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martes, 26 de agosto de 2014

Lo normal

A quién no le gusta, de vez en cuando, ir al cine a despejarse, a ver una película amable y sin complicaciones, a ser posible bien actuada, y que te deje al salir del cine un buen sabor de boca y, por qué no, algo de paz de espíritu. Lo normal.

Ese era mi objetivo hace unos días, cuando fui con una amiga a ver El Chef (Jon Favreau, 2014), una película estadounidense que, ciertamente, cumplía todos los requisitos: una mezcla de “road movie” y cuento de hadas, donde los personajes sufren, pero para crecer; se pierden, pero van con brújula; son sarcásticos, pero sin doler. Una de esas películas que a primera vista parecería de Sundance, o tal vez canadiense, si no fuera por la presencia de estrellas de Hollywood en papeles secundarios y esa falta de veneno que, por otra parte, es lo que estaba precisamente buscando aquella tarde, así que no tengo derecho a quejarme.

“El Chef” cuenta el viaje desde Miami a Los Ángeles que un cocinero de prestigio, pero sin trabajo, realiza, acompañado de su hijo de diez años, en un camión de tacos que piensa instalar en las calles de Los Ángeles. Pero como la película se inicia en Los Ángeles, lo primero es lo primero: hay que hacer llegar a los protagonistas a Miami. ¿Cómo hacemos? Nada más fácil, para eso están los aviones. Por supuesto, aunque nuestro chef está divorciado, mantiene una estupenda relación con su ex, una rica mujer de negocios de origen latino, exhuberante como las malvadas de las telenovelas, pero que en este caso no es bruja mala, sino nuestra bellísima hada madrina. Así que ella le propone que les acompañe, a ella y al hijo en común, a Miami: ella va a estar muy ocupada y no podrá estar todo el tiempo con el niño, y, como bien sabe, las niñeras no pueden viajar en avión. Él acepta, claro, y en la siguiente secuencia ya estamos en Miami.

Espera: ¿”las niñeras no pueden viajar en avión”? ¿Ya está? ¿Esa era la forma más sencilla de plantar a nuestro chef en Miami? ¿No es un poco retorcido? ¿No necesita una explicación?

No, no la necesita. Las niñeras están en situación irregular en Estados Unidos y no pueden viajar en medios de transporte donde se controla la documentación, pues acabarían en un centro de detención o deportadas. Es bien sabido. No necesita explicación. Así que no dejemos que un detalle tan nimio nos distraiga de nuestro cuento de hadas, que iba tan bien.

Ya tenemos el camión, y andamos haciendo algo de bricolaje padre-hijo para ponerlo a punto, que ya sabemos todos lo que une eso. Ya está todo listo, sólo falta subir al camión la cocina nueva, que pesa un montón. Y precisamente hay un grupo de obreros en su pausa del almuerzo sentados a unos metros; pero no parecen estar muy dispuestos a ayudar. Hasta que aparece el amigo de nuestro protagonista, que les va a acompañar en el viaje, un chicano muy espabilado, que se las conoce todas, y le dice que no se preocupe, que él lo arregla. Y, en español, ofrece el siguiente trato a los obreros: si ayudan, luego comerán gratis el mejor bocadillo de su vida; si no... llama a la migra. Por supuesto, se levantan en seguida (punto de humor); luego se comen todos juntos y en buena armonía un sabroso bocadillo merecedor de los más grandes esfuerzos, que aquí no ha pasado nada, y nuestro camión inicia su viaje rumbo a la Costa Oeste.

Espera: ¿un punto de humor? ¿“Si no, llama a la migra”? ¿Así, sin más? ¿Nuestro simpático Sancho Panza?

Pues sí, sin más. Tampoco es para tanto: y olvidemos ya a nuestro grupo de obreros perezosos y atemorizados, que nosotros iniciamos nuestro viaje iniciático en el camioncito “melting pot”, un viaje multicultural, lleno de sabrosura, raíces y mestizaje, entre bocadillos cubanos y barbacoa texana, negros tocando folk en Nueva Orleans, y caderas multicolores moviéndose al son de ritmos caribeños.

Y que estas dos cortas escenas no hagan añicos nuestro cuento de hadas: que no se nos atraganten las palomitas ni se nos amargue el fondo de la garganta. Sobre todo, muy importante, no hay que perder la paz de espíritu.

Dejaremos atrás a las niñeras sin libertad de movimiento y a los obreros sin poder de elección, a los eternamente irregulares. Sus inquietudes son secundarias. No habrá viaje iniciático para ellos, no habrá crecimiento personal; aunque no los volvemos a ver, bien sabemos que acabarán la película igual que la empezaron, en la esquina de la pantalla, callados y atemorizados. Poco amenazantes. Poco interesantes.

Lo normal. No es para tanto, es bien sabido. No necesita explicación. No se explica.

Hacer visible lo invisible... ¿para esto?

viernes, 18 de diciembre de 2009

Carajillo español

"Carajillo"= coffee with brandy, explosive mixture to have at a cafeteria in the mid-morning break (trad.) [Pereulok's Academy Dictionary of Spanish language]

This morning, while I was having breakfast, I noticed a peculiar commercial: Spanish assotiation of alcoholic drinks promoting a reasonable consumption of alcoholic drinks in this merry period we are about to begin, not to get drank but to keep on the "typical Spanish" way of being happy, sociable, amiable...Publicity on alcohol and tabacco is now so heavily banned that campaigns are surrealistt; this commercial sounds exactly like a "no drink, no traffic accidents" one, I would have mixed the message, had not been listening with attention.

But three hours later I really began to see their point. I was killing time before a meeting, having a coffee at a "Café & Té". One of those chains of cafeteria there's everywhere now, regardless the thousands of common cafeterias this country has, "cafés de barrio", "cafés de viejo" (neighbourhood ones, old ones). One of those chains I usually avoid if I can, out of principles and nonsense (specially Starbucks, the worst coffee in a totally faked supposedly cosy envirnoment), out of small pocket reasons (1,60 euro for a plain, no magic, coffee with milk? Did they think we're in Russia, or what?).

One of those chains that are decorated the same in Madrid's Gran Vía Avenue and Bilbao's Gran Vía Avenue, in Spain, Italy, London, Germany, Tokio and Timbuktu. But then I noticed a shelf just above the coffee machine: a metallic shelf with a bottle of Bayleys, another of Gin, three brands of Rum, two of Whiskey, two other vodka ones... And the Soberano Brandy one, of course!

Ten, twelve half-empty bottles, waiting for the morning carajillos, the early evening drinks of people beginning partying right after coffeeing... and, most probably, the early morning drinks of the groups of crazy ones that end up their party night at 7am, 8 am, and have an alcoholic breakfast before going to bed at the only place that is open at that early hour... The serious cafeteria working during daylight.

Would a fancy "give me a capuccino with a special topping for 5 euros" coffee shop abroad also have that impressive row of alcoholic drinks so clearly display? I'm not so sure. But hey, yep, probably that commercial was right, Spain is Spain... and business is business.

domingo, 23 de agosto de 2009

Este Sudeste 2.0 (Edu. In Memoriam)

Empieza una nueva etapa; después de tres meses de readaptación, he decidido volver a retomar mi blog, aunque ya no esté en Rumania, desde este Sudeste de Madrid en el que habito, y desde el cual sigo mirando el mundo que me rodea con bastante perplejidad y cierta dosis de cabreo.

Así como tantas otras veces antes en mi vida, medito unos meses, me reorganizo, me recoloco, guardo los recuerdos que merecen ser guardados y agradezco al mundo que siga girando. Y, subida a esa rosa de los vientos en la que me colgó acertadamente Blanca Gómez, sigo mirando y opinando, espectador participante, para todos aquellos que están lejos.

Aquellos que están lejos... Algunos tan condenadamente lejos.

Como Edu, sincero (sincerísimo) y parco en cumplidos, al que le gustaba mi forma de escribir. Un grandísimo honor para mí. Edu, que comprendió pronto que la vida no debe ser un valle de lágrimas, sino un juego y una fiesta, y supo poner sus propias reglas a la partida que le tocó vivir.

Recordaré los buenos consejos que me dio durante este último año en los momentos más duros de mi experiencia rumana (qué bendición es a veces ese Messenger tan denostado). Porque la vida no hay que tomarla con filosofía: hay que tomarla con humor. Con humor, pero por los cuernos. No lo olvidaré.

Echaré de menos su presencia intermitente en mi vida, y echaré de menos también sus ausencias, su vida paralela a la mía, sus alegrías y sus fracasos.

Edu, el hombre Martini de nuestros veinte años, de sonrisa irónica y lengua afilada, testarudo y voluble, perezoso y esforzado. Lástima que sus pulmones no estuvieran a la altura de su corazón ni de su espíritu.

... Y el mundo sigue girando. Pero más lento.

viernes, 1 de mayo de 2009

Jewish Romania: fading memories

Last summer, when I was planning a trip to the Bucovina painted monasteries, I decided to spend the night at Gura Humorului, a town with little touristic interest, but situated at a crossroads, and thus a perfect operations center. I was also interested in the information I read about Gura Humorului in Wikipedia: it was, in origin, a Jewish peasant settlement, a shtetl whose Jewish population was mostly deported during Second World War (3.000 people), while the rest (500 people) left for Israel in late 1940s, early 1950s. No matter that the current population of Gura Humorului (16.000 people) is non-Jewish, I was curious to see if there was something of the old shtetl left, like in Toledo or Girona historical centres, where some narrow streets reminds still of medieval Jewish communities, five centuries after Jewish were expelled from Spain in 1492.

But I noticed nothing special there. It may be not so strange, in any case, as it's logical that in small rural spots, where both streets and non-wooden buildings are relatively recent phenomena, the history doesn't make such a permanent imprint as medieval towns that Jewish helped to build and get relevance in Spain. Jewish peasant communities, inexistent in Western Europe (where most of kingdoms forbade land ownership by Jews) were frequent in Eastern Europe until Second World War, but their memory is probably disappearing, as there are little descendants to keep memories alive on the spot (those who weren't killed have fled) and there is no buildings, no "stones" to be cherished by history-of-art lovers.

Cities should be different. History is more intensely felt in urban landscapes, and, besides, most of the Jewish community that survived Shoah (Holocaust) and decided not to leave Europe stayed in urban areas, having children, telling stories, keeping record of past events and both lost and surviving customs. But no. I was very surprised when I commented with some Romanian friends of mine that I wanted to visit the Jewish museum at Mamulari Street, located in an old Sinagogue, one of the few buildings left of the old Jewish quartier that was completely destroyed by razzia/progroms that took place in Bucharest during Second World War. Not only they knew little of the Jewish prosecution during Second World War, but even less of the role of the Jewish community in Romanian history. In 1904, 50.000 Jewish lived in Bucharest, more than one sixth of total population; Jewish quartier started at the back of Unirii Square (wher Carrefour is) and continued up to Muncii Square (Boulevard Decebal, Calarasilor Street...). 750.000 Jews lived in Romania in 1930 (4% of total 13 million Romanian population): 430.000 were left by 1947, and nowadays there's less than 10.000, many of them of old age, according to the Centre for Jewish Studies of Bucharest University.

I come from a country, Spain, that, certainly, cannot boast about having a historical trackrecord of religious tolerance; I always say that is very easy to say that we Spaniards are not anti-Semitic at all, considering that we had none left by Catholic Kings. However, 5 centuries have passed in our case: it is eerie to see how the memory of Jewish influence in Romanian history has already faded so much in just three-generations time, and that even the local Holocaust is so little known here. What I know of Romanian Jewish community life and downfall (Holocaust) come mainly of external sources. On 27th January, The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I attended a quite interesting conference on Jewish community in Romania before Second World War... organized by the Italian Institute of Culture. The Romanian content was provided by the Romanian collaborators of a historical memory project with its origin and main drive in Austria and Hungaria, Centropa. Not existing big museums or memorials dedicated to this issue, and if Lonely Planet tourist guide (whose Romanian volume is quite disappointing as a whole, by the way) makes some mentions and reference is, in fact, due only to its buyers: Lonely Planet Guides always include references to Jewish history or Gay life, amongst other issues, being Jews or Gays two kind of tourists that editors consider to have, let's say, specific interests and needs while traveling.

I first knew of Romanian Holocaust while reading "Balkan Ghosts, A Journey Through History", by Robert D. Kaplan. This book, first published in early 1990s, focus in the most violent elements Balkan history, considering Romania, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Based on the personal experience of this journalist, that travelled around that area in late 80s and early 90s, it was writen just when Yugoslavian war had started, and its focus reflects the wish of seeking an explanation of that violent outburst in a region that was considered civilized and peaceful. A one-sided account, but a very interesting one, though to be added up to other equally one-sided ones in order to build a comprehensive idea of this region.

I remember very well the chapters dedicated to Romania. A country that, after Ceauşescu, opened to the world again as if waking up of a bad dream. A peaceful and quite cultivated society able to sudden outbursts of rage, showing to the world its most terrible and cruel side: the way the Ceaucescu couple was killed and their corpses desecrated in 1989, the brutal repression of demonstrators in Bucharest by misled miners (the Mineriad)... the killing of Jewish during Second World War: the Pogroms in Iasi (10.000 deaths) and Bucharest (where Jewish quartier was destroyed and a brutal slaughter took place at the municipal slaughterhouse), the death trains that deported thousands of Jews in such conditions that many of them didn't arrive to the camps.

Museums are not, as one could think, cold places with no feelings. A museum is organised in order to tell us certain story the way their curators intend it to be told. Museums have a soul; they must have a soul. And, despite this recent and terrible history of hate and the thousand of deaths, what I liked best of the Jewish museum at Bucharest it was that the collection, organised chronologically, focused in life, more specifically in proving how the Jewish community developed in Romania and how, above all, it was a part of Romania. How the first Jews settled following the invitation of local kings and princes. How they gained Romanian citizenship. How they collaborated in creating XIXth-Century industrial Romania. How they involucrated in Romanian society and state not as a detached group but as Romanian citizens, participating in political life, and defending their country as soldiers in the First World War. How the Holocaust didn't destroy a community living in Romania, but a part of Romania. The Museum is called, as a matter of fact, "History Museum of Jews from Romania".

It is a modest museum, maintained by the aging local Jewish community, when they are able to and how they are able to. That's why it has, I suppose, such strange opening hours: from 10 to 13 every dat but Saturday (sabbath). When I asked about a pretty new Hasidic sinagogue that I had seen near my house (far from old Jewish quartier in Bucharest), the old lady that surveilled the museum the day I visited it told me: "oh, it's new, it's not from our people, we don't attend there".

So I left the museum wondering if they will be capable to keep it open. This small Jewish community of Romania, guardian of memories, surrounded by a Romanian society is forgetting its communist past as fast as it seems to have forgotten the Jewish heritage and the Holocaust shame. This local Jewish community with a support from Jewish international lobbies that I suspect to be quite feeble, as this "we the Jewish Romanians" spirit is not the kind of Jewish memory they are more interested to preserve.

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