Thursday, July 20, 2017

Digging Up Dalí

Today, here in Figueres, everyone is talking about it.  Out on the street, at the market, even the tourists are aware that this evening they are going to dig up Savador Dalí.

The Dalí Museum in Figueres, a former theater that was in ruins, was completely rebuilt and designed by the artist to make his museum.  When he died, he was buried under the floor in the great hall, covered by a huge tombstone slab.  This evening that slab will be lifted, his remains will be exposed, and DNA samples will be taken.  This radical operation will be done by court order in response to a suit filed by a woman who lives in Figueres and who says that Salvador Dalí is her illegitimate father.

Pilar Abel has been saying this for 10 years and has gone all the way in her legal battle to win this case.  Today´s news report on the subject said there were opinions on both sides of the debate and showed one shop owner who didn´t think it was true. 

But I think, why in the world would she battle so hard for so many years and at such expense (she doesn´t seem to be particularly well off) and subject herself to possible world-wide ridicule if she wasn't pretty certain it is true?  So my money is on Pilar.

Since Dalí left his properties and fortune to the Salvador Dalí Foundation and the state, surely they are hoping she will lose her bet.  If she wins, under Spanish law, she will entitled to a quarter of his estate.  This should be interesting.  Almost surreal.

Here's The Guardian's article for more:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Catalan Funeral

Sunday I unexpectedly attended a funeral. I had only found out the day before that Pere had died.  In fact, the Whatsapp came at 11:45 am, and he had died that same day at seven in the morning.  One of the people from the dog park heard it from another person, also from the park and who knew Pere better than any of the rest of us.  It’s a good thing that news spreads fast, because the Catalans waste no time in having the funeral.  One day you’ve died; the next day you’re interred.

Pere liked to tell to people at the park that he was younger than me.  This was true, but did not strike me as being particularly polite.  He was about three months younger, but he seemed much older.  It all fell apart for him months ago when he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered.  I’m not sure if he lived alone or with a roommate, but he was never able to return home and spent his last months unhappily in a nursing home.

Pere was a grumpy old man.  He wasn’t particularly jolly to speak with at the park, but he did have his good points:  He was a passionate supporter of the Barcelona Futbol Club and a passionate lover of animals -- or at least, dogs and cats.

He and his dog Chester were a fixture at the park -- always among the first to arrive in the evenings.  His love of animals was evident at the park where he would always come with a bag of treats for all the dogs – never mind that some of the owners did not want their dogs to be given treats.  For those he would wait until the owner wasn’t looking and sneak it.


Pere giving treats to his doggy friends

 Less evident was his ongoing feeding and caring for homeless street cats.  He took care of many of them, finding them homes if possible, and feeding the rest.  He didn’t have a lot of money – I believe he lived on a modest pension.  But he would be sure the cats had enough to eat, even if it meant that he didn’t.

When someone here dies, the music that is played most often at funerals is Pau Casals’ “El Cant dels Ocells,” (The Song of the Birds).  But there is a second song that also sometimes accompanies those who die, and it is “El Vall del Riu Vermell” (The Red River Valley) and that is what was played on Sunday.  Translated to Catalan, it is no longer the love song I remember about the cowboy lamenting his girl who is leaving the valley.  In Catalan it is about someone beloved who has left this earth (the YouTube video is sung in Catalan but the text is in Spanish).

R.I.P., Pere

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sant Jordi

Every year on 23 April, Catalonia celebrates the festival of Sant Jordi. Sant Jordi (Saint George) is the patron saint of many places, including England and Catalonia. George is the one who slew the dragon.  Here in Catalonia his feast day is celebrated as the Day of the Book and the Rose.
The rose represents the blood of the dragon that Sant Jordi slew. Where his blood fell, a red rose grew.
The business about the book is more recent. In the early 20th century, a Barcelona bookseller introduced the idea of the day of the book because Miguel de Cervantes died on 22 April 1616 and William Shakespeare died one day later on 23 April 1616 (which also happened to be his birthday). The idea of the book caught on and the festival has evolved to be one of the nicest holidays of the year.
This is the Catalan version of Valentine's Day in that it is friends and lovers who exchange these gifts -- traditionally, a book for the man and a rose for the woman. But the holiday isn’t just for lovers – the whole family is included and there are almost as many books for children for sale as there are for adults.
The Rambla in Figueres

Les Rambles in Barcelona
photo by Manolo Garcia

In every city, town, and village there is a street or square devoted to the selling of books and roses. In Barcelona you'll find the biggest stretch anywhere, all along the Rambles. Figueres also has a Rambla, even if it is much shorter, and that is where our celebration is held. And as always, on Sant Jordi it was packed from one end to the other.  (No Catalan festival is for the claustrophobic.)

Les Rambles in Barcelona
Photo by Pere Virgili

La Rambla in Figueres
The following day, one newspaper showed a photo of an elderly man, sitting by a window giving a red rose to an elderly woman who was in a wheelchair.  This was the husband of more than 50 years paying his daily visit to his wife who has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home and doesn’t remember him or the holiday.   
For about a week before the day, my supermarket always prints out a poem, the winner of a contest, with your receipt. This year’s was:
The streets fill with roses.
And you,
and that book,
are waiting for me on any corner.

(By Cristina Company)

Photo by Pere Virgili