of robbers. During the Muslim dominion years, several writers mention how dangerous it was to take certain roads due to rustlers. It is also known that Ferdinand of Aragon organized several attempts to rid the kingdom of their threat.
The term “bandolero” (bandit in Spanish) may be older than it looks…and from further up north. Some theories say that the word may be an evolution of “banderizo”: the members of the “wars of the bands” fought during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries between two Basque lineages. Both lineages were involved in robberies and pillage against one another. In fact the Real Academia Española accepts the word “bando” as origin for the expression.
The bandit’s “golden age” (so to speak) encompassed the end of the 19th century and specially the beginning of the 20th century, and its proliferation was due to two factors: the end of the Independence War against the Napoleonic Empire, that would leave many warriors without resources, and the substitution of the bulk of the armed forces with soldiers known as “the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis”, also French, who helped king Ferdinand VII to re-establish absolutism in Spain. So, those people that only knew the office of arms had to survive as criminals, especially in Andalusia. The choice of this city was not a coincidence; all sorts of cargo were sent to Madrid from rich cities such as Cadiz and Sevilla.
As we mentioned earlier, many of them used to be soldiers or partisans that had fought against the fearsome French invading army, and a disinterested image was given to them: idealistic and libertarian, almost like “Robin Hood”. The truth was frequently much crueler: most bandits were no more than violent robbers who did not have “romantic” gestures.
Although the last bandit we have information about, called “Pasos Largos” (long strides) died in 1934, the bandit decadence began shortly after the Carlist wars, and specifically in 1844, with the foundation of a new institution that also possesses a decidedly Spanish character: the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), devoted to ensuring the order in the rural sphere.
With the passing of time and many will say “fortunately”, all that remains of bandits is the legend. We can still hear stories about Luis Candelas, el Tempranillo or Diego Corrientes. There was even a TV show broadcast by Televisión Española during the 70’s, the successful “Curro Jiménez”, about the many adventures of a fictional bandit that for a long time –Spain is like that- people believed he really existed.
Each September 11 in Catalonia, especially in Barcelona, the “Diada” is celebrated, a festivity that paradoxically, commemorates a defeat.
Let us explain ourselves and go back to the Succession War: on September 11, 1714, Barcelona (allied to the Austrian pretender to the Spanish crown) falls after a 14 month siege at the hands of the French pretender’s army, consequently Catalonia lost its government institutions and organisms.
In 1980 this day became the “National day of Catalonia”, although it was already celebrated during the 19th and part of the 20th century until the beginning of Franco’s dictatorship. With time, changes in the celebration have taken place, but homage to the fallen during the siege is still paid, specially to Rafael Casanova and Josep Moragues, heroes of the Catalan resistance; and floral offerings are still presented at Foso de las Moreras (Mulberry Pit), resting place of many fighters.
It’s festivity with a decidedly historical and political character: a Catalan flag (senyera) hangs from many windows and in many places the Catalam hymn (“El segadors”) can be heard. Likewise, all sorts of events that remind of that moment that marked Catalonia’s history take place.
Without a doubt it is an essential event to get acquainted with the Catalan character and a very important part of a country’s history.
Carmen Martín-Gaite is not only a reference writer of post-war literature, but also one of the most distinguished translators of literary works by Rainer Maria Rilke, Italo Svevo, Gustave Flaubert, or the Brontë sisters in a time when very few people knew languages. Up to a point it is appropriate to speak about the life and work of Carmen Martín-Gaite this month.
She was born in Salamanca in 1925, daughter of a couple with liberal ideas. She was home schooled during the period equivalent to primary school as her father didn’t believe in religious education and back then it was very hard to find a school that didn’t belong to any religious order.
When the time came to attend sixth form, the Spanish Civil War begins, so her plans to study in Madrid change radically and she stays in Salamanca. In this city’s university she studied Romance Philology. After getting her degree she published her doctoral thesis “Love Customs in 18th Century Spain”. During this time she met writers of the likes of Josefina Aldecoa, Juan Benet, and Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, who she would marry in 1954.
This circle of friends would encourage her to publish her first short stories, though the author has confessed several times that she had been writing since she was 8. In fact her childhood and experiences from that time are recurrent topics in her narrative: titles such as El libro de la fiebre” (The fever book”), “Entre visillos” (Between the curtains), “La hermana pequeña” (the younger sister) or “Caperucita en Manhattan” (little red riding hood in Manhattan) are an example of this.
Aside from an excellent novelist, Carmen Martín-Gaite is renowned in the historical research field with essays such as El proceso de Macanaz (the Macanaz process), historia de un empapelamiento (1970), the Guadalhorce Count, his time and labor and Usos amorosos de la posguerra española (love customs of the Spanish post-war). Her literary work has been acclaimed with many awards, among them The Prince of Asturias Prize of Literature, granted in 1988.
Another of the fields in which she received distinction is in TV script, although this is not generally known. Many chapters of the 80’ series “Teresa de Jesús”, about a nun and writer of the 16th century were written by her. Likewise she worked in the popular children’s series “Celia”, based on the books by Elena Fortún.
Versatile writer, her style is markedby the psychological depth in the personality of her female characters which face the ghost of their own pasts or who try to overcome the difficulties that appear in their lives.Her work has been one of the few that have achieved respect from the critics and admired by the audience, so much in fact, that until her death in 2000, one of her books was always among the best selling ones.
Its origin is not known with certainty, but there are some that say its genesis lies in Roman times: after all its ingredients: bread, garlic, vinegar, oil, salt and almonds –were the base of many other dishes in those times.
Its elaboration is simple, for many, much more than gazpacho. You have to soak up bread (if it’s hard). On the other hand you have to grind peeled almonds with the garlic cloves and with a little salt until you get a paste. You then add the soaked bread and stir while pouring oil. Finally add a little vinegar and fresh water.
OK, perhaps this recipe takes a little time and effort to make. Nothing that can’t be solved using a mixer. Of course, if you make it for friends, be sure to tell them you made it with the traditional method: it will taste better.
Being a completely white soup, ajoblanco may not seem very attractive. It can be served with a baked potato, anchovies or ham strips to enrich it.
As you see, an alternative just as tasty and refreshing as gazpacho.
“Cuando el diablo no tiene qué hacer mata moscas con el rabo” | “When the devil has nothing to do, he kills flies with his tail”
The image that comes to mind when we hear this is pretty ridiculous: no more and no less than the terrifying devil really bored, whipping his tail to kill the insects hovering around him, as if he were a simple cow.
It seems absurd that the Prince of Darkness would dedicate himself to such an activity, but that’s what being idle provokes. And that is precisely what this saying means: idleness gives way to senseless activities that serve no purpose.
As it happens with the “work of the devil” it’s hard to reach the origin of this expression. It would be really helpful to know when the devil was first represented with horns and a tail, at least to be able to say “we know the saying could not have been used before such date”, but the daemon iconography is a hard bone to gnaw and a complex thing.
What we do know is that our grandparents used to say it when we didn’t have anything to do or when we were bored at home: those moments prelude to mischief. So at least we know that this proverb was used in the last century.
Now… will you use this phrase in a dialogue with your nieces and nephews, or your own children or grandchildren? Only time will tell.
In this case we should probably speak of “falsos amigos” (in Spanish). As you already know, we are talking about those words that are similar in other languages but have a different meaning, which often can lead us to mistakes. Spanish is not alien to these kind of words, so we leave you a few with the terms they can be confused with, so take note:
Asistir (may be confused with “assist”): in this case the Spanish words means “be present or go to some place” not help a person.
Basamento (may be confused with “basement”): Basamento is an architecture term that refers to the element on which a column is supported. For the room that exists beneath the floors of our house we use “sótano”.
Boda (may be confused with “body”): boda is the ritual by which two people get married, although it is true that in a wedding many “bodies” will assist.
Carpeta (may be confused with “carpet”): a “two way” false friend, that is, it causes confusion in Spaniards as well as Anglophones. The Spanish use a carpet to store documents (folder) and not something on which to lie down in front of the chimney.
Constipado (may be confused with “constipated”): it is also a medical term, but in Spain a constipated person is suffering from a cold and sneezes, but has no problem in going to the toilet.
Delito (may be confused with “delight”): for us, a delito is not sweet, pleasurable or charming. A “delito” is nothing less than a criminal activity.
Éxito (confused with “exit” a lot): Many Spanish artists want to have “éxito”, but it doesn’t mean that they want to go anywhere. It means people who want to be famous, have money and followers, that is, success.
Fútbol: this “falso amigo” is not so much a linguistic mistake as it is cultural. The English will know exactly what we mean, but what North Americans must know is that our football they call soccer, and what their football is what we call “American football”.
Introducir (may be confused with “Introduce”): A friend tells us how when he greeted his Spanish boss for the first time he said “permítame que me introduzca” (allow me to introduce myself) which left her with a rather strange expression. Introduce in Spanish means “put inside”.
Insano (may be confused “insane”): with this word we mean things that are harmful to health. In old times it was used, as in English, to speak about a crazy or demented person, but this meaning has now fallen into disuse.
Librería (may be confused with “library”): when we speak of “librería” we mean the place where we purchase books. The place where they lend us books after getting a member card is a “biblioteca”.
Once: what the English use to speak of “one time” for the Spanish is a number. Once is the number that follows ten. Curiously in Spain there is also an organization called ONCE, which stand for “National Organization of Spanish Blind People”. You can imagine the confusion when the Irish film “Once” premiered in 2006.
Pretender (may be confused with “pretend”): when the Spaniards say “pretendemos” something, we mean to say that we have the intention of carrying out a task, even when we know its impossible, however in no case is it a false intention or a lie.
Remover (may be confused with “remove”): When “remover” something, a Spaniard, generally in the kitchen, stirs a mix of ingredients, but doesn’t change or eliminate anything.
Tuna: until many years ago it was very common for weddings to be interrupted by a “tuna”, to ask for some money from the bride and groom’s families. In Spain a “tuna” is a university music group whose members are dressed in the 17th century style. The fish is known as “atún”.
“Melifluo” According to its Latin origins it means “something that oozes or exudes honey" so the reader may imagine that today this word is used to designate something with properties similar to honey (imagine anything liquid, with an amber colour that is sweet or has a similar viscous texture), and also someone that is soft, delicate or sweet in manner and way of speaking.
These very graphic and pretty meanings in their time were displaced by a more popular one, though not officially: melifluo is something that wants to be so sweet and tender that sickens us and ends up being ridiculous. The image is a little hard, but let’s imagine ourselves drowning in a jar of honey: cloying and oppressive.
Its one of the many words whose meaning has evolved with time, though it may not be officially recognized. The very use of “melifluo” ends up being “melifluo”: it is a term that is becoming an irony of itself.We’re probably speculating but this is what you get when you deal with curious words, such as this one: somehow, they get your imagination flying.