Spain has been different for slightly longer than I thought

I always thought (and I think most people think) that “Spain is different” originated in the 1960s during Manuel Fraga’s period as promotor of beaches, bullfights and bars, but in fact it’s older, although not earth-shakingly so: this PDF booklet celebrating 75 years of paradors dates it to 1955 (and says that the systematic promotion of Spain as a tourist destination dates from 1928), while Gabriel Arias-Salgado writes in a 1954 speech given at the presentation of the Isabella the Catholic prize to Ralph Forte, the American director of United Press in Madrid:

Ralph Forte, who has been in Madrid for a generous dozen years, has been caught by the virtues and humanity of the Spanish peapole, perhaps because he himself is an extraordinarily humane being. Ralph Forte is one of the correspondents who has understood best the meaning of the phrase which can be read on our tourist posters: “Spain is different”. Spain is a peculiar land inhabited by peculiarly historical men. Our land is full of history peculiar to us and history that is universal. It is a land full of memories and commemorations, bearing with it the indelible spoor of the spirit. Our men–intelligent, simple, cordial–are easier to understand for an intelligent, cordial man than for he who is in a hurry, twisted, incomplete, than for machine man, than for production line man.

Alfredo Bryce Echenique in the 1981 novel La vida exagerada de Martín Romaña writes:

Hemingway invented Spain is different, others sloganised his invention to attract masses of generally boorish tourists, and now Spain is different from what Hemingway at any rate told me about it.

However, I think his character is merely referring to Hemingway’s romanticisation of a perceived struggle for liberty amid backwardness rather than an actual phrase from For whom the bell tolls. So who did invent the phrase?

Still on the subject of difference, Antonio Recorder, the lawyer who handled Ava Gardner’s business affairs in Spain, recalls her friendship with Frank Ryan, “the big, big boss of [American] intelligence in Spain. The other was Ralph Forte, director in the capital of the studio United Artists [sic]. Very nice, very queer. If you didn’t watch out he’d have his hands all over you.” I wonder what they’d all have made of this classic “Spain-is-different” story about a cow dying while trying to escape from a randy donkey, and in particular the comment of San Roque (Cádiz) councillor José Lara that “we’re dealing with a donkey that’s young and very strong, so when the cow came past completely naked with her tits sticking out he may have gone too far.”


  1. Ralph Forte, que lleva una docena de años larga en Madrid, ha sido captado por las virtudes y la humanidad del pueblo español. Tal vez porque él mismo es un ser extraordinariamente humano. Ralph Forte es uno de los corresponsales que mejor ha entendido el significado de la frase que se lee en nuestros carteles de turismo: “Spain is different”, “España es de otra manera”. España es una tierra peculiar poblada por unos hombres peculiarmente históricos. Nuestra tierra está repleta de historia propia y de historia universal. Es una tierra llena de recuerdos y conmemoraciones, que lleva consigo huellas indelebles del espíritu. Nuestros hombres, por inteligentes, sencillos y cordiales, son más fáciles de entender por el hombre inteligente y cordial que por el hombre apresurado, deformado o incompleto, por el hombre máquina, por el hombre de serie.
  2. Hemingway inventó el Spain is different, otros esloganizaron su invención para atraer masas turísticas generalmente mal educadas, y ahora resulta que Spain is different de lo que a mí, en todo caso, me contó Hemingway sobre ella.
  3. «el gran, gran jefe de los servicios de inteligencia en España. El otro era Ralph Forte, director en la capital del estudio United Artists. Muy simpático, muy marica. A la que te descuidabas te estaba metiendo mano».
  4. Se trata de un burro joven, con mucha fuerza, y claro, al salir la vaca completamenta desnuda, con las tetas al aire, pues igual el animal se salió de madre y embistió.


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  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls is ovverrated crap (by coincidence I just reviewed it). He definitely has a large responsibility for weird image of Spain we anglos have.

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