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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.

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


Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Sun, March 17, 2019 10:56:49

From his earliest days, Lorca was keenly aware
of social injustice, inequality and the suffering of the poor “from the deepest
roots of his generous condition”. (We have this from his brother, Francisco.) Nevertheless,
in spite of his sensitivity to social evils, Federico was never a political
activist. Even though Fernando de los Ríos, who was one, befriended him early
on, the poet never belonged to the dedicated group of student followers that
the Professor of Law won at the University of Granada in those years after his
appointment in 1911.

When Spain’s political and economic crisis reached
its climax in Granada on 11 February 1919, with a demonstration of students
throwing stones at the house of the Mayor, Felipe La Chica, and three citizens getting shot dead, Lorca locked himself
in his room for the duration of the disturbances and refused even to look out
from his balcony, where demonstrations took place daily right in front of his flat,
in the Acera del Casino, close to Puerta Real*. (This is from his friend, the
painter Manuel Angeles Ortiz.) “I frequently went to Federico’s place to keep
him informed of the latest events, for during the two weeks that the incidents
lasted, he never left the flat.” Any kind of violence went against his
sensitive nature, concludes the painter.

Lorca’s caution was perhaps not so
excessive, when one considers that one of the three fatalities on that fateful
February day was Josefa González, a young
housewife, who was hit by a stray bullet fired from nearby Plaza del Carmen while
she was in the interior of her parents’ home in calle (street) Reyes Católicos,
on the corner of calle Mariana Pineda*. In fact, only one of the three victims
of the Guardia
Civil’s repression of that day’s student demo was actually taking part in the
protest. He was local medical student Ramón
Ruiz de Peralta, shot in the head by a zealous Guardia Civil agent. The third casualty
was railway worker, Ramón Gómez, father of a seven-year-old girl, who just happened
to be passing by the puente del Carbón* (calle Reyes Católicos) when he was

Tangible outcomes resulting from these
deaths were a minor shake-up in the corrupt electoral system and Fernando de
los Ríos’s commitment to socialism, joining the Spanish Socialist Workers’
Party (PSOE) and getting elected to the Spanish Parliament in June that same

The protests were
directed against corruption in the municipal administration and most
specifically at the liberal “cacique” (despot) Felipe La Chica whose turn it
was to be in office. “Caciquismo” was still rife in Granada, with conservative and liberal politicians conniving to rig election results, dividing
up sinecures and influential public posts between them, raiding the municipal
coffers to their own benefit, and aided and abetted by corrupt civil servants
who wholeheartedly joined in the graft by falsifying official documents,
including voting lists and election returns. All of this occurred against a
backcloth of economic crisis and poverty, hardship and want for the mass of the

There is little trace of these events and
circumstances being reflected directly in the works of the poet. Nonetheless, Lorca
was not indifferent to what happened and we find his name in a list of
signatories to a telegram of protest from the Centro Artístico addressed to the
President of the Council of Ministers which was published in the Gazeta del Sur
on 15 February. The telegram, while ostensibly trying to avoid taking sides in
the political struggle, condemned and protested energetically against the violence
of the suppressive measures while taking a clearly critical position vis-à-vis
the practices of local despotism and calling for the resignation of La Chica,
who was indeed subsequently suspended from office.

* See the forthcoming blog for an outline
of the location of these places: Acera del Casino, Puerta Real, Plaza del Carmen, calle Reyes Católicos, calle Mariana Pineda,and Puente
del Carbón.

Acknowlwdgements to: José Luis Delgado, Granada Hoy, 10 Feb 2019

High Speed vs conventional trains

AVE (High Speed Train) Posted on Tue, February 12, 2019 19:17:15

In November
2018 the west-bound Moreda line was re-opened, enabling a resumption of the
conventional ‘Talgo’ Granada-Madrid intercity train service after a
three-and-a-half year hiatus. This happened in spite of the fact that six
months earlier, the government had categorically rejected the idea, arguing
that the existing bus replacement service ‘covered the needs’ of travellers
heading for Madrid, Sevilla, or Barcelona. There had been no significant drop
in the number of users since the service was interrupted in 2015 it was argued.
So everything was ok.

this cursory abandonment of the Talgo-Moraleda line is symptomatic of the
relationship between the conventional rail network and the High Speed network,
in which the former has consistently been neglected in favour of the latter.

For example,
over 31,000 million euros have been invested in the High Speed network over the
last decade; compared with just over 6000 million in conventional stock and
infrastructure: a relation of 5:1.

Last year, 2018, a little more than
1000 million euros was invested in the AVE, as against some 337 million in the
conventional rail network. So, 3 of every four euros invested in rail
infrastructure went to the much smaller and less used High Speed network. The
conventional rail network has more than 13,000 kilometres of track, compared to
the AVE’s 3000. 2 million use the conventional network every day; whereas a
maximum of 25,000 travel by AVE.

And while Spain has the most extensive High
Speed network per inhabitant in the world, only exceeded in kilometres by
China, at the same time the Spanish network carries the fewest passengers: less
than 15 per kilometre, as against 50 for France, 84 for Germany, 63 for China,
and 166 for Japan.

imbalance has been largely brought about by the prestige the AVE contributes to
the local political elites and business communities. The fear of missing the
technological bus to the future is also a factor: An AVE-less city risks
marginalisation, and being left behind. Every provincial capital strives to be
on the AVE map, as indeed is the case for Granada.

other words, a high-speed high-prestige rail service for the few is draining
funds from an existing rail network used by an overwhelming majority of the
population, with extremely detrimental long-term consequences. The High Speed
network is an ‘inefficient mosaic’ without any realistic long-term planning in
which delays and ‘unforeseen’ additional costs are the norm and have led to
wasteful or inopportune investments to the tune of some 26,000 million euros
over the last two decades. (From: Ramón Muñoz
Madrid 6 Jan 2019)
Spanish Rail Network, showing existing operational AVE lines


AVE (High Speed Train) Posted on Tue, February 12, 2019 19:02:04

Granada will
be linked to the High Speed Train (AVE) network from June 2019. [See previous
blogs: Oct 2018 (#91); May 2018 (#85);
Jan & Feb 2017 (#54 & 56); March 2014 (48); and Feb 2013 (#29).]
This is almost certainly probably definite. It’s what Minister of Public Works,
José Luis Ábalos, said last
September. And besides, 18 June 2019 is the date that the bus replacement
service to ferry people between Granada and Antequera expires. Until now, the
bus company contract has been renewed every six months since the railway line
was permanently closed for works to be carried out on the new line in April

Well, we said ‘probably definitely’
because, just in case, the bus replacement contract has been extended for
another three months from 19 June, but not, we note, for the usual six. There
has never previously been a contract of such short duration. So we have good
reason to be optimistic. Something is moving. They’ve started training the High
Speed Train drivers, I hear. So if it isn’t June, it will surely be before

The High Speed Train was once
supposed to start serving Granada in 2007. In 2015 the station was closed ‘for
4 – 6 months’ while essential works were carried out. Then they talked about
late 2017 for the first AVE to Granada, then early 2018, etc., etc

But this summer, 2019, you will
probably definitely be able to whoosh into Granada at 300kph from either
Madrid, or Sevilla. Fingers crossed. Or you could catch a plane from seven
European cities. [//]

Cante Jondo Competition

Historic Granada Posted on Sat, February 02, 2019 17:21:38

Clockwise from
top left

1. A young
Manolo Caracol (b 1909) also won a prize

2. a photo of
the event

3. Manuel de Falla, portrait by Ignacio Zuloaga;

4. publicity
for a recording of the event

5. the Plaza
del Aljibe, the event’s venue, today

6. López
Sancho’s famous caricature of El Tenazas and his select audience

Diego Bermúdez Cala

Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Sat, February 02, 2019 17:12:58

Diego Bermúdez
is not a name that immediately comes to mind in association with the creative
life of the poet Federico García Lorca, but under his nickname, el Tenazas (Plyers/Pincers), you might
recognise him as the surprising winner of the 1922 Cante Jondo Competition organised primarily under the auspices of musician
Manuel de Falla, supported by a handful of Granada’s cultural elite, Lorca
included, of course.

For Manuel de
Falla, the cante jondo and in
particular the siguiriya was the
outstanding form of contemporary popular musical expression that had kept its
purity over centuries and had its roots in the ancient traditions that the
gypsies had brought with them from their origins on the Asian continent.

Diego Bermúdez, el
, el Tenazas de Morón,
had helped keep this tradition alive, largely thanks to his friendship with and
admiration for the cantaor Silverio
Franconetti, recognised as one of the historic greats of flamenco music and who
merits a vignette in Lorca’s poem Poema
del cante jondo
, inspired by the Competition. Franconetti is reckoned to
have rescued from oblivion some of the finest primitive forms of gypsy song.

Lorca speculates in his “Portrait of Silverio
Franconetti” on how the “dense honey” of his Italian ancestry might have
blended with the Andalusian lemon in his rendering of the “deep song”. People
who knew him said their hair stood on end and mirrors shattered at the sound of
his heart-rending cry. For Lorca, his music, once so definitive and pure, represented
the last echoes of that fading tradition.

Diego Bermúdez was, then, one of the few performers to
have first-hand experience of this old style of flamenco, to which his own
clear and powerful voice would prove that it could still lend an unexpected intensity.
One might say that these were, indeed, the last echoes of that legendary music
of an almost bygone age.

He was born in
Morón de la Frontera (Sevilla), in 1852(?) and died, in dire circumstances, in
spite of the recognition his prize must have given him, in Puente Genil
(Córdoba) in 1933, where he was already living at the time of the Competition
in 1922. He was born into a rural, practically peasant environment, but at the
age of 25 he gave up working the land to dedicate himself to his singing,
making a name for himself as an entertainer at public and private parties and
gatherings throughout Sevilla y Cádiz.

Although Lorca
wrote his poem and his talk about the cante
before the competition itself, we may say that El Tenazas’ voice fulfilled to perfection the essence of the Deep
Song as understood by Falla and his like-minded peers. The gypsy siguiriya, said Lorca in that talk (Arquitectura del cante jondo) starts
with a heart-rending cry: “A cry which splits the landscape into two ideal
hemispheres. Then the voice stops and gives way to an impressive and measured
silence.” This is given poetic expression in Poema de la siguiriya gitana, from which I quote, selectively:

“The ellipse
of a cry goes from hilltop to hilltop. From the olive trees, it will be a black
rainbow against the blue night. – Oh! – Like a viola bow, the cry has made the
long strings of the wind vibrate” …

elipse de un grito,/va de monte/a monte. De los olivos,/será un arco iris
negro/sobre la noche azul.//¡Ay!// Como un arco de viola,/el grito ha hecho
vibrar/largas cuerdas de viento.]

… while the
“ondulating silence” that follows is a silence in which valleys and echoes slip
and slide and by which heads are bowed towards the ground.

resbalan valles y ecos/y que inclinen las frentes/hacia el suelo.]

contextualisation gives us some idea of the wonder and awe El Tenazas’ voice suscitated in the hearts and minds of the
Competition’s organizers, as described by Manuel Orozco Díaz in his Figuras en la Granada de Lorca: What
started in a murmur ended in the tremendous heart-shattering, violent and brutal
cry that made them all shiver with that a rare thrill of authenticity and
succumb to the emotion of the performer’s powerful spell.

With his
training in the school of the honoured and acclaimed Silverio Franconetti, El Tenazas must have fancied his chances
in the Competition, because he set off to walk the 100-odd kilometres between
Puente Genil and Granada to take part. That he needed the money need hardly be

What appealed
to Falla here was the musical purity of the traditional form that he felt had
been devalued by the degenerate milieu that had enveloped the cante, where the proud tradition of “our
old popular songs” had been reduced to little more than pub sing-songs, easy
listening, and somewhat ridiculous in the minds of the majority of people.

But what the
purist Falla found hard to accept was that this milieu become to a certain
extent part and parcel of the gypsy flamenco performance. Orozco says that
while Falla delighted in El Tenazas
singing, he found the vulgarity and obscenity of much of his conversation hard
to stomach. He also quotes the violoncellist Segismundo Romero as confiding in
him, saying: “You understand now, Manolo, Falla’s regret with Amor Brujo, don’t you? He seems to imply
that Falla re-wrote this work as a more classically orchestral piece, distilling
it of its more low-life Andalusian folk
elements, removing the possibly banal dialogue and reducing the flamenco-like vocals
from the first version, dissatisfied as he was with its gypsy orientation and
storyline, with its more blatantly cantaora

Lorca was more
at home with the expressions of unbridled passions, as likely as not to end in
a knife fight, that was the stuff of flamenco, as can be seen in sections of
the Poema: Puñal and Sorpresa from Poema de la soleá to give two examples. This
was less a part of the tradition that attracted de Falla.

El Tenazas, it seems,
was no stranger to the world of gang fights or family feuds and himself
received a life-threatening knife wound that pierced his lung and affected his
ability to perform. Yet this handicap was also a sort of asset in the context
of “deep song”. For deep song was the expression of the life experience of its
performers and its audiences which the now 70-year-old singer gave free reign
to at the Cante Jondo Competition, casting his spell on his appreciative
audience, reducing them to tears of compassion and emotion. El Tenazas’ performance , we can
imagine, was the net product of a lifetime’s experience of poverty, hardship,
marginalisation and oppression that at last found an outlet.

Falla, the old
ascetic, and Lorca, the young hedonist, had a lot in common as well as a great
deal of respect for each other’s artistic endeavours, but at the same time
their contrasting character and lifestyle were the cause a fair amount of
friction between them. Their differing outlook comes to light here in their
approach to the cante jondo, perhaps
for the first but not for the last time.

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