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sábado, 25 de abril de 2009

Sponsoring Romania

During my last days in Romania there was a lot of debate on the change of country slogan: "Romania, simply surprising" has recently become "Romania, the land of choice", although only temporarily, until the national tourism brand will be ready.

A silly change, a silly issue? Well, nothing is so silly when talking of such a lucrative industry as tourism, that implies also decisions on the strategy and discourse of a country when it decides to promote itself, and that is clearly underdeveloped in Romania. I'm sure that any of us who have lived a little bit over there, and our visitors, will agree at least on that.

Nothing is so silly when:
  • The new slogan was launched in a concert of Bosnian Goran Bregović in Mamaia. OK, maybe a manele concert would have not been a right start, but they could have been chosen some fine local artist to become the voice of the campaign... By the way, it is funny for me that they chose a Balkan singer, no matter how great he is, as in Romania, certainly a crossroad, they stress the "Latin" heritage, forget the Slavic and Turkish ones and reject to be considered "Balkanic". Little Paris wants to be considered not only European but part of the heart of Europe. God knows what the hell that heart contains, though.
  • The national tourism brand, financed by European Funds (FEDR, POS CCE), will cost a lot, 75 million of Euros. An international auction has already been launched (or maybe I should say at last, because that funding started to be operative by the beginning of 2008), and the company in charge will be selected during the spring. A lot of money, and, so I heard by the radio, a previous story of dubious actions related to this contract, not exactly corruption but what in Spain we call "amiguismo" ("friendshipness").
National tourism brand? What is Romania nowadays? What does Romania want to be?

A few weeks ago I was in Constanţa while Romania and Serbia played there a classification match for the World Football Cup. I don't pay much attention to football, but when I bump into a match (and its supporters) in that way, I usually pay my compliments, so I did watched this match at TV (Romania lost). What I noticed is that during this match the Romanian footballers wore a T-shirt with the logo of ALL the sponsors printed on it, not the clean one that is sold as merchandising, where only Adidas logo on it, not the clean one that was used last year at the UEFA EURO 2008.

There are quite a few, so the footballers looked like multi-purpose banners. But the sponsors, that can be checked also at the Romanian Federation of Football, are also quite significative:
  • Adidas. Sport clothes.
  • Ursus. Romanian brand of beer, controlled since 1990s by the breery SABMiller plc.
  • Raiffeisein Bank. Austrian Bank with a wide presence in all Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Pepsi. Refreshing drinks.
  • Dacia. Romanian brand of cars, currently part of Renault group.
  • Carrefour. French supermarkets that are spreading all over Romania.
  • Samsung. Corean brand of electronic equipment.
  • Gillette. Shaving razors.
  • Bigotti. Italian brand of clothes.
  • Konica Minolta. Photographic cameras
I would stress four of them: Ursus, Raiffeisein Bank, Dacia and Carrefour. Romanian flavours, financial markets, cars and hypermarkets. Modern, transnationalised Romanian consumer society. "National pride" (national team) supported by foreign investors, through their own brand or through Romanian ones they control.

But I suspect that if I take a deep look into other countries' symbols of pride, I would also find interesting situations...

martes, 21 de abril de 2009

My dear Bucharest: some great and humble photos

Today, after finishing some issues I had far far away from Bucharest city centre, I did a strange, not-at-all straight way back home, a good-bye trip by my working-days Bucharest, in this quiet Tuesday after Easter, the "third Easter day" in Romanian, when you here everywhere "Hristos a inviat" instead of "Good morning", and you must answer "Adevarat a inviat" also... (Christ has risen - He has truly risen). Romania really IS a religious country, speaking of cultural habits, that makes Spain seems an atheist one! (And believe me, it is not).

As always, lost my track... So I bumped into a great but very humble photo vernisaj at Metro Station Dristor 1, organised by Bucurestiul meu drag (www.orasul.ro), called Cele două lacuri.

Why great? Well, just go and watch the photos; why humble? Not big frames or expensive enlarged photos printed in pretty poster boards, but DIN-A3 prints that can be unnoticed any other day in this busy common metro station.

An exhibition done with love and care.

Photos will be exhibited from 13th April until 26th April. If you can, pass by, and enjoy Bucurestiul meu drag (my dear Bucharest)! If not, check the photos at the website!

jueves, 16 de abril de 2009

Strada Verona, Bucharest (April 2009)

The "organizers" of this heavily stenciled and graffitied street that begins behind Cartureşti library at Magheru Avenue gather ideas for political posters, and choose every month the one that like the best to be shown in this pannel.

To whom it might interest: panoularthurverona_at_yahoo.com

Some previous pannels: October 2008 and December 2008.

I don't know really which group or movement leads this Strada Verona thing (the pannel but also the photos on the windows apparently abandoned buildings, the stencils, graffitties and so on). I'd love to find out, but... Couldn't manage so far.

lunes, 13 de abril de 2009

Reviewing the 2006 TVR list of great Romanians

I found in Wikipedia a list of "the 100 greatest Romanians", created in 2006 after TVR (Romanian TV) conducted a popular vote, in a version of a similar show made by Brittish TV. I will use this list to assess my general knowledge of Romanian,"environment", let's say, and how it changed after spending almost one year and a half in Romania, as a curious outsider.
B = I knew who he/she was before arriving to Romania ---> 9
A = I know who he/she is now that I've spent some time in Romania (at least I can say if this person was a writer, a politican of a footballer) ---> 22
a = this name rings a bell now that I've spent some time in Romania (it could just be the name of a street I've passed by, though) ---> 25
? = still unknown ---> 44
[The Wikipedia article includes a brief description of the people included in the listing. I don't include it here, just in case anyone wants to repeat this exercise and this could influence the answer]

1. Stefan cel Mare .... A
Carol I .... A
Mihai Eminescu .... A
Mihai Viteazul .... a
Richard Wurmbrand .... ?
Ion Antonescu .... A
Mircea Eliade .... B
Alexandru Ioan Cuza .... a
Constantin Brâncuşi .... B
Nadia Comăneci .... B
Nicolae Ceauşescu .... B
Vlad Ţepeş .... B
Gigi Becali .... A
Henri Coandă .... a
Gheorghe Hagi .... B
Ion Luca Caragiale .... A
Nicolae Iorga .... A
Constantin Brâncoveanu .... A
George Enescu .... A
Gregorian Bivolaru .... ?
Mirel Rădoi .... ?
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu .... A
Nicolae Titulescu .... a
Ferdinand I of Romania .... A
Mihai I .... A
Decebal .... a
Traian Băsescu .... A
Gheorghe Mureşan .... ?
Ion I. C. Brătianu .... a
Răzvan Lucescu .... ?
Nicolae Paulescu .... ?
Iuliu Maniu .... a
Iuliu Hossu .... ?
Emil Cioran .... B
Avram Iancu .... a
Burebista .... a
Regina Maria .... A
Petre Ţuţea .... ?
Corneliu Coposu .... a
Aurel Vlaicu .... a
Iosif Trifa .... ?
Nichita Stănescu .... a
Ion Creangă .... A
Mădalina Manole .... ?
Corneliu Vadim Tudor .... A
Traian Vuia .... ?
Lucian Blaga .... a
George Emil Palade .... a
Ana Aslan .... ?
Adrian Mutu .... a
Florin Piersic .... ?
Mihail Kogălniceanu .... A
Iancsi Korossy .... ?
Dimitrie Cantemir .... a
Ilie Năstase .... ?
Gheorghe Zamfir .... ?
Gică Petrescu .... ?
Elisabeta Rizea .... ?
Bulă .... ?
Amza Pellea .... ?
Matei Corvin .... ?
Mircea cel Bătrân .... A
Titu Maiorescu .... ?
Toma Caragiu .... a
Mihai Trăistariu .... ?
Andreea Marin .... ?
Emil Racoviţă .... a
Victor Babeş .... a
Nicolae Bălcescu .... A
Horia-Roman Patapievici .... ?
Ion Iliescu .... A
Marin Preda .... a
Eugen Ionescu .... B
Dumitru Stăniloae .... ?
Alexandru Todea .... ?
Tudor Gheorghe .... A
Ion Ţiriac .... A
Ilie Cleopa .... ?
Arsenie Boca .... ?
Bănel Nicoliţă .... ?
Dumitru Cornilescu .... ?
Grigore Moisil .... ?
Claudiu Niculescu .... ?
Florentin Petre .... a
Marius Moga .... ?
Nicolae Steinhardt .... ?
Laura Stoica .... ?
Cătălin Hâldan .... ?
Anghel Saligny .... a
Ivan Patzaichin .... ?
Maria Tănase .... a
Sergiu Nicolaescu .... ?
Octavian Paler .... ?
Eroul Necunoscut - the Unknown Hero .... B
Ciprian Porumbescu .... a
Nicolae Covaci .... ?
Dumitru Prunariu .... ?
Iancu de Hunedoara .... a
Constantin Noica .... ?
Badea Cârţan .... ?

lunes, 6 de abril de 2009

Welcoming spring

Welcoming Spring (Phase 1): Martişor Remnants

Martişor, Romania (1st March). As in other cold countries, the joy of having spring coming begins early, when the snow starts melting down: some years, like this one, is already quite warm and there's no snow down the valleys (it mught snow again, though), some other years with cold, long winters there's still snow in March, and it's freezing, but the sun light gets warmer and days become longer anyway, that's unstoppable. And the first wild flowers sprout: in Romanian, that's the ghiocel.

First week of March is the week of early celebration of spring in Romania, is Martişor. Apart from ghiocel, women get small presents tied with white-red ribbons to wear that week as lapel pins: those are the martişoare. After that week martişoare are tied in trees, tokens calling for the spring to come.

These ones at Cişmigiu certainly succeeded!

Welcoming Spring (Phase 2): Palm Sunday

Catholic and Orthodox Palm Sunday, Romania (5th April and 12th April). The flowers to be offered and blessed in such a date are beautiful, brief symbols of early spring: fragile narcisus and this brownish branch with cotton buttons that I've seen both here and also in Russia, but always in bouquets... So I still don't know which bush or tree is, and which kind of flowers or fruits are born after that soft shoots.

Welcoming Spring (Phase 3): Easter

Orthodox Easter, Romania (still to come -19th April-).

1. Painted eggs. They still keep the tradition, no fake. (Well, not only fake...). This craftmade one is pretty, but maybe the funniest thing I've seen here is a common tray of eggs with painted ones at Carrefour. Perfect for busy Mommies and Daddies!

2. Lumina. On Holy Friday night, you go to the church with a candle. The Pope bless the first fire and then the light passes from one people to the next, in a lighting row that is worth seeing. You have to keep it lit until you get home, and let it to extinguish by itself: your house will be blessed the whole year. The rite starts at midnight more or less, but Mass goes on all night, so you can get your light at any time. And the next morning there's some holy breakfast, also... What I liked the most last year was the mixture between religious fervour and pagan joy, between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve: praying and quiet people near the Pope, inside the tiny churches, and noisy families and young people waiting outside, chatting and eating seeds, waiting their candle to be lit to go home and then, in the case of young people, to go out and party.

sábado, 4 de abril de 2009

Maneaua ucide (Manea can kill)

I can't leave Romania without dedicating a post to Manele (sg. manea), a musical trend that is, in relation with Balkan folk music, the same as Reggaeton in relation with salsa. And both Manele and Reggaeton are social fenomena that go well beyond the music to create around them a subculture, a way of dressing, a way of thinking and a scale of values.
Loud and gross taxi music usually is much more than music, and Manele certainly is loud and gross.

Manelişti (Manele singers) are as recognizable as hip hop singers are. Men usually wear bright unbottoned shirts, gold chains and rings, coulour suits and sunglasses.
Men and boys, I should say, because there's quite a few "baby singers": eight, ten, twelve -year-old Manelişti minunaţi (wonderful Manele singers) singing stories on power, money and sexy girls... and dancing surrounded by that very sexy girls in videoclips that are everything but for children.
So there's Manele singers of all ages... I think the oonly thing that changes in their loooks with the time is the growing beer belly.
And there's also femenine Manele stars, not only sexy chorus girls. Both the sexy chorus and the singers have a similar look: straight hair, long and frequently dyed white blonde or crow black; huge earring hoops on the ears; blinding clothes with broad necklines; tiny miniskirts or tight pants. I would say that singers usually are dressed in a more modest way than chorus girls (that is, they show less of their boobs).

Manele videos have a karaoke, home-made style. Banknotes, cars and girls are frequent motifs, sometimes in a verz popular environment (country roads and Romanian villages), sometimes in luxurious saloons and pools.

And lyrics? Well, apart from love (that is a recurrent theme in every musical genre), I would say that Manelişti sing mainly about success and/or community values: pretty girls and nice cars.,on the one side, and community life and happiness at home, on the other. Quite a mixture...
There's quite a few of songs that talk about easy success: the singer boasts about being rich without working, for example.
And, as it happens to rap lyrics, manele lyrics are very much influenced by current events; songs about emigration (about coming back rich, about getting rich there without working, about prefering to stay in Romania to leave the country), and there's already more than one manea on the financial crisis... So you can't say that manele is not dynamic!

But I think it's better to let the images to speak by themselves. No matter if you don't understand the lyrics: myself, I began to be amazed by this videos when i couldn't understand a word...
Just some examples, but in Youtube you can find videos enough to entertain yourself a long time... So you can become a manele fan abroad, no matter if you don't have access to the Manele TV channels that exist in Romania!

Nicolae Guta
The most popular manelist. A couple of songs: "You haven't got courage" and a fragment of "European Gipsy" ("even if I go on holidays I make money from the distance...").

Criza financiara, by Stefan & Narcis
"They say that there's a financial crisis, but I don't care, as it doesn't affect me..."

Mihaela Minune & DJ Willy
"Be careful, the wolf comes...". Sung in duet together with a rapper; manele is, above all, a party, and duets are frequent, between manele artists but also with hip hop and reggaeton ones.

Adrian, Copilul Minunat / Adi de Vito
Adrian, "the wonderdul child" got older but not taller... So he changed his artistic name to Adi de Vito (because of his Danny de Vito looks) and went on singing.

Babi Minune & Denisa
"The wonderful baby", the current heir of so many Manele children, such as Copilul Minunat or Copilul de Aur (The Golden child). Here you have a love song with worrying difference of age between lovers...

jueves, 2 de abril de 2009

Estereotipos regionales

Me resultan muy curiosos los estereotipos nacionales; como el horóscopo, aunque no me los crea está bien conocerlos. Y realmente, si conoces los estereotipos nacionales entiendes mucho mejor el país o determinadas reacciones de la gente, o aspectos de cultura general. Cuatro ejemplos rumanos que me vienen a la mente:
  • Los gitanos. Los mismos estereotipos que en España, pero más acusados, o más verbalizados. Resulta paradójico estar en un país en el que se insiste muchísimo en trazar la línea entre gitano y no gitano, mientras que su imagen país en el exterior se asocia altamente con el sector más marginal de los gitanos, a pesar de los miles de rumanos no gitanos y gitanos no marginales que viven en España, Italia...
  • Los húngaros. La verdad es que no me ha quedado claro todavía qué significa ser húngaro en Rumania... Recuerdo un comentario que me hicieron sobre el anterior ministro de Obras Públicas y Desarrollo Local, László Borbély, en una conferencia: "pero ten en cuenta que es húngaro". No me quedó claro exactamente cuál era el peligro, pero había un peligro... El tono era negativo. El origen de esta mala vecindad está, claro, en la historia y el territorio: húngaros en todo el norte de Transilvania y dejando huella en Cluj-Napoca y Targu Mures, y rumanos en el sur de Hungría.
  • Los habitantes de Argés. Protagonistas, junto con las rubias, de los chistes sobre tontos, llevándose la palma, por tanto, las rubias de Argés.
  • Las moldavas (de República de Moldavia). Muy guapas, dicen unos, muy putas, dicen otros. Similar al estereotipo de las ucranianas en Rusia, y a esa gradación "mediterránea" que puntúa a portuguesas, italianas, españolas y francesas según grado de "frescura"...
¿Y los moldavos? [Antes de continuar, debo aclarar que Moldavia es el nombre de un Estado independiente, y también de la región rumana que colinda con él, a la que me refiero ahora mismo, y en referencia a la cual la franja lingüísticamente rumana de Moldavia, reclamada por los irredentistas, se denomina Besarabia]

¿Y los moldavos? Recientemente estuve en Iaşi, una de las tres ciudades (Timişoara, Cluj-Napoca y Iaşi) que se disputan el puesto en el ranking de principales ciudades de Rumania, después del indiscutible primer lugar de Bucarest. Iaşi, la ciudad de los tilos, las 365 iglesias y las 7 colinas, el segundo centro universitario después de Bucarest, es una ciudad con mucha historia, sede del patriarcado de Moldavia, sede del gobierno rumano durante la Primera Guerra Mundial y lugar donde se firmó la unidad entre los tres principados rumanos (Valaquia, Moldavia y transilvania). Pero es también la principal ciudad de Moldavia, que es la región más pobre de Rumania, y que presenta peores indicadores macroeconómicos y un peor (si cabe) de las infraestructuras de comunicaciones. Por eso, contándole a un conocido rumano lo mucho que me había gustado la ciudad, que tiene algo del caos de Bucarest pero un encanto especial en sus calles, le comenté también lo que me había sorprendido el dinamismo de la ciudad, no sólo a nivel de calle, sino de las reuniones y entrevistas de trabajo que había mantenido. Y mi conocido me respondió con un "normal, son moldavos"; cosa que a mí me sorprendió, ya que asumía un estereotipo similar al de los andaluces (Iasi-Sevilla), reservando la seriedad y el dinamismo a la parte "que funciona bien", la sajona Timis y la húngara Cluj (Cluj-Barcelona).

Pero no, resulta que el tópico, que mi conocido me explicó, es que:
  1. los valaquios son "viva la virgen" y caóticos (yo les aplicaría el estereotipo de balcánicos...).
  2. los de Cluj (¿transilvanos, húngaro-transilvanos?) no acaban de concretar, hablan mucho y hacen poco.
  3. los moldavos no son muy listos pero trabajan con perseverancia y sacan las cosas bien y rápido.
Me resultó muy curioso este tópico, que no corresponde con una situación política o socioeconómica de base que habitualmente es el punto de partida que se distorsiona y del que se hacen extrapolaciones y simplificaciones, igual que los mitos surgen de la hechos históricos.

Pero recuerdo a todas esas viejas de ochenta años yendo en bicicleta cuesta arriba que vi por los pueblos de Moldavia en verano, y bueno, la verdad es que la perseverancia, ciertamente, la cultivan...

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