JOUR 401: Blog Post 2

Spain is pretty advanced when it comes to media, still having many popular papers, radio stations, and television stations that fight to be the number one informant of the Spanish people. According to the European Journalism Centre, in May 2009 the most popular papers in circulation were Marca, a sports publication with 2.7 million readers daily, followed closely by 20 Minutos with 2.5 million readers daily. Bigger cities like Madrid saw popularity come from more well-known publications such as El País, ABC, and El Mundo. However, after Spain’s economic crisis in 2008, print publications saw advertising revenue drop between 20-34%, affecting many smaller papers in circulation.

As for radio, EJC says that at the end of 2005, while there were roughly 4,877 radio stations live in Spain, only 2,655 were legally transmitting. The other 1,803 were transmitting without a license. Most of the channels are owned by Radio Nacional de España (RNE), and the most popular stations such as Cadena SER in 2009 can see upwards of 4.7 million listeners daily.

In television, the media profile for Spain on BBC notes that Spain has seen “significant expansion” ever since the country switched over to digital terrestrial television (DTT). The most popular programs seem to be TV dramas or “telenovelas,” and RadioTelevision Española (RTVE) is the public broadcaster from the country.

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Important media outlets and publications taken from Spain Media Profile at BBC.com

When it comes to access, it seems to be a grey area.

The implementation of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 saw the birth of Article 20, which gave citizens the right to express their views openly and also protected the right to publish in languages other than Spanish.

The Columbia Journalism Review states Spain’s problem is rooted not so much in a lack of free press, but in a lack of access to information. “Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta, and Spain are the only four of the twenty-seven EU countries still without a law establishing the public’s right-to-know,” the article states. Summer 2011 saw an attempt to change, with the socialist party in power at the time releasing a draft of legislation that would essentially by Spain’s FOIA. However, since the enactment, it seems the legislation has done little to pull back the curtains to the inner workings of Spain that journalists seek to validate and compose their stories.

In 2012, the media freedom group “Reporters Without Borders” accused the government of attempting to exercise too much control over Spain’s public broadcaster, RTVE. Apparently, several journalists had been removed following their reputation of criticizing the Popular Party, one of Spain’s political parties. Furthermore, Reporters Without Borders goes on to note the Basque separatist group ETA on its list of predators to the free press after several Spanish journalists are still working under police protection due to threats from this group.

By December 2012, 17.6 million Spanish citizens were on Facebook of the 31.6 million that were even using the Internet, and comes in 27th place for “Most Citizens Using Cellphones” with a whopping 47.3 million citizens taking full advantage of the ever growing mobile trend.

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Spanish headlines during the Ebola crisis.

Press Reference claims that most newspapers and a majority of the electronic media are owned by the Spanish major media groups: PRISA, Vocento, UNEDISA, and Grupo Godó. As for what ownership means for Spanish media, this quote comes directly from PRISA’s mission statement on their website: “defense of freedom, peace, equality and the protection of the environment.”

Meanwhile the Godó Group, a family run business since their creation of La Vanguardia, preaches the following in their message from the Chairman of the Board: “we have been capable of adapting the media to the new era and needs, by transforming the infrastructure into a more agile and flexible one, and yet, not forgetting to carry on investing in quality content.” So it would seem the homestyle, family ownership of media outlets in Spain do more to help access than to hurt it by keeping things old-fashioned and quality based, as opposed to the rat race for speed we see in the United States.

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The Godó Group building, from their website.

As for prominent journalists, I shine my spotlight on Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Born in Cartagena in the Murcia region of Spain in 1951, this journalist/novelist was a war correspondent for RTVE from 1973 to 1994. His print career began with the (defunct) Pueblo, and then took to the screen for state-owned Televisión Española. His first novel, El húsar, was released in 1986, but he received more recognition for his series Alatriste. Since June 2003, he has held a position in the Royal Spanish Academy.

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Arturo P.R., from Wikipedia.

El Mundo, one of the most popular print publications in Spain, started in 1989 as El Mundo de Siglo Veinte, or The 20th Century World. El Mundo retained one of its best-known publishers, Pedro J. Ramirez, from its release in October 1989, all the way until 2014. It is controlled by Italian publishing group, RCS MediaGroup, though since a merger in 2007 it has been owned by Unidad Editorial. El Mundo is said to fall to the center-right of the political spectrum, with liberal and independent undertones. They’ve been the source behind many breaking stories such as the embezzlement scandal by El Guardia Civil and tax fraud by the Central Bank of Spain.

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JOUR 401: Blog Post 1

Spain is a historical wonderland where a past of conquistadors and world domination collide with the modern culture of comida and a 4am bedtime. As beautiful as it is diverse, there is more to this Western European country than paella and flamenco.

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Spain’s more recent history starts in 711 AD, when Muslims from North Africa gained control of the country, leaving an influence on art an architecture still present today known as mudejar. In 1469, the country was united by the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella. Their marriage unified the country by bringing the two, formerly separate, Christian regions together, and Spain grew larger. In 1492, Christopher Colombus leaves Spain and sets out for the New World, beginning Spain’s age of exploration. Within the next ten years, Catholicism is named the country’s official religion, and most Jews or Muslims are forced to convert in a movement known as the Spanish Inquisition. Fast forward to 1811 where, years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada Invincible, Spain begins to lose control of its other colonies after Venezuela declares independence. Regions such as Cuba and the Phillipines break away from Spain over the next several decades. Spain’s most modern historical blunder comes in during 1939 with the election of dictator Francisco Franco. Franco’s reign lasts until his death in 1975, at which time Juan Carlos de Borbon takes over as king and Spain becomes the constitutional monarchy we know it as today.

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Today, in 2017, Spain claims a population of just under 46.1 million with a median age of 44 years old. Their urban population makes up 82.4% of their total population, and they are currently split pretty evenly with the female population just beating the males with a 50.6% to 49.4% split. The official language of Spain is Spanish (whoa, go figure), and they practice freedom of religion, though most of the population is Catholic. While Spain is made up mostly of people from its native ethnicity, it also sees a decently sized Latin-American population. Unemployment has become a problem in Spain, with an unemployment rate of about 19%. Spanish citizens can be heard complaining about “Ni-ni’s” which are those who fall under the category “ni estudian, ni trabajan” which are the Spanish young people who currently are not working or studying, and are frequently blamed for Spain’s current “1 in 5 unemployed” crisis. However, Spain has seen steady recovery from its highest rate of of unemployment over the last 10 years (27% in 2014).

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Spain is a parliamentary monarchy which, for all intents and purposes (and as stated by my professor when I studied abroad), means they have a king, but he’s basically a figurehead for the actual government who does things. The current king is Felipe VI, and the current president, commonly referred to as Prime Minister, is Mariano Rajoy Brey. He was re-elected recently after a period of unrest and citizen discontentment which saw Spain without a Prime Minister and missing most of its government for almost a year.

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Spain has a nominal GDP of 1.252 trillion, and ranks 14th nominally amongst competitors. It has a labor force of 23 million, and 70% of these occupations fall under the category “services,” with the next highest occupation coming in at 14.1% working in “industry.” Their main industries are: machinery, machine tools, metals and metal manufactures, and their main import and export partners are France and Germany. The main export is machinery, and the main import is fuel. According to the World Fact Book, 21.1% of Spain’s population lies below the poverty line.

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Spain’s most recent internal conflict comes from what is known as the Basque conflict. Basically, from 1959-2011, social groups who sough independence from Spain and  France started a series of movements centered around the organization ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, translation: “Basque Homeland and Liberty.” However, in 2016 the group declared a ceasefire, becoming completely disarmed in 2017. Spain does not currently face any massive international conflicts.

Chapter 7: The Worst Italian Ever

 

My host mom calls me, “la Italiana,” because despite my mostly German heritage, she decided my looks and Spanish accent prevail as Italian, and so La Italiana I became, and for the “Puente” (a week long break we have in the first week of December because Catholic stuff happens), to Italia I flew.

And after a week of living in one of my many European mutt “motherlands,” it is safe to say I am actually the worst Italian ever.

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I do pizza pretty well, though.

Our motley adventure began with a five-hour layover in the Barcelona airport. So, like any self-respecting American college students, we bought a bottle of wine from the duty-free store and decided to drink away the time. Only problem? The duty-free store did not sell corkscrews, and being a seasoned veteran of opening wine bottles with pens (from that one time I did it in Joe’s apartment with Nina’s cat wine and exploded the entire bottle all over his kitchen), I was elected to repeat my previous failures. After failing miserably at the whole “flip it over and bang it until the cork comes out,” method, I physically and mentally prepared myself to shower in wine once again. Armed with a makeshift shield I crafted from a plastic bag, I pushed all of my strength into the cork and managed to open our bottle with minimal casualties and wine lost.

We arrived in Turin at about 11pm, and when the taxi dropped us off at our AirBnb we thought there must be a mistake. I don’t remember whose brilliant idea it was to go to Turin first and why, but from the part I saw I think I could have gone my entire life without seeing this city and been completely fine. Italy, unlike Spain, eats at normal hours, so our only hope of sustenance this late at night was a pizza joint run by an Oriental family that spoke better English than Italian. So Italy started with the most ghetto Airbnb I’ve ever seen and Chinese pizza (Nancy’s didn’t even come with cheese). The next day, my roommate Nancy and our friend Julia learned the hard way that “latte” in Italian means milk. Not coffee WITH milk.

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Your hands are too big for your body.

Thankfully, we only stayed two nights in Turin before catching a train to Venice (only after stressing to catch and find a train that Nancy had made up and didn’t actually exist). Arriving in Venice, it was obvious things would be better. First of all, if you haven’t been to Venice, go. Like seriously, screw your job, your responsibilities, your boyfriend, get on a plane and go. Even in off season, this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced. Our Airbnb was a cute, modern apartment in the heart of it all that included fresh croissants every morning. It’s only flaw was a lack of WiFi. We feasted on our first real Italian meal, ending with quite possibly the best dessert I’ve ever experienced. I was actually on the verge of tears eating a fresh crepe, drizzled with Nutella, and topped with Oreo gelato. In fact, my ecstasy was so great that I forgot I was lactose intolerant, speed ate the entire thing, and proceeded to throw up my angelic dessert. Very sad, but still just as amazing going in reverse.

After Venice, we made our way to Bologna for only one night to sample what we’d heard was the best Italian food Italy had to offer. Those rumors are true; the rumor that is not true, however, is how similar Italian and Spanish are. I ordered something from a menu in Italian that, had this been the case, should have been a filet of fish and green peppers. What it ended up being was filet mignon with capers in a cream sauce. While not what I expected, I am glad I was wrong because oh my god. People who know me know I’m happier with cheap fastfood than I ever am with something hip or fancy, but if I had to sell my soul for one dish, it might be this one.

The next morning, we boarded our train to our final destination: Florence. While our Airbnb was once again slightly sketchy (reminiscent of a crack house, or a place where the drugged-out people from your high school would go to do acid), Florence was beautiful. We ate our fair share of amazing food, naturally. I saw the over-hyped statue of the naked man for the second time in my life, though this time was definitely less arousing. I went to my first Christmas market and ate German food and got surprisingly drunk off one cup of vin brule.

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Rachel after one cup of vin brule. See also: little lightweight scrub.

However,the moment that sticks out the most in my mind is this dinky little Irish pub we went to. The outside had nothing special to show, but we wanted to grab a drink while we waited for the organic dinner place to open (once a Californian…). Upon stepping inside, it was something different. American college t-shirts and greek life letters covered every inch of the walls and tables. A shot list bearing shots named after every relevant college in the United States hung on the wall. My eyes scanned anxiously up and down, rolling to the back of my head when I saw UCSB was on there twice. But when I finally found it, I screamed. I actually, embarrassingly, sorority-white-girl screamed in this bar. The Cal Poly shot: vodka, limoncello, amaretto…an odd combination, but I didn’t care.

I hadn’t been nostalgic until now. I don’t know if it’s me as a person or the fast pace of this trip, but I genuinely hadn’t missed home much. But now, sitting in this bar thousands of miles from home, I missed Cal Poly. Every memory came flooding back: going on my tour and becoming so enamored that my three-year long plan of attending University of Miami ended instantly, moving into my dorm and thinking I was the shit, learning I wasn’t the shit, and relationships I built—some of which lasted, some of which didn’t, and some of which turned out in a way I never expected.

It was this moment, this shot, that I knew I was ready to go home. I might never be a great Italian: gelato makes me throw up, I’m not too fond of cheese, and while I speak Spanish with an Italian accent, my actual Italian is pitiful. But at the end of the day, I don’t identify myself as an Italian. I identify myself as Mustang. Because for all it’s exercise obsessed, beauty-ridden flaws, I am damn proud to be a Cal Poly student, and there really is no place like SLOme.

Chapter 6: Desaparecer

We spend far too much time learning words and far too little time thinking about what they mean. Take, for example, the word appear. If I asked you to define it in your own words you might say something like, “show up” or “become visible,” and by that hacksaw definition, you would have unknowingly reduced the word disappear to mean nothing more than invisible.

I like the word better in Spanish: desaparecer; it has more components. At the end of the word is parecer, which means to seem. Then you have des, which takes whatever idea you have and makes it undone (deshacer, destruir) all encompassing a tiny little “a,” which Greek roots will tell you means to/toward/near. So if you translate desaparecer quite literally, you are left with “the undoing towards what seems to be.”

So much better than invisible.

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And that’s what I did. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to take my life at it was seeming to be, and undo it. So on a Monday morning I bought a plane ticket to leave Friday and go to the Canary Islands. Alone.

I went for no cultural purpose. I didn’t go to see any sights or visit anymore churches. I went to just be alone, on purpose. And here’s what I learned:

-Spaniards either think I’m from Argentina or Italy based on my accent when I speak Spanish. I’ve still to learn/understand why.

-I require way more naps to survive than the average person.

-I like the ocean better at night than during the day.

-I can almost always eat raspberry cheesecake and apple pastries.

And that’s all she wrote. I had no major epiphanies, no life changing moments. Sometimes it’s good to just escape your own life, not even to obtain perspective, but just to merely not live it for awhile. And sometimes, it’s as simple as an impulsive purchase of a plane ticket to go somewhere a little warmer and get lost.

 

 

Chapter 5: Almost Speechless

Congratulations, America. You have started a war.

I sit almost speechless, and speechless I would be if it were not for the fact that I have gone completely and uncomfortably numb with rage and disappointed expectance at your incompetence. You have swiftly and proficiently killed what was left of the American Dream.

I will be the first to say I’ve never been proud to be an American. Since I was young and learned that this country was founded on rape and stolen land, I decided I wasn’t proud to be an American. And as I grew, I watch us ship people over seas rather than save our own country. I watched the people who were meant to protect and guide us slaughter and exploit us, and now I potentially lose the only thing I ever truly wanted: motherhood.

Because if this election is any indication of what the future of this country will hold, bringing a child into this world is nothing short of abuse.

You can sit there in denial and claim “nothing will happen” and “nothing’s happened yet.” But today I walked through the streets of Spain, and every Spaniard either marked me with completely disdain, or the look of pity you give someone after someone they love has died.

And I wish I could say we killed America today. I wish I could say that this was unexpected and I didn’t see it coming…but I did. In fact what has me so completely floored is that this is exactly what I expected from America given our history; I had just stupidly hoped we were better.

This is not a question of Trump versus Hilary. This is a statement of the horror that not only did we strand ourselves with these two candidates, but we now with our choice in this election have said that every atrocity of our nation is okay.

Sexual assault is okay. Racism is okay. Corruption and deceit and power to rich white men, it’s all okay.

And there will be war. Because now the country so barely holding itself together is openly and completely divided, and not between Hillary and Trump supporters, no. Because not everyone voted Trump because they hate minorities or women or progress. Some misguidedly voted for other reasons.

Whether or not Trump gets anything passed in office is irrelevant, because with his election we have now told those who supported him for all his horrific reasons that their behavior is okay, and we have given them the power to act on their hatred. The racism and sexism that used to sit quietly in the corners of our society has now been blown wide open, and I promise their actions will speak louder than their slanderous words ever did. We have added fire to an already boiling over pot, and there will be blood.

So this is a call to action. This is a call to war: those of us for the good of humanity and what’s left of our nation, and those who seek to make it unlivable. It is a war between love and hate, and to stand idly by and not fight for the crumbs of hope we have left is to stand on the other side.

Chapter 4: Love and Other Things That Induce Psychosis

How insanely baffling that the people you fall hardest for are always the ones you never planned on loving in the first place. How insanely annoying.

September 22, 2014 had seen the start of a new chapter with a same love. Like most freshmen, I had entered college with my high school sweetheart thinking we were going to stay together and be together forever. People warned about the changes, warned about the turkey drop, and like all freshmen in love I’d scoffed, “it won’t be me.”

But it was.

The second part of that saga had seen the other college-stereotype. I’d heard rumors of fuckboys. I’d heard the tales of boys who bent your emotions backwards and sideways until you believed that the lies they told you were love, and the sex they asked for was because they cared. I saw my friends go through it, and rolled my eyes as they spun eloquent quilts with the words of justification for these men who were, quite honestly, simply abusive.

“You don’t know him like I do,” they’d say, “he’s different when we’re alone…” and I’d roll my eyes at their desperation, deaf to the same sentences when they fell out of my own mouth.

And for two years while I was busy tripping over the past or being emotionally enslaved by the present, there was one always there. A boy from the third floor of my dorm that, looking back, I always gave far too little thought to.

He came in with his high school sweetheart as well, a beautiful girl he’d loved since seventh grade. In my mind, I justify this as the reason I never quite paid attention. We bonded over similar pasts, high school loves, and late night life talks. I spent almost as much time up in his dorm taking shots as I did in my own.

October 15, 2015 (and I only remember because it was Megan’s birthday, hbd ho), I was crying over something alcohol induced, and he kissed me. In the middle of my blundering, slurred sentence, he just kissed me. For no reason. To this day, I have not found a more effective way to shut me up. It was never brought up, and a few months later when I kissed him, well, that wasn’t brought up either.

And he sat there and listened to my stupidity. He bit his tongue as I described the love I wanted and validated the bullshit I was getting. For two years, he waited for me to figure it out.

There was no beginning. There was no moment I looked at him and had a grand you’ve-been-there-all-along epiphany. Much like the first time he kissed me, and our friendship, and every moment we’d ever shared prior, it kind of just happened.

And I fought it so damn hard.

In fact, I fought it so hard that the kid got on a plane and flew 6000 miles to come and see me for three days. I guess two years had left him a little impatient.

It often happens in the way that you fall in love with someone and they become your best friend. You have a crush, and in falling in love you grow to adore the idiosyncrasies and hear the life story and develop the late night talks.

Doing it backwards was like no other thing I’d ever experienced. Because he already knew me. We already knew every aspect of light and dark and oddities in each other’s life. We walked into this crazy, intense, spontaneous thing already completely and totally comfortable. Like home. They weren’t kidding when they said to fall in love with your best friend. And I highly recommend to everyone reading this to take a long hard look at yours, and make sure you aren’t being a fucking idiot like me.

 

Chapter 3: Spanish Men Aren’t That Hot If You’re Distracted

Her name was Heidi. She’d been on the program some eight or so years ago. Mid-October, she’d just disappeared. Skipped classes, left her host mom, and dropped the program without such a reason as why. A few months later, Dr. H (our resident Cal Poly professor and basically father) received a call from her.

“Are you safe?”
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
“Where’d you go?”
“I met someone.”

And she never came home. Eight years later, she’s still here. In Spain. Married to some Spanish man.

Now personally, I seemed to have a thing for the Italians. And the Portuguese if you count that one time I fell in love for four years. Also, given that my heart and mind were occupied somewhere at a frat house on Foothill, I couldn’t see myself giving up my life at home for a Spanish man, but I could see myself giving it up for Spain.

Values were different here. I was 15 years old when I went to Spain for the first time, and a singular experience had made me determined to come back.

It was a topless beach, as most beaches here are. And it wasn’t the envy  of people with actual breasts that sparked my desire to return (still waiting, puberty…), it was the confidence. All shapes and sizes and body types lay naked on this beach, basking in the sun, and not once did you see a look of judgment. Not once did the heavier woman look up in fear of snide remarks or giggles. Not once did a skinny girl strut past someone less genetically blessed with an aura of superiority. Everyone minded their own, and everyone seemed to feel beautiful. It was a concept so foreign to me, but it was breathtaking.

Because this is something you’d never find in the United States, where someone will berate your body before they ever berate your character.

But I digress. After story time, it was time to get on the bus and reach our final destination: Valladolid and our host families. I was nervous. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t stop my mind from racing. And to the continued chagrin and annoyance of my classmates, I could not shut up.

But when they called me and my roommate’s names (first), and we got off that bus to meet our “mama Española,” my nerves seemed pointless.

She reminded me a bit of my own mother, short brown hair slightly feathered, brown eyes, and a personality big enough for someone three times her size. She was fiery, loquacious, and immensely opinionated. She was perfect.

Walking into the place I’d be living for the next three months felt like home. It wasn’t fancy. It was actually quite small. It was messy, and a tad disorganized, and I shared a bunk bed for the first time since I’d lived in my dad’s Foster City apartment. And I absolutely loved it.

There was no grace period. No awkward time of trying to find my footing or get comfortable with my new maternal figure or my surroundings. It just felt like I belonged there. It was comfortable.

The first week saw a multitude of occurrences. Friday night, we all went out. Naturally. Nothing special there. Sunday saw my first home-cooked paella. Sunday night saw me getting the stomach flu for the first time in three years. Monday morning saw me barely making it through my Spanish placement test without puking on the table, and Tuesday morning saw my placement in a level that obviously reflected just how shitty I’d been feeling.

But I didn’t mind. Out of six levels, I’d been placed in Level 4. While not the most challenging academically, it would cover crucial grammar, syntax, and vocabulary that I knew I needed to re-learn desperately. My teacher was a pistol, and while her aggressive teaching style rubbed some the wrong way, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There were groups, as was natural in large gatherings of people. People found who they clicked with, who made them comfortable, and smaller subsets formed. It bothered me in the beginning, but didn’t anymore.

The Universidad classes were easy. They were thought-provoking and the homework load was light. I found it easy to pay attention. The Cal Poly classes…well. I had never been one for history. It either pissed me off, or bored me to death. So the history of Spain, at 6pm while I’m fully fed and wide awake, brought out the worst side effects of my inattention. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t shut up, and then upon knowing I was annoying my classmates I would become anxious. And, as anyone who knows me knows, the more uncomfortable I am, the more obnoxious I get. But I tried to find new ways to distract myself and tone it down with every class.

We shared language classes with some students from Eau Claire in Wisconsin. The students in my class didn’t speak much. I’m not sure if it was from a lack of understanding, or that they partied harder than we ever did. But in their silence I asked questions, and I practiced. I’d come here to learn the language, and I wasn’t going to do that by staying silent in class.

This apparently rubbed some the wrong way. Wednesday, October 12 was a holiday, so Tuesday night we all went out. I was talking to one of the Wisconsin students who was in my class, when another walked up and said, “are you telling her she talks too much?” I turned to face him.

“He wasn’t, but it seems apparent now that you are,” I smirked.
“You think you’re so smart just because you can talk fast, like, slow down.”

I found this response comical, and it perplexed me that someone would equate the velocity of my speech with my intelligence. I talked fast in English, too. But why not have a little fun with the drunk boy?

“Alright, well then Thursday in class I won’t say anything. And when she’s standing up there asking questions none of you answer, feel free to just go for it.”

I began to walk away.

“Alright, bitch, see you Thursday.”

I raised my eyebrows and turned back to face him.

“Oh sweetheart…don’t fuck with me.”

My roommate, Julia, and I left the bar, wannabe-alpha male screams of, “oh now you’re gonna call me sweetheart? Now you think you’re the shit?” fading into the background.

I had not previously valued myself above this boy, but anyone who will call a woman a bitch based on her intelligence has a dick smaller than my nonexistent one. How tragic.