4 December 2022: An odd Xmas offering; Light delays; Pv city’s Jewish quarter; Unwelcome EU visitors; Low Country low biz; & Other stuff.

Awake, for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight.

And, lo, has caught the sultan’s turret In a noose of light!

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable

                 – Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’ 

Cosas de Galiza

A funeral company up in Ourense will, as usual, be offering an Xmas hamper with a difference – a coffin stuffed with goodies. This being Spain, the item on top of everything will be un satisfyer. Or un consolador. Or dildo, to you and me.

Pv city’s shopkeepers are complaining about the mayor’s delay in switching on of our Xmas lights. But maybe – for energy cost reasons – they can’t be enjoyed at the same time as his new lights on the surface and along the sides of O Burgo bridge, which flash on and off – in various colours – every night of the year. Much to the delight of nocturnal visitors to my eyrie in Poio.

When I came to Pv city in 2000, there was a small grassy knoll near the top of the old quarter marked out – in both Spanish and Hebrew – as the site of a Jewish cemetery. For reasons (still) unknown, this sign was removed and replaced by the statue of the (wonderful) Galician writer and artist, Castelao. I’ve always known that the streets below the cemetery had, until 1492, been the Jewish quarter. Indeed, I’ve taken many folk around it, pointing out in particular the aptly named Bitterness/Grief Street(Rúa Amargura). Yesterday, for the first time, I noted something on Google Maps called O Lampán do Xudeos. Researching this, I came up with the interesting article below.

All of which reminds me that I once took a group of US teenagers around the old quarter. Arriving at the edge of the Jewish bit of it, I asked if anyone knew who’d expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. Only one hand went up, along with the plaintive question: Adolf Hitler?

Talking of foreigners . . . The VdG tells us that the majority of burglaries around Pontevedra province are down to Eastern European groups of Croats, Albanians, Georgians, and Rumanians. Who operate in a way which is both ‘methodical and specialised’. But no Ukrainians, apparently. When it comes to stealing expensive cars and shifting them eastwards I believe the Albanians get help from our local scoundrels.

The Low Countries

How low can you go? . . . Belgium’s port of Antwerp is now the cocaine capital of Europe, though most operations seem to be run from over the border in the Netherlands, to which some 80% of the drugs are distributed across Europe. An estimated 1,000 tonnes will reach the port this year, smuggled inside anything from dog food to sex toys. Or  injected into pineapples or other fruit on South American ships, hidden in the middle of planks of hardwood or secreted within the metal struts of the containers themselves. 

The good news . . . Last week saw the arrest of 49 people in Dubai, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and France suspected of belonging to a “super-cartel” responsible for smuggling a third of all cocaine into Europe. But very possibly not of the head honchos.

The Netherlands/Quotes of the Day

1. The Netherlands has become a ‘narco-state lite’:  Teun Voeten, a sociologist who’s studied Mexican drug cartels and written a book on the Dutch takeover of Antwerp’s drug trade. I recall reading of a warning this would happen in a book by an Englishman full of praise for The Netherlands and the Dutch. Apart from this element, of course. And their tight-fistedness . . .

2. Old British saying, just recalled from my school days:-

In matters of commerce,

the fault of the Dutch

is giving too little

and asking too much.

The World Cup

It’s still thrilling to see a 35 year old Messi doing his stuff. Albeit with the minimum of energy exerted. No other player is as aware of the next move as he is when the ball reaches his magical feet. Nowt to do with physical capacity, thank god.

Did You Know

The American humourist James Thurber wrote one of the funniest books of the early 20th century. My Life and Hard Times is a deadpan account of some of the strangest things that happened during his upbringing in small-town America. Just ordered it on my Kindle . . . Better late than never.

Finally . .

To amuse . . . I’ve just started on a book about ‘the Jena set’* – a group of (very) liberal and intellectual ‘Romantics’ who thrived in that German city for a decade or so in the 19th century, kicking off the world-wide Romantic Movement. It’s really a series of portraits of individuals, the first 3 of which are called Schlegel, Schelling, and Schiller. Scho, I fear I’m going to struggle recalling who is how.

* Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self by Andrea Wulf

For new readers:-

1. If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.

2. Should you want to, the easiest way to to get my post routinely is to sign up for email subscription. As opposed to using a Bookmark or entering the URL in your browser.


O Lampán dos Xudeos: Jose Benito Garcia Iglesias

During an important period of the Middle Ages in our city there was a Jewish quarter located between what is now the Parador de Turismo and the Basilica of Santa María. The wide space that was called in the 15th century the “Campa dos Xudeos”, or what is the same, its cemetery, was part of that Jewish quarter. This was located on the esplanade of Avda. de Santa María, in the shadow of the Torres Arzobispales and in the so-called “Eirado das Torres”.

This existing Jewish medieval cemetery in the town would function as such until the expulsion of the Jews, decreed in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs.

With the term “campa”, it was identified, both in Galician and in Portuguese, as a stone or slab that covered a grave. Therefore, the reference to the “fields of the Jews” cannot be anything other than a reference to their cemetery.

The Jewish congregation in Pontevedra is believed to have been of some importance, since it came to possess schools, synagogues and had its own courts of justice. Given the importance of the town in the 15th century, with important commercial development, it suggests that this would be the case. In addition, Don Casto Sampedro pointed out the existence of a “two Jewish pillories/stocks“, located at the end of rúa do Peso da Fariña, close to the junction with Enfesta de San Telmo street, and used for exposing to public shame the criminals of that community. For this, Sampedro relies on precise documentary sources, specifically the Municipal Acts book of 1573, where a forum is collected: “…from a piece of ground, which is where the two Jewish bells ring, next to the fortress of this town”.

Being able to be sure that a Jewish cemetery existed in our city implies a statement that a community of a certain entity existed, since for the Hebrews, in their religious conception, the cemetery prevailed over even a synagogue.

The vestiges of Jewish culture found in our city are rather scarce, if not practically non-existent. There is evidence of the appearance of several Hebrew names that made up a Jewish community known as “aljama”[Jewsih quarter], and different place names thus described as Lampán dos Xudeos or Campa dos Xudeos, appear in a deed of sale of the Council of the year 1537: “That is a place near the campus of the Jews”.

At the beginning of 2000, when carrying out some rehabilitation work on a house on Rúa Dona Tareixa, facing Paseo de Santa María, when raising the floor of the house, a whole tombstone was found with Hebrew characters and another broken in half. The two pieces are slightly triangular in shape and were cut at the top to be used as construction material. This finding seemed definitive confirmation of the settlement of an important Jewish community in the town. It was possible to find the physical location of the Hebrew cemetery itself, and if this hypothesis is confirmed, the medieval tombstones would come from there, and their location could indeed be on the esplanade in front of the archiepiscopal fortress, but unfortunately no more tombstones were found. .

Even so, in October 1998, the City Council of Pontevedra decided to place a stone tombstone in the place that was considered the location of the Jewish cemetery. Years later it was removed and today it is in the Municipal Archives. We would then have to consider that the precept, as prescribed in the Talmud, was not fulfilled here – that the cemetery should be located outside the walls, even at a considerable distance from the inhabited nucleus. Although there are historians and researchers who maintain that in Galicia the precepts of the Talmud in relation to Jewish cemeteries were complied with, we must say that other historians do not share this statement and are in favor of what is stated here, that the name of Campa or Lampan dos Xudeos made reference to the location of that Jewish cemetery.

It could be understood that since the esplanade next to the Archiepiscopal Towers was surely – for clear strategic reasons – a place free of all types of buildings, in the light of which the Jews could consider that place remote from the population center, since it could not be built on, even if it was within the walls, which is why they located their necropolis there.

Therefore it seems that this would be its location. Although, so far, no more archaeological remains have been found. As a curious fact, when the famous violinist Manuel Quiroga came to Pontevedra for the first time, after having married Martha Lehmann, a pianist of Jewish origin, she went to the “Lampan dos Xudeos” and there, near where the stone fountain was located, knelt down and kissed the ground as a symbol of respect. It was noted that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the “aljama” of Pontevedra was still, then, one of those that had best preserved its purity in all of Europe.