Archive for February 2nd, 2009


Gana Rafa, Llora Federer!

“Rafa [Nadal] Wins, Federer Loses!” (the outcome of the Australian Open, in which the Spanish tennis hero once again demolished the augustly talented Swiss master).

This was the headline in today’s sports section.  I have transcribed it, since I think it speaks volumes about the Spanish as a whole.  It’s not that the sports headline wasn’t about the Superbowl–or that the favorite sports here would never be described in your average U.S. juke joint without using both the words “ladies” and “mincing”–but rather because it conveys the kind of national shock felt at the display of extreme emotion.  I’m not saying that the Spanish are not an emotional people, but that they confine themselves to a small sphere of the emotional spectrum, which runs from happy to disappointed.  Most of the time they linger around the happy side, with true disappointment only evident in front of a noncompliant version of C++.

Take, for example, my office mate, who just returned from a trip to Valencia (a 6-hour trip) that was made in order to install our analytical software on the computers of some people new to the collaboration.  Without going into too much technical detail, it turned out he couldn’t, since they had an old version of Linux.  I told him I was sorry he wasted so much of his time (poor guy’s got to defend his dissertation in October, and still hasn’t been able to write it due to his class load), and he just shrugged and said, “At least we got everything done but the last part.”Feh.

This is Spain.  This is how they think.  And, after reflecting on their recent history, I have finally come to understand why.

I asked one of my office mates recently about the grafitti I had seen by campus, touting the anniversary of the anti-fascist revolution.  His response (“Which one?”) told me a lot about the way these poor guys have adapted.  Within one generation, mind you, they have had at least two bloody revolutions.  Hell, Franco just died in ’75.  I hadn’t broached the subject with anyone here yet, since I thought it might be too painful to talk about (listening to the stories my Dutch friends told me about WWII resulted in lots of choked back tears and stunned silence on both our parts), but it turns out they’re OK with talking about it.  They lightly tease about, and are OK with, pretty much everything.

Really.  Try to inflame the passions of a Spaniard.  Just try.  I’m not talking about the Spaniards you see in movies, who are just Latin Americans with lisps (more on that later).  Go find a Spaniard (Canary Islanders not included) and try to piss him off.  Chances are he’ll just shrug and giggle and ask if you’d like to go to lunch.

Unless you insult Spanish ham. There is nothing funny about bad ham.  Punto.

February 2009