The Road to Santiago.
Journal.

October 20, 2004
Wednesday

Playa San Lorenzo

Gijón

Since the Internet salon didn’t open until 11, I went to a bar to get a café con leche and read some newspapers. The big news was that on Friday don Filepe was coming to Oviedo, the capital of the Asturias, to award el Premio del Principe de Asturias  (the Prize of the Prince of the Asturias), which is awarded annually in many different subject areas: economics, science, literature, the arts, etc.

Since democracy has come to Spain, the various areas are known as Autonomous Communities and are in a national federation with Madrid as the capital. The communities are similar to our states. The Asturias have always been known as the Principality of the Asturias. And the Crown Prince (i.e., the heir to the throne) is always el Principe de Asturias (the Prince of the Asturias). This is similar to the Crown Prince of Great Britain, who is the Prince of Wales.

This special relationship is due to an event that happened over 1,100 years ago. In the Picos de Europa was the Battle of Covadonga where the Christian Asturians beat back the Advance of the Moors which had swept over the Iberian peninsula after their invasion of 711 A.D. This was the beginning of a three-hundred-year period know as la Reconquista (the Reconquest), during which the Spanish won back their territories. The final Moorish capital city was captured by los Reyes Catolica (the Catholic Kings), Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492.

Something else happened in the Asturias. This year is the 70th anniversary of the miners’ revolt in Oviedo. This act eventually led to the brutal Civil War which lasted from 1936 to 1939. Some people in Spain question the wisdom of celebrating an event that led to so much death and destruction.

I know that it comes as a shock to find out that the fascists didn’t start the Spanish Civil War. In fact, the Right, which included the fascists as well as traditionalists, reacted to the workers’ revolt and various violent strikes and work stoppages. Also, the Anarchists and Syndicalists in Catalonia were threatening succession. Since the country was on the edge of an all-out Marxist-style revolution, they struck swiftly and grabbed power.

I have read extensively on the Spanish Civil War and it was a sad, brutal period. Each side committed unspeakable atrocities. It’s a hard war to understand because it wasn’t necessarily regional or ethnic (although there are certain elements of those factors). Mostly, it was an economic war. It divided towns and families. It pitted neighbor against neighbor. Above all, it provided an opportunity to settle old scores and grudges.

Regardless of what the romantic volunteers of the Lincoln brigade and revisionist historians would like to represent, it was not a glorious war. Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, and James Michener all reached similar conclusions.

The worst thing about the Civil War is that it brought about a 40-year dictatorship which was rigid and restrictive. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to participatory government have only been restored in the past 28 years.

That is why I don’t like all the class-envy rhetoric in U.S. politics. Could a class war happen in our country?

Photo of lunch break by the beach.
Lunch break
On a lighter note, after I read my e-mail, I sent out updates of my journal, and caught up on news back home. Then I went back to the hotel to get my bathing suit. The sun was out, the weather was nice, so definitely I was ready for a swim.

My problem was what to take with me, I mean, beside a bathing suit and towel. Since the tide was out, the water was some distance away from the sea wall. I didn’t know if there were malefactors lurking around to steal from unsuspecting bathers. And I just could not leave my wallet in the pension because of my I.D.

My family made me promise to carry in my wallet a card that reads: “Soy un diabetico, tomo insulina” (I’m a diabetic, I take insulin.) I should wear a MediAlert bracelet. I tried it once and it drove me crazy. I don’t wear a wristwatch and I can’t stand jewelry on my hands, wrists, or anywhere else. I tried wearing the alert on a necklace once but lost it. Since I don’t like things around my neck (I have a phobia about choking), I didn’t bother to replace it.

Actually, it could be very important if I was in an accident and were not conscious. Knowing that I’m diabetic would be significant to medical professionals. It could prevent a diabetic coma which could lead to death, or worse yet, an indefinite vegetative state.

My friend, Jeff, suggested that I have an alert tattooed on my butt. But, I figured that if a stranger is looking at my butt, I’m already in the morgue.

So, I emptied my wallet of everything except my driver’s license, the alert card, and a business card of the pension where I was staying. I know, I know, I can’t take a wallet into the water, but I figure that if anything happened they would find the unclaimed towel, shoes, and wallet.

When it comes to swimming, I’m not a jump-right-in type. I have to prepare myself by “washing” the arms and chest with the water to get used to it. But there always comes a point when you finally must immerse yourself. Well, a nice wave came and I ducked under the water. It was a little chilly—like Plum Island on an average summer day!
Photo of beachside shower.
Beachside shower
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