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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

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Darío Jaramillo's cat poems

poetryPosted by Simon Wed, April 24, 2019 21:07:17

In a reading of Darío Jaramillo’s poetry at the Lorca Centre on Tuesday, Rafael Espejo (local poet) chose poems completely at random, he said, and in accordance with his own preferences and based on his familiarity with the Colombian’s body of work.

I noticed he chose six poems about cats and later I saw that Jaramillo - like TS Elliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) - has published a book of cat poems. He (Espejo) started with this one:

Estados de la materia.
Los estados de la materia son cuatro:
líquido, sólido, gaseoso y gato.
El gato es un estado especial de la materia,
si bien caben las dudas:
¿es materia esta voluptuosa contorsión?
¿no viene del cielo esta manera de dormir?
Y este silencio, ¿acaso no procede de un lugar sin tiempo?
Cuando el espíritu juega a ser materia
entonces se convierte en gato.

Aletargados en perpetua siesta
después de inconfesables andanzas nocturas,
desentendidos o alertas,
los gatos están en casa para ser consentidos,
para dejarse amar indiferentes.
Dios hizo los gatos para que hombres y mujeres aprendan a estar solos.

From DARÍO JARAMILLO AGUDELO, Gatos , Editorial Pre-Textos, Colección "El pájaro solitario". Valencia, 2009

This is how I’ve translated it:

States of matter.
Matter can exist in four states:
liquid, solid, gas and cat.
The cat is a special state of matter,
even if there is some room for doubt:
is it matter, that voluptuous contortion?
is it not from heaven, that way of sleeping?
And that silence, does it not perhaps come from a place without time?
When the spiritual plays at being material,
that’s when it becomes cat.

Lethargic in their perpetual siesta
after clandestine night wanderings,
whether oblivious or alert,
cats are at home to be spoiled,
to let themselves be loved unconditionally.
God created cats so men and women would learn to live alone.

¡Uy, uy, uy, uy, uy, mi gato, …

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2018 winner Darío Jaramillo

The Lorca PrizePosted by Simon Wed, April 24, 2019 12:03:27

The winner of the Lorca Poetry Prize 2018 is Darío Jaramillo, from Colombia. It was South America’s turn. Born in 1947, he is the second successive Lorca Prize winner younger than me, so that must have brought the average age down a bit. (See for example // dated 24/9-2015.) Another interesting feature is that Jaramillo has not got a large number of poetry prizes in his display cabinet. Having said that, he did win last year’s Colombian National Poetry Prize for ‘the existential and poetic maturity’ of his latest publication El cuerpo y otra cosa (The Body and Other Things), a prize worth 60 million pesos, which at around 17,000 euros is a similar amount to what he’ll get for the Lorca.

Darío Jaramillo Agudelo (Santa Rosa de Osos, Antioquia, Colombia, 1947), miembro de la llamada Generación Desencantada, es considerado uno de los mejores poetas colombianos del siglo XX y renovador de la poesía amorosa en castellano. Graduado como abogado y economista por la Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá, desempeñó importantes cargos culturales en organismos estatales y fue miembro de los consejos de redacción de la revista Golpe de Dados. De su poesía se han hecho tres reediciones completas: 77 poemas (Universidad Nacional, 1987), 127 poemas (Universidad de Antioquia, 2000) y Libros de poemas (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2003); así como diversas antologías, entre ellas: Aunque es de noche (Pre-Textos, 2000), Del amor, del olvido (Pre-Textos, 2009), Basta cerrar los ojos (Era, 2015) y Poesía selecta (Lumen, 2018). Es también autor de aforismos, Diccionadario (Pre-Textos, 2014); ensayo y prosa autobiográfica, Historia de una pasión (Pre-Textos, 2006) o Poesía en la canción popular latinoamericana (Pre-Textos, 2008); y novela, La muerte de Alec (1983, Pre-Textos, 2013), Cartas cruzadas (1993) o Novela con fantasma (Pre-Textos, 2004), entre otras obras. El 14 de noviembre de 2018 obtuvo, en su decimoquinta edición, el Premio Internacional de Poesía Ciudad de Granada Federico García Lorca.

My translation: Darío Jaramillo Agudelo (b. Santa Rosa de Osos, Antioquia, Colombia, 1947), member of the “Generación Desencantada” (Disenchanted Generation), is considered one of the best Columbian poets of the Twentieth Century and a renovator of love poetry in the Spanish language. He graduated as a lawyer and economist at the Universidad Javeriana of Bogotá and held important positions of responsibility in various state cultural organisms as well as being a member of the editorial council of the magazine Golpe de Dados. There have been three complete re-editions of his poetry: 77 poemas (Universidad Nacional, 1987), 127 poemas (Universidad de Antioquia, 2000) and Libros de poemas (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2003); as well as various anthologies, among them: Aunque es de noche (Pre-Textos, 2000), Del amor, del olvido (Pre-Textos, 2009), Basta cerrar los ojos (Era, 2015) and Poesía selecta (Lumen, 2018). He is also the author of a collection of aphorisms, Diccionadario (Pre-Textos, 2014); autobiographic essays and prose, Historia de una pasión (Pre-Textos, 2006) or Poesía en la canción popular latinoamericana (Pre-Textos, 2008); and novels, La muerte de Alec (1983, Pre-Textos, 2013), Cartas cruzadas (1993) or Novela con fantasma (Pre-Textos, 2004), among other works. On 14 November 2018 he was awarded, in its fifteenth edition, the City of Granada- Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize.
Here we have Darío Jaramillo (right) and Santiago Auserón discussing poetry in the popular music of Latin America (bolero, tango, ranchero). At the Lorca Centre, Granada, Tuesday 23 April.

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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

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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

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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

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Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Sun, March 17, 2019 10:56:49
From his earliest days, Lorca was keenly aware of social injustice, inequality and the suffering of the poor “from the deepest roots of his generous condition”. (We have this from his brother, Francisco.) Nevertheless, in spite of his sensitivity to social evils, Federico was never a political activist. Even though Fernando de los Ríos, who was one, befriended him early on, the poet never belonged to the dedicated group of student followers that the Professor of Law won at the University of Granada in those years after his appointment in 1911.

When Spain’s political and economic crisis reached its climax in Granada on 11 February 1919, with a demonstration of students throwing stones at the house of the Mayor, Felipe La Chica, and three citizens getting shot dead, Lorca locked himself in his room for the duration of the disturbances and refused even to look out from his balcony, where demonstrations took place daily right in front of his flat, in the Acera del Casino, close to Puerta Real*. (This is from his friend, the painter Manuel Angeles Ortiz.) “I frequently went to Federico’s place to keep him informed of the latest events, for during the two weeks that the incidents lasted, he never left the flat.” Any kind of violence went against his sensitive nature, concludes the painter.

Lorca’s caution was perhaps not so excessive, when one considers that one of the three fatalities on that fateful February day was Josefa González, a young housewife, who was hit by a stray bullet fired from nearby Plaza del Carmen while she was in the interior of her parents’ home in calle (street) Reyes Católicos, on the corner of calle Mariana Pineda*. In fact, only one of the three victims of the Guardia Civil’s repression of that day’s student demo was actually taking part in the protest. He was local medical student Ramón Ruiz de Peralta, shot in the head by a zealous Guardia Civil agent. The third casualty was railway worker, Ramón Gómez, father of a seven-year-old girl, who just happened to be passing by the puente del Carbón* (calle Reyes Católicos) when he was killed.

Tangible outcomes resulting from these deaths were a minor shake-up in the corrupt electoral system and Fernando de los Ríos’s commitment to socialism, joining the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and getting elected to the Spanish Parliament in June that same year.

The protests were directed against corruption in the municipal administration and most specifically at the liberal “cacique” (despot) Felipe La Chica whose turn it was to be in office. “Caciquismo” was still rife in Granada, with conservative and liberal politicians conniving to rig election results, dividing up sinecures and influential public posts between them, raiding the municipal coffers to their own benefit, and aided and abetted by corrupt civil servants who wholeheartedly joined in the graft by falsifying official documents, including voting lists and election returns. All of this occurred against a backcloth of economic crisis and poverty, hardship and want for the mass of the population.

There is little trace of these events and circumstances being reflected directly in the works of the poet. Nonetheless, Lorca was not indifferent to what happened and we find his name in a list of signatories to a telegram of protest from the Centro Artístico addressed to the President of the Council of Ministers which was published in the Gazeta del Sur on 15 February. The telegram, while ostensibly trying to avoid taking sides in the political struggle, condemned and protested energetically against the violence of the suppressive measures while taking a clearly critical position vis-à-vis the practices of local despotism and calling for the resignation of La Chica, who was indeed subsequently suspended from office.

* See the forthcoming blog for an outline of the location of these places: Acera del Casino, Puerta Real, Plaza del Carmen, calle Reyes Católicos, calle Mariana Pineda,and Puente del Carbón.

Acknowlwdgements to: José Luis Delgado, Granada Hoy, 10 Feb 2019

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High Speed vs conventional trains

AVE (High Speed Train)Posted by Simon Tue, February 12, 2019 19:17:15

In November 2018 the west-bound Moreda line was re-opened, enabling a resumption of the conventional ‘Talgo’ Granada-Madrid intercity train service after a three-and-a-half year hiatus. This happened in spite of the fact that six months earlier, the government had categorically rejected the idea, arguing that the existing bus replacement service ‘covered the needs’ of travellers heading for Madrid, Sevilla, or Barcelona. There had been no significant drop in the number of users since the service was interrupted in 2015 it was argued. So everything was ok.

However, this cursory abandonment of the Talgo-Moraleda line is symptomatic of the relationship between the conventional rail network and the High Speed network, in which the former has consistently been neglected in favour of the latter.

For example, over 31,000 million euros have been invested in the High Speed network over the last decade; compared with just over 6000 million in conventional stock and infrastructure: a relation of 5:1.

Last year, 2018, a little more than 1000 million euros was invested in the AVE, as against some 337 million in the conventional rail network. So, 3 of every four euros invested in rail infrastructure went to the much smaller and less used High Speed network. The conventional rail network has more than 13,000 kilometres of track, compared to the AVE’s 3000. 2 million use the conventional network every day; whereas a maximum of 25,000 travel by AVE.

And while Spain has the most extensive High Speed network per inhabitant in the world, only exceeded in kilometres by China, at the same time the Spanish network carries the fewest passengers: less than 15 per kilometre, as against 50 for France, 84 for Germany, 63 for China, and 166 for Japan.

This imbalance has been largely brought about by the prestige the AVE contributes to the local political elites and business communities. The fear of missing the technological bus to the future is also a factor: An AVE-less city risks marginalisation, and being left behind. Every provincial capital strives to be on the AVE map, as indeed is the case for Granada.

In other words, a high-speed high-prestige rail service for the few is draining funds from an existing rail network used by an overwhelming majority of the population, with extremely detrimental long-term consequences. The High Speed network is an ‘inefficient mosaic’ without any realistic long-term planning in which delays and ‘unforeseen’ additional costs are the norm and have led to wasteful or inopportune investments to the tune of some 26,000 million euros over the last two decades. (From: Ramón Muñoz Madrid 6 Jan 2019)
Spanish Rail Network, showing existing operational AVE lines

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