Spain: Movies and memories

Last night we saw one of the newest Spanish films, Las 13 rosas, a true story made into a perhaps overly sentimental film, but nevertheless effective because we recognize its truth, of both the immense human capacity for cruelty and the strength of those who resist it. In Madrid after the defeat of the Republic in 1939, thirteen very young women -- girls, really -- arrested by Franco's police for various reasons (some had been in the Socialist Youth, one had helped a Communist trade-unionist escape, and so on) were sentenced to death, along with scores of men, accused of complicity in violent acts in which they had had no part, not even remotely. As a work of art, it is far less extravagantly imagined than El laberinto del fauno, a fairy tale of Franco repression and anti-fascist partisan victory, but this film has the enormous advantage of realism: this really did happen, pretty much the way it's told. For a historic photo and a good summary of the true history of the 13 "red roses" (in Spanish), see La corta vida de trece rosas en El País, 11/12/2005.

Otherwise, the news from Spain this week is: nada. Which also happens to be the title of a very good feminist novel of those hard, early years of the Franco dictatorship: Laforet, Carmen. Nada. 1944. (Clásicos Españoles. Madrid: El País, 2004.) No news, just olds. For example, this week an unemployed Spanish youth on a Barcelona subway car screamed at, punched, pinched the breast and then kicked in the face a slender Ecuadorian girl he'd never seen before (this was all recorded on security cameras), was quickly found and arrested, and then freed by a judge; he's on the street, but the girl is now afraid to leave her house. More North Africans and sub-Saharan Africans risked their lives and many lost them in attempts to reach Spain; and Mariano Rajoy, the terminally mediocre leader of the opposition Popular Party, made another grotesquely idiotic statement, this one so clueless that the Spanish press compared him to George W. Bush (he said we shouldn't really worry about climate change, because there were bigger problems such as CO2 emissions; he said this on the same day and in the same forum where Al Gore was about to show his movie). But racism in Spain, immigrant desperation and Rajoy's idiocy are not news.

Next week I'll be in France, so I can't promise any new report on Spain. I've already touched on some of the big issues. (Click on keyword "Spain" below to see the lot.) These include two essays on immigration 2006/10/07 and 2006/9/27, plus the notes of the past three Fridays on Spain's entanglement with Bush's Iraq war and its internal "nationalisms" (2007/10/5, the overbuilding crisis and Rajoy's "Día de la Hispanidad" idiocies (2007/10/12), and "Historical Memory" of the civil war and the Franco dictatorship (2007/10/19). And my compañero Baltasar and I have written many other notes on Spain on our Spanish-language blog, which you may want to visit. Hasta pronto.

Becoming brutal

And do you think this isn't happening to our boys (and even our girls -- remember Abu Ghraib) in uniform in Iraq? Not to mention the un-uniformed Blackwater guys and their kin. Israel shaken by troops' tales of brutality against Palestinians