Ahistorical Albacete

Unlike Carlos, I’m actually rather fond of Albacete, and not just because its ugliness is on a smaller scale than Birmingham’s. Although generally more energy tends to be devoted to damnation than to praise, I found out the other night, flicking through a book called Historia de la provincia de Albacete, that I’m not the only one.

One of the first haters off the mark was Rodrigo Amador de los Ríos, who wrote somewhere around the turn of the century that “the city of Albacete has no history … it lacks genealogy and lineage.” Some of the locals seem to have seen this lack of must as a bit of a compliment, and Emilio Menéndez Pallarés writes in the Golden Book of the Albacete Atheneum (8/2/1908) that “Albacete conserves nothing of the historic town: it lacks those ancient constructions of stone that talk of the past. [Illegible] this Ateneo, popularising culture and sowing ideas, that the city’s soul looks to the future.”

Unamuno, in Albacete for the 1932 Juegos Florales, develops this theme, saying in the Teatro Circo that “In other monumental cities people feel themselves children of of their city; here in Albacete the dominant sentiment is that of paternity: you feel yourselves parents of the city of which you are witnessing the creation and growth, which you yourselves are constructing.” In El Sol (23/9/1932) he writes that Albacete lacks the “demolition dust” of Chinchilla, Albacete’s traditional rival, a spectacular hillside castle and seignorial town just down the road (visualisation may be facilitated by the knowledge that the Spanish voice of James Bond has a house there). After this a secondary industry develops, with Ramón Bello Bañón in 1959 complaining that “no one knows us”, to which Azorín responds, “Dear Albacetians, you treasure the most meritorious of humilities, that of believing nothing that which is everything”, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment.

The strange thing for me about all this is that Unamuno’s meme has failed to take root. Albacete’s reactionary lefty middle classes continue to long for that demolition dust–for mediocre, mouldy culture imported from Madrid and Valencia, for yet more lousy Quijote statues–when it could be celebrating the things, most of them new, that the place is rather good at.

Leaving aside the spectacular, water-technology-driven growth of agriculture, it’s singularly unsatisfying that a region that was uninhabitable for 500 years due to the incessant warring of diverse Moorish and Christian factions should be so singularly unproud of one of its most important industries: arms manufacture. Apart from being the centre of Spanish knife-making (thieves on the Barcelona metro rip open your bags with old grape picking knives made in Albacete), the combination of the Los Llanos airbase and defence minister José Bono’s pork barrel politics means that the Tigre Eurocopter is going to be produced there.

New housing in Albacete may not be pretty, but it’s no uglier or less inspired than Barcelona’s dreadful Eixample, and drinks are half the price. Heck, anywhere’s better than Vic.

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Published
Last updated 28/09/2005

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Albacete (36): Albacete [Spanish pronunciation: [alβaˈθete]] is a city and municipality in the Spanish autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, and capital of the province of Albacete.

Barcelona (1400):

Castile-La Mancha (36):

Catalonia (1156):

Don Quixote (36): Don Quixote, fully titled The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

Generation of '98 (23): The Generation of '98 Generación del 98 or Generación de 1898) was a group of novelists, poets, essayists, and philosophers active in Spain at the time of the Spanish–American War. The name Generación del 98 was coined by José Martínez Ruiz, commonly known as Azorín, in his 1913 essays titled "La generación de 1898", alluding to the moral, political and social crisis in Spain produced by the loss of the colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam after defeat in the Spanish–American War that same year.

José Martínez Ruiz (7): José Augusto Trinidad Martínez Ruiz, better known by his pseudonym Azorín, was a Spanish novelist, essayist and literary critic.

Kaleboel (4324):

Madrid (155):

Miguel de Cervantes (82):

Miguel de Unamuno (5): Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was a Spanish Basque essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, professor of Greek and Classics, and later rector at the University of Salamanca. His major philosophical essay was The Tragic Sense of Life, and his most famous novel was Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion, a modern exploration of the Cain and Abel story.

Moors (89):

Spain (1884):

Spanish literature (170):


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