Enforex Newsletter July 2011

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Enforex Newsletter 2011
Popular destinations in Spain

Typical Spanish

Running of bulls through the streets

“(…)then the bulls galloping, tossing their heads up and down. It all went out of sight around the corner. One man fell, rolled to the gutter, and lay quiet. But the bulls went right on and did not notice him. They were all running together.”

Ernest Hemingway used these words to describe the running of bulls through the streets in Pamplona during San Fermin, but the truth is that he could have written it after passing through Ampuero (in Cantabria) or Segorbe (Castellón), or through many other places spanned across the Spanish geography.

The running of bulls through the streets is a very rooted custom in Spain. A good example of this is Cuellar, where they take place the last Sunday in August ever since 1215 and they’re still done the traditional way: the bulls are moved by the horsemen to the bullpen, where they will be fought later.

Dating from the 15th century there’s the encierros of the Toro Carnival – which take place in Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca) – and the ones in Medina del Campo, which are celebrated during the San Antolín festivities, from the 1st to the 8th of September.

The love for the running of the bulls through the streets extends to both of the Castillas, where each village has their own encierro. The most famous ones in La Mancha are the ones from Torrejoncillo del Rey, Buendía or Carrascosa del Campo, all found in Cuenca; the ones from villages in Guadalajara like Sacedón, Illana, Yebra or Albalate de Zorita; and the ones in Sierra de Segura, in Albacete.

They’re also celebrated in the eastern part of Spain. At the moment, they’re quite a controversial issue in Catalonia due to the recent prohibition regarding bullfighting inside this community, but they’re still carried out in some places in Tarragona. Aragón still celebrates the Novillas. In Valencia, the better known are the ones in Sant Joan and Puçol; in Murcia the ones celebrated in Moratalla are beginning to gain quite fame.

In the south, the encierros that take place in La Peza, Granada, have been awarded the “Andalusian Turist Interest” stamp; and in Coria (Extremadura) they celebrate them during the San Juan festivities.

Even Madrid has encierros. This doesn’t mean one day we’ll find a herd of bulls running through the Gran Via. They normally take place in cities like San Sebastian de los Reyes (often referred to as “little Pamplona”) where they are celebrated at the end of August; or Navalcarnero, where they’ve got the particularity of being at night.

We left some out (if we listed them all we’d have to write a whole book) but if we can’t go to Pamplona, it’s good to know we can run in front of bulls in any place in Spain, always keeping in mind our security and the rules.

Featured City

Tenerife (Santa Ana and Virgin Carmen festivities)

Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, has two festivities this month: The one for Virgin Carmen on the 16th, and the Santa Ana one, on the 26th.

The first one is the most picturesque. Virgin Carmen is the patron saint of sailors, so it’s stands to reason she’d be important in the island. You’ve surely seen the images of the devotees carrying the Virgin from the church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia to the port (called Puerto de la Cruz) , where she’s loaded on a very old ship and taken on a curious marine procession accompanied by brass band music and singing. Normally, thousands of people attend. The procession ends with a huge fireworks show.

The Santa Ana festivity is more discreet and more traditional, to put it some way: a procession takes Santa Ana on a walk through the main streets of the city during the last hours of the day. The floors of the streets are covered by images done by the neighbours with coloured salt, a very brief form of art. To see the images before they disappear you have to walk the same course as Santa Ana, before the procession starts, and be very careful not to spoil anything.

After the procession ends, the neighbours and visitors can enjoy a verbena and a fireworks show. It’s a mixture of solemnity and spectacle, a very attractive combination.

The traveller won’t be let down by either of these festivities: they’re very characteristic, with a special flavour and, best of all, very close in time, so it’s possible to see both during the same stay.

Famous Person

Montserrat Caballe
Montserrat Caballe
Monserrat Caballé

Ask a Spaniard to tell you the name of the first soprano that comes to mind. Most will tell you the same name: Montserrat Caballé.

The most well known and imitated (even by comedians) Spanish opera singer was born in Barcelona in 1933, to a family with a mother of aristocrat origins and an industrial chemist that who fell from disgrace during the civil war. Very early, and encouraged by cultured parents, Montserrat displays a great talent for the bel canto. When she was 8, she entered the Liceu de Barcelona, and almost left her studies due to an illness that almost incapacitated his father to work. Her mother did odd and badly paid jobs, which made it hard to continue with her training.
Thanks to one of Montserrat’s uncle she found out about an art living family in Barcelona, the Bertrand Mata, who were willing to protect talent during those hard post war years. Without giving it a second thought, the young singer went to them with a credential of one of her teachers. She was able to get a pension of 1000 pesetas a month and continue studying her career, which she finished with a Special Mention: the Extraordinary Award of the Conservatory.

In 1955 she sets foot for the first time on a stage, signing the main role in Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona in Fortuny de Reus Theatre. Her portentous voice and disciplined technique serves her to be part of the Municipal Theatre Company of Basel the next year. On that same year she debuts out of Spain, interpreting main role in no less than Puccini’s “La Bohème”. Other operas as important followed, such as “Tosca”, also by Puccini or the one and only “Aída”, by Verdi.

The quality of her voice and hers as a singer did not go unnoticed by the responsible of Bremen Opera, who hired her for the 1960-1961 season.  However Montserrat felt nostalgia of her land and returned to Barcelona in 1962.

Her first international hit would come by mere chance. In 1965 she had to substitute a singer who was ill in a concert that would take place in New York’s Carnegie Hall. Her manner of singing “Lucrezia Borgia” by Donizetti was greeted by brief but significant critique:““Callas + Tebaldi = Caballé”.  This meant that her voice had the best of the two greatest divas of the time, María Callas and Renata Tebaldi.

From that moment on and during the last years of the 60’s and the first of the 70’s Montserrat Caballé became an interpreter with her own identity and style, adding to her repertoire great performances in the main stages such as the Metropolitan Opera House in New Cork, where she performed Gounod’s Faust, “La Traviata” by Verdi in the Royal Opera house in London or Bellini’s Norma in Scala de Milan.

During the 80’s and 90’s, as a consecrated soprano, she receives tributes and awards such as the Gold Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya (1982), the National Music Award of Spain, (1988) and perhaps the most important the Prince of Asturias Award of the Arts (1991).

However her most beloved tribute was her friendship with another music legend, the rock singer Freddie Mercury, with whom she sang the hit “Barcelona”, used by the 1992 Olympic Games. Queen’s singer was a great admirer of the soprano, and after meeting by chance in the Barcelona Ritz hotel, he became one of her greatest friends. So much in fact that after his death, Montserrat contributed money to erect a monument in Mercury’s honour in Montreux (Switzerland).

Today she’s one of Spain’s most admired and respected artists. Not because of her voice and talent, but also because of her modesty and humanity. It’s a shame that we have little time to enjoy her live performances, as she has announced her retirement for 2013, when she turns 80 years old. Don’t think twice if you have the opportunity to assist to one of her concerts or shows.

Spanish Recipe

Chicken with pepper sauce
Chicken with pepper sauce
Chicken with pepper sauce

Inexplicably, this Aragonese recipe has acquired fame for being complicated and needing much time. In fact, there’s a joke about a chef who’s asked to write a cooking book, but as the publication date comes near without him writing any recipes at all, he decides to write down the recipe for this chicken with pepper sauce because it’s very long and it would fill in the whole book.

Even though it’s composed of relatively light ingredients like chicken, tomato, peppers, garlic and onion, the final result is quite strong, especially after the bacon is added.

If you want to try it at home (so you can prove it’s not as difficult as they say) take note: First we peel the onions and garlic and chop them up very fine; afterwards we fry them with a little olive oil until the onion is transparent. Meanwhile, boil the tomatoes for half a minute, peel them, throw them in with the onion and garlic and cook this mix, stirring, for 10 minutes.

Put a little olive oil in a clay pot and cook the chicken and bacon. When they’re golden, throw in the peppers, previously cut in strips, and the mix of onion, garlic and tomato. Cook in low fire for about 15 to 20 minutes and then add white wine. Let this evaporate a bit and add half a glass of water mixed with salt and pepper, and let cook for another 20 minutes.

It may be more hard work than an omelette, but you still don’t have to be a physics engineer to cook it. Let’s say it’s the perfect recipe to prepare during a weekend, when we have enough time to spend a luxurious hour cooking.

Popular Saying

Batirse el cobre” (Beat the copper). This is one of those expressions that have many meanings. When we speak about someone who “se bate el cobre” we may be saying that this person works hard, that he tries to solve a problem with determination, or in an argument, defends his arguments with enthusiastically.

We don’t know if the same happens to readers of other countries, but to the Spanish this expression sounds archaic, and takes us back to a time where it was common to find a smithy in the streets or come upon a sword duel.

In fact, the proverb may come from that era, the Golden Century (between the 16th and 17th century) and from the circumstances we mentioned before. For some, its origin is in the hard the effort it took for the blacksmith to work on copper, with many and continuous hammering. Another, much more romantic and seductive theory refers to fighting: in that time the parts of the swords that protected the hands, the guards (“guardas” in Spanish) were made of copper; so the person who was present in a duel watched literally how the contenders, beat the air with their weapons. Of course, as it’s common in these cases, the real one is probably the less attractive theory.

Whatever its origin, the truth is we all feel certain admiration when we hear “nos estamos batiendo el cobre”.


Palindromes in Spanish

Practically in every language there’s a curious figure called “palindrome”. It’s that word that can be read the same from right to left or left to right. Of course, Spanish also has quite a few (more than 300). They are relatively easy to find if we don’t discard plural words, tenses or easy words like “ojo” or “ama. But we like challenges, so we give you a list of “authentic” palindromes, without the cheating.

Afufa: this word is synonym of “huida”: flight (as in escape)
Álala: refers to a mute person or who cannot speak.
Anilina: a substance that derives from ammonia and which some dyes are manufactured with.
Anona: ever more archaic, this words means “supply of food”. 
Lapalis the name used for an extension of territory used as lapa (barnacle) farm.
Neuquén: A region in the south east of Argentina. 
Orejero: this term is used to refer to something relative to eras (oreja).
Rodador: it’s something that rolls, but it’s also used to denominate a type of mosquito
Rotor: in mechanics the word denominates a rotating piece of a turbine or the rotatory system that maintains a helicopter in the air. 
Radar: we all know what this means from war or aviation movies. A detection device that uses electromagnetic waves. 
Yatay: plant of the palm family.
Ullú: Another class of plant, used as a substitute for mate, a typical herb consumed in many countries of South America.

There are many more, but we leave that to you as it’s also a good exercise to learn new Spanish words and trying to read them backwards is a good mind training.

Paleto” (hick, bumpkin, peasant) If you’re spending some time in Spain you’ll encounter this word sooner or later, probably as an insult or in a rude context. We don’t recommend its use unless you’re already familiarized with the peculiar Spanish temper.

Once we’ve warned you, we can continue with the explanation of its meaning: a “paleto” is someone who’s lived in a village their whole life and hasn’t had any contact with the more urban culture, which is supposedly more refined and advanced, to put it some way. So a “paleto”, apart from being someone with little culture, is also someone cruder, who tends to solve the “city problems” with “country solutions”.

The origins are not quite clear. The Dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spanish Language assures it comes from the word “paleta”, which has multiple meanings, from “building tool” to “incisor tooth”. What this has anything to do with rural life is a mystery.

It’s not a nice word and its use can get us many enemies, moreover because most of the people living in the big cities in Spain come from a rural background. So we repeat: be careful when using it, because we all know that old saying “sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you” isn’t really true.

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