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.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Impeccable words

My main armament against the weeds in our garden is a Dutch hoe bought in the UK and transported (minus handle) in my hand luggage. There was an interesting discussion at customs in Stansted as to whether a hoe head was safe to take on board an aeroplane or not. The weeds are unstoppable, it's simply a holding action.

Whilst I weed I often listen to the podcast of a Spanish documentary programme called Documentos. I've learned a lot about Spain, Spanish personalities and Spanish History from Documentos. Over the past few weeks we've had stuff about the cyclist Miguel Induráin, the story of a Spanish comic, the illustrated paper kind, called TBO, the 1922 Flamenco competition held in Granada and something about Ava Gardner in Spain. This week the programme was about Blas de Lezo and his 1741 defence of Cartagena de Indias in Colombia against a British fleet led by Edward Vernon in the War of Jenkins' Ear.

Now, as it happened I'd read a novel about Blas de Lezo who is sometimes referred to as Mediohombre, Half-man, because, by the age of 27, he had lost his left eye, his left leg below the knee, and the use of his right arm. The Spanish title of the book translates as, Half-man: The battle that England hid from the world. You may be able to guess, from the title, whether the author, Alber Vázquez, had any sort of bias in his book.

In the Documentos programme there was passing reference to an earlier battle at Porto Bello now Portobelo in Panama where Vernon, had an easy victory over the Spanish. Apparently it's the place where Francis Drake died in 1596. Francis Drake is always referred to, in Spanish, as El pirata Francis Drake. I'll leave you to work out the translation. I was intrigued and had a quick look at Wikipedia to see what I could find about Drake and Porto Bello. In the process I ended up reading the entries about Blas de Lezo and the defence of, or the attack on, Cartagena de Indias in the Spanish and English versions. Just as an aside the Spanish version mentioned that Rule Britannia was composed as a tribute to Vernon's taking of Porto Bello. The Wikipedia entries about the Blas de Lezo stuff in both languages was similar but different. Here are the opening paragraphs.

Spanish. The siege or Battle of Cartagena de Indias, from the 13th March to the 20th May 1741 was the decisive episode that marked the outcome of the War of the Right to Board (The War of Jenkins' Ear) (1739-1748), one of the armed conflicts which took place between Spain and Great Britain during the 18th Century. It was one of the greatest naval disasters in English history and one of the greatest Spanish naval victories comparable to the victories at the Battle of Lepanto or the English Armada. The defeat caused an enormous number of deaths among the British though the greatest number of deaths, on both sides, was due to Yellow Fever and not to combat

English. The Battle of Cartagena de Indias was an amphibious military engagement between the forces of Britain under Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon and those of Spain under the Viceroy Sebastián de Eslava. It took place at the city of Cartagena de Indias in March 1741, in present-day Colombia. The battle was a significant episode of the War of Jenkins' Ear (Guerra del Asiento) and a large-scale naval campaign. The conflict later subsumed into the greater conflict of the War of the Austrian Succession. The battle resulted in a major defeat for the British Navy and Army. The defeat caused heavy losses for the British. Disease, especially Yellow Fever, rather than deaths from combat, took the greatest toll on the British and Spanish forces.

This morning I was reading the news reports about the pending implementation of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in Catalonia - the article which allows the Central Government to take over an autonomous community. I read English language versions from the Observer, the Guardian and El País in English. The Spanish language versions were from 20 Minutos, Diario Público, El Confidencial, El Pais and the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post.

It was very much like reading the two Wikipedia entries. The British newspapers talked about the overthrow of a democratically elected leader and the overwhelming majority in favour of independence in the recent referendum. The Spanish newspapers talked about the illegal referendum, support from the EU and the manipulation of democratic processes. The Guardian, for instance, said, in the opening paragraph of an article that Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced that he was stripping Catalonia of its autonomy and imposing direct rule from Madrid in an attempt to crush the regional leadership’s move to secede. Stripping and crush are hardly neutral words. Later in the same article the direct quote from Mariano Rajoy is "We are not ending Catalan autonomy but we are relieving of their duties those who have acted outside the law." A slightly different reading of the same statement.


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