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granada la bella blog

About this blog

Here you will find my personal view about selected events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible', Granada, 'la bella y la bestia', and particularly about the city's uneasy relationship with its greatest son, Federico Garcia Lorca, who alternatively loved and loathed it.


Contemporary Granada Posted on Fri, July 19, 2019 19:03:04

Athens has
not one, but three buried rivers, the Kifisos, the Iridanos, and the Ilissos:
“a crime against the city” the daily newspaper Kathimerini calls them. [This I
read in the Guardian Weekly of 14 June 2019; a report by Yiannis Babqulias.]
There, in Athens, the question of reburying or unburying the Ilissos has taken on some urgency
because its walls are crumbling and the tramlines that pass overhead have
become unsafe. Rather than rebuild the walls, wouldn’t it be better to re-route
the trams, and recover – that is, UNcover – the river? That is the current line
of Greek thought on the matter.

It is a
line of thought that can be identified as part of the ‘Daylighting Urban
Waterways’ movement, which and has had successes from Seoul in 2005, where and when the
Cheonggyecheon stream was resurrected from its urban death bed, to Sheffield in
2017, where the River Sheaf was opened up and incorporated into a pocket of
parkland. (GW again.)

So moves to
rescue our River Darro from under the Reyes
Street (see blog post 109, dated 2/6/2019)
are part of a global movement, something that improves their chances of realisation,

The idea of
burying the River Darro underground was conceived, according to Angel Ganivet (see blog post 109),
at the depths of a dark, dark night towards the end of the 19th century.
Is it not now time for it to be daylighted, in tune with the urban regeneration tendencies of the 21st?

1, The River Ilissos in classical times. 2, The Ilissos today. 3, The River Darro where it goes underground at Plaza Santa Ana. 4, The River Darro in the 19th century.


Contemporary Granada Posted on Sun, June 02, 2019 09:46:50

Perhaps you know that under the Reyes Católicos street, that vital city traffic artery that
connects Puerta Real with the Gran Vía for buses, taxis and bikes,
runs the River Darro on its way to its meeting with the River Genil, it in turn
on its way down “from the snow to the wheat”. (Quoting
Lorca: Baladilla de los tres ríos in Poema del cante jondo.)

Well, at the recent local elections, the leftist
list, Podemos-IU, led by Antonio Cambril, included the uncovering of
the Darro beneath Reyes Católicos in its election programme. And
unsurprisingly, the demand won the support of Lorca and Granada admirer and
expert, Ian Gibson, as revealed by Alba Rodríguez‘s interview with him in Granada Hoy, 15 May, 2019.
Gibson, convinced by the left coalition’s cultural and environmental proposals,
added his name to Cambril’s electoral list. Air pollution, as we know (blogs #post97 &
#post106), has
reached a critical level and Granada needs more green. Verde que te quiero verde,
he quotes (Lorca again: Romance sonámbulo
from Romancero gitano): “Green how I
love you green”. As for
uncovering/recovering the Darro: it’s a great idea and Gibson has thought so
for decades.

The idea, of course, is not really his. It
goes back to the powerful, coherent and influential urban criticism of Angel
Ganivet, who wrote in his work Granada la
that he knew many cities with rivers running through the centre of
them (London, Paris, Berlin, etc) but only in Granada had they hit upon the mad
idea of covering theirs over. The idea, he suggested, had been conceived at the
depths of darkest night. The Reyes
, vulgar in itself, was out-of-place in relation to the shady and
narrow streets that – then, and to some extent still – lead off it.

For Ganivet (1865 – 1898), the burying of the Darro
was a contemporary event and the more deeply felt for that. Until the 1880s,
what today is calle Reyes Católicos
used to be the Revés del Zacatín, the
Back of the Zacatín, and it was where the local craftsmen, specially the dyers
and the tanners and leather workers, dumped the waste from their artisanal
workshops. Straight into the River Darro. Like they still do today, I believe,
in Fez (Morocco.)

Since Arabic times, the Zacatín and the Alcaicería, on
the left bank of the river, had been the home of craftsmen, the Alcaicería in particular being for
centuries an important centre of Arabic craftsmanship, though the original
workshops were actually burnt down in a devastating fire in 1843, and the area
never recovered anything of its former character. Today, only Orientalist-themed and kitschy souvenir
shops remain.

By the 1880s, be that as it may, the River Darro had
been identified by the authorities as a health hazard for the densely populated nearby area, and hence the crude
decision to simply cover it over. And by 1884 it was virtually all over.

Then, just a
few days after the Ian Gibson interview, a photomontage appeared on the front
page of Granada Hoy (21 May G. Cappa) giving architect Saúl Meral’s impression of
what Reyes Católicos could
look like, gentrified and beautified, with the river recovered from its gloomy
tunnel. His artwork was an attempt to imagine a harmonised continuation of the
aesthetic of the river as it runs along the Carrera
del Darro
, Darro Road, before disappearing into its tunnel just next to the
Santa Ana Church. How closely it may reflect a credible potential
reality is open to discussion, says the architect, but in the end he is clearly
in agreement with Gibson’s attitude of: Verde
que te quiero verde
with regard to Granada’s urban development.
Above: Architect Saúl Meral’s impression of the River Darro uncovered. Below: carrera del Darro

Air Pollution (2)

Contemporary Granada Posted on Mon, April 15, 2019 17:37:48

In January, I first posted about the alarming levels of air pollution in
Granada, to which the city’s particular topography contributes [//]. Now a 30kph speed limit has been introduced for the whole urban area and
will be maintained as long as the problem remains unresolved (the foreseeable
future). It is one measure to fight pollution among others, which include the
gradual increase in the number of electric and hybrid vehicles, the elimination
of diesel and other highly contaminating fossil fuel-burning engines, and the promotion
of environment-friendlier means of transport such as scooters, skateboards,
roller skates, and bikes.

The town council voted in favour of the 30 kph speed limit on 1 March and
at the moment traffic signs are being changed throughout the city.
A further measure will be to reduce the speed limit on the ring road from
100 to 90kph.
These new measures are designed to reduce not only air pollution but also
noise pollution levels, not to mention accidents, thus improving the quality of
life Granada.

I read somewhere that Granada used to be a quiet, almost silent city, and
that when the wind blew in from the Vega it would not encounter a sound until
it reached the gurgling of the fountain in Plaza Nueva. Lorca? Another anecdote
said that the bell on the Veleta tower of the Alhambra was rung to signal
changeover times for the irrigation canals out on the Vega, where it could be
heard clearly at all hours.

Those days are gone and will not
return, but we know: air pollution is a killer, – and silence is golden…

Acknowledgements: Susana
10 Abril, 2019 – 14:12h

Left: the 30 kph speed limit applies to the entire road network inside the ringroad. Right: environment-friendly means of transport

Granada, second most highly rated tourist city in Spain

Contemporary Granada Posted on Sat, April 13, 2019 11:19:22

If Granada is only the second, what is the first?
is the obvious question to be asked. And the answer is: Santander.

The ratings are achieved by a comprehensive box ticking
method with altogether fifteen categories to be evaluated, including the
quality of public transport, preservation of the cultural heritage, cultural
and tourist facilities, hospitality, a feeling of safety, entertainment for
children, gastronomy, night life, shopping, and prices, plus a box for global

Granada did well on preservation of the cultural heritage, shopping and
prices, scoring a total of 85 points out of 100. (Did less well on hospitality,
maybe, what with the ‘malafollá granadina’…) It was pipped by Santander which
scored 87 and outdid Granada on hospitality, gastronomy and safety. E. P. 11 April, 2019

* The ratings are from a survey carried out by the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU) which asked Spanish, Belgian, French, Italian and Portuguese
tourists who had stayed in a city inside or outside Spain for at least one
night in the last two years.

The gastronomy of Granada: The Essential Guide: Where to Eat Tapas in Granada April 3, 2019

The Origin of the ‘Tapa’.

Contemporary Granada Posted on Tue, March 26, 2019 15:56:30

The definition of ‘tapa’ according to the Spanish Royal Academy is a small
portion of food accompanying a drink.

This definition leaves out two essential elements that make up what we
understand a tapa to be in Granada today and they are 1) that it’s free, and 2) that everyone without exception is offered one.

If it’s not free, it’s a snack, or a bite to eat, a light meal, a tidbit, a
morsel of food, a mini-portion … anything, but not a tapa. Similarly, if it’s
not offered indiscriminately, it may be a treat, a favour, preferential
treatment for some unknown motive, a reward for some special service, a bribe,
a personal incentive, … but it’s not a tapa.

The verb ‘tapar’ means to cover and a ‘tapa’ is then a lid. The story goes
that the custom developed of covering the wine glass with a slice of ham or
sausage, either to prevent foreign bodies (flies, flecks of dust or dirt, etc) entering
the glass, or to prevent the aroma of the wine from escaping.

I once heard that the tradition of the free tapa, which is typical for East
Andalusia but not for the rest of the country, developed in cash-strapped
Granada in the 1930s as part of the fierce competition among bar owners vying
for custom and I’ve always believed it. The story I was told mentioned the bar
and its location, in one of the small streets close to Plaza del Carmen, but
I’ve forgotten the name and can’t trace it at the moment.

Anyway, now, a ‘tourist development agent’ by the name of Gabriel Medina has by accident
discovered the earliest documented reference to the phenomenon while
researching the gypsy zambra – a
style of Flamenco dance associated with wedding ceremonies. In his research, he
came across an advert in a newspaper for a tavern which offered macetas
(obviously not a flower-pot
but a drinking receptacle) a 10 céntimos
con tapaderas de salchichón
[drinks at 10 centimes with sausage ‘covers’].

This ad points to the date of 13 October 1909 as being the documentary birthday
of the tapa as we know it in Granada today.

This said tavern went by the name of Café Económico de Antonio el Aparcero
and in 1909 it was situated
in the calle (street) Tendillas de Santa Paula,
on the corner of calle de San Jerónimo.
Antonio el Aparcero subsequently
changed his premises a number of times before, in 1912, opening a tavern in the
central calle Sierpe Baja.

In this same year, the following announcement could be read:

El Aparcero tiene costumbre de servir con la maceta algún aperitivo, sin que
por ello empeore la buena calidad de sus géneros

[Antonio ‘the Sharecropper’ has the custom of serving some kind of appetizer
with your drink, without affecting the high quality of his beverages.]

Antonio el Aparcero was Antonio Quirosa Mendoza, born 8 October 1870, not far away
at calle Puente de la Virgen, 3. We do not know how long Antonio kept up the custom of serving a tapa with
the drink ordered by his customers, or if he was ever aware of the time-honoured
tradition that can now be dated back to that October day, shortly after his 39th

El origen de
la tapa de Granada / G. M.

M. V. Granada, 21 Marzo, 2019 – 20:23h

air pollution

Contemporary Granada Posted on Tue, January 22, 2019 22:35:42

A few hours of non-stop rain on the
night of 19-20 January accompanied by some fairly mild winds was enough to
clear the air in Granada, a welcome and long overdue relief for all of us.

17 January, Ecologistas en Acción
had reported the alarming levels of air pollution that were being built up over
Granada due to a noxious mixture of nitrogen dioxide and environmentally pernicious particles. This is
part of a familiar weather pattern that is repeated year after year. Something
to do with the exceedingly high summer temperatures favouring the creation of a
layer of ozone which trap said noxious mixture in the long periods of
anticyclonic and windless weather conditions typical in winter. Collected data
showed that by mid-January air pollution
was posing a threat to all forms of life in the metropolitan area of Granada,
home to half a million people.

Fortunately, this threat came to an
end on Sunday just a couple of days after the Ecologists in Action’s warning.
Nevertheless, the ecologists’ call for a comprehensive plan of action to deal
with the poor quality of Granada’s air needs to be heeded in view of the
predictability of a repetition of the unfavourable climatic conditions in the next period of anticyclonic winter weather.

BEFORE … the rain … and AFTER


Contemporary Granada Posted on Thu, January 03, 2019 16:56:18


In case you didn’t know, Spanish dictator
General Francisco Franco’s mortal remains are buried at the Valley of the
Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), a
hideous fascist monument built by the forced labour of political prisoners on a
mountainside north of Madrid to commemorate all those who died during the
Spanish Civil War, though he himself died peacefully in his bed in 1975 at the
age of 82.

However, he is about to be disturbed 44
years after his death. When social democrat Pedro Sánchez became president of
the Spanish government in June 2018 via a motion of no confidence in his
predecessor, Mariano Rajoy of the right-wing Popular Party, he undertook to
have the nationalist leader exhumed and removed from the memorial site, symbol
of the dictator and his repressive regime and a pilgrimage destination for his
supporters to this day.

At the same time, Sánchez offered to involve the
family of the late dictator in the decision as to where the corpse should be
re-buried. Right then, they said, if we cannot avoid the exhumation, we’ll have
grandfather Francisco moved to the family crypt in the La Almuneda cathedral in
Madrid. It’s where his daughter, Carmen Franco Polo, and her husband Cristóbal
, Marques
of Villaverde lie buried.

Pedro Sánchez is not very happy about this. If the old
tyrant’s resting place at the Valley of the Fallen demands of his supporters some
effort in travelling around 60 kilometres from the capital to pay their
respects to their hero, La Almuneda is slap bang in the middle of Madrid and along
with the Royal Palace one of the city’s major tourist attractions. Imagine the
tomb of the Generalísimo being part
of this!

So the Government has turned down this proposal,
allegedly on account of the threat it poses to public order, with the
possibility of violent confrontations breaking out between supporters and
opponents of the man who ruled over Spain for 36 years (1939-1975), not to mention the
threat of possible terrorist attacks. In other words: technical but no
political arguments against the late dictator capturing this top spot at the very
heart of the capital.

So far, an alternative to La Almuneda has not been
decided on, though there is talk of the cemetery of Mingorrubio, El Pardo
(Madrid), where his wife Carmen Polo lies buried in a grave that belongs to the
country’s National Patrimony, as, incidentally, does the Valle de los Caídos memorial.

This soul-searching quest for an
appropriate place to dispose of the remains of the man who is responsible for close
to half a million deaths among the population may sound perverse, but as we
know: Spain is different.

There’s no hurry, says President Sánchez laconically. Franco’s
mortal remains have been where they are for 40 years, so as far as he is concerned
a few more months are neither here nor there.


other threat of exhumation is of more concern to us. For a while, it looked as
if the mortal remains of Emilia Llanos Medina would have to be removed from
their niche in the Cemetery of San José in Granada owing to non-payment of long
overdue maintenance rates. She died childless on 29 August 1967 and there are no family descendents to take on the

Why is this of such concern to us? The ‘marvellous’
Emilia Llanos was in the words of our poet FGL a ‘spiritual
treasure’ among the women of Granada and ‘divine emblem of the 20th Century’, worthy
of ‘all his admiration and fervour’. Thus, his dedication to her in the copy of
Impressions and Landscapes he gave
her, a few days after them having been introduced, on 29 August 1918. She and
Lorca remained the closest of friends up until his murder eighteen years later.
Emilia was similarly close all her life to the musician Manuel de Falla and especially
his sister María del Carmen.

Fortunately, we know now that Emilia will
not end up in an unmarked grave – ‘a pauper’s grave’ as they used to say – thanks
to the intervention of aware local politicians, who pointed out her key role in
the cultural life of twentieth century Granada, allowing her tomb to be
recognised as worthy of maintenance by the city council. This, even though she
did not figure in the official list of local dignitaries in receipt of formal honours
and distinctions from the city.

Her memory may no have the social impact as
that of the late caudillo, Francisco
Franco Bahamonde, but it does look as if she will be able to continue to rest in peace.

the city with the greatest density of tourists

Contemporary Granada Posted on Sun, February 11, 2018 21:29:42

Would you believe that Granada is the city which
receives the greatest density of tourists in the whole of Spain? Well, it is.

I’m not
quite sure how they work this out but it’s to do with the number of visitors in
relation to the permanent population and the total urban area. So Exceltur, in its study of the fifteen
most popular tourist destinations, puts Granada in first place with an average
daily tourist density of 11.7%. This tops even Barcelona, with a density of 11.1%.

This might
not come as such a surprise if you visited the Mirador San Nicolás on a sunny
Sunday, like today (11 Feb 18). Or if you walked down through the Albaicín
facing the oncoming hordes on the morning of a Spanish ‘puente’ (long weekend:
6-10 Dec 17).

And it
places Granada’s well above Spain’s average tourist density of 7.4%. In Madrid,
by way of comparison, tourists would pass barely perceived among the daily
crowds of locals, with a density of a mere 4.6%. Or what about Córdoba with
only 3.7%? Granada is also well ahead of the two other major Andalusian tourist
destinations: Málaga (8% tourist density) and Sevilla (7.1%).

determining factor in the surge of tourist density in recent years has been the
boom in residential tourist accommodation à la airbnb. Exceltur calculates that a daily average of 27,376 visitors come to
Granada, of whom 15,078, that’s 55%, opt for airbnb-type lodgings. Only 45%
overnight in proper hotels and hostals.

This is a high
proportion, but it is not as high as Málaga, where 75% of tourists are reported
to stay at these kinds of places. It is also behind most of the major tourist
destinations in this respect: Alicante (67.8%), San Sebastián (66.7%), Palma de
Mallorca (65.8%), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (60.6%), Sevilla (60.5%) and Valencia
(60,3%). And it is this conversion of residential accommodation into tourist
accommodation that has given rise to the greatest displeasure among the local

Barcelona, it is the high proportion of private homes totally or partially
converted into tourist accommodation that has fuelled open hostility to the
influx of tourists. There, neighbourhoods are really being torn apart by a loss
of affordable housing and the restructuring of services to cater for what are
in effect holiday makers rather than for the local people. Of course, it is
sheer numbers that cause the greatest problems. It’s ok if a couple of guiris pop into your local bar, but if
your local bar then becomes a tourist attraction, you may have to go somewhere
else for your coffee and toast.

So far, an
open hostility towards visitors has not led to aggressive reactions among the
local people of Granada. This may be because the places where tourists
aggregate (Alhambra, Albaicín, Centre) tend to be outside the traditional
neighbourhoods and residential areas. It is less likely to be a result of the
sweet, tolerant nature of the indigenous populace.

Acknowledgements to Guadalupe S. Maldonado, Granada Hoy, 11 Febrero,

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