Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bread cartel

When I couldn't get a beer in Tarragona many years ago I decided to learn Spanish. I did a few years of those one or two hour a week Spanish classes at the local Adult Education Centre. I also took a lot of holidays in Spain. As a consequence I started to notice things about Spain in newspapers and magazines. Spain speaks Spanish and so do Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica - twenty countries in all as I remember if we don't include the USA. It was all the same to me - they were all interesting, all linked in some way. Spain was first but I bought cumbia, son and salsa music (on cassette), I read books by Garcia Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Isabel Allende and Elena Poniatowska. I drank piscos, canelazos and malbecs. I hunted out Dos Equis beer. I crossed the Atlantic a few times heading for Mexico or Cuba and I still have a hankering to visit Argentina and Chile as a hangover from that interest in the 1980s.

But if I thought that there was a link between Spain and lots of America I don't think it's a view shared by most Spaniards. The only conversations I have had with Spanish people about Latin Americans have usually centred on their strange use of the Spanish language rather than the quality of their beer, food, football or music. The Latin American food section in the international part of Carrefour has no more stock than the British section. There aren't many TV imports from Latin America nor are there lots of celebrity Latin Americans here in Spain - at least so far as I know.

Spain of course has strong trading links with Latin America and there are daily news stories from that part of the world. I've had Argentinian, Venezuelan, Mexican, Peruvian, Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian students in my English classes because they work for Spanish firms here. There are lots of people who look South American out and about in the towns and cities. Surprisingly though there isn't much obvious South American influence in High Street businesses. I'm not saying there is none. At one time there were lots of locutorios - cheap phone, Internet and money order places - which were South American owned though they seem to be disappearing. Otherwise there is a smattering of South American businesses. Every now and again you will see a Venezuelan or a Peruvian craft shop, an Ecuadorian bar or a Mexican restaurant but they are far less noticeable than the range of Chinese ventures for instance. Perhaps it is a sign of the socio economic situation of the majority of the South and Central Americans. They tend to be workers rather than entrepeneurs. Murcia, for instance, has, I understand, the largest Ecuadorian population outside Ecuador but the only Ecuadorian business I know of is a bar that sells intersting food in Jumilla and another bar that failed in Cartagena.

We were in Elda today. I'd gone to sign on for dance classes (it's a long story and I couldn't so you will never know) and as we strolled the streets we noticed a sign that said Colombian bakery. So we went in for a loaf. Inside it was like Greggs, well with a bit more character. Caracol Internacional was on the TV with a story from Venezuela. We decided to get a coffee and the chap behind the bar talked us into eating some sort of chicken and egg pasty and a beef and rice and potato pasty and a cheese and soft dough ball thing. "Hot sauce?" he asked, "Yes, please," I replied. That seemed to surprise him. Spanish people aren't generally keen on spicy so maybe it was an unusual answer. I was tempted by the spongy sweet looking cakey thing but I decided investigation was turning into gluttony so we paid up and left.

It made me think though that we Brits maybe got a better deal from our old Empire than the Spaniards got from theirs.

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