- Typical Spanish... Popular Spanish Mythology
- Featured City... Granada and the Corpus Fair
- Famous Person... Severiano Ballesteros
- Spanish recipe... La Menestra
- Popular Sayiing... “A buen hambre no hay pan duro”
- Vocabulary... Disused and archaic words
- Word of the month... “Quejumbroso”
- Discovering Enforex... ELE course
Until fairly recently there hasn’t been much attention on popular Spanish mythology: it was thought that the study of fantastic beings was a children’s thing. There some who even openly rejected it, arguing that the only good it did was remember the times of a dark and self-enclosed Spain that had taken us so long to overcome.
However, several authors and folklorists have managed to recapture our interest in legendary Spanish creatures. Furthermore, ours is proving to be a rich mythology, with nothing to envy of others such as the Irish or Japanese ones. After all, it combines elements from Latin, Celtic, Greek, north African cultures and some even have a Nordic reminiscence.
We’re won’t speak at length of the reasons or origins of the different Spanish mythologies (though we encourage the reader to get some of the many books about the topic that are currently published). As a starter, we’ll quote some of the most curious creatures of our myths.
Alabari: a giant who lives in the mountains of the Basque Country and that, just like the cyclops of classic mythology, has only one eye and lives in mountain caves. They’re very dangerous for human beings.
Diablo cojuelo (lame Devil): a daemon better known to the Castille inhabitans, after all it turns out he’s rather jocular. The store goes that he was one of the first angels that rebelled against God and fell in hell. Naturally his limp is a result of the other angels falling on top of it, which didn’t stop him from being naughty and a bit of a party-goer; so much in fact that Satan himself expelled him from Hades. Since then he spends his time playing pranks on people on Earth.
Dip: its name may be funny, but it’s not funny at all. According to Catalonian legends he’s no more and no less than a gigantic and fierce black dog, with eyes of fire. It also sucks the blood of unaware travellers.
Guacanchas: demonic black dogs that reside in Canary Islands. They camp out in the hills and gullies, freezing the blood of the town folk and devouring the livestock. They have a certain similarity to the Catalonian Dip, but the “guanches”, the native people that lived there isolated until the 15th century, already spoke about them.
Macho lanú (male lanú): A being from Extremadura, strangely related to satyrs of Greek mythology and the alpine “krampus”. It’s tall and hairy, with huge horns that grow from its forehead and with goat legs. It attacks walkers and harasses young women from small towns.
Mono concreto (concrete monkey): this name’s owner is an elf from Andalusia, specifically Granada. They live in Sierra Nevada and are the reason for avalanches.
Nuberu: a dwarf whose origin is Asturias. He controls the atmospheric phenomena. It’s said that he likes to hop from mountain to mountain riding upon the clouds and that people can see his red cape undulating among the stars if they pay attention.
Santa Campaña: from Galicia, it’s the procession of the soul of the dead that come to take the living. They visit the homes of the dying and can even trick travellers to join the cavalcade.This are only a few, very few. There’s an enormous amount of Spanish mythological beings. We invite you to research this topic, as it’s fascinating.
The big Granada holiday takes place during the Corpus Christi week (60 days after the last Easter Monday). Those who have been in the fair agree that it has a peculiar flavour that distinguishes it from other similar ones in Spain. Frequently the reason is searched in the celebration’s own history, which goes back to the end of the 15th century, when the region was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs.
Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand quickly began a process of Christianization on people that had followed the Islamic precepts for centuries. So the old customs melded with the new, and a practically unique holiday was the result.
The celebrations begin with the traditional “alumbrado” (lighting up) which takes place on Monday of the Corpus week: a gigantic structure that is reconstructed each year and simulates a portal that is lit up with thousands of light bulbs, thus welcoming days of celebration and worship.
During these days many events are carried out, the most important being the Taurine fairs and the parties in the stalls, where everyday people can enjoy typical food and dances. People can also participate in puppet street theatre representations, contests (such as the plants contest) and listen to different folklore bands.
But the most important is an event that mixes Christian worship and pagan origins: on Wednesday there is a parade in the streets of the city, “La Tarasca”. A mannequin rides a dragon shaped figure. Each year the mannequin is dressed differently, according to what fashion dictates. The mannequin’s garment is one of the best kept secrets of the fair.
The Tarasca is followed in the parade by giants and big headed figures shaped like historical figures as the previously mentioned Catholic Monarchs or Boabdil the Small, the Muslim king that lost the kingdom of Granada alter the battle with the Christians..
An even more important procession takes place on Thursday, when the “custody of the sacred form” is taken to the streets, a silver shrine given to the city by Isabella the Catholic, which is paraded down the streets and applauded by the Granadinos.An entire week of celebration ends on Sunday, with a gigantic fire castle, another of the great events of the week, already attractive in itself, that makes of Granada an unavoidable destination at this time of year.
At the beginning of month, one of the greatest Spanish sports legends left us, the golf player Severiano Ballesteros. We say “legend” not only because of his titles and skill (he did impossible shots), but also because he did something which many consider a quite a feat: he captivated the great audience to a sport that until recently was considered “a thing of the rich”.
Seve was born on April 9, 1957 in Pedreña (Cantabria). We would not be exaggerating if we said that in his taste for golf, genetics are partly to blame. His uncle Ramón Sota was a champion for Spain and his father was gardener in a golf club in Pedreña. Since he was very little he practiced with a number three iron adapted to his height, and by 9 he was already a caddy in the club. However, according to the rule book he could not be admitted as a player until he was 13 years old. What did Seve do to make the wait more bearable?
En 1974, at 17 years old, he won the Spain Open Tournament in the Sub-25 category, the Vizcaya Open and several other European trophies. These merits fell short when he won the Lancôme trophy, the KLM Open, the Catalonia and Tenerife championships, and the Memorial Donald Swaalens, the World Championship and the Vardon Trophy as best player of the year. Only the British Open resisted, where he came second, although he tied with the legendary Jack Nicklaus.
In 1978 and after doing his military service, he was on everyone’s lips after winning the Open tournaments in Kenya, Greensboro, Germany, Scandinavia and Switzerland. In 1979 he finally won the British Open, turning into the youngest golfer to earn the title.
Before turning 30, Seve became a myth: in 1980 he became the youngest European that achieved victory in the Augusta Masters since 1934 and in 1984 he won the British Open again, among many other feats, which earned him the Prince of Asturias price in 1989.
Although the first years of the 90’s were not his best, Ballesteros achieved in 1995 his 50th title, in the Spain Open. Two years later he became captain of the European team in the Ryder Cup. He was captain of the European team once more in the Royal Trophy 2006, one year previous his retirement.
In 2008 Seve was news again, this time because of his health: a brain tumour was detected and even though it was removed, it resulted in complications. After a long struggle and due to deterioration in his neurological condition, the greatest golfer in the history of Spain said goodbye at age 54.The image of a legendary but humble sportman remains for memories.
The menestra has the dubious honour of being one of the most hated dishes by Spanish children. You can imagine why: its base is made of several types of boiled vegetables (preferably green beans, artichokes, carrots and potatoes). To lighten up the dish a little, mothers also throw into the pan a mixture of fried onion and tomatoes called “sofrito” (stir-fry) and even some chorizo. Children will always consider that it’s better to be grounded without TV for a whole week rather than eat a single spoonful of menestra.
Only with the passing of time (especially when you’re living in a bachelor’s pad for the first time) one begins to appreciate this specialty: it’s very easy to make, very healthy and as it’s possible to make with season vegetables it can be prepared at ay time of year. Besides, there is not one frozen food brand that does not have a menestra dish in its catalogue.
Why is it so popular in our country? There are some that say that due to the fact that Spain was, until very recently, mainly an agricultural country, in which most people had orchards: nothing cheaper than using your own vegetables. Others, among them Miguel de Cervantes (yes, the Don Quixote author), believe that it’s an Italian dish that became famous in Spain because of its simplicity. The truth is that minestrone soup, typical from the Piamonte region, is similar to our dish, in composition as well as in name.Whatever its origins, the fact is that menestra is one of those dishes that doesn’t leave anyone indifferent: you either profoundly hate it or you love it.
“A buen hambre no hay pan duro”. Have you ever been so hungry that you ended up eating something you disliked and it tasted great? Well, this proverb says something like that: in times of need you don’t focus on subtleties or taste.
It’s logical to think that this proverb comes from the most modest and poorest environments, in which you would have to make do with little squeamishness to be able to eat each day. However, it seems its origin is more cultured than one would think: no more and no less than Cicero.
There’s record of the roman speaker and politician saying the next phrase: “Optimum condimentum est fames”, which means "there’s no better condiment than hunger”. Although the form is different, the meaning is the same; this is why it’s believed that the proverb could be a mutation of the roman expression.
But how did it evolve to its current form? There’s some speculation that it’s a free translation of Cicero’s words, by a priest or university teacher using vulgar terms so as to make it understandable by parishioners or students.
However, it’s not possible to prove the link between the two. It’s most likely, according to most, that it’s a coincidence due to the proximity between the Spanish and Roman school of thought. That Spain was a province of the Roman Empire must not be forgotten, and besides the language and customs, we have also assimilated their philosophy.
A philosophy that, like many other things of our culture, has a stomach
Spanish is a modern language and as such, in continuous evolution. This not only means that there are new words all the time, but that there are many that are no longer in use. Those are the words we call archaisms.
How come a word becomes archaic? There are several reasons:
For instance, the object that is denominated by a certain word may not be used anymore or it’s replaced by a more precise one. For example, the word “coy” was used to designate a type of hammock in which children slept. Now it’s in disuse because babies sleep in a “cuna” (crib).
Other types of archaisms are those that are in disuse in a specific region or country but are still used in others. In Spanish there are many cases in which a word is not used in the European country anymore, while in the American ones it still is. Such as “taita” (a respectful way to address one’s father), “ataviar” (get dressed) or “prieto” (used as dark).
There are some revitalized archaisms. This is to say, words that were in disuse are recycled and utilized again, sometimes with a different meaning. The most famous case in our language is that of “arroba” (at). In the past it was used to designate a weight measure whose value was equivalent to 12.5 kilograms; currently it denominates the symbol “@” that we all know thanks to e-mail. Another one example is “céntimo” (cent) which was in disuse for several decades during the 20th century, but now it’s used again as a fractionary measure of the Euro.
Finally we could speak about “phonetic archaism”. It’s about terms that have become disused words due to the evolution some of their phonemes. For example the word “fasta” is the current “hasta” (until), there was a phonetic change from “f” to “h”.
It would be hard to make a list of all the Spanish archaisms. The terms would be innumerable, and we have seen it’s not very certain that a word may be discontinued forever.Because of such things the study of languages is fascinating.
“Quejumbroso” The “noise” that this word makes when it’s pronounced may sound like a rusty iron structure that is falling bit by bit but inexplicably is still standing. In a certain way, the word is a bit like that. We repeat: in a certain way.
What we mean is: we all know someone who even though may be the luckiest person we know, considers that things are always going wrong for them and they don’t hesitate to tell us. It’s the typically “quejumbroso” person (whiny). Think, for example, of a grandpa that walks with a cane but wishes he could beat us in a race, and on top of everything, complains that his health is terrible.
We can’t confuse a “quejumbroso” with a hypochondriac. While the latter believes he suffers from an illness, the whiny knows he doesn’t have it, but takes every opportunity to complain to draw attention to himself.Unfortunately, this word is not used much currently. In Spain we use the idiomatic expression “se queja por vicio” (addicted to complaining) instead of “quejumbroso”.
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