- Religion and Philosophy
A brief history of Spain. (Guardia Civil)
and while you are here, try this new writers hub out!
Spain is different...
Can you write more about religion in Spain, a fellow hubber asked, well, I'm a Christian and live in Spain, so why not?
Spain is different...
Is more than just an advertising byline we dreamed up to attract tourists, it's a undeniable fact of life, and it's something which has come about due to the unique way in which modern Spain has been forged in the white hot heat of religious battle, counter rebellion, and a military dictatorship, until it became one of the most liberal thinking places in Europe.
But before we can discuss modern religion in Spain, we need to take a trip backwards in time to look at how religion has actually shaped Spain from the start of her history.
Now I make no claim to be a credible historian, I am an 'aficionado' of the subject rather than a teacher, an observer rather than a participant, but having lived in Spain for nearly 25 years full time, and having been a frequent visitor since the early 70's, I have made some observations that can possibly present what happened and is happening here in a fresh light.
My version may be as 'different' as Spain is in itself, because I start from the bible and how it affects things as my foundations...
Let's start with the flood...
Strange as this may seem, I date humanity from the time of the flood, rather than the point of Creation, because when Noah stepped out onto dry land he was one of only eight survivors of the flood.
So you are related to him, somehow or another.
There will have been around 100 'generations' between Noah and you, and you will have been related to him through one of his sons, Ham, Shem or Japheth.
Noah seems to have settled in the Babylon area and set up his vineyard there, his sons took off in different directions, Ham seems to have headed mainly east and south, Shem spread clockwise around the Mediterranean from Babylon to Cordoba, and Japheth headed north (anticlockwise) around the Mediterranean and took over everything he could find!
He was empowered by God to rule over the cleansed earth, he was given power and authority over Gods Creation, and he made some curses and blessings that affect us all, but more of that later (or pop over to Genesis chapter 9 and read for yourself)
The end result that concerns us is that Japheth coming down the coast from France met up with Ham coming up the coast from North Africa in Spain.
Now this all took place very gradually, I mean it was not a race to get from one point to another, it was the natural expansion of a people group as the 'tribe' grew in number and needed more space, anyway a line was drawn in the Spanish sand and that line ran roughly like an elongated 'S' stretching from Cadíz (known as 'Tarshish' in the bible) up though what would become Madrid and swooping across and up to Barcelona.
The surprising thing is that if you move forward to 1938, when the Spanish Civil War finished, you find the battle lines finally drawn when Franco won were very similar, and added to that the fact that Franco used Moroccan (Moorish) Muslim troops to start the invasion (and some of them landed on a beach just 50 meters away from where I am writing this) plus the fact that the Moors had previously occupied the major part of Spain from 711 to 1492, (the same year that the Italian Cristobal de Columbus left Spain for India and found America.
And its easy to see why Spain is different!
My bit of Spain is called Andalucia, in itself an Arab name (El Andalùz) dating from the Moorish occupation, although when you consider they ruled here fro 700 years, it was more like a residency that they never thought would be interrupted by their Japheth cousins.
Until 1492, when after being jammed into a small but powerful section of northern Iberia (now roughly where the industrial powerhouse of Barcelona and Cataluña appear) the Christians decided to push back and the Catholic Kings drove the Moors slowly back over the sea to North Africa.
They still intend to return, and indeed they have, but this time they have been buying the country and rather than using a sword, they have now been wielding petro-dollars.
My first house in Spain was in the village featured at the start of this article; Guacin (said gawtheen) and if you took a pendulum down from the (Moorish) tower you see at the highest point, mi casa would be right beneath it and h¡just before you got to the church (which I never did in the four years I had the place!)
My then partner and I bought a 150 m2 ruin for $7,000 from the local butcher, (who was also the local smuggler) and he sold it through the local pharmacist, who was also the 'abogado' (lawyer) who acted as a land agent. He arrived at the law office (having strolled up the road from his pharmacy) with his trousers held up with a thick cord of rope for a belt. Somehow I just knew that he was not a slick con artist!
Life was definitely different then, and we only even found the place (Gaucin) because we had a client that lived there and it was raining in Casablanca....OK I'd better explain....
We had a business in London and it was Easter, we were closed for a few days, so I booked the first flight out to Spain I could get, which was to Madrid....which was 700 km from the Costa del Sol, (where I intended to soak up some sun and brandy)..... but it was raining when we landed in Madrid....and it was raining when we arrived in Marbella....and it was still raining, (despite the fact that we had caught a ferry and were now half way to the Spanish Sahara) in Marroco.... so we turned round and set off to visit Diana in her house in Gaucin.
Diana lived there for her privacy, so when we turned up at the local bar asking for her, everybody told us they had never heard of her, then got us a drink kept us amused until about twenty minutes later a small boy cam into the bar and nodded, whereupon we were led to her house.
I liked that! We stayed a few days and bought the house, the contract stated that if we were unable to pay the completion moneys due to acts of war, we could delay until peace was declared. As this was in the first few days of the Falklands war taking place it was a prudent move, however the war ended before it began (in comparison to Iraq and Afghanistan) so we ended up with a wonderful old village house in a small and remote 'white village' where we were amongst 2,500 Spaniards and about 50 'extranjeros' (foreigners, i,e, us Brits!).
Today the numbers have reversed as the place became an 'artistes' colony and is stuffed full of Surrey socialists who paint for a hobby and hold exhibitions as an excuse to get drunk and show off their wealth.
Anyhow, I digress yet again....
The two rulers of Spain
40 years of isolation......
This had some profound effects upon the country, for a start Franco was a diligent Catholic, so whilst he was not exactly full of the Holy Spirit, he did allow the Church considerable sway in the life of the country, and indeed it was only recently that the State made it the rule that one had to tick the box allocating a percentage of your taxes paid to the use of the Catholic Church, rather than the percentage being automatically paid UNLESS you ticked a protest box.
When I arrived here for good in 1986, there was the first Socialist government to have survived in power running the country, and trying to introduce their 'new ideas' with caution and stealth, knowing full well that at that time the Guardia Civil (paramilitary police) and the Military would have over thrown them in a second had King Juan Carlos given the nod.
People still spoke softly about politics and any of the multitude of things that could have gotten you in trouble during Franco's years in full power.
People were still 'disappearing' until the mid 1950's and the last person to be killed by garrotte in Spain was executed in 1974.
When Franco died everybody looked to the King and the Military to see what would happen, King Juan Carlos indicated that he favored a democracy with a monarch and Spain breathed a sigh of relief. If the King had not done this, it's probable that old wounds and rifts would have been reopened and another civil war could have started.
A position of keeping silent about killings commited on both sides during the civil war was instigated and when Iwas first in Spain almost nobody would speak about it.
The 'republicans' because hey, this is Spain, who knows when the Guardia would take you away if you spoke out....and the 'nationalists' because they knew we may soon have a Socialist government empowered, and who wanted to rake your potential war crimes into the parlour or local bar for all to see.
This policy has only just broken down thirty plus years later, when most of those responsible are dead, and relatives of the lost and killed on both sides would like to regain their remains from the mass graves they were dumped into, for a fitting burial.
It remains to be seen if this will happen, for the civil war is still only just under the skin of the average Spaniard who lost family members killed in some cases by neighbours fathers, and even worse, by other family members on the opposing side in the war.
The Guardia had enormous power and authority during the Franco years, and they ONLY held that power in restraint because their King, Juan Carlos, would not support their plans to return the country to a full monarchy ruled and enforced by military might.
They stormed the elected parliament in 1985 and held it hostage until the King spoke on national television calling for unity. I have met a Spanish aristo who had 3,000 armed men at his command awaiting instructions in Madrid on the night that this happened.
One word from the King, rightly or wrongly spoken, and they would have seized the media and communications channels immediately.
As it is they all went home to their farms and businesses and became mayors of their towns, bankers and luxury property developers.
Many are now facing corruption charges, because the sheer volume of money generated by the Spanish property boom between 1998 and 2006 led to massive bribes being required and paid to build anything in the Costa del Sol.
Like we said.... Spain is different!
Now we have enough background to start explaining about religion here in Spain today.
The British are coming...
We Brits have a long association with Spain, the habit of coming here for the wine, women and sunshine started with the Napoleonic wars.
Wellington (who was Irish) rousted Monsieur Bonaparte from the Iberian peninsular, for an eternally grateful English crown, who gave him a prime bit of Central London real estate to add to the rather splendid estate he got from Spain.
The English soldiers went back clutching their 'mermelada' made of 'naranjas' - which they had probably never seen in the UK before, and being illiterate changed the naranja (said nar ran ka) to 'norange, probably inspired by Spanish brandy and the colour of the 'jam' they saw.
This small slip of the tongue caused confusion to the first British tourists that started to visit Spain in the early 1960's, who, asking for marmalade to go with their breakfast toast, were mighty surprised to get Apricot or Strawberry jam instead.
Marmelada in Spain refers to ALL jams, if you want orange marmalade, you must ask correctly for marmelada naranja, and remember to specify whether you want dulce (sweet) or amarga (bitter seville orange).
It's much the same about religion....
Spain, having spent 1938 - 1964 completely isolated from foreign influence was a Catholic country. Now Spanish Catholics are not exactly the same as Roman Catholics, or Irish Catholics, excepting that they all share the same Pontiff whoever he is.
However even with Spain allowing foreigners into the country from 1964, there were few noticeable changes until Franco died in 1975, and even then change was a concept rather than a reality.
So the Catholic Church got surprised when these new foreigners, who came bearing money and so were welcomed of sorts, actually wanted to have their own churches and meet in them.
This was of course not legal or practicable as the official religion was Catholic and ALL other manifestations of religion were called 'cults' (and still are).
The problem was that to Christian Evangelicals, Spain represented a vast mission field with a massive audience for their 'open' Christian ideas that they were convinced would 'free' the people from Catholicism, whether they wanted to be freed or not.
Fortunately... Spain is different, and a situation that could have been disastrous for all was defused by the (then) mañana attitude of the authorities as well as the slow pace that the foreign interlopers soon adopted once they adjusted to Spain's relaxed lifestyle.
The bit about religion is Spain... sorry it's easy to get carried away when you write about Spain, and anyway maybe a bit of virtual site seeing with a touch of history makes more sense... but there is a story to be told, so next hub in the series.....