ecuador blog

ecuador blog

About this blog

News and comments and events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible, Granada, 'la bella y la bestia, and Federico Garcia Lorca's complicated love-hate relationship with the city, etc


Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Sun, June 02, 2019 09:46:50
Perhaps you know that under the Reyes Católicos street, that vital city traffic artery that connects Puerta Real with the Gran Vía for buses, taxis and bikes, runs the River Darro on its way to its meeting with the River Genil, it in turn on its way down “from the snow to the wheat”. (Quoting Lorca: Baladilla de los tres ríos in Poema del cante jondo.)

Well, at the recent local elections, the leftist list, Podemos-IU, led by Antonio Cambril, included the uncovering of the Darro beneath Reyes Católicos in its election programme. And unsurprisingly, the demand won the support of Lorca and Granada admirer and expert, Ian Gibson, as revealed by Alba Rodríguez‘s interview with him in Granada Hoy, 15 May, 2019. Gibson, convinced by the left coalition’s cultural and environmental proposals, added his name to Cambril’s electoral list. Air pollution, as we know (blogs #post97 & #post106), has reached a critical level and Granada needs more green. Verde que te quiero verde, he quotes (Lorca again: Romance sonámbulo from Romancero gitano): “Green how I love you green”. As for uncovering/recovering the Darro: it’s a great idea and Gibson has thought so for decades.

The idea, of course, is not really his. It goes back to the powerful, coherent and influential urban criticism of Angel Ganivet, who wrote in his work Granada la Bella that he knew many cities with rivers running through the centre of them (London, Paris, Berlin, etc) but only in Granada had they hit upon the mad idea of covering theirs over. The idea, he suggested, had been conceived at the depths of darkest night. The Reyes Católicos, vulgar in itself, was out-of-place in relation to the shady and narrow streets that - then, and to some extent still - lead off it.

For Ganivet (1865 - 1898), the burying of the Darro was a contemporary event and the more deeply felt for that. Until the 1880s, what today is calle Reyes Católicos used to be the Revés del Zacatín, the Back of the Zacatín, and it was where the local craftsmen, specially the dyers and the tanners and leather workers, dumped the waste from their artisanal workshops. Straight into the River Darro. Like they still do today, I believe, in Fez (Morocco.)

Since Arabic times, the Zacatín and the Alcaicería, on the left bank of the river, had been the home of craftsmen, the Alcaicería in particular being for centuries an important centre of Arabic craftsmanship, though the original workshops were actually burnt down in a devastating fire in 1843, and the area never recovered anything of its former character. Today, only Orientalist-themed and kitschy souvenir shops remain.

By the 1880s, be that as it may, the River Darro had been identified by the authorities as a health hazard for the densely populated nearby area, and hence the crude decision to simply cover it over. And by 1884 it was virtually all over.

Then, just a few days after the Ian Gibson interview, a photomontage appeared on the front page of Granada Hoy (21 May G. Cappa) giving architect Saúl Meral’s impression of what Reyes Católicos could look like, gentrified and beautified, with the river recovered from its gloomy tunnel. His artwork was an attempt to imagine a harmonised continuation of the aesthetic of the river as it runs along the Carrera del Darro, Darro Road, before disappearing into its tunnel just next to the Santa Ana Church. How closely it may reflect a credible potential reality is open to discussion, says the architect, but in the end he is clearly in agreement with Gibson’s attitude of: Verde que te quiero verde with regard to Granada’s urban development.
Above: Architect Saúl Meral's impression of the River Darro uncovered. Below: carrera del Darro

  • Comments(0)//

Air Pollution (2)

Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Mon, April 15, 2019 17:37:48
In January, I first posted about the alarming levels of air pollution in Granada, to which the city’s particular topography contributes [//]. Now a 30kph speed limit has been introduced for the whole urban area and will be maintained as long as the problem remains unresolved (the foreseeable future). It is one measure to fight pollution among others, which include the gradual increase in the number of electric and hybrid vehicles, the elimination of diesel and other highly contaminating fossil fuel-burning engines, and the promotion of environment-friendlier means of transport such as scooters, skateboards, roller skates, and bikes.

The town council voted in favour of the 30 kph speed limit on 1 March and at the moment traffic signs are being changed throughout the city.
A further measure will be to reduce the speed limit on the ring road from 100 to 90kph.
These new measures are designed to reduce not only air pollution but also noise pollution levels, not to mention accidents, thus improving the quality of life Granada.

I read somewhere that Granada used to be a quiet, almost silent city, and that when the wind blew in from the Vega it would not encounter a sound until it reached the gurgling of the fountain in Plaza Nueva. Lorca? Another anecdote said that the bell on the Veleta tower of the Alhambra was rung to signal changeover times for the irrigation canals out on the Vega, where it could be heard clearly at all hours.

Those days are gone and will not return, but we know: air pollution is a killer, - and silence is golden...

Acknowledgements: Susana Vallejo 10 Abril, 2019 - 14:12h

Left: the 30 kph speed limit applies to the entire road network inside the ringroad. Right: environment-friendly means of transport

  • Comments(0)//

Granada, second most highly rated tourist city in Spain

Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Sat, April 13, 2019 11:19:22
If Granada is only the second, what is the first? is the obvious question to be asked. And the answer is: Santander.

The ratings are achieved by a comprehensive box ticking method with altogether fifteen categories to be evaluated, including the quality of public transport, preservation of the cultural heritage, cultural and tourist facilities, hospitality, a feeling of safety, entertainment for children, gastronomy, night life, shopping, and prices, plus a box for global satisfaction.

Granada did well on preservation of the cultural heritage, shopping and prices, scoring a total of 85 points out of 100. (Did less well on hospitality, maybe, what with the ‘malafollá granadina’...) It was pipped by Santander which scored 87 and outdid Granada on hospitality, gastronomy and safety. E. P. 11 April, 2019

* The ratings are from a survey carried out by the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU) which asked Spanish, Belgian, French, Italian and Portuguese tourists who had stayed in a city inside or outside Spain for at least one night in the last two years.

The gastronomy of Granada: The Essential Guide: Where to Eat Tapas in Granada April 3, 2019

  • Comments(0)//

The Origin of the ‘Tapa’.

Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Tue, March 26, 2019 15:56:30
The definition of ‘tapa’ according to the Spanish Royal Academy is a small portion of food accompanying a drink.

This definition leaves out two essential elements that make up what we understand a tapa to be in Granada today and they are 1) that it’s free, and 2) that everyone without exception is offered one.

If it’s not free, it’s a snack, or a bite to eat, a light meal, a tidbit, a morsel of food, a mini-portion ... anything, but not a tapa. Similarly, if it’s not offered indiscriminately, it may be a treat, a favour, preferential treatment for some unknown motive, a reward for some special service, a bribe, a personal incentive, ... but it’s not a tapa.

The verb ‘tapar’ means to cover and a ‘tapa’ is then a lid. The story goes that the custom developed of covering the wine glass with a slice of ham or sausage, either to prevent foreign bodies (flies, flecks of dust or dirt, etc) entering the glass, or to prevent the aroma of the wine from escaping.

I once heard that the tradition of the free tapa, which is typical for East Andalusia but not for the rest of the country, developed in cash-strapped Granada in the 1930s as part of the fierce competition among bar owners vying for custom and I’ve always believed it. The story I was told mentioned the bar and its location, in one of the small streets close to Plaza del Carmen, but I’ve forgotten the name and can’t trace it at the moment.

Anyway, now, a ‘tourist development agent’ by the name of Gabriel Medina has by accident discovered the earliest documented reference to the phenomenon while researching the gypsy zambra - a style of Flamenco dance associated with wedding ceremonies. In his research, he came across an advert in a newspaper for a tavern which offered macetas (obviously not a flower-pot but a drinking receptacle) a 10 céntimos con tapaderas de salchichón [drinks at 10 centimes with sausage ‘covers’].

This ad points to the date of 13 October 1909 as being the documentary birthday of the tapa as we know it in Granada today.

This said tavern went by the name of Café Económico de Antonio el Aparcero and in 1909 it was situated in the calle (street) Tendillas de Santa Paula, on the corner of calle de San Jerónimo. Antonio el Aparcero subsequently changed his premises a number of times before, in 1912, opening a tavern in the central calle Sierpe Baja.

In this same year, the following announcement could be read:

"Antonio El Aparcero tiene costumbre de servir con la maceta algún aperitivo, sin que por ello empeore la buena calidad de sus géneros

[Antonio ‘the Sharecropper’ has the custom of serving some kind of appetizer with your drink, without affecting the high quality of his beverages.]

Antonio el Aparcero was Antonio Quirosa Mendoza, born 8 October 1870, not far away at calle Puente de la Virgen, 3. We do not know how long Antonio kept up the custom of serving a tapa with the drink ordered by his customers, or if he was ever aware of the time-honoured tradition that can now be dated back to that October day, shortly after his 39th birthday.

El origen de la tapa de Granada / G. M.

M. V. Granada, 21 Marzo, 2019 - 20:23h

  • Comments(0)//

air pollution

Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Tue, January 22, 2019 22:35:42

A few hours of non-stop rain on the night of 19-20 January accompanied by some fairly mild winds was enough to clear the air in Granada, a welcome and long overdue relief for all of us.

On 17 January, Ecologistas en Acción had reported the alarming levels of air pollution that were being built up over Granada due to a noxious mixture of nitrogen dioxide and environmentally pernicious particles. This is part of a familiar weather pattern that is repeated year after year. Something to do with the exceedingly high summer temperatures favouring the creation of a layer of ozone which trap said noxious mixture in the long periods of anticyclonic and windless weather conditions typical in winter. Collected data showed that by mid-January air pollution was posing a threat to all forms of life in the metropolitan area of Granada, home to half a million people.

Fortunately, this threat came to an end on Sunday just a couple of days after the Ecologists in Action’s warning. Nevertheless, the ecologists’ call for a comprehensive plan of action to deal with the poor quality of Granada’s air needs to be heeded in view of the predictability of a repetition of the unfavourable climatic conditions in the next period of anticyclonic winter weather.

BEFORE ... the rain ... and AFTER

  • Comments(0)//


Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Thu, January 03, 2019 16:56:18

In case you didn’t know, Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco’s mortal remains are buried at the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), a hideous fascist monument built by the forced labour of political prisoners on a mountainside north of Madrid to commemorate all those who died during the Spanish Civil War, though he himself died peacefully in his bed in 1975 at the age of 82.

However, he is about to be disturbed 44 years after his death. When social democrat Pedro Sánchez became president of the Spanish government in June 2018 via a motion of no confidence in his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy of the right-wing Popular Party, he undertook to have the nationalist leader exhumed and removed from the memorial site, symbol of the dictator and his repressive regime and a pilgrimage destination for his supporters to this day.

At the same time, Sánchez offered to involve the family of the late dictator in the decision as to where the corpse should be re-buried. Right then, they said, if we cannot avoid the exhumation, we’ll have grandfather Francisco moved to the family crypt in the La Almuneda cathedral in Madrid. It’s where his daughter, Carmen Franco Polo, and her husband Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiu, Marques of Villaverde lie buried.

Pedro Sánchez is not very happy about this. If the old tyrant’s resting place at the Valley of the Fallen demands of his supporters some effort in travelling around 60 kilometres from the capital to pay their respects to their hero, La Almuneda is slap bang in the middle of Madrid and along with the Royal Palace one of the city’s major tourist attractions. Imagine the tomb of the Generalísimo being part of this!

So the Government has turned down this proposal, allegedly on account of the threat it poses to public order, with the possibility of violent confrontations breaking out between supporters and opponents of the man who ruled over Spain for 36 years (1939-1975), not to mention the threat of possible terrorist attacks. In other words: technical but no political arguments against the late dictator capturing this top spot at the very heart of the capital.

So far, an alternative to La Almuneda has not been decided on, though there is talk of the cemetery of Mingorrubio, El Pardo (Madrid), where his wife Carmen Polo lies buried in a grave that belongs to the country’s National Patrimony, as, incidentally, does the Valle de los Caídos memorial.

This soul-searching quest for an appropriate place to dispose of the remains of the man who is responsible for close to half a million deaths among the population may sound perverse, but as we know: Spain is different.

There’s no hurry, says President Sánchez laconically. Franco’s mortal remains have been where they are for 40 years, so as far as he is concerned a few more months are neither here nor there.


The other threat of exhumation is of more concern to us. For a while, it looked as if the mortal remains of Emilia Llanos Medina would have to be removed from their niche in the Cemetery of San José in Granada owing to non-payment of long overdue maintenance rates. She died childless on 29 August 1967 and there are no family descendents to take on the payments.

Why is this of such concern to us? The ‘marvellous’ Emilia Llanos was in the words of our poet FGL a ‘spiritual treasure’ among the women of Granada and ‘divine emblem of the 20th Century’, worthy of ‘all his admiration and fervour’. Thus, his dedication to her in the copy of Impressions and Landscapes he gave her, a few days after them having been introduced, on 29 August 1918. She and Lorca remained the closest of friends up until his murder eighteen years later. Emilia was similarly close all her life to the musician Manuel de Falla and especially his sister María del Carmen.

Fortunately, we know now that Emilia will not end up in an unmarked grave - ‘a pauper’s grave’ as they used to say - thanks to the intervention of aware local politicians, who pointed out her key role in the cultural life of twentieth century Granada, allowing her tomb to be recognised as worthy of maintenance by the city council. This, even though she did not figure in the official list of local dignitaries in receipt of formal honours and distinctions from the city.

Her memory may no have the social impact as that of the late caudillo, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, but it does look as if she will be able to continue to rest in peace.

  • Comments(2)//

the city with the greatest density of tourists

Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Sun, February 11, 2018 21:29:42

Would you believe that Granada is the city which receives the greatest density of tourists in the whole of Spain? Well, it is.

I’m not quite sure how they work this out but it’s to do with the number of visitors in relation to the permanent population and the total urban area. So Exceltur, in its study of the fifteen most popular tourist destinations, puts Granada in first place with an average daily tourist density of 11.7%. This tops even Barcelona, with a density of 11.1%.

This might not come as such a surprise if you visited the Mirador San Nicolás on a sunny Sunday, like today (11 Feb 18). Or if you walked down through the Albaicín facing the oncoming hordes on the morning of a Spanish ‘puente’ (long weekend: 6-10 Dec 17).

And it places Granada’s well above Spain’s average tourist density of 7.4%. In Madrid, by way of comparison, tourists would pass barely perceived among the daily crowds of locals, with a density of a mere 4.6%. Or what about Córdoba with only 3.7%? Granada is also well ahead of the two other major Andalusian tourist destinations: Málaga (8% tourist density) and Sevilla (7.1%).

A determining factor in the surge of tourist density in recent years has been the boom in residential tourist accommodation à la airbnb. Exceltur calculates that a daily average of 27,376 visitors come to Granada, of whom 15,078, that’s 55%, opt for airbnb-type lodgings. Only 45% overnight in proper hotels and hostals.

This is a high proportion, but it is not as high as Málaga, where 75% of tourists are reported to stay at these kinds of places. It is also behind most of the major tourist destinations in this respect: Alicante (67.8%), San Sebastián (66.7%), Palma de Mallorca (65.8%), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (60.6%), Sevilla (60.5%) and Valencia (60,3%). And it is this conversion of residential accommodation into tourist accommodation that has given rise to the greatest displeasure among the local population.

In Barcelona, it is the high proportion of private homes totally or partially converted into tourist accommodation that has fuelled open hostility to the influx of tourists. There, neighbourhoods are really being torn apart by a loss of affordable housing and the restructuring of services to cater for what are in effect holiday makers rather than for the local people. Of course, it is sheer numbers that cause the greatest problems. It’s ok if a couple of guiris pop into your local bar, but if your local bar then becomes a tourist attraction, you may have to go somewhere else for your coffee and toast.

So far, an open hostility towards visitors has not led to aggressive reactions among the local people of Granada. This may be because the places where tourists aggregate (Alhambra, Albaicín, Centre) tend to be outside the traditional neighbourhoods and residential areas. It is less likely to be a result of the sweet, tolerant nature of the indigenous populace.

Acknowledgements to Guadalupe S. Maldonado, Granada Hoy, 11 Febrero, 2018

  • Comments(0)//

Spring Festival in Granada

Contemporary GranadaPosted by Simon Mon, February 17, 2014 21:38:12

The “Fiesta de la Primavera” (Spring Festival) in Granada started as an impromptu celebration of winter’s end a couple of decades ago, a spontaneous street party for the younger generation in post-Franco Spain. Totally unofficial, it soon attracted fun-loving people far and wide largely by means of social media. It started in the picturesque Paseo de los Tristes on the banks of the River Darro, below the Alhambra, but it soon outgrew that space. I remember, one morning maybe a dozen years ago, driving to work through the rubbish and the squalor left behind after one of the first “macrobotellones” being held in the vicinity of the Bull Ring,

The “botellón” itself goes back further. In an embryonic form it already existed when I arrived in Granada in 1990. Botellón, literally “Big Bottle”, might be translated rather as “Street Bottle Party”. With exorbitant prices in the clubs and discos, students and young people in general would organise a gathering of peers who came along with their own alcoholic beverages, brought from home, or bought beforehand at the supermarket or the local off-licence. On special occasions, these bottle parties would become huge gatherings of naturally noisy youth, who would also bring their own ghetto-blasting music, and soon conflicts arose with local residents. From the start, a favoured venue for these gatherings was just behind El Corte Ingles on Arabial Street. It was on the edge of the night entertainment zone, where later they would pay to enter a club for a bop, or take one last or last-but-one paid-for rum and coke, etc. Further advantages of the venue were that there was very little through traffic, and not too many neighbours to disturb.

The state of these venues the morning after was, as already suggested, often catastrophic with rubbish, broken glass, and streams of urine to greet local weekend early risers and dog walkers. The “macrobotellón” differs from an ordinary “botellón” in being a truly massive special event, as welcoming in the spring obviously is. Botellones are very common in the south of Spain, not so in the north, presumably for climatic reasons.

Obviously fulfilling an urgent need, the botellón phenomenon could not be banned – especially in the liberal atmosphere of the post-Franco decades – and so the authorities looked for ways of managing it and limiting the collateral harm they might cause to respectable and enfranchised citizens. They looked for a place to accommodate them, and thus the “botellódromo” came into being, the word following the formation of the word “aerodrome” in English, or salsódromo in Latin America: a place to do it. The place that was finally chosen is located not far from the venue of the original unofficial botellones, on the other side of the ring road, past the Corte Ingles, where the town ends and the countryside starts. Granada is not a big city, so it is easily accessible and yet out of the way of residents, shoppers, and conventional clubbers.

The botellódromo does not have the picturesque setting of the original Paseo de los Tristes site, so to compensate, and killing two birds with one stone, another element of youth culture which has proved often to be offensive to the tax-paying voter-citizen of Granada has been harnessed by officialdom to brighten up the official Big Bottle Party venue: that is the work of graffiti artists. Pictured we see a street-art depiction of Granada’s greatest son, the poet Federico García Lorca, which has just been completed to adorn the venue in time for this year’s Spring Festival, traditionally held mid- to late March.

Maintaining an element of spontaneity, the exact date of this year’s celebration is yet to be determined, Nevertheless, no harm in asking for information from travel agents, such as Sevilla On Tour, who will be pleased to help you arrange your trip to Granada for the event. Last year it was on Friday 15 March when more than 18.000 attended the celebration of their particular rites of spring, leaving behind, for the record, more than 42 tons of rubbish.

Acknowledgements: L. Mingorance in Granada Hoy, 12.02.2014

  • Comments(0)//
Next »