Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A few Pictures from San José (Cabo de Gata) Last Weekend.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017


You Can't Say That!

The freedom of expression – the First Amendment to the United States Constitution – is the right to say or write (or sing) what you like. Within civilized limits perhaps? Here in Spain, we have that freedom; mostly. It was understood that one didn’t insult the Royal Family (‘lèse-majesté’) or champion ETA or other forms of terrorism (even though the ETA is a dead duck these days). It was also understood that one insulted Christianity and Islam at one’s own risk.
So, we have a number of cases recently of people being arrested and either threatened with prison or indeed being condemned for inappropriate songs, posts, tweets and commentary. Some of these are attracting a lot of attention, while the Courts evidently appear to the Public Eye to be dealing leniently with white-collar and political crime.
The gay creature that dressed up as the Virgin Mary and suffers a parody of crucifixion in Las Palmas as part of the carnivales there being a case in point. As The Olive Press says: ‘...The performance, by Borja Casillas (aka Drag Sethlas), has provoked an embittered debate, and at its centre is Bishop Francisco Casas, who accused Casillas of ‘frivolous blasphemy’...’. A proposal to investigate the issue further by the Canaries prosecutor has now been initiated following a complaint by the Christian Lawyers Association, says El Huff Post here. A Canaries imam says ‘I can’t even imagine what would happen if they tried something similar with an image of Mohammed’ (here).
Meanwhile, a bus in Madrid, painted by a far-right Christian group called Hazte Oir, is impounded for advertising anti transsexual propaganda (‘a boy has a penis, a girl has a vulva’).
Meanwhile, others are in deeper water. The current round of arrests began with the titiriteros this time last year, two puppeteers imprisoned for five days for ‘celebrating terrorism’ in what was described by one woman who saw the show in Madrid as ‘rather less violent than Spongebob Squarepants’. They were eventually pardoned. More recently, we have heard of Cesar Strawberry, the punky Marxist singer from Def Con Dos who faces one year of jail-time for his songs.
This week, six ‘Twitterers’ were condemned in court for various improper postings on the Twitter platform. They posted humiliations and pro-terrorist remarks and received anything up to two years each (the normal limit for not actually going to jail for a first offence). Another poster, a girl from Murcia, with her joke about the assassination of Franco’s successor Carrero Blanco, must wait for a new defence lawyer – her previous one was a great supporter of the Caudillo apparently. So much for ‘black humour’, she says. The Mallorquín rapper, Valtonyc, now facing three and a half years for two offensive songs, has one of them on YouTube here. Three hundred thousand people have seen it so far.
A liberal judge says in an interview with El Diario: ‘Our criminal laws are very harsh with conduct linked to freedom of expression, as well as the criminalization of poverty. But they are extremely gentle with political and financial delinquency’. So what to do?
Rather oddly, the Minister for Justice says this week that ‘in Spain, no one is condemned for their songs or their opinions’. He blames the courts.
We are left with only this: should the accent be placed on the content of inappropriate speech – or on a better education for the speaker?

Monday, March 06, 2017


Vera Bulls

On the last Sunday of February, there was a 'charity' bullfight in Vera. Because this was not a usual traditional corrida, the matadores didn't wear their 'suits of lights', but instead dressed in Andalusian cowboy fashion (picture). The event was significant because five of the six were top-of-the-line names, and the sixth was an up-and-coming Almería novillero.
I wanted in particular to see one of them, a young Peruvian called Andrés Roca Rey, as he has made a name for himself despite his young age (he's now nineteen) and he was unable to attend a fight I had gone to see in Almería City last summer (he'd been gored the week before in Málaga).
The Vera ring is one of seventeen bullrings across the province of Almería (most of 'em still in operation) and this particular one seats 4,800 spectators. They vary in size, with the Roquetas del Mar one holding 8,000 and the Almería City one at 9,800 (the world's largest, in Mexico City, holds 41,300 people).
The Sunday fight began with Diego Ventura, a mounted bullfighter, called a rejoneador. He would switch horses during his faena, and place his barbed banderilleras with skill into the back of the bull, ending his time with a lance through the bull's back and into its heart. At one point, the bull nudged his horse (not good) and he fell off (picture). He was awarded an ear, following lots of white hankie waving from the crowd.
Following Diego, the others were matadores, fighting from the ground. We saw El Córdobes, El Fandi (who also does his own bandilleras) and Cayetano (the bull stepped on his foot at one point). All were good but were unable to make clean kills.
Then came Roca Rey. Who was sublime. He's worth watching on YouTube (here). Here in Vera, he seemed to work at the peak of his talents, and he killed the bull at the 'moment of truth' with a perfect thrust. The crowd stood and roared and he was  awarded both ears and the tail by the president.
The sixth and final  fighter, Juan Carlos Benitez, was awarded an ear for a clean kill, but I had left by then. You can't improve on perfection.

Friday, February 24, 2017


The Entertainer (Offline)

The Entertainer was a weekly newspaper that started in April 1985. It was a 'free sheet' (as they used to call these things) serving the English-speaking population in Almería. This in the days before desktop publication, the Internet and colour printing. The next year, a second edition for the Costa Blanca, and soon after, a third for the Costa del Sol. Spin-offs included 'Entertainer en Español' - a monthly for Almería, and, briefly, another for Alicante. There was also a radio show called 'The Entertainer Show', broadcast from Radio Indalo, in Mojácar and Radio Marbella on the Costa del Sol.
The newspaper was sold in 1999, but, alas, things did not progress smoothly.
I ran a similar-sounding title from November 2003, a monthly called The New Entertainer, with support from a Spanish journalist called Ángel Medina (it ran to sixty issues) while also editing El Indálico (110 issues).  I also wrote/write for Actualidad Almanzora, La Opinión de Almería, El Mirador, The Reader, The Olive Press and The RTN.
I started The Entertainer Online (a blog) started in September 2002, when the title for the newspaper was substituted by the new owners. It was a advertising-free blog, with additional pages, including a large number of useful links about Spain.
The blog has continued since then, until early in January this year, following attacks from somewhere (let's suppose it was the Russians).
Briefly, another blog - a simpler one - with the GoDaddy people, but now I suppose it's time to give up and concentrate on my other projects.
Business over Tapas: A weekly subscription news service about Spain (Facebook here).
Spanish Shilling: Essays about Spain, since January 2006
...and now, taking over from The Entertainer Online, Lenox Napier: Local news and opinion.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


How Many Foreigners? Who Cares?

No one knows how many Brits live in Europe. Perhaps because we don't have any representation - either with a voice in London or in Brussels. This makes us second-class Europeans (third-class foreigners when the UK finally pulls the plug). How many are we? No one knows, because no one cares. Here in Spain, the number of Brits is figured by a voluntary registration in the town halls (called the 'padrón'). This gives our number at an anal 253,928 (INE statistics office January 2016). But many don't register (and some, if they leave the country, don't remove their names). As above - no one knows because we are not worth the trouble. We need a champion!
Since I have the INE page open, here's some other information:
Almería Brits (Jan 2016): 14,344
Total Almería foreigners: 137,507
Total foreigners Spain: 4,601,272.
The largest groups seem to be Romanian 715,136
Chinese: 199,961
Ecuadoreans: Internet broke down (Thanks Movistar)
Moroccans: 753,425

Friday, February 03, 2017


The Palace of Chávarri, Mojácar Playa

The Palace of Cháverri, as it was grandly known, is now the front bit of a huge box-like hotel in Marina de la Torre, run by the Fergus Hotel group and called the Hotel Alegría Palacio. Mojácar has succumbed to cheap all-inclusive tourism.
In another time, the palace was a summer-home owned by a wealthy Madrid family called Garrigues-Walker. Old Dad - Antonio - was the Spanish ambassador to the United States in the early sixties, later moving to a fresh posting at the ambassador's residence at the Vatican. His wife Helen was from Des Moines in Iowa and at least one of their nine children, Joaquín, was a regular visitor to Mojácar who, as a story in the Voz de Almería notes, spent his honeymoon with his wife Mercedes there (pictured here with the staff in attendance).
An American friend called Zach Allen stayed with Joaquín in 1956 and sent me the picture below. He writes: '...Recently, I turned to Google Earth and see some of the changes.  The "Palacio" itself was very rudimentary when I was there.  But, beautiful.  At that time, it was a tomato farm.  I have a number of photos showing the house, the fields and the (women mainly) workers who were planting the tomatoes then.  It used a gravity fed irrigation system fed from a very large pool, much like a swimming pool, on the hill in back of the house. The view from the stairway, out through the open (not enclosed like today) archway down the road to the beach was stunning...'.
The house was built by the first Marquis de Chávarri (Benigno Chávarri y Salazar), who owned a shipping line. His captains were (apparently) instructed to fire off a cannon salute from their ships as they navigated past the estate on the way to or from the port of Garrucha.
Good times. Mojácar was so far away from the cities, so hard to get to, that many used to come by sea.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


The Mojácar Story

Mojácar is a beautiful town located on the coast in the Province of Almería in the south-east corner of Spain. It is small, relatively unknown and is home to several thousand northern European and Spanish settlers which, between them, make up about half of the population. The municipality is said to enjoy a micro-climate: not too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter. The community is traditionally divided into el pueblo, the upper town; la fuente, the fountain (the lower reaches of the town) and la playa, the coast, where in fact around 80% of the population lives. Other quieter areas exist – such as las huertas (the orchards) and the small hamlets that form part of the 72 square kilometre municipality such as Sopalmo, Agua del Medio, Las Alparatas and so on. Behind the pueblo, there are mountains to climb and forgotten sites to see. The beach itself stretches for around 17 kilometres and has, as might be expected, everything from full-service well appointed Blue-flag beaches with bars and restaurants, life-guards and public showers, to quiet empty beaches where the only interruption comes from a curious seagull.

Mayor Jacinto Alarcón is remembered as the man who re-invented Mojácar. ‘It’s where the sun spends the winter’ he said in 1965 with satisfaction, as the first trickle of tourists began to visit the village. Some of these early visitors bought houses or land, at what today would be thought of as ludicrously cheap prices. They stayed and their culture and ideas were somehow assimilated into Mojácar.
The village grew slowly, as new houses were built. The beach, a little-used area reserved mainly for the tomato growers, finally became urbanised as well.
Some of the new settlers were artists. They were attracted by the remarkable village, built as it were to look like a scattering of sugar lumps on the final mountain of the Filabres chain, as it plunges from the interior of the province of Almería into the blue Mediterranean below. It is a harsh beauty: Jacinto had insisted that all the houses must be painted with whitewash and the dramatic tumble of flat-roofed white houses with narrow streets adorning a hill some 200 metres above sea-level, in the most arid surrounding, remains irresistible to artists, poets and writers.


The hills that today are adorned with the white cubist village have been inhabited for thousands of years. In nearby Cuevas del Almanzora, Major neolithic remains were discovered around a hundred years ago by a Belgian archaeologist called Louis Siret: Mojácar can probably claim a similar longevity. The nearby pyramid mountain of ‘old Mojácar’, a steep indefensible hill visible from the Mojácar viewpoint off the Plaza Nueva, may give a clue to Mojácar’s name. The hill appears to have had a religious significance, and it seems that the Roman name ‘Mons Sacra’, sacred mountain, was later transformed by the Moors who held Mojácar for many hundreds of years until the end of the XV Century into ‘Muxacra’, and from there, it changed again with Christian tongues into ‘Moxacar’ and eventually Mojácar.
Back in olden times, the sea was a potential enemy. Pirates could arrive on the beach at any moment, and villages were generally built away from the immediate coast, to make it easier for the defenders and correspondingly more difficult for the pirates – generally issuing from the Barbary Coast in North Africa (although even the Vikings managed to infiltrate the Mediterranean as far as Valencia back in the IX Century).
It was best to keep the settlement hidden, and Mojácar originally grew behind the hill it now crowns. In the event of an attack, the defenders had the option to flee inland. Watchtowers along the coast, ready with fire and pitch, would give first warning of any incursion. Some of these watchtowers and forts, carefully restored, can be seen today locally, including one of each along the Mojácar coast to the South.
The fall of Mojácar to the Christian Kings, los Reyes Católicos, in 1488 is remembered colourfully in a local festival that occurs on and around June 12th each year. Mojácar, an important local Moorish-held town, was on the route that Queen Isabela of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon were taking towards Granada, the final capital of the Moorish empire in Spain (which fell in 1492, the same year that Columbus discovered America). The story has it that the interview for the surrender of Mojácar (to avoid a siege and probable slaughter by the overwhelming Christian forces) was held at the Fuente (the Fountain) between Captain Garcilaso for the Christians and the Muslim leader Alavez who was asked for the surrender of his town. According to legend, this is his reply:
We are as Spanish as you. We have been here for seven hundred years and now you tell us to leave. We have never raised arms against the Christians; I think we should be treated like brothers, not like enemies and we should be allowed to continue to work our land. But know this: before we surrender like cowards, we will die like Spaniards’. Brave words!
In 1530 Emperor Charles V received such support for the house of Hapsburg from Mojácar that the city was awarded the coat of arms of a two-headed eagle. Later, Philip II added the slogan: La muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Mojácar, llave y amparo del Reino de Granada: 'The very noble and loyal city of Mojácar, key and guardian of the Kingdom of Granada'.
Mojácar was important locally during the following centuries and is recorded as reaching 10,000 inhabitants in the XVIII Century. Another source records a population of 6,000 people in 1870.
In 1911, a local census records that Mojácar had 4,979 people on the town hall register, and the town had just installed public lighting (run on acetylene). There was a café, a ‘cantina’, two butchers, a carpenter’s, three food shops, a pharmacy, a post office and a bookshop.
 The pueblo maintained this number of inhabitants until round about 1920 when, slowly, the numbers began to fall, speeding its descent in the 1930s. Through the various local vicissitudes of the drop in the local water-table, the end of the local de-forestation (due to an unexpected lack of trees), a peculiar plague of locusts in 1901, the end of the local silver, copper and lead mines in the 1920s (run for 40 years in the surrounding hills mainly by the British) and the troubled times of the Civil War, the area in general eventually became depopulated with mass emigrations to Barcelona, Algeria, Germany and even Argentina, and Mojácar itself began its long descent into what was, by 1960, a moribund village of just 600 souls.
A local legend, impossible to prove or otherwise, says that Walt Disney was either born in Mojácar, or perhaps born in Chicago to a disgraced Mojácar girl, who fled the town for America around 1899, pregnant and afraid.

Modern History

By 1960, as the population fell away, there were only a few hundred people left; but one of them was the irrepressible Jacinto Alarcón, chosen by the provincial governor as mayor. At the same time, attracted by the light and the views, a school of Almerian artists called ‘Los Indalianos’ (named after a Spanish saint) were frequent visitors to the forgotten pueblo.
Happily, the mayor and the artists welcomed each other. The artists named the local totem after themselves – the Indalo: a figure of a stick-man that appears to hold a bow or a canopy over its head as protection. Used in Mojácar for centuries and previously known as ‘the little Mojácar man’, the totem to be one day known as the Indalo was painted over the lintels of houses for good luck. 
Jacinto began to give away houses and land to those who agreed to settle and to invest. A number of foreigners began to take up his offer and, at one point, a number of foreign ambassadors owned houses in Mojácar (giving rise to the street called ‘Calle de los Embajadores’). Jacinto also managed to contact the minister for tourism in Madrid to ask him to build a Parador government hotel in Mojácar, which to everyone’s surprise, was granted.
The beach, now known as Mojácar Playa, began to attract home-buyers. Houses and later urbanisations were built. A hotel chain came to Mojácar in 1975, bringing ‘package tourism’ with them. The town’s fortunes were guaranteed and Jacinto retired, giving way to the democratic mayors which followed Franco’s death.
Today, Mojácar has some eight thousand inhabitants, rising in the summer months to perhaps as many as twenty five thousand.


Mojácar has never truly been famous for its fish and there is no port. Hobby fishing and, more importantly, the next-door port of Garrucha nevertheless supply Mojácar with a bounty of fresh fish and molluscs. The traditional Mojácar fare is based mainly around the pig, with many types of local sausage, and of course the many products of the fields and orchards. Try the Wednesday market in the parking area behind the pueblo for the freshest local produce. For eating out, a number of local bars will offer tapas, those small nibbles that come with a beer or a glass of wine.
There are local restaurants which serve delicious meals, whether simple salads and fish on the hot plate, or chicken, pork and mutton dishes, or of course paella: that famous Spanish rice-dish. There are other restaurants who favour ‘modern cuisine’, inspired by some of the World’s greatest chefs, where Spanish ingenuity in the kitchen is a byword.
Then, we have a plethora of fine foreign restaurants, each anxious for your patronage. We have food from Germany, Thailand, the Middle East, North Africa, Argentina, Mexico, China, France, Italy, Ireland, the UK, Holland and India. Everything from a simple pizza to the best of fine-dining.

Mojácar Today

With the arrival of the first foreigners in the sixties, Mojácar’s hidden life was lost. The village soon had a number of foreign bars and restaurants, and the silver Indalo medallion was better known in far-off London or New York than was the province of Almería itself. This helped to make Mojácar a cosmopolitan town and, as more restaurants, beach bars and hotels sprung up on the beach, the town became in short order an internationally-known resort. Today, there is a mixture of local and foreign citizens, with the multicultural junior school as perhaps a worthy symbol of this high level of integration.
Mojácar, indescribably beautiful, has been chosen to join the select group of ‘Pueblos más Bonitos de España’, the most beautiful towns of Spain (there are only six in all Andalucía).

Fiestas and Attractions

There is always something going on in Mojácar. Concerts are organised both by the Culture Department in the Town Hall as well as by the many bars and beach-clubs. There are more of these during the high season, which stretches from Easter to late September. Other attractions include art exhibitions (there is a municipal art gallery and some other commercial ones). There are any number of sports activities, from aquatic sports to lawn bowls, golf, padel-tennis and bicycling: clubs and teachers/trainers are easily found. There are also walking clubs, gyms and yoga groups. There is, of course, any number of boutiques and shops to suit all tastes.
The festivals organised by the Town Hall include the Carnival week, a picnic called ‘la Vieja Remanona’ and the Romería de San Isidro. These take place in the first months of the year. Later come the Easter parades and the colourful and famous Moors and Christians celebrations in the second week of June. This festival sees the townsfolk divided into half a dozen different groups, known as cábilas, and they will dress up in astonishing period costumes and will party for three days straight. The summer continues with regular concerts in the Town Square and culminates with the town fiesta of Saint Agustín on and around the 28th of August. The final dates on the calendar are the Virgen del Rosario on and around the 7th of October and then the Christmas, New Year and Twelfth Night celebrations. 

How to Get There

Mojácar is 13 kilometres off the A7 motorway, leaving either at the Vera or Los Gallardos exits. The Almería airport is around 50 minutes and the Alicante airport is about three hours away. Other airports within the region include Murcia, Granada and Málaga.

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