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Do We Want to be the Same?

Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

It seems like the mighty New York Times can never quite get it right when writing about this country. Many paella-moons ago I remember a diplomatic meltdown that almost took place when a Times travel writer published an article that happened to make a passing comment about how more than a few Spanish parents dressed their children in clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in colourized World War II photographs. The then nascent social media was set ablaze with indignant Spaniards whose pride had been mortally wounded by a fleeting line in an article that then went on to praise the modernizing wave that was then sweeping across the peninsula. According to the protesters, Calatravas and Guggenheims were the New Spain and frilly dresses and short trousers no longer fit in on the modern Zara streets. Now comes another NYT article that, according to some, once again dares throw stones at glass houses. The piece, along with many others in papers around the world, echoes some of the findings of the parliamentary commission set up by Mr. Modernity’s government that is looking into the possibility of returning Spain to its pre-Franco time zone and attempt to increase productivity by bringing Spanish work habits, and more precisely hours, more in line with the rest of Europe. Op-Eds spilled ink about the revival of the black legend and one again the tweetsphere was set abuzz with furious attempts to prove the falsity of siestaing Spaniards in 140 characters or less. Praise from both sides of the political spectrum rained down on the modern Ibero-European workers who, like their Nordic counterparts, are chained to their desks with soggy sandwiches and Starbucks coffee for sustenance. 7 minute lunch breaks and competition among our electric companies are now the norm. Conclusive proof that Europe indeed continues beyond the Pyrenees for some, harbingers of the coming apocalypse for others. Once upon a time in this country, yet not so long ago, you were allowed to make an adult choice between syrupy American sweetness or a cold beer from vending machines on sweaty August cercanias platforms. People once trusted their neighbour’s craft rather than being handed down the definition of safe cheeses and wines by some tax collecting EU bureaucrat. Butane bottles cost less than a trip to Ibiza and we could boast of a truly public healthcare system second to none, not to mention of course, the audacity of a month’s vacation. Accountants weren’t needed to tally everyone’s consumption after those old-fashioned long lunches and people tended to bond with other people rather than dogs. Hurray for sameness, ‘regular’ schedules and someone telling me when to go to bed. Well, at least here in Caceres we still have the kids in uncomfortable shoes and doilies, and of course, the odd siesta in July.


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