Amando de Miguel says it owes its name to the colour of Capuchin friars’ habits, both concrete and abstract–apparently they were notorious sybarites. I find the colour hypothesis slightly unconvincing, but it’s confirmed here. Evidence of their bizarre taste in this serendipitous find, a description by Nathaniel Parker Willis, Summer cruise in the Mediterranean on board an American frigate (1853) of a visit to some Capuchin catacombs in Sicily:
Three or four of the brothers, in long grey beards, and the heavy brown sackcloth cowls of the order tied around the waist with ropes, receivd us cordially and took us through the cells and chapels. We had come to see the famous catacombs of the convent. A door was opened in the side of the main cloister, and we descended a long flight of stairs into the centre of three lofty vaults, lighted each by a window at the extremity of the ceiling. A more frightful scene never appalled the eye. The walls were lined with shallow niches, from which hung, leaning forward, as if to fall upon the gazer, the dried bodies of monks in the full dress of their order. There hands were crossed upon their breasts or hung at their sides, their faces were blackened and withered, and every one seemed to have preserved, in diabolical caricature, the very expression of life. The hair lay reddened and dry on the dusty skull; the teeth, perfect or imperfect, had grown brown in their open mouths; the nose had shrunk; the cheeks fallen in and cracked; and they looked more like living men cursed with some horrid plague than the inanimate corpses they were. The name of each was pinned upon his cowl, with his age and the time of his death. Below in three or four tiers, lay long boxes painted fantastically, and containing, the monk told us, the remains of Sicilian nobles. Upon a long shelf above sat perhaps a hundred children of from one year to five, in little chairs worn with their use while in life, dressed in the gayest manner, with fanciful caps upon their little blackened heads, dolls in their hands, and, in one or two instances, a stuffed dog or parrot lying in their laps. A more horribly ludicrous collection of little withered faces, shrunk into expression so entirely consistent with the gaiety of their dresses, could scarce be conceived. One of them had his arm tied up, holding a child’s whip in the act of striking, while the poor thing’s head had rotted and dropped upon his breast; and a leather cap fallen on one side showed his bare skull with the most comical expression of carelessness. We quite shocked the old monk with our laughter, but the scene was irresistible.
Since monks will often quite cheerfully introduce you to their dessicated brothers, it strikes me that objections to the anarchists propping clerical corpses outside churches during the 1936 Spanish revolution must be based on conservative views regarding property rather than death.
My current favourite drink is the trifásico, a shot of coffee with a drop of milk and a shot of liquor on top. Mr de Miguel mentions it in another piece on coffees, but it hasn’t yet made it into the DRAE, which is only interested in three-phase electricity. The piece ends with a joke, told by Javier Velázquez from Jerez de la Frontera, which shares a table with this Lepe one and has been tweaked here:
A mute is learning to talk, one word at a time, in order to improve his social life. After some hard work he learns how to say “vermuth” and immediately rushes round to the village bar. The barman asks him what he wants, and he replies gleefully, “Vermuth!” After drinking vermuth all night, he goes home completely wasted and vomits in the bath.
His wife is not particularly happy with this, so she spends all the next day teaching him how to say “coffee”. When he has mastered it, she lets him out and he heads straight back to the café.
“What are you having?” asks the barman.
“Coffee,” he says.
“How are you having it?” asks the barman. “Solo, cortado o con leche?”
The man thinks for a moment and says, “Vermuth.”
- Two versions of Flann O’Brien’s “The workman’s friend”
With some relevant chunks of Henry Fielding.
- Whitechapel Library
… was one of the comparatively few in which I never sat, hoping that one day things would get better. Anyway,
- Don’t mess with Chinese girlie-men, and other Sumatran colonial tales
Here, from Emil Helfferich (1878-1974)‘s Südostasiatische Geschichten (Jever/Oldenburg, 1966), is an account of what happened to another German-speaker who made light
- The lurch and fall of the Almería coast
Excerpts from Juan Goytisolo and Ramón Fernández Palmeral, with an epitaph from George Orwell.
- Link sink for 30/05/2009
Mid-20th century Ibero-American hits, state-controlled media, the personal and the public.