Spain is not, in spite of itself, what it believes: a modern, liberal country.
We want, as a country, to be seen as modern and forward thinking but the reality of the matter is that we are not. You only have to scratch the surface of many liberal Spaniards to get a glimpse of the atavistic roots that guide their behaviour and shape their beliefs.
From my almost 38 years of living here and ‘belonging’ to a Spanish family, I have come to experience situations that, because of their frequency, I believe are common to a great majority of Spaniards.
- Spaniards are friendly and outgoing… unless you wish to do business with them, in which case they will become wary and suspicious and will either try to outsmart you or directly refuse to do business with you.
- Spaniards are welcoming and tolerant… as long as you fit their idea of what you ‘should ‘ be. In my case, I was an oddity. Neither truly Spanish nor truly a foreigner, I never quite managed to do what was expected of me. If you’re a foreigner, they’ll tolerate your differences with humour , perhaps crack a few jokes at your expense because they can’t see the logic in things and people that don’t follow their logic, but no bad feelings, we are in the land of ‘olé, olé’, fiesta and loud, boisterous camaraderie. You CAN take a joke, can’t you?
- Spaniards are ‘apolitical’… but everyone has an opinion about the government (‘that pack of liars and crooks!’) and what is or isn’t true according to whether they read El País, El Mundo, ABC, or the online barrage of media. Whatever else, they know the truth and you are a poor, uniformed (if not directly ignorant) fool who has been brainwashed into thinking you have any idea of reality. What you see doesn’t compute.
- Spaniards like individuals who are strong-willed and unique… as long as they don’t menace the idea that others have of themselves or of how things are. You can be yourself, but only just so much.
- Spaniards are fun-loving and enthusiastic… but apathetically allow their government to rob them of money, hope and liberty.
The recent and ongoing Catalonian crisis has made this clear. Many self proclaimed progressive people, have supported the actions of our corrupt government, that seems to be more concerned with quieting dissent and camouflaging their crimes than with promoting justice or unifying the nation. The old Francoist idea of One Great Free Spain is ingrained into the collective conscience in a way that it surpasses other, seemingly more urgent priorities like unemployment, corruption and social unease.
Otherwise reasonable and intelligent people found it acceptable for the government to send police troops to Catalonia to stop the independentist movement from holding an election. They confiscated ballot boxes and manhandled anyone who dared oppose them. Foreign news echoed the brutality of the Spanish government against the Catalonians but it seems that all those photos and footage were fake. The police didn’t hurt anyone ‘who wasn’t doing anything wrong’, just those silly people who wanted to put a piece of paper in a ballot box. They will say it to you totally convinced of their logic. Furthermore they will say that all these people have been ‘indoctrinated’. When you counter this with any proof contrary to it, they’ll say it’s either fake or manipulated. If you say that we are all being forcibly manipulated by media, they’ll shake their head and laugh, “How am I being manipulated if I only watch films, especially Disney films? I am apolitical and nothing will come out of you being so passionate about these issues.”
After hearing this from a university graduate, I just give up.
I hope to be wrong. I don’t think I will be.