In the same way as the cross of Christ. History can be so twisted and cruel sometimes! In addition to the pilgrims who came, others who made their home here included Franks, the Flemish, and people from Genoa and Provence It's odd, but the first text written in Galician which can be accounted for actually has its roots in a poem written by a man from Provence, Rimbaud de Vaqueiras. It's a poem about love. History can get incredibly mixed up. Incredibly so. It gets reinvented until it becomes nonsensical. St James, the Palestinian who was decapitated under Roman rule, has been turned into the patron saint of Spain and chief slayer of Muslims by our modern powers that be.
Popular tradition regards history cursed as it is with some indifference, and is more enjoyably confusing than some erudite manipulations. The people who dwelled in the castros old pre-Roman forts or Celtic villages would actually have been the Moors. Personally, I like this fairly comical version of history.
I remember a conversation about the origins of a town's bridge which was recorded in writing by Xurxo Souto.
The most beautiful definition of what it is to be a Galician that I have ever heard was given by an old emigrant being interviewed on the radio. There are fervent Galician Catholics that have written that Galicia was one of God's chosen lands, but unfortunately they were wrong. The most popular star in Galician tradition is Venus.
I'm really glad that the nation's most influential light belongs to this goddess. The writer Jorge Amado really loved her bread.
Galicia Venus, Galicia the Motherland. Galicia is and isn't in Galicia. The most famous photograph in Galician history is one of a farewell. They are crying because the other members of their family are leaving. Sometimes though, I think they are crying because they themselves are not the ones leaving. The world as a global village. A lot is often said about goods and information, but the most defining characteristic of our times is mass migration, the great exodus of people from poor or war-torn countries towards more affluent frontiers.
Today, Galicia forms part of this more affluent world, even if our slice of the cake is somewhat peripheral. This explains why the arrival of immigrants is still quite minimal. Jobs are fairly thin on the ground and what the immigrant is looking for is bread and freedom. Simple as that. Just like Galicians did in the past. This moment in our history is very contradictory. Paradoxical Galicia.
Galicia as an oxymoron. Galicia remains in the same place geographically but its place in the world has changed. Now, in the consulates and the Spanish Embassy in Argentina, one can observe long queues of Galician descendants.
The direction of the arrow pointing to the Promised Land has been reversed. At the same time, in the last two years thousands of young Galicians have cleared off to the Canary Islands to work in either the construction industry or in hotels and catering. The novelty factor is that, quite often, some estate agents get there first.
Galicia has been a global village for a while already due to the intensity of emigration, which lasted for two centuries and which ended the day before yesterday. And also due to men working at sea. The Galician fishing fleet is the largest in Europe and one can find Galician ships or with shared ownership wherever there are fish to be fished and sometimes where there are not.
This judge was born in a village in the Galician province of Ourense. He worked as a porter in the Lisboa Hotel in Vigo. Then he got in a boat and sailed the seven seas from Shanghai to Rotterdam. He had just a ten-dollar note left in his pocket when he decided to stay in Baltimore and begin a new life.
He worked as a docker, a cleaner and a petrol station assistant.
In the evenings, he would study law. He then started working as a lawyer and later he finished his law degree.
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Behind the lives of many emigrants, we can read a novel filled with pain and hope. More than two million Galicians emigrated during the 20th century. The exodus had already become considerable halfway through the previous century due to the effect of terrible potato famines, just like in Ireland. There is currently a lot of debate concerning voting rights and the way in which emigrants on the census can participate because Galicia's diaspora has a notable effect on election results.
The opposition have already reported the fact that dozens of dead people have often voted. Obviously, I don't believe this is a fair thing to say: who said dead people were conservative voters anyway? Let me tell you the story of a cutaneous oedema. In the early seventies, a young girl left her Galician village and moved to Paris. Here, she worked hard as a cleaner. She lived a solitary life. Shortly, when looking in the mirror, she noticed that a mark had appeared on her face. No doctor was able to remove it for her. Years later, she went back to Galicia on holiday for the first time, and the mark disappeared.
On returning to Paris, the mark reappeared again. She then got married to a metalworker and they had a daughter. Whenever they went to Galicia together on holiday, the mother's mark disappeared. When their daughter reached adolescence, the journey to Galicia had lost its attraction for her and whenever she went there, a mark would appear on her skin. This is not some kind of metaphor. It's just a true story. Within this world of emigration, there is also a flux in the opposite direction. It is the offspring of expatriates, educated as English, French, German or Swiss children, who finally want to move back to Galicia.
On the Internet there is a portal where the children and grandchildren of Galician expatriates get in touch to exchange their different life experiences www. We are what we see in the mirror but also the opposite. Some people are offended by jokes in which the group that they belong to is ridiculed in some way, but one's identity is also sculpted by the jokes that others tell about you. So us Galicians are also the Galicians depicted in jokes about Galicians.
I especially liked one about a Galician man who was captured by a tribe of cannibals: while being cooked in the giant cauldron, the man kept eating the potatoes and asking for more salt. However, when I started to travel outside Galicia it was with great surprise that I discovered that in jokes about Galicians, the Galicians were always rather dim. The other day there was an attack on the Centre for Galician Emigrants?
And what happened? Someone threw a book at them. And once the ball is rolling, it's always the same story over and over again. The pauper is always poor. It was dominated by some quite shocking observations. I also admired and still admire some of the authors, which just made me even more upset.
The more I read the more impressions of a negative identity I found. For Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx's son-in-law and author of the delightful The Right to be Lazy, Galicians are of lineage cursed by their submission to working. What a fine country we've ended up in!
It's true that most of its inhabitants are miserably poor, but that's their own fault and not the fault of the land. I feel you should know that the true reason for this travelling genius making a trip to Galicia was in order to donate a translated copy of God's word to the town of Fisterra due to a promise made when he was on the verge of being shipwrecked in an English steamboat near that headland at the end of the world, when the sight of fishermen's lanterns was the only thing that kept his hopes alive.
I regard the description he made of that storm as being utterly outstanding, so vivid that it makes his book of memoires sway back and forth in our very hands. Anyway, after many adventures crossing a violent nineteenth-century Spain, Borrow arrived at Fisterra and was faced with a close encounter with death once again, this time in the hands of humans. The locals, known as being very prone to having an overactive imagination, believed him to be a Carlist spy.
What could have become of it? It's a shame a society of Quakers wasn't formed back then in Galicia. The scenes left to us by Borrow already seem far off. Nowadays, the vast majority of Galicians do not live in poverty.
However, I do have the impression that, in general, Galicians have always shared that sharp contradiction formulated by that inquisitive Bible-selling Quaker. Galicia has never been poor, but Galicians have.