22 April 2023

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 España/Galiza

An ever more popular country . . . In 2022, local (Spanish) demand for housing only increased by 1.8% but foreign demand increased by 29%, the market share of foreign buyers increase to a record high of 21% of the Spanish property market. In other words, just over one in five buyers of Spanish homes last year came from abroad, and injected much needed foreign capital into the Spanish economy. More data here.

Laws relating to renting – usually from left-wing administrations – tend to be hit by the Law of Unintended Consequences. Spain’s new one – see here – is predicted to lead to a general rise in rents for new tenants, due to the restriction that it will cause on supply.

Talking of good intentions . . . Six EU countries have failed to hit the gas-reduction target of 15% to end March. Sadly, Spain is one of these, having only achieved 10.8%.

For museum hounds like me . . . Spain’s most fascinating museums

HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for an introduction to a ‘professional blogger’ – not a rank amateur like me – who writes – very well – on life in Spain/Madrid. Here he gives us names for most of the fish on sale in Spain. Though he doesn’t give the regional names, of which Galicia has at least one for every type of fish. Pluse the excellent zamburiña.

Thanks again to Lenox for this article and video of a night in a pilgrims’ albergue, on the camino. ‘Very uncomfortable, stinky, and cursed with loud snoring’. If you don’t read Spanish, stick it in Google or Deepl. I’m sure there are better albergues but – on 17 caminos of 3-15 days – I’ve never risked staying in one.

Talking of the camino . . . Here’s something, in Spanish, on the origin of the name Santiago. There’s a translation at the end of this post, in Deepl’s machine-English.

The Way of the World

I read that some of today’s woke youth won’t have anything to do with anyone or any country associated with slavery in the past. This got me thinking about making list of all such countries, starting with the Chinese and Egyptians many thousands of years ago, not with those countries who got involved – rather belatedly – in the 15th and 16th centuries – viz Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain. Having made a start – and after realising that the list would have to include Greece, Italy(the Romans), Scandinavia (traders in Slavs), all South American countries, all Muslim states and most African states – I gave up. So, now I’m working on a list of countries where slavery has never been a feature of their culture. So far, it’s extremely short, leaving very few holiday options for today’s SJWs. And, logically, can they continue to live in their own countries?


The professional blogger in Madrid cited by Lenox has written on the subject of Spanish proverbs and expressions about fish here. Short version:-

  • La pescadilla que se muerde la cola: The snake that bites its own tail. Sort of a vicious circle like situation in which a problem recurs over and over again, and you can’t escape.
  • El pez muere por la boca: A fish dies when it opens its mouth. This basically means you should be discreet and not talk too much.
  • Estar como pez en el agua: In English we have an expression, “like a fish out of water”. The Spanish expression is the opposite: a fish in the water.
  • ¡Que te folle un pez!: Go and get fucked by a fish. A variant of “Que te follen“ – Get fucked(Fuck off.


The things one learns . . . Twoccing/Twocking: British slang. The act of breaking into a vehicle and driving it away.

Did you know?

‘Cuck’ – short for cuckold – is the favourite way to insult a man these days. From the late 13th century, its meaning has been a man whose wife has had sex with other men. Eventually, ‘cuckquean’ came about to denote the female equivalent.

Finally . . .

The caption made me LOL – Thousands of years ago the Egyptians built the pyramids. Today . .

For new readers:- 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.

Finally, Finally . . .

Another Flashback. Blog of 28 October 2015

If you can’t access this link to this FT article on the Spanish economy, the text is at the end of this post.

The always-unimpressive President Rajoy, playing to his neo-fascist gallery, insists the Catalans won’t achieve any of their goals because he’s going to hit them with every political and legal weapon in his armoury. Stand by for a change of tone if he’s still president in January.

Our Local Economy: Perhaps because this is driven by the (frozen) salaries of civil servants and the invisible drug trade, there are no real signs that the recession has ended. But one booming sector is the teaching of English. The latest operation I’ve clocked is called LANGU-ISH, a play on ‘language’ and English, I guess. You can see why they didn’t go with LANGUISH.

Local service: The second engineer came to fix my washing machine yesterday. The first one threatened to sue me for coming twice when I was out. When I pointed out he’d ignored my instructions, he retorted that, if they took stock of customer requirements, they’d never get anything done. BTW . . . The engineer found a pencil and a biro in the machine but none of the 12 missing socks.

The EU

How many people recall that, before 1914, yo could travel around Europe without a passport? And that there was a currency zone involving most of the continent? How many of us ever knew? A golden age, all achieved without bureaucrats.


Perverting the good news, Martin Sandbu

The looming general election has, quite predictably, made Spain a political battleground over the merit of the policies pursued by the sitting centre-right government led by Mariano Rajoy and his People’s Party. But the politics is playing catch-up: for several years, Spain has also been the focus of a battle of economic ideas, about how best to understand the eurozone crisis, the aborted recovery of 2010-11 and the right policies with which to address downturns in a currency union.

The Spanish growth record — which for the past two years has left the eurozone overall in the dust, as the chart above shows — is now being touted by the government and by much of the eurozone establishment, as vindication of their strategy of tough budget consolidation and labour market liberalisation. A long report by the FT’s Madrid bureau chief Tobias Buck explicates the argument (which is not always analytically made — it includes the government’s campaign video featuring a patient going from cardiac arrest to recovery).

The chief components of that story are that reining in deficits brought panic under control, and reforms to push wages down caused the strong performance of exports. There is much that is wrong about this rhetoric, and it fortunately provokes intelligent criticism, most recently in the form of a policy brief by Simon Tilford from the Centre for European Reform. Tilford pokes some well-judged holes in Madrid’s narrative. Among them are to point out that fiscal consolidation can hardly be credited with the recovery, because it was only when austerity eased that growth returned (he could have added that there was also less austerity than had first been promised). Tilford also usefully points out that Spanish job growth, welcome as it is, still leaves unemployment shockingly high. It puts things in proportion to know that the number of jobless falling below 5m is enough to boost Rajoy’s re-election prospects; the unemployment rate remains well above 20 per cent. And as we noted in a Free Lunch in August, the new jobs are exceedingly precarious, as in much of the eurozone.

But while criticism is certainly warranted, there is a strange tendency among the critics of the Spanish story to overdo their naysaying. This was our take on a previous round of comments on Spain’s recovery (by Simon Wren-Lewis and Matthew Klein) this summer. Tilford, too, joins in a sort of admonishment against making too much of the recovery, which they all see as less impressive than some, and worry will not last. And paradoxically, the chief reason for the critics’ concern lies in a piece of diagnosis where they entirely agree with the austerity-and-reform proponents. That point is to attribute Spain’s recovery, such as it is, to “internal devaluation”, that is to say a cut in wages to make exports more “competitive”. The difference is that the Spanish government and its friends (such as the Finnish one) see lower wages as the way to succeed in the euro and celebrate policies to drive wages down; whereas the critics see lower wages as the way to succeed in the euro and lament that fact.

So it is worth restating some crucial facts. Spain’s export growth has little to do with squeezing workers by reducing “economy-wide unit labour costs” (which, in any case, arithmetically reflects a redistribution of national income from labour to capital rather than “competitiveness”). The prices of the goods and services Spain exports have developed roughly in line with the eurozone average and no more “competitively” than in other large eurozone countries. The graph below shows this visually; and our earlier note on Spain referred to more detailed numbers.

The labour cost of producing goods and services in Spain has, in contrast, been more restrained than most other eurozone countries. That, of course, is not enough to show it caused the export boom: other countries have reduced unit labour costs faster without a similar export performance. And even if exporters pay lower wages, it is an open question whether they choose to expand sales as a result or simply pocket the greater profit (the answer will depend on credit conditions and how competitive the relevant product markets are). But in any case, it is important to realise that in Spain’s case the cost reductions have not mostly been achieved by wage restraint. As the graph below shows, a good amount — until 2014, more than half — of Spain’s more efficient unit labour cost evolution relative to the eurozone has come from more output per hour worked, not more repressed wages.

Not that wages haven’t been repressed — they have — but the real lesson Spain shows is surely that significant productivity improvements are possible. Realising this, and prioritising them over wage cuts as a matter of policy, is long overdue.

The Origin and Meaning of the Name Santiago

Have you ever wondered, whether or not as a pilgrim, what is the origin of the name Santiago? By now you know that it is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and some other details pertaining to the history of this historical figure, but behind Santiago there is an origin of the most interesting, with a meaning that will surprise many.

The name Santiago comes from the Hebrew ‘Yaakov’, which is the same as Jacob. In Christian tradition, James is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ; but he is also known as James the Greater to distinguish him from another apostle of the same name, James the Lesser.

James the Greater is considered the patron saint of Spain, and is believed to be buried in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the final destination on the Camino de Santiago for thousands of pilgrims year after year.

He became one of Jesus’ first disciples, and one of the three closest apostles along with Peter and John. After the crucifixion, James became one of the main leaders of the early church, preaching the gospel in Spain and dying a martyr in Jerusalem in 44 AD. After his death, his remains were transferred to Galicia, specifically to the city of Santiago de Compostela. Over the centuries the religious figure and legend of Santiago grew, especially during the Middle Ages. As the story goes, Saint James himself appeared at the Battle of Clavijo, helping the Christians to defeat the Mulsumans.

The name Santiago means Saint James or Saint James in Spanish, remember we mentioned that Jacob is its Hebrew origin? Its meaning, considering its origin, means ‘supported by the heel’ or ‘supplanter’. Thus, several interpretations claim that the name James means ‘holy supplanter’ or ‘saint who leans on God’.

Moreover, according to its etymological meaning, the name Santiago has a great historical and religious value, especially in Spain as we have already shown you. At the same time, Santiago also has some variants. For example, Jaume in Catalan; Xaime or Xacobe in Galician; Santi or Yakue in Basque; Jacqueline or Jaques in French; James in English; or Iakoben in Russian.


  1. To start your slavery factfinding mission.

    The abductions were viewed at the time as a punishment from God for Iceland’s “sinful” lifestyle.

    During the early colonial period, the Scots and the English, along with other western European nations, dealt with their “Gypsy problem” by transporting them as slaves in large numbers to North America & the Caribbean. Cromwell shipped Romanichal Gypsies as slaves to the southern plantations & there is documentation of Gypsies being owned by former black slaves in Jamaica.

    Barbary corsairs captured thousands of merchant ships and repeatedly raided coastal towns. As a result, residents abandoned their former villages of long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy. Between 100,000 and 250,000 Iberians were enslaved by these raids.

    According to Robert Davis, between 1 million & 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates & sold as slaves in North Africa and Ottoman Empire between the 16th & 19th centuries. However, to extrapolate his numbers, Davis assumes the number of European slaves captured by Barbary pirates were constant for a 250-year period, stating:

    There are no records of how many men, women & children were enslaved, but it is possible to calculate roughly the number of fresh captives that would have been needed to keep populations steady & replace those slaves who died, escaped, were ransomed, or converted to Islam. On this basis it is thought that around 8,500 new slaves were needed annually to replenish numbers—about 850,000 captives over the century from 1580 to 1680. By extension, for the 250 years between 1530 & 1780, the figure could easily have been as high as 1,250,000.


  2. The list of museums is far too predictable. For a really interesting time, I would suggest the Museo de las Americas close to the cathedral in Sevilla. A wonderful record of the colonisation of South America. When I went there was a huge model showing how Spanish engineers drained the swamp of Tenochtitlan to become the base for today’s Mexico City. Fascinating. The Picasso museum in Barcelona is very disappointing as all his best works are elsewhere.


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