Thursday, September 24, 2015

It's OK to eat baby sheep (lamb), but not baby horses

Logo for the association of colt meat producers of Navarra.
PAMPLONA, Spain -- The logo at right is supposed to look like a horse, but not too much like a horse.

Probably the producers of colt meat, a local delicacy that costs around $6-$9 a pound here, don't want you thinking too much about the fact that you are eating a baby horse.

We Americans think of horses and dogs and cats as part of our family. So eating colts or kitties or puppies would be like cannibalism. (Although we have no problem eating lamb and veal, babies as well.)

Our notions are pretty strange, if you think about it. According to the local paper (this digital version is less detailed than the print version), there are 420 local farmers who produce about 75,000 pounds of meat a year from 2,000 colts. About 10% is consumed locally, and the rest is shipped to Catalonia (northeast Spain), Italy and the Middle East.

I can't wait to try it. I want to see if it is as good as the marinated donkey burger I had in China. Or the chocolate covered insects I had in Mexico. Mmmmmmm.



Inspirational kickoff to the academic year
20,000-year-old cave art and the north coast of Spain
In Pamplona, they party like it's 1591
Barcelona's art and architecture make it a favorite
Cordoba's main attraction: mix of Jewish, Moorish, Christian cultures  
Basque language has mysterious origins 
Andalusia has different flavor from rest of Spain  
Tapas or pinchos are our favorite foods in Spain  
Pilgrims still come to honor St. James in Santiago de Compostela

Friday, September 04, 2015

Inspirational kickoff to the academic year

The rector, Alfonso Sanchez-Tabernero, center, talks with two of the new local provincial officials. UNAV photo
PAMPLONA, Spain -- Some of my colleagues here at the University of Navarra have been anxious  since local elections in May brought in a new crop of populist reformers whose rhetoric sounds radical to them.

They think the university could be a target for the newcomers, given that it is private, Catholic and relatively expensive (though about a fourth as expensive as a comparable university in the U.S.).

So the university's rector, Alfonso Sanchez-Tabernero, showed himself to be an able diplomat when he addressed an audience of close to 1,000 faculty, local officials, and students today with a message that said essentially: We are ready to cooperate with and collaborate with whoever the local officials are. He was telling his staff, in effect, calm down, already. Don't worry. We'll survive.

But he was also sending a collegial message to the new leaders of the province of Navarra, who were with him on the dais. Very astute, I thought. He is in the photo above with Uxue Barkos, new president of the province, and Ainhoa Aznarez, the new president of the provincial parliament. Barkos is the leader of the Basque coaltion. Some of her group would like to see Navarra, a wealthy province that is about 25% Basque, unite with the adjacent Basque Country region. This could have economic, political and cultural implications, such as the languages taught in schools.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Academic terminology can be complicated

Some of the academic terminology here trips me up. At universities in Mexico, they said things one way. Here in Spain they say them differently.

Fortunately a friend of mine here, Prof. Samuel Negredo, has created an extensive Spanish-English glossary of academic terms. Some of the basics for me have been:

  • "Students" in Mexico were "estudiantes" mainly, but here in Spain they are almost always referred to as "alumnos." 
  • What we would call "alumni" here are called "antiguos alumnos" (old students) or "graduados" (graduates).  However I have sometimes seen and heard people here use the Latin plural "alumni" to refer to their graduates.
  • Mexican professors often referred to their students as "chicos", or boys and girls. And they would even address the classes that way: "Buenos días, Chicos." I didn't feel right doing that. It seemed counterproductive when I wanted them to act as adults. So after asking around, I came up with an  equivalent of "Ladies and Gentlemen" -- "Damas y Caballeros." That's what I use here. I was told that "Señoras y Señores" sounded way too formal.
  • "Grado" doesn't mean grade here but rather "major". To say "I am a journalism major in the Communication Department," you would say, "Estoy en el grado de periodismo de la Facultad de Comunicación." Those who are doing a bilingual major, with half their courses in English, are in the "grado bilingüe."
  • A "grade" is una nota or una calificación.
  • "Facultad", by the way, doesn't mean "faculty." It means "academic department". When you want to refer to "the faculty" you say "el profesorado", and the student body isn't "el cuerpo de alumnos" but rather the "alumnado".
  • What we call a "course", as in "a math course," is called an "asignatura" here in Spain, but in Mexico it was called a "materia". All three words come from Latin and all refer to the same thing but have different roots. 
  • And "curso" here is not a course but an "academic year". So we are in the "curso 2015-2016".
  • Una "clase" here is a singular event. It refers to the class you taught yesterday or the class you are going to teach today. If we want to talk about the class of 2015, you say "generación" or "promoción" de 2015.

Flunk and pass

 If you "pass a course" you don't pasar, you "aprobar" la asignatura. It comes from the same Latin root as "approve." To fail is "reprobar", and someone who has failed is "un reprobado" (English "reprobate" comes from the same root but has a different meaning).

At Tec of Monterrey in Mexico, a "classroom" was a "sala" or if it was really big, a "salón". A classroom building was called "Las aulas 1" or 2 or 3, which was very confusing to me at first because here in Spain the big lecture halls are called "aulas". And the building that houses the aulas is called the "facultad" or faculty. Confusing, yes? I mean, confusing, no?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In Pamplona, they party like it's 1591

Photo of the encierro from 

From the Toronto Star, October 27, 1923 -- "In Pamplona, a white-walled, sun baked town high up in the hills of Navarre, is held in the first two weeks of July each year the World’s Series of bull fighting. Bull fight fans from all Spain jam into the little town. Hotels double their prices and fill every room. The cafés under the wide arcades that run around the Plaza de la Constitución have every table crowded...As far as I know we were the only English speaking people in Pamplona during the Feria..."

This was Ernest Hemingway's first trip to Pamplona, and it provided some of the material for his 1926 novel, "The Sun Also Rises." Today the top bullfighters still come, but now there are mobs of English speakers.

We are just a few days away from the start of the annual nine-day Festival of San Fermin, collectively referred to as the sanfermines, which is a combination of commercial fair, showcase of Spain's top bullfighters, and international debauch whose most memorable images are of people in red kerchiefs running down medieval streets chased by a stampede of bulls.

Hemingway was a latecomer. The earliest mention of bullfighting as part of the sanfermines was in the 14th century, and the festival was moved to its current dates in 1591 in order to coincide with the annual agricultural fair and thus produce more traffic for merchants. (The most comprehensive information about the festival is in Wikipedia, which has links to many historical references.) 

Monday, June 22, 2015

People are still upset about a battle from 1521

The regional differences in the United States have nothing on those in Spain. People have really long memories here.

Today I was reading an advertisement in the local paper, the Daily News (Diario de Noticias) of Navarra, advertising a book called "The Battle of Noain," described as "the unfortunate episode of 1521".

Navarra, in dark green, is on the southwest border of France.
The ad describes how the powerful Castilians (read "Spanish") defeated the local forces and "invaded our town" (Pamplona), which had been part of the French kingdom of Navarre.

For just 6.95 euros, the ad reads, you too can read this story of how "our forefathers struggled and spilled their blood" in a desperate battle that led to "the loss of idependence of Navarra".

The Castilians "devastated a kingdom that was ahead of its time in every sense".

Add this volume of 128 pages to your collection of the History of Navarra, says the ad.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

20,000-year-old cave art and the north coast of Spain

My sister Nancy and her husband, Tom Lukens, came to visit in May and we spent a good deal of the time on the north coast of Spain. I dragged them along to one of my favorite places, the cave of Altamira, which has paintings dating back as far as 22,000 years ago.

Modern artist's interpretation of an Altamira painting of an aurochs.

You can get a sense of the brilliance of the paintings in the example above. The artists used bulges in the cave walls and ceiling to emphasize the musculature of the aurochs (cattle), deer, and horses they depicted.

Pablo Picasso visited the cave and said, "After Altamira, everything is decadence." The ceiling has been called the Sistine Chapel of prehistoric art.

Lifesize replica

The cave was discovered in 1879 when a tree fell and exposed an opening. Archeological work revealed that the cave had not been occupied for 13,000 years. The paintings were created over a span of at least 9 thousand years as different groups occupied the cave.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the site became such a popular tourist attraction that carbon dioxide in the breath of the thousands of visitors damaged the artworks. It was closed to the public in 1977.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Holy Week in Spain: a religious tradition and tourist spectacle

Our Lady of the Pillar Church, Zaragoza, on the Ebro River
ZARAGOZA, Spain -- For those of you who like anniversary celebrations, this one is the oldest I know of: the 1,975th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of the Pillar to the Apostle James, and it occurred here in Zaragoza in 40 A.D.

James was discouraged about how hard it was to convert to Christianity the residents of what we now call Spain. The Virgin Mary appeared to him on a pillar and encouraged him to keep at it. Which he did. Today there is an amazing Baroque church dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar in the heart of the city.

Holy Week processions

Zaragoza has dozens of cofradías that are known for their drum corps. Each of these groups has hundreds of members who participate in the Holy Week processions and observances. Each has a slightly different rhythm to their playing, but all beat the big bass drums hard.

Each has its own floats depicting religious scenes. Acolytes with censers fill the air with the smell of incense to create a visual, audio, and olfactory experience.