Fiesta mayor programmes and Zapatero

Party political prejudice, or yet more historical memory bollocks?

The programme for the August 2009 fair and feasts of St Bartholomew in Casasimarro (pop 3,400, PSOE mayor), Cuenca province opens with some progressive-atavist best wishes from the President of the Government:

… Las Fiestas populares forman parte del acervo cultural de España y deben pasar de generación en generación, para preservar las tradiciones que también colaboran al progreso y la prosperidad de los pueblos.

Strangely, the programme for the feria and fiestas of St Julian, held more or less simultaneously in the provincial capital (pop 54,600, PP mayor) contains no such message. Is this because Zapatero only regards himself as leader of the Spanish who vote for his tribe, or because Cuenca felt that he was unlikely to add to whatever San Julián provides, and chose not to solicit his assistance? Or is it perhaps because the bishop of Cuenca hasn’t yet found the time or perhaps the courage to take down the memorial to local MP and victim of Republican justice, José Antonio Primo de Rivera?

Re which: it does not fail to amuse that historical warfare hobbyists in Cuenca devote so much time and energy (they do) to a pale incompetent like José Antonio, when just around the corner there is a memorial to a genuinely evil man of the right, and one of far greater influence on the outcome of the war and the longevity of the dictatorship: Juan March, Franco’s banker, whose foundation runs the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español based in Cuenca’s inexplicably renowned Casas Colgadas.

The Casas Colgadas have got to count as one of Spain’s major tourism cons. The plural is difficult to justify, and timber-framed overhangs (using modern wood) are not exactly rare in this country or others. However, this particular marketing fraud doesn’t appear to have been originated by Mr March, who had bigger fish to fry. Instead it seems to have emerged in the national tourism boom of the mid-20s, prior to which Cuenca was visited primarily for its Moorish aspect, its cathedral, and its scenery; for the bridge over the Huécar; and in jingoistic recollection of Peterborough‘s capture of it during the War of the Spanish Succession. If you want to see the Casas Colgadas in their full glory, don’t go to Cuenca but instead visit the stand of the Amigos de Cuenca at the marvellous Feria de Albacete in September, where the maquette is considerably more extensive and impressive than the original.

If you nevertheless visit Cuenca, but on a limited time-budget, you might want to give March & Memory a miss and head up instead to the Fundación Antonio Pérez, one of the most enjoyable collections of 20th century art and ephemera I’ve seen anywhere (there aren’t many). Unlike the Last Pirate of the Mediterranean’s dreary ego-monument, it also happens to be free.

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  1. Oh good! Sounds like you’ve gotten over your ennui.

    Agree about Cuenca, btw. Book yourself a room in the old town cause it’s quaint, visit the Pérez museum, wander around for an hour. Then get your rappelling gear out cause you can’t find a meal up there.

  2. I’d as soon eat in Cuenca’s old town as I would in Barcelona’s neo-Gothic. And the further up you go, the sillier the prices and the worse the food. In the newer town we had pretty good tapas and some fairly mad conversation on the terrace of the bar where Tintes touches the Alonso de Ojeda bridge, before the sun tilted west and rendered it uninhabitable, followed by a fine 10 euro menu in a cavernous restaurant which may have been two doors down from the first left on Torres, and which may have been called Posada San Julián. Then, to prove that not all in the newer town is good, we had two of the most revolting coffees I’ve ever tasted outside Cafetería Boni in the Parque San Julián.

  3. Welcome back indeed! Although it has to be said you’re going soft on us. After all, revisionists generally agree that without Juan March’s benevolent influence Spain might have failed to connect with the Allies and, if it had survived WWII, become a genuine mad isolationist mess like Albania. And, after all, March was a left liberal deputy early in his career, which might constitute ammunition for those who say left liberal UPyD is nothing less than warmed up fascism.

  4. Glad to hear someone thinks Spain isn’t currently a genuine mad isolationist mess like Albania.

    Benavides’ El último pirata del Mediterráneo, published in the revolutionary year of 1934, gives a hilarious account of the March clan’s pre-1930s circumstances and general fucking around. Like the Pujol clan’s financing of Banca Catalana with money from black market currency operations, one suspects that ideology was less a preoccupation than a pretext chez les March.

    It’s not altogether clear what Benavides himself was – my take = Leninist opportunist. Sensibly he took off for Mexico after the war, where I assume one of his relatives founded the Benavides pharmacy chain.

  5. Must run in the family. The Benavides who lives next door was slapping up ‘let the rich pay!’ IU posters whilst his wife was trying to sell the country house for 500 grand. Trading on insider information, perhaps?

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