Sunday, March 18, 2007

Suerte, España

I passed my last full day in Madrid with a long and hugely enjoyable lunch of paella with a roomful of Haitians and another token American, and again tonight we found ourselves wandering the streets around the Plaza Santa Ana, more crowded and active than even its usual buzz of activity because, I later found out, that it was St. Patrick’s Day, which explained the preponderance of visibly intoxicated people and British Isle brogues and American accents, I think. Dinner was a long affair at a streetside café.

It has been a very interesting and productive time here in Spain, and one that left me with a taste to return. I’ve seen some of the richness of Spanish culture and its hospitality, and also have witnessed Spanish politics at perhaps its most bare-knuckled since the 1981 coup attempt here. The Partido Popular conservative opposition has done a good job of whipping up a demagogic frenzy against what many Spaniards see as the weak and vacillating policy of the socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in allowing convicted Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) terrorist Iñaki de Juana Chaos to serve out the remainder of his sentence under house arrest after a hunger strike left him near death. In a country where, despite claims of a ceasefire, ETA attacks continue to claim lives (a 30 December bomb at Madrid airport, which killed two Ecuadorian immigrants, added another pair to the ETA’s 800+ total), this is potent stuff. In a country with such a lively, vivacious people and such impressive artistic traditions, it would be good for all concerned if the political temperature was lowered a few degrees but, given the current climate in Spain, I don’t know how likely that is to happen.

Tonight, sitting in the silence of my friend’s home on the northern outskirts of Madrid and having experienced some of this deep country’s greatness and fragility over the last 10 days, I think of some words by one of Spain’s greatest sons, the Andalusian poet Federico Garcia Lorca , killed by Nationalist partisans in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War at the age of 38 years old.

My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those hills,
farther than the seas,
close to the stars…

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