Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Two Towers

September 14, 2018

Two Spanish towers stand as symbolic descriptors of that country’s  monarchy.

It only takes a glance to catch a glimpse of the difference between the two historical ages in which these two were constructed.

One ancient tower, pictured below, was built  on the Mediterranean coast, at Valencia, between 1441-1460 AD.

The new one, to be seen further below, was constructed in Madrid in 1992.

They are very different. A comparison between the two indicates, I think, a major difference between Spain’s early monarchy five centuries ago, and the constitutional monarchy that functions today.

When I look at the older tower, which I snapped on photo this morning,  the picture summons in my mind mythical images of a medieval kingdom ruled by kings and protected by an order of loyal knights. In this case, the kingdom was Aragon, in was in eastern Spain, 15th century. The nominal ruler at the time was King Alfonso V.

Because medieval royals moved around Europe like  corporate CEO’s who jet around the world today, Alfonso wasn’t very involved in the Spanish parts of his domains; he was  preoccupied with Italia and papist politics.

So Alfonso’s brother, prince John, held down the fort (literally) over in the outback Spanish hinterlands.

The task  then fell to John, or some of his people, to govern and protect the good people of Aragon. In the main cuidad, the port of Valencia, they built walls around the city, and towers for monitoring the distant horizons.  Here’s the tower, obviously still standing, that I snapped this morning.

ValnciaTowr

Doesn’t it absolutely look like the elevated station of a classic medieval fortification wall? Could it be jutting up into the blue sky of at Aragorn instead of Aragon?  We see here that Prince John literally “held down the fort” while his big brother was schmoozing with the Italian movers and shakers of their day and their papist pals.

Prince John did  acquire, however, a significant role in history. He was the the father of a Ferdinand. That’s the Ferdinand of Ferdinand and Isabella, who commissioned Christopher Columbus to sail for India. Chris never did make it India; but he did bump into  another place. . . America.

And the rest is history.

When King Ferdinand of Aragon married Queen Isabella of Castile–that was the beginning of the nation we know to be Spain.

Fast-forward 532 years from  Prince John’s constructed wall/Tower to defend Valencia in 1460 AD. By 1992, when my second example of a tower is built, the people of Spain have done significant rearrangement of this governmental arrangement  called monarchy. They have democratically kicked out one 20th-century king, Alphonso XIII, in 1931. They replaced his monarchy with a leftist Republic that lasted only until 1939. Then the military Generalissimo Franco summoned a bunch of old-fashioned Catolico, conservative, reactionary and fascist soldiers; he drove them up from Morocco, took hold of Espanya by winning the civil war of 1936-39; he chased away most of the republicans, socialists, communists and any other liberal-minded upstarts who thought they could rearrange Spain according to egalitarian ideals and modern ideas.

Franco ruled, king-like, as a Falangist dictator, from 1939 onward, and managed to hang onto power in spite of all his nazi and Italiano fascisti allies going down in death and disgrace in 1945 after the Big War.

He ruled until he croaked in 1975. But before he died, Franco twisted arms in the corridors of Spanish power to prevent his people from voting in another experiment with democracy.

They must restore the monarchy, insisted the Generalissimo.  But  they should not crown the royal son who would have been  presumptive heir—no, not Don Juan, 3rd son of the late and last King  Alphonso who they turned away in ’31  Rather, Franco insisted Spain should crown Don Juan’s son, Juan Carlos, whose inclinations appeared to be more authoritarian than Don Juan’s.

Nevertheless, after Franco had passed into the great beyond in ’75, the new king Juan Carlos responded with approval for the democratic reforms necessary to bring Spain into modern governance. He instituted reforms that would relegate the monarchy toward  more ceremonial duties, a la Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and several other nations. Today Alfonso’s great-grandson, Juan Carlos’ son Felipe VI, is the king of Spain.

In Madrid, 1992, Spain built a museum to display the modern art of their country. King Felipe’s mother, Sofia—herself of royal Spanish blood as well as being Juan Carlos’ wife and queen—gave her name to the completed project of the new art museum.

A sleek, transparent glass elevator shaft on the Museum’s exterior stands out as a bold work of architectural art, in and of itself. It’s name is prominently etched along the entire vertical length of the structure.

GlassTowr

This shiny Tower, which conducts elevators, expresses the innovative thrust by which Spain has ascended into the modern world.

So we notice two incredibly different towers in Spain: one made of stone, appearing very heavy, very old, and fortress-like  impenetrable. The other is constructed of glass, gleaming brightly in 2018 sunshine, appearing light and fragile.  This second one also has a name–Reina Sofia, which was not only the Spanish queen’s means; it also means Queen Wisdom.

What remains to be seen is the future of Spain’s monarchy-retaining democracy. Is it fortified and impenetrable, or light and fragile, like a smart phone you don’t want to drop.

That question is really a manner of consideration for all democratic governments. We shall see what the world does to all our democracies during the next half-millenium. Let’s hope they are still functional 500 years from now, whether kings and queens are still part of the structure, or not.

My thought is it would be wise to keep democracy intact and functional, whether or not  kings and queens are still part of the arrangements.

Smoke

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Spain

September 13, 2018

Espana.

es Passionata.

For five hundred Moor years

than the Iberian Catolica peninsula

could ever have estanded

to be Islamically commanded,

they endured Ummayed demands

until Aragon King Ferdinand

came conquestering and demanding

with Castile Queen Isabella, remanding,

to fortify their  Catolica position

with a a goddam Inquisition,

stringing up dissidents in their Inquisition power

thereby crushing the bloom of heretical flower.

But with Isabella’s demise mad king Ferd devised

that child Queen Juana should be misused:

She therefore became abused and confused,

being married off to a Hapsburg prince

so that Empire hegemony could commence,

thrusting power over in-between freakin’ France

so Spain would achieve victory in their great Power prance.

Thereby Poor Juana had not a chance

her youthful passion to enhance,

being named an infernal loco heretic.

Therefore history defined her role as lunatic.

While Jews were being unlisted,

dissidents still resisted

although many heretics persisted

while being so unjustly inquisited.

 

That was then but this is now.

Spain still bleeds; that was how

it happened long ago  

when Ferd took on the  holy Roman Catolico

Hapsburg Empire show.

Down through history from page to page

As monarchs wage their contests age to age

Spanish blood flows through impetuous action;

it then bleeds out as Spanish soul passion,

moving los manos y voces to music and song

to celebrate what’s right and lament what is wrong.

Flamenc2

Through the ages, ask the sages

what is right, what is wrong?

Who knows? The priest, the pope?

The poet? the socialist?—who offers hope?

Remember only: life is grand

despite our ruins beneath the sand.

So offer up a sacrifice of song

in notes so potent and passion strong,

while over in the sacrificial ring

a different living sacrifice they bring.

Matador leads. Bull bleeds.

Bullfight

Newfound blood in ongoing sacrifice

echoes ancient cross of crucified Christ.

Priest leads. Jesus bleeds.

The Faithful chant Apostles’ creed..

Sister Maria prays with beads.

But Falanga franco used catolico creeds

while dispatching policia on steeds.

Still saints were interceding

Flamenco singers pleading

Spain is forever bleeding

suffering behavor

even as the Savior.

SagradaGosp

In ’36 Las Artistas pled while Spain bled red.

Still the flamencos emoted, saints devoted,

peasants toted. poets wroted.

democrats noted. republicans voted.

Socialistas revolutionary

v. Royalistas  reactionary.

What else is new, not from the past?

So you might have asked .

Here’s what: Thermite bombs in 1937:

Hitler’s luftwaffe over Spanish village  heaven.

Spain bleeds through Guernica saints.

Pablo reads; Picasso paints.

Dali droops. El toro drips

The crowd whoops; the leather rips.

El  Guitarist heals. Flamenco dancer reels.

Flamenc1

As the eternal note of sadness peals,

La musica heals when dancer reels.

Spain handles the pain.

It falls mainly on the plain

people in Spain.

Smoke

A Christian yankee in Pope Catolicas Court

September 5, 2018

How likely is it that  a Catholic-born, born-again Christian good ole boy from Carolina would ever wander into such a grotto of overgrown Catholicism as this?

SagradaEntrata

It did happen, today, in Barcelona. September 5, 2018.

Who’d’ve thunk it?

The Audioguide at Sagrada Familia Basilica requested that the listening visitor enter with respect.

Respect for what?

The incredibly modern-artistic classic-fantastic ecclesiastic  structure devoted to Christ and the Holy Family—Joseph and Mary—from which Jesus Yeshua HaMeschiah immaculate-conceptionally came?

Yes. As a Christian I entered respectfully, along with, presumably, all the other thousands of gawking, phone-clicking touristas and believers who darkened the door of Sagrada Familia Basilica today in Barcelona.

Respect for the Christ child who had been born to Mary back in the day of the Incarnation of the Word-made-Flesh person of Jesus Christ?

Yes, I entered respectfully.

Respect for the traditions of the the Catholic Church?

Not so much, having rejected that tradition in my born-again youth. Nevertheless, who am I, as a born-again child of God, to judge the spiritual legitimacy of this high-church, pope-revering institutional “etched in stone” architectural representation— possibly even faith-enhancing experience— of deep religious faith that I encounter and enter into here?

Gosh, guys, thanks for letting us in here. What a cool building! 

Meanwhile, back at the Cross. . .

SagradaCrux

Yep. I know that part. He died for my sins. Let’s not forget.

And of course, ascended into heaven and sits at the right  hand of the Father.

Yep, we can agree on that part. You gotta  believe it.

That’s the real clincher anyway, don’t ya think? The real tie-breaker.

I mean, who else in the history of the human race has made that claim and gotten away with it?

Like I said, you gotta believe.

And I, like, think I’m finding some common ground here.

Belief in the Resurrected Son of God.

Pretty amazing idea, really, if you think about it. You’d have to be crazy or Catholic or Christian to believe it.

And here you have it—“etched in stone” as the Audioguide lady voice says it . . .the story of how it happened that the Son of God Son of Man was crucified and then raised from the dead.

SagradaGospl

King of Soul 

The Deep

May 26, 2018

As we grow older in this world, we gain a deeper understanding of  what is going on here. But it can be discouraging. In many ways, what we find is not pretty, and it makes no sense.

The disconnect between the way the world is and the way we think it should be becomes an existential crisis for those of us who are sensitive to such issues.

Attached to this dilemma we find a long historical trail of people attempting to deal with the problem. Along that path we find tragedy, depression, pathos, melancholia, despair, existential crisis, schizophrenia and a myriad of other assorted travesties.

But there’s a favorable output that sometimes arises through this conundrum. It’s called art.

And music, and literature.

I’ll not get into the specifics of it; but we discern, threaded through our long, strung-out history, an overwhelming human opus of emotional and soulful profundity. It  has been woven through the sad, dysfunctional and tragic tapestry of our apocryphal struggle for meaning. It has been sounded forth and sculpted continuously even as our very survival is perpetually  called into question.

The depth of this existential crisis is expressed by the poet when he desperately cried out:

“O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

therefore I remember you from the land of the Jordan,

and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls unto deep at the sound of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me.”

From the mountaintops of human awareness, and from the turbulence of many wanderous shore epiphanies, we homo sapiens somehow manage to  bring forth as offerings a cornucopia of creative endeavors; they are birthed in desperation, and they are often borne in desperate attempts to somehow attain hope.

You catch a hearing of that struggle to which I allude, in this music, composed in Spain in 1939 by Jaoquin Rodrigo:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9RS4biqyAc

You can catch a glimpse of it in Picasso’s mural, composed in Spain in 1937, after the Luftwaffe bombing of Guernica:

  GuernicaPic

But in my exploration of these matters, the most profound expression of the pathos curse is manifested in the life of one person who, by his laborious struggle, imparted the purest and most enduring message of love ever etched upon the parchment of human history; but his great gift was rejected through our judgmental travesty: a sentence of crucifixion.

ChristCruc

Yet out of that most extreme humiliation there arose an even greater opus of creative, persistent love : resurrection.

If you can even believe it.

Smoke

Proxy War

July 9, 2014

 

In the world of the 1930’s, two destructive European ideologies were accumulating an arsenal with which to obliterate each other.

Unlike today, when the world is polarizing along ancient religious divisions, the scenario of the ’30s was moving Europe toward a death-struggle between two opposing Western economic ideologies–fascism and communism.

The rise of two masterminding evil geniuses–Hitler and Stalin– enabled their respective war-making nation-empires to rise to their full militarily destructive capacities and impose widespread destruction upon the world. During that period, seventy or eighty years ago, the civil war in Spain became the puppetized proxy war. Militarizing fascist states–Germany and Italy–propped up Spanish insurgents led by General Franco, as he sought to run the Communist-leaning, Soviet-supported government of Spain out of Madrid and out of power.

Today, the hotspot is not Spain; it is Syria. The power-brokers are not the Allies and the Axis; they are the West vs. Islam.

The civil war in Syria, which is now spreading into Iraq, is becoming the proxy war for two opposing ancient strains of Islamic power–Sunni and Shia. Iraq is caught in the middle between Syria (mostly Sunni) against the Shia empire, Iran, on the other side.

This scenario is eerily similar to the European ideology-based polarization of eight decades ago. During the 1930’s, Spain, Czechoslovakia, and Poland were caught in the middle between Hitler’s bloodthirsty power-grab and Stalin’s stealthy gulag death machine.

Today’s version of human-powered depraved bellicosity is not exactly the same, of course, as what was taking shape in the ’30’s, but there are similarities. The student of history can dimly discern these similarities. In our war-bound world of today, Syria, Iraq and other Arab states are caught in the middle, as Spain, Czechoslovakia and Poland were in the former times.

ISIS radicals in Syria are the Islamic version of Franco’s quasi-Catholic fascists in Spain in 1936-1939. They are hiding  their heartlessly demonic destruction behind a facade of the indigenous religion.

Franco’s insurgents were supplied by the emerging-under-VersaillesTreaty-radar Nazi-fascist German Luftwaffe, who shocked the world with their air-powered obliteration of the town of Guernica, Spain, April 26 1937.

Today, ISIS brutes are shocking the world with their brutality in western Iraq, as has happened in Mosul. Now the battle is getting more intense and bloodier between Sunni and Shia , as it was between Fascist and Communist in the late 1930s.

This showdown is one that the major powers, comfortable in their relative prosperity and peace, prefer to watch from a distance and get involved if it becomes absolutely necessary.

In Britain and France in the 1930’s, capitalist power-brokers stealthily supported Hitler’s camouflaged Nazi heathen militarism, because they saw it as a potential defense against Soviet Communism.

Little did they know what Adolf Hitler had in mind.

Is there an Islamic Feuhrer out there in the middle east somewhere now, waiting in the wings to make his big move?

In 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain went to Munich and made a deal with Hitler. He came back to England waving a piece of paper that he thought represented peace. But a few months later, Hitler, having stalled the Allies off long enough to build up his wehrmacht, jumped on Czechoslovakia and Poland like a pit bull on a squirrel. You know the rest.

The world got sucked into a terrible war; millions were killed. Because the Allies were worn out with it all by 1945, Stalin took the scraps in eastern Europe that Hitler had failed to hold and therefore left behind for his former ally. Stalin, the fox, outsmarted and outlasted his ally-nemesis, Hitler. Stalin could not have done it without our help. War makes strange bedfellows.

Nowadays, it looks as though the United States, weary of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, is willing to turn the defense of weak Iraq over to the Iranian ayatollahs, so that ISIS will not take all of Shia-dominated Iraq.  Hitler didn’t want the Czechs/socialists to have Sudetenland either.

Those Iranian Shia will be doing the dirty work in proxy war as Franco did for Hitler and Mussolini in 1936-39.

Is this something like turning the protection of the hen-house over to the fox?

We shall see.

 

Smoke

Listening to Rodrigo’s masterpiece

November 19, 2012

You may enjoy listening to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9RS4biqyAc&feature=related

Many years ago, while I was taking guitar lessons at the tender age of 14, my teacher recommended I attend a concert by the renown flamenco artist, Carlos Montoya. Hearing his music that night changed my life.

I spent many years obsessed with the guitar. But these days, the instrument is on a back burner, as I work on writing a novel, my third. The book’s tale begins on May 12, 1937 in London, on the day that George VI was crowned King of the United Kingdom.

But the story, as it has developed through my study of the volatile historical events of that time, gravitates to a place of passion, a land of expressive music, art and precious human blood–a nation on the other side of  the English Channel–Spain. During the late 1930’s, that nation was torn in a terrible civil war.

During the last few weeks, my novel’s historical focus has landed the characters, Philip, Itmar, and Mark, in a dockside diner in London, where they are talking about Spain, and the terrible, bloody events that were happening there in May of 1937.

A week or so ago, while my mind and the keyboard were hovering around this scene written on page 100 or so, I happened to be listening to my favorite radio station, WDAV. As chance or Providence would have it, Joaquin Rodrigo‘s musical masterpiece, Concerto de Aranjuez went out across the airwaves and landed upon my brain.

This evocative, tender music, written by Señor Rodrigo in 1939 at the end of the Spanish civil war, expresses passionately the essence of that unique place. You may enjoy the eleven minutes that listening to it occupies in time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9RS4biqyAc&feature=related

CR, with the novel, Smoke, in progress

Ghosts of Civil War, Spain 1936

August 5, 2012

My current study of history during the years 1936-1938 has revealed an alarming similarity between the Spanish Civil War of that era and the present civil war in Syria today.

During the 1930s, the nation of Spain was dragging itself out of its deep, dark past, into the perilous, polarizing politics of 20th-century Europe. But the two main ideological forces of that era were not content to let Spain work its own bloody identity crisis out.

International Communists, propelled by Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia, and led by Josef Stalin, were strategizing for control of Europe; their struggle was directed primarily against the Fascist/Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy.

Neither of these two ideological poles were content to let Spain work out its own destiny. Rather, both the Communists and the Fascist/Nazis strove to manipulate and control Spanish political/cultural factions.

In 1936, as General Franco’s armies mounted rightist insurrections against the leftist Popular Front government, Mussolini, the Italian dictator, began providing serious military support for Franco and the Spanish fascists. This provoked Stalin and the Moscow communists to bolster the Spanish government in Madrid with armaments to resist Franco’s military campaigns.

As military capabilities and clashes became bloodier and more atrocious in Spain, the mercantile-minded democratic nations found themselves having to make unpleasantly complicated decisions about how to neutralize the two warring sides of Spanish bloodletting.

So Britain, United States, and France found themselves, inconveniently having to take a stand one way or the other.

The solution they arrived at, in August of 1936, was a non-intervention pact, designed to prevent further transferral of armaments into bloody Spain.

This did not work, because Hitler and Mussolini violated the non-intervention agreement by continuing to supply weapons, and even soldiers, to the fascists in Spain. Consequently, Largo Caballero, Prime Minister and leader of the Popular Front government of Spain, was required to cultivate more radical leftist, specifically Russian Communist, support in order to sustain the Spanish government against General Franco’s fascist insurgency.

In the midst of all this contention, both political and military, neither side was merciful. Slaughters and atrocities were happening at various hot skirmish points across the countryside and cities of Spain.

Douglas Little, in his 1985 book, Malevolent Neutrality, (Cornell University Press), wrote on page 248:

“Ironically, the British and American arms embargoes had ensured the very thing they were designed to prevent: the expansion of Soviet influence in Spain.”

Business and political leaders in Britain and U.S., noticing the leftward drift of Caballero’s Madrid government, unwittingly facilitated the surreptitious Fascist/Nazi domination of Franco’s militarism in Spain. The Spanish Civil War, as it subsequently erupted during autumn of 1936 and onward, became a training ground for Mussolini’s  fascisti ground troops, and Hitler’s luftwaffe air force.

As it turns out then, history demonstrates that military neutrality can prove disastrous in the convoluted treacheries of world politics.

In Syria today, rebels are storming the gates of Damascus and Aleppo, fighting to overthrow the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad.

But the insurrection boot is, this time, on the other foot. We democratic nations want to believe that the rebels represent possibilities for future democracy and popular government. But do we know this?

We don’t know. We don’t know for sure. Meanwhile, the two principal bully-states (bullies toward their own citizens) of the civilized world, Russian and China, refuse to permit international support for the Syrian rebels against the al-Assad regine, itself an oppressive bully-state.

It could be that this armed struggle in Syria is, as I heard a caller say recently on a radio talk show, “the Spanish Civil War of our age,” in which the political/military forces, striving to align themselves, establish a deadly framework for larger eruptions of militarism yet to come.

If it is true that ignorance of history dooms us to repeating history’s mistakes, then we may be stumbling toward another vicious tarbaby of world war. On the other hand, maybe the supposed awareness of strategic options that arise from history’s lessons  is nothing more than a naive fallacy.

I don’t know whether historical intelligence can be truly beneficial for mankind or not, but then I, like most folks, am not in a position to do much about it anyway.

However, I am writing a novel, Smoke, that pertains to these issues as they existed in our world in 1937. And I hope that history does not repeat itself.