- Typical Spanish... The mystery of the Maragatos
- Featured City... Pamplona: Unpacking Antiques
- Famous Person... Miguel Gila
- Spanish recipe... Hornazo of Salamanca
- Popular Sayiing... "Miel sobre hojuelas" (Honey over pancakes)
- Vocabulary... Popular expressions due to TV. From "Estar hecho un Plinio" to "Vivir en los mundos de Yupi"
- Word of the month... Póculo
- Notices: Offer: 20% discount on intensive Spanish courses!
The mystery of the maragatos
In every country there is a group of people of ancestral origins that has maintained its traditions along the centuries and have common differential features (think of the Cossacks in Russia and Ukraine or the Scandinavian Sami people). In the case of Spain, we can name the "maragatos", original from León.
Their aspect and clothing have been depicted for eternity in one of the murals that the painter Joaquín Sorolla made for the Hispanic Society of America in New York City. It is on the one entitled "Castilla: Fiesta del pan", where we see a drummer dressed in black, with a wide-brimmed hat, a colourful red vest embroidered in golden under his jacket, a catchy belt decorated with two green tassels and knickerbockers fastened at knee-height with two red ribbons.
The origin of this people is uncertain, and there are many theories around it: it is said that they could be the descendants of the Germanic people that converted to Islamism during the Al-Andalus times. Other theories point towards a Celtic origin, due to many similarities in their habits and customs with French Bretons. What is more or less a fact is that their name would be given to them during the XVI century, during the kingdom of Philip II.
Whatever the case is, the maragatos have always been considered a separate ethnic group from the rest of Spain, due in part to the maintaining of their own, differentiated traditions associated with nomadism. This character granted them a reputation as traders, carriers or skinners: so much so that the name of their group has ended up being equivalent to merchants. But not all merchants were maragatos, and not all maragatos were merchants.
Curiously enough, despite their isolation they were never victims of discrimination. So much so, that they were even respected due to their fidelity, responsibility and bravery: it was said that if a maragato had to make a delivery, he would accomplish it even if his life was at risk. Entrusting them a delivery or a transport was a warranty of security, because it was said that nobody messed with them, not even highwaymen. Of course, some said this is because they had secret arrangements with the bandits.
Their specialty was the transport of salted or dried fish from the bay of Biscay to the interior (do not forget that the Maragatería, in León, is only a couple hundred kilometres from Galicia or Asturias). With the arrival of the train, this activity would disappear, but would lead to a funny circumstance: many of the fishmongers of the interior areas of Spain are of Maragato descent.
Even though the Maragato community no longer exists as that (due to the mixing with other groups and the progressive abandonment of their traditional activities), many feel proud to be descendants of those skinners. Thanks to them, the traditions and history are kept –and in some cases their clothes and or tools-, as well as their gastronomy, based on a mixture of seaside and interior elements. An interesting fact is that some authors even state that the well-known "pulpo a feira" (boiled octopus with oil, salt and paprika) is, actually, a maragato specialty: it would have been born to use the parts of the dry octopus that weren’t sold.
We are now talking about the discovery of a fascinating ethnic group who, though forgotten, it is a part of Spain’s History. We also would like to use this occasion to encourage the reader to make personal investigations on this community: you will surely find surprising facts.
Pamplona: Unpacking Antiques
In some countries, like the UK, the Antique fairs are a widespread phenomenon (there are even successful TV programmes based on the search for the most exotic antique). In Spain there wasn’t a big tradition, maybe because us Spaniards are "always looking forward" –an ironic way of saying that the past is of little interest to us-. But in the last years there has been a rising interest for any knick-knack that is more than 40 years old, probably due to the proliferation of TV series set in past times, and to the nostalgia for the past typical of times of crisis.
A proof of this renewed interest is the celebration of the "Antique Unpacking" that takes place each year in Pamplona. It is a new tradition for it has only been celebrated the last three years, but it has the intention of turning into one of the benchmark events both for those who look for a small treasure as those who look for a simple object to decorate their living room.
This year it takes place on the 16, 17 and 18 of November in Navarra’s fairground (refeNa), and it will be attended by many antiquarians from Spain, France, Germany and Great Britain specialised in auction items. If you are wondering hat the difference between an auction item and an antique, we can say that the former must be over 100 years old, the latter can make the cut over 40 years old.
The fair has a traditional market taste: like the "rastro" (flea market) in other Spanish cities. The merchandise is displayed in an apparent but studied mess, for we must not forget that part of the charm lies in feeling like an explorer or a treasure hunter in search for valuable relics. The buyer can find anything, from old farming tools to old carved elephant tusks... almost anything you can imagine and that is old enough, of course. And in large quantities: last year it was estimated that more than 34.000 pieces were exhibited; will it be exceeded in this year’s edition?
We invite our readers to drop by the exhibit and tell us if it actually exceeded last years offer... and what interesting objects you have found, for you never know where you may find a unique and valuable item.
This comedian will always be remembered in his typical pose: with a telephone to his ear, disguised as a soldier or dressed in a black suit, red shirt and, sometimes, a black beret. His surrealistic yet innocent style, with a powerful double meaning, have granted him the status of master of comedians, so it is rare that a young comedian doesn’t count him amongst his big role models.
Miguel Gila was born in Madrid in 1919 to a humble family. At age 13 he lost his father and starts working as a bodywork painter in a garage, while he started his professional aviation mechanic studies.
When the Spanish Civil War breaks off, he is barely 17. He stays in the Republican Madrid and enrols in the famous Fifth Regiment as a volunteer. During the war, he is almost killed in a shooting in Cordoba, and is finally made prisoner in the Front of Extremadura: after spending some time in several concentration camps and prisons, he is freed in 1943.
Finally free, he decides he is going to pursue a comedy and illustration career. He starts working at "La Codorniz" and "Hermano Lobo". But his rise to fame and the creation of Gila like the character we all know didn’t happen until 1951, when Miguel spontaneously acts on the stage of the Fontalba theatre (that was located in the number 30 of Gran Vía Street, in Madrid), improvising a monologue about his experience during the war.
The audience loved his way of telling the stories and experiences, and he soon becomes one more artist in the Company Fontalba, apart from collaborating in different radio shows. Nevertheless, he is forced to leave to Latin America in 1968, due to personal matters. He settles in Buenos Aires, where he founds a theatre company, starts editing the satiric magazine "La gallina" (The hen) and constantly participates in TV shows like "Sábados circulares" (Argentina) or "Radio Rochela" (Venezuela).
In 1977 he organizes several tours thanks to which the Spanish audiences rediscover him. But it wasn’t until 1985 that he takes the decision to return to Spain for good. He will end up becoming a "must" performer in variety shows and humour galas, and starts being considered a master of comedians. His reinitiated career will last until his death in Barcelona in 2001.
Why has Gila’s humour set a trend? Probably because he turned something as Spanish as "costumbrism" into a surrealistic thing: both a literate and an ignorant person could laugh with his jokes and monologues, in which he mainly played the part of a speaker that explained a situation to a person on the other end of the line. Maybe his best known work is that in which a soldier politely calls the enemy to ask them to postpone the hour of the attack because his division doesn’t want to wake up early, and explains him that what seemed like a machine gun was a stutter carrying a rifle, or complains to the armaments factory that they cannot use the cannons that they sent them because they don’t have a hole. The cruelty of war is reduced to the absurd (a very Spanish attitude) with mastery and, by the way, without cursing or using rude expressions.
We know that trying to analyze a comedian’s style can be hard and cold. So we invite you to go to Youtube, for example, and type in "Miguel Gila": there will be many of his monologues on video there. You will spend a great moment, learn more Spanish... and meet a legendary artist.
Hornazo of Salamanca
You probable went by a bakery in Salamanca and your mouth started watering when you saw the traditional "hornazo": a crusty brown pie that contains boiled egg, bacon, pork meat or any other type of meat. When you saw it you probable thought that it is a difficult dish to prepare... but if you have a free afternoon and are in the mood for cooking, you can easily make one.
But before we go into its recipe, let’s know a bit more about its history: in its origin, hornazo was a humble dish, a shepherd’s food. The shepherds, in order to save up time, introduced the meat inside a bread dough they later cooked; the object was saving time: they could eat the hornazo while they guided the sheep, without having to stop to cut some bread or slices of meat. This recipe soon became popular amongst the noblemen of Salamanca, who turned it into an emblem of the city.
Ok... Now we move on to the recipe:
You will need :
- 400 ml of milk
- 300 gr. of lard
- 150 gr. of yeast
- 400 ml of oil
- Baking powder
- Six egg yellows
Pour the oil and the salt in the milk; when the salt has dissolved, add the lard and stir until it softens; next, pour the yeast and keep stirring so that there are no crumbles, pour the egg yellows inside and add flour until you create a homogenous dough. Next, we have to smooth out the dough and divide it in two (make one bigger than the other). We will place the bigger one in the oven and the filling on top of it, and then we place the smaller piece of dough on top, closing it around the borders with the piece at the bottom. We will make some holes on its top, so that no air remains inside the pie, and we pain the whole thing with egg yellow.
It is only left to heat it all up during 40 or 50 minutes at 210ºC. If everything went ok, we will have our own warm hornazo, crusty and brown: an ideal dish for these cold days in which one craves for strong food to share with friends and family... Because, we advise you, this dish will surely fill you up!
"Miel sobre hojuelas" (Honey over pancakes)
This saying naturally makes our mouths wet thinking of a good dose of the sweet liquid sliding over a thin and crusty waffle (the hojuelas). As you can imagine, the expression doesn’t advance anything bad; on the contrary: it makes us think of times of good fortune.
One could say that it even goes further than that: when we say that something goes like "honey over pancakes", we mean that something goes better than good: a fortunate relationship, a good business, a semester full of good grades... all that that makes us think that we are fortunate and lucky.
But what do fortune and happiness have to do with a dessert? Well... some centuries ago, the hojuelas with honey were a specialty that was served on special occasions like weddings or baptisms, and was considered a luxurious delicacy. In other words, if you were eating this dessert, you were either celebrating something or were quite wealthy. There are also some people that say that this was a typically Jewish dessert... and considering the fame of the Sephardic people as good merchants, money loaners and bankers, the dish would have been identified with the wealth of their typical consumers.
Unfortunately, it is not an expression that’s commonly used nowadays. You know, the crisis and everything around it makes us consider that not many things are rolling like "honey over hojuelas". Let’s hope that it is not like this for a long time, and in a short time we can at least aspire to get near the beehive. You probably understand what we mean...
Popular expressions due to TV. From "Estar hecho un Plinio" to "Vivir en los mundos de Yupi"
The first generation that grew up with TV is about to enter their fifties. From them, the next generations have spent hours and hours in front of the "silly box", so it is normal that many characters and expressions have turned into part of our vocabulary. Here are some of them:
- "Estar hecho un Plinio" (To be a Pliny): Plinio was a sort of Spanish Sherlock Homes, a policeman from Tomelloso (Castilla La Mancha) that solved cases with the help of the village’s veterinary doctor. The series that told their adventures was shown in 1971, so it is very possible that you hear this expression, referred to someone with surprising deductive abilities, from a person that is at least 55 years old.
- "Vivir en los mundos de Yupi" (To live in Yupi’s World): Between 1988 and 1991kids spent their evening with Yupi, an orange alien who, due to a breakdown in his spaceship, was forced to stay in a small Spanish village. Even though he was almost two meters tall, Yupi was an innocent child that discovered the world with every episode. This attitude created the expression "to live in Yupi’s World" as a synonym of living in a happy and unreal world.
- "Dar el parte" (Giving report): Another "old-school" expression. Our grandparents referred to "the parte (the report)" when they wanted to talk about the news report on the radio or TV. Nowadays, "giving report" is used as a funny expression that means that someone is being informed of the gossip of his friends or the neigbours...
- "Viajar más que Willy Fog" (Travelling more than Willy Fog): In the 80’s, there was a very well known animated series based on Jules Verne’s "Around the world in 80 days". Its characters were humanized animals and the main character was a lion dressed in the Victorian fashion called Willy Fog. His odyssey around the world to win a bet and the length of the series (26 episodes) turned him into the paradigm of the inveterate traveller. This is why, when a friend of ours travels weekly to a different place in the world, we say of him that he "travels more than Willy Fog".
- "¡Qué culebrón!" (What a sopa opera!): A "culebrón" (big snake) is Spanish for soap opera, those TV series, usually from Venezuela, that went over 100 episodes and were longer than a giant snake (a culebra). We all know that the stories they tell abound in dramatism, family intrigues and surprising revelations. So when a Spaniard comes across a really complicated or specially dramatic story, he can’t help saying: "what a soap opera!".
- "Si lo sé no vengo" (I wouldn’t have come if I had known about it): at the beginning of the eighties there was a TV contest in which the participants had to pass complicated events in a record time so that they won as many kilometres as they could so that they could do the trip of their lives. This contest was called "Si lo sé no vengo", because part of the fun resided in the fact that the contestants, after the different events, said this sentence with a tired tone. Today people still use this sentence when one wants to express that he / she has had a day filled with problems and hurries.
- "Atención... pregunta" (Attention... Question): a very used expression that comes from the TV show that we just mentioned above. While the contestant was competing, a voice said "Attention... question", and presented the contestant with a question of general knowledge. This expression is used in an informal way when someone wants to pose a complicated question to a friend, or that we know will be a hard one to answer.
- "Eso son historias para no dormir" (These are no-sleep stories): between 1966 and 1982, the Spanish national TV channel showed the series "Historias para no dormir" (No-sleep stories), in which every chapter told a different terror story (some chapters have been shown again in other digital channels). The name of this series is often mentioned when someone talks about a gruesome event or horrifying anecdote.
- "¡A jugaaar!" (Let’s play!): this expression was used by the presenter f the Spanish version of "The price is right", when he called contestants to participate. So it was used in an informal way after that, to indicate someone that he or she was about to put something at risk in a complicated or embarrassing situation.
- "Tu coche parece el coche fantástico" (Your car looks like KITT): the TV series that the English-speaking World know as "Knight Rider" was called "El coche fantástico" (The fantastic car) in Spain. So if your car has the latest technological features or a flashy dashboard, a Spanish friend will surely tell you the quoted sentence.
- "...Y hasta aquí puedo leer" (...And I can only read up to here): this sentence was use in the TV contest "Un, dos, tres...", in the last stage of the show, when the contesting couple found itself next to a table full of objects, one of which contained a prize. Every article had a note with a sentence that hid a clue on what it contained... but the presenter could only read a part of the text, which ended with "...and I can only read up to here". Nowadays this sentence is used when we want to indicate that we know something that cannot be told or when we know the circumstances of a happening, but not its consequences.
- "¡Campana y se acabó!" (Bell and end!): another famous sentence from "Un, dos, tres...". This sentence announced that the time that the contestants had to answer a question was already by. Today it is used when someone wants to finish an argument, when someone wants to make clear that an idea prevails (similar to the expression "...y punto") or when we want to stop a friend that is overwhelming us with a speech or the exposition of his arguments.
We won’t try to fool you: this word sounds really bad to a Spaniard nowadays. We will only say that, in order to say "bottom", in Spanish we use the word "culo", as simple as that. More even so, if you ever say "póculo" in a loud voice, it is very possible that the people around you turn to you as if you said something rude.
But the thing is that this word designates something as simple as a glass or, in its older meaning, the liquid that was destined to be consumed, whatever its origin: póculo could then be wine, beer, mead, water... as long as it was contained in a recipient and served as a thirst quencher.
Of course, nobody says "give me a póculo of wine" nowadays, also because they might think that you escaped from the Ancient Roman times... in the best of the cases. And we don’t exaggerate if we tell you that many years can go by until you hear it again; even if historic TV series are in fashion now.
So we strongly recommend you not to use it: it is cynical and cruel with our language, but this is it. We leave you the word so that you know it and learn that there are some terms which can still be used today... even though it might not be too adequate.
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