Posted tagged ‘Spain’

Favourites on this Blog – for Holiday Reading

27 December 2011

Of the one hundred and eleven blogs posted here since 2008, these are the 16 that have attracted most attention. Unlike other more ephemeral blogs, the subject matter seems to remain of interest.

With my good wishes for the New Year.

New Hope for Disempowered Women

‘The Fragmentation of Information in Wikipedia’

‘Please dress up the Em dash’

‘Global warming debate. 1’

‘Global warming debate. 2’
‘Global Warming Controversy. Part 2. Global Warming Scepticism: Some Basic Data & Chronological Notes’

‘Julia Owen and bee stings in Bromley’

‘Julia Owen, Retinitis Pigmentosa, and the Media. Part 1’
(Part 2 will follow in the New Year.)


Of 33 offerings on Translation and Interpreting topics, this item has captured most attention:
‘Translation 8. Fluency in foreign languages. The case of Dr Condoleezza Rice’
(See also ‘Translation. 30’.)

‘Translation 32. David Bellos’s Revealing Book on Translation and the Meaning of Everything’

‘Spanish Pronunciation in the Media’


‘The European Union’s verdict on the Franco Régime in Spain (1939-1975)’

‘Justo Gallego – the lone twentieth century Cathedral Builder’


‘Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information’

‘A Visit to Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in October 2008’

‘Sathya Sai Baba: Questionable Stories and Claims. Part 1’

‘Fuzzy Dates in the Official Biography of Sathya Sai Baba. A Re-examination’

The Fragmentation of Information in Wikipedia

30 April 2009

(A preliminary analysis, with reference to Spanish Wikipedia’s multiple offerings on the Spanish Civil War / la Guerra Civil Española)

In the Spanish version of Wikipedia (which currently covers a wide range of 467,000 entries; the ‘senior’ English Wikipedia claims 2,859,000 items), there are multiple separate entries on the core subject, Spanish Civil War (Guerra Civil Española), an international encyclopedia topic which has been widely discussed for over 70 years and which, according to some estimates, has inspired 12,000 books and pamphlets in many languages.

The widely dispersed multiplicity of Wikipedia entries on many subjects is at least partly due to Wikipedia’s own intricate rules, prohibitions and recommendations and its faithful Users’ successful or unsuccessful adherence to them. For example, in specific advice to new wikipedian contributors, Wikipedia’s strong preference for short articles is stressed and an optimal length of 32 KB (i.e. about 1,000 words, or 2 and a half pages) is recommended. Another cause of data fragmentation is a process which Wikipedia itself terms ‘ forks’ or ‘forking’. This splitting of a topic into various entries (with different titles) is the subject of a set of basic labyrinthine Wikipedia rules and analyses (in its English version) which are intended to demarcate the difference between a “Content fork” (two articles on one topic, particularly in cases of disagreements or similar difficulties among contributors and ‘referees’), which Wikipedia strictly forbids, and a POV (Point of View) Fork, which it recommends, notably cases separating Critical aspects from the Topic itself, as is often the case in topics where a set of political, religious or spiritual beliefs and activities is offered in one entry and any criticism of these beliefs and activities, or a description of the relevant Organisation, is relegated to a separate (and often alphabetically distant) entry. However, in addition to this sort of approved dilution of major (or controversial) topics, many unrecommended content forks also occur on Wikipedia, and remain there, without being deleted or fused with other major aspects, as Wikipedia expressly stipulates. (See WP:CFORK and WP:POVFORK.) A collateral consequence of these anomalies is that, to be more realistic, Wikipedia’s statistics for its total entries should be adjusted to take this bloating factor into account.

A further problem is that, unless in this medium which offers instant direct hyperlinks, very comprehensive linkage is provided between fragmented segments of information on a core topic, the encyclopedia reader will not have easy access to enough of these ‘forks’. This is precisely what seems to have occurred in the case of the multiple Spanish entries for the Civil War. Here the informational value of the sum of knowledge contributed is compromised by the inadequate number of links between an accumulation of well over one hundred related entries, especially between the major ones, often of the ‘Point of View’ type (for example, Terror Rojo en España, Represión franquista, Bando nacional (Nationalist), Bando republicano).

The rest of this brief article will present evidence gleaned from a survey of the information offered by the Spanish Wikipedia in relation to a very prominent and complex topic: ‘la Guerra Civil Española’

List of Articles

Guerra Civil Española

This general article should be the longest and principal one, with adequate references and Hyperlinks to relevant related Wikipedia entries. Unfortunately, official action has been taken to freeze or mummify it in a ‘protected’ form, presumably to guard against the risk of vandalism, perhaps in the wake of the recent strong debates in Spain relating to ‘revisionism’ on the subject of the War, the participants, the antecedents and aftermath. Therefore, in protected entries, Wikipedia’s celebrated openness to all contributors is suspended, until the protection is lifted by the ‘burócratas’(trusted supervisors). In this case, it means that no changes can be made to improve the inadequate links to other articles and that the inexplicably inadequate ‘Bibliography’ of 5 items (only one of which is a major one) lowers the value of the entry and its use to readers. (The existence of this pathetic Bibliography in an otherwise lengthy and informative article is an interesting example of the weaker aspects of the otherwise fabulous Wikipedia project, which insists so strongly on the backing of reputable sources and one or two other problematical criteria.)

The diversity of many other segments and the presence and absence of direct links within the ‘Guerra Civil Española’ topic form the body of this article.

Francisco Franco

From the list of links offered above and below, the only ones given are: ‘Franquismo’ and ‘Simbología del Franquismo’.

Dictadura de Francisco Franco


Terror Rojo en España (Red Terror in Spain)
This includes a section on ‘Terror Blanco y Rojo’ and a few paragraphs in English, from Antony Beevor and Stanley Payne, probably from the English Wikipedia entry: ‘White Terror in Spain’.

Valle de los Caídos
(An unbalanced entry, with no links.)

Personajes relevantes de la Guerra Civil Española

Simbología del franquismo

Cronología de la Guerra Civil Española

Bando nacional (The Nationalist Side, i.e. The Franco Uprising)
Brief. Links to: ‘Guerra Civil Española’ and ‘Nacionalismo español’.

Bando republicano (The Republican Side, i.e. The variegated Supporters of the Left-wing Republican Government)
Equally brief. Links to: ‘G.C.E.’ and ‘Revolución española de 1936’.

Ofensiva de Cataluña

Guerra Civil Española en el País Vasco (… in the Basque Country)

There is also a considerable number of articles (short and long) on the war, battles in other different regions of Spain, atrocities, victims, etc.

Wikipedia entries published during the current vigorous debate in Spain, since 2004

Since 2000, many revisionist books and some replies have been published in Spain (some of them are bestsellers) on different aspects of the Spanish Civil War, whose 70th anniversary was greatly celebrated by both ‘sides’ – and others – in 2006. Moreover, in the 2004 elections, the Socialist Party and its allies dramatically defeated the ruling nationalist conservative Partido Popular, a slightly ironic replay of 1934, two years before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Ley de memoria histórica de España
Old controversial claims have finally been promoted in this new law. Links: ‘Franquismo’, ‘Guerra Civil Española’ and ‘Víctimas de la Guerra Civil Española’.

Represión política en España
Published in August 2006 (apparently by Professor Ángel Luis Alfaro, one of the few wikipedians who do not hide behind a pseudonym). Links to: ‘Guerra Civil Española’ and ‘Franquismo’.

A part of this historical entry covers the Civil War. The Bibliography is brief, but interesting. A few items should be added. Unlike many other entries, this one offers many useful links to entries dealing with important topics of the Civil War.

Víctimas de la Guerra Civil Española
First published on 23 October 2005 by User ‘Nemo’. Links to all of the following:
Guerra Civil Española
Revolución social española de 1936
Depuración del Magisterio español tras la Guerra Civil Española
Causa General
Anexo:Mortalidad en la Guerra Civil Española, por inscripción en juzgados
Víctimas de la Guerra Civil en Navarra
Víctimas de la persecución religiosa durante la Guerra Civil Española
Masacre de Badajoz
Matanzas de Paracuellos
Crímenes del túnel de la muerte de Usera
Las checas
Víctimas de la Guerra Civil en Cantabria
Masacre de la carretera Málaga-Almería
Las Trece Rosas
Niños de Rusia
Represión política en España
Represión franquista
Exilio republicano

Víctimas de la persecución religiosa durante la Guerra Civil Española
Links to: ‘G.C.E.’ and ‘Revolución española de 1936’.

Depuración del Magisterio español tras la Guerra Civil Española
A long essay on an alleged Francoist postwar injustice, published on 29 January 2007 by an anonymous non-User. No links are given.

Causa General

An investigation into crimes committed during the “Red” occupation of Spain, ordered by Franco in 1940. A short stub, posted on 5 February 2008.

Represión franquista
First published on 13 September 2008. Its counterpart in the English Wikipedia is ‘White Terror (Spain)’ but this version is briefer. It offers a link with ‘Represión política en Espana’ but, because of the contents of ‘Terror Rojo…’ (see above), this entry appears to be superfluous and therefore in need of deletion.

Categoriás y Anexos

These general ‘Categories’ and ‘Appendices’ offer links to further lists of entries, or to specific details relevant to the main topic: the Civil War in Spain. Among the latter is the following very recent item:

Anexo:Imputados en el auto de 16 de octubre de 2008 del Juzgado Central de Instrucción nº 005 de la Audiencia Nacional

This presents a list of 35 deceased top Francoist officials (including the ‘Caudillo’ himself) who were declared to be no longer legally responsible for illegal detention and crimes against humanity during the Civil War and Postwar periods.

The following Appendix is a painstaking gathering of data on Civil War deaths as recorded in Municipal Registries.
Anexo:Mortalidad en la Guerra Civil Española, por inscripción en juzgados

It was first published by User ‘Jorab’ on 20 November 2007. This Basque ‘wikipedista’ is an example of those dedicated individual contributors of data who supply the major part of Wikipedia information (in all languages), with a total of 9939 contributions to his credit – most of them on similar detailed aspects of the Spanish Civil War in his region. (All statistical details like Users’  numbers of contributions, dates, etc., as well as the contributions themselves, are carefully recorded, updated and are instantly available from the Wikipedia system.)

Categoría:Guerra Civil Española
Another reference list of articles on the War.

Another list of articles about Francoism.

Categoría:Batallas de la Guerra Civil Española
34 separate articles.

Categoría:Víctimas de la represión en la zona republicana
Articles on individual victims or groups of victims in the Republican Government zones.

Categoría:Víctimas de la represión en la zona franquista
Articles on individual victims or groups of victims of the Franco-held zones.

The above list may be of some use as a reading guide for the subject under examination, but it would have been more appropriate if Wikipedia had devised a better way of presenting its major or multi-faceted topics. As can easily be appreciated, the content of the above articles is encyclopedic in quantity but the Wikipedia way of arranging it and presenting it to Internet readers needs further refining.


Justo Gallego – the lone twentieth century Cathedral Builder

8 April 2008

After I listened to a radio interview with Charles Happell, the author of The Bone Man Of Kokoda: The Extraordinary Story of Kokichi Nishimura and the Kokoda Track, the extraordinary mission carried out by a Japanese World War II soldier over the last 25 years of his life, my mind flashed back to a parallel epic of a Spaniard’s dogged determination to fulfil a self-imposed gargantuan mission inspired by very different circumstances.

According to Happell, Nishimura spent the final 25 years of his life (after abandoning his family, like Siddharta) in the jungles of contemporary Papua New Guinea searching for and recovering the bones of his Japanese comrades in arms who, unlike him, had been killed in the fierce battles with Australian troops on the infamous Kokoda Track in the early 1940s.

Justo Gallego’s travails over more than forty years are, thanks to the media and the Internet (especially the increasingly ubiquitous YouTube website), much more widely documented. Readers who are not familiar with this topic are invited to sample:
(Copy and paste the URLs, please.)
Justo Gallegos (born in 1925) entered a Catholic Trappist monastery in Spain in 1950, with the ambition of becoming a Catholic monk. Unfortunately, Justo contracted TB after several years of studies and (even more unfortunately, IMO) was ‘released’ from his vows by the ecclesiastical authorities, presumably in the health interests of the other monks. Despite these adverse circumstances, he eventually recovered and although (unfairly?) disqualified from becoming a Catholic priest (the only kind of priest then allowed to operate in dictator Franco’s Spain), Justo then made a vow to his mother to build a cathedral in his native Spanish village of Mejorada del Campo, to the greater glory of his God.

For more than 40 years Justo has steadfastly dedicated all his physical efforts to fulfilling that vow, canvassing local support, donations, and working with recycled materials. Against all the odds and quite significant local opposition, Don Justo has now virtually succeeded in building his ecclesiastical “Castle in Spain”. Although his idiosyncratic Cathedral is still not quite finished, when it is completed (possibly after his death), in view of this inspiring example of individual faith in an increasingly secular Spanish environment (and Western world), the Catholic Church really has no alternative but to recognise the Justo Cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar (Nuestra Señora del Pilar), despite local town planners’ misgivings about the structural soundness of this huge building, designed and built by a complete amateur.

My own interest with this fascinating saga dates back to1991 (when the Internet and YouTube, etc., etc. etc., had not even been conceived). Taking a break from one of my language research trips to Spain, I followed up an intriguing Spanish magazine account of Justo’s labours. (He had already been slaving for 20 years!)

From the centre of metropolitan Madrid I took a train, a walk and a bus to the prosperous village of Mejorada del Campo (today one bus is sufficient, from the Avenida de América bus station). Before the bus arrived at the village, the impressive soaring shell of Justo’s homespun cathedral was visible. When I reached it, I talked to Don Justo – who could not even stop working to eat his lunch sandwich, even though his helpers had gone away for their well-earned break. He generously answered my questions before resuming his labours. I then toured the impressive but rickety 2-storey skeleton. On the second storey I was filmed and interviewed by a teenage crew from the local High School engaged on a video project on the Cathedral. They seemed surprised and gratified at this foreign interest, especially from antipodean Australia. I took some photos and before I left, I offered Don Justo a 5,000 peseta note ($50). I am still SO grateful for the privilege of contributing this insignificant sum to the lofty and seemingly Quixotic dream of this ordinary and extraordinary man.

¡Que su Dios le bendiga, Don Justo!

I revisited the building – still unfinished – 3 years later (1994) and there were encouraging signs of foreign touristic interest, although the local Municipal Council were still nervous about the project and its structural viability.

Since then Justo’s obsessive energy has put Mejorada del Campo on the tourist map. Bus excursions are run from Madrid (only 40 kilometres away). The irony is that in the 1960s when Don Justo committed himself to his vow, Mejorada was merely a village and the Spanish tourist boom was only just beginning. Decades later, it is a prosperous township close to Madrid’s vastly extended and bustling Barajas Airport. It is under the approach flightpath so some clued-up tourists may also be lucky enough to check it out from the air, free.

For historical comparison, I enclose a few of my photos from 1991.

I also enclose the public statement that Justo Gallego posted in the Cathedral to avoid being overwhelmed by questions from the flood of visiting Spanish and overseas tourists attracted by his fame.

Debido a mis problemas de afonía, les ruego eviten hacerme hablar. Si desean información, lean este cartel.
Me llamo Justo Gallego. Nací en Mejorada del Campo el 20 de septiembre de 1925. Desde muy joven sentí una profunda fe cristiana y quise consagrar mi vida al Creador. Por ello ingresé, a la edad de 27 años, en el monasterio de Santa María de la Huera, en Soria, de donde fui expulsado al enfermar de tuberculosis, por miedo al contagio del resto de la comunidad. De vuelta en Mejorada y frustrado este primer camino espiritual, decidí construir, en un terreno de labranza propiedad de mi familia, una obra que ofrecer a Dios. Poco a poco, valiéndome del patrimonio familiar de que disponía, fui levantando este edificio. No existen planos del mismo, ni proyecto oficial. Todo está en mi cabeza. No soy arquitecto, ni albañil, ni tengo ninguna formación relacionada con la construcción. Mi educación más básica quedó interrumpida al estallas la Guerra Civil. Inspirándome en distintos libros sobre catedrales, castillos y otros edificios significativos, fui alumbrando el mío propio. Pero mi fuente principal de luz e inspiración ha sido, sobre todo y ante todo, el Evangelio de Cristo. Él es quien me alumbra y conforta y a él ofrezco mi trabajo en gratitud por la vida que me ha otorgado y en penitencia por quienes no siguen su camino.
Llevo cuarenta y dos años trabajando en esta catedral, he llegado a levantarme a las tres y media de la madrugada para empezar la jornada; a excepción de algunas ayudas esporádicas, todo lo he hecho sólo, la mayoría de las veces con materiales reciclados… Y no existe fecha prevista para su finalización. Me limito a ofrecer al Señor cada día de trabajo que Él quiera concederme, y a sentirme feliz con lo ya alcanzado. Y así seguiré, hasta el fin de mis días, completando esta obra con la valiosísima ayuda que ustedes me brindan. Sirva todo ello para que Dios quede complacido de nosotros y gocemos juntos de Eterna Gloria a Su lado.

Translation (added 27 December 2011)

In view of my throat problems, please do not ask me questions. If you desire information, please read this notice.

My name is Justo Gallego. I was born in Mejorada del Campo on the 20th of September 1925. From an early age I felt a deep Christian faith and wanted to devote my life to the Creator. So, at the age of 27 years, I joined the monastery of Santa María de la Huera, in Soria, but was expelled when I fell ill with tuberculosis, to avoid infecting the rest of the community. Back in Mejorada and with this first spiritual path closed, I decided to build, on a farm owned by my family, a work to offer to God. Little by little, using inheritance money at my disposal, I gradually erected this building. There are no plans for it, nor any official project. Everything is in my head. I am no architect, no bricklayer, nor do I have any training related to building. My basic education was interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Inspired by various books on cathedrals, castles and other significant buildings, I forged my path. But my main source of light and inspiration has been, first and foremost, the Gospel of Christ. It is He who lights my way and comforts me and to Him I offer my work in gratitude for granting me life and in penance for those who do not follow His way.

Forty-two years I have been working in this cathedral. I have to get up at three thirty in the morning to start the day’s work. Except for sporadic support from others, I have done everything myself, most of the time with recycled materials. There is no date for completion. I merely offer the Lord every day of work He wishes to give me, happy with what has been achieved. And so I shall continue, to the end of my days, finishing this work with the most valuable help that you care to give me. May it all serve to make the Lord pleased with us and may we all enjoy Eternal Glory together at His Side.


1. Facade 1991


2. Justo Gallego 1991 and a written request for donations to finish the work

(“Se Admiten Donativos para terminar la OBRA!!”)


3. Cathedral detail 1991


New Hope for Disempowered Women

4 April 2008

New Hope for Disempowered Women under Authoritarian Régimes: The Spanish Experience (1960-2000)

Brian Steel

Copyright © 2007 Brian Steel


Detecting a glimmer of potentially valid extrapolations from a forty-year old essay has prompted me to re-issue it with this Introduction. The essay reproduced below was written in 1967 as a background paper for a number of women’s Extramural Discussion Groups in rural New South Wales. It describes the disempowered status of Spanish women during the major part of the Franco dictatorship which followed the 1936-1939 Civil War. Also mentioned are a few emerging signs of small changes to a status quo supported and enforced by the dominant political and religious powers. What is not mentioned and could not be predicted by those who lived through that period of recent Spanish history (including journalists and social commentators) was the speed and scope of the political, social and economic transformations which would follow the death of General Franco in 1975.

The changes in the status and role of Spanish women over the past thirty to forty years are so profound that much of what is described in this 1967 survey is no longer true. Moreover, the present generation of Spaniards (of both sexes) will find some of the facts astonishing or exaggerated – which is why revisiting this subject at this difficult moment in history may prove to be a salutory and enlightening experience.

The Spain of 2007 is an affluent, vibrant European country which attracts many millions of world tourists every year and is the subject of intense media attention and fascination, especially for its special cultural phenomena. Like other developed countries it has its share of internationally known celebrities (notably in sports, cinema, music and fashion). Spain also has a simpatico and down to earth Royal Family.

Like their Western sisters, Spanish women enjoy varying degrees of freedom and equality with men, as can be glimpsed in the internationally popular films of Pedro Almodóvar, the acclaimed director and one-time enfant terrible. Spanish women of today are to be found in positions of high responsibility and authority in national and local politics, in the Public Service, the professions, management, commerce, health, medicine, law (including the police), education and the armed forces. These advances put them on a par with women in countries of similar contemporary status, where, forty years ago, the status of women was somewhat more advanced, as reformers and social commentators have recorded in their chronicles of the Feminist Movement of the 1960s.

The surprise of today’s grown up grandchildren on learning of the conditions of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s from their grandmothers, from books or sociology courses is much greater in Spain than elsewhere precisely because the path has been longer and more tortuous, due to a series of historical and cultural factors. In this aspect as in many others, today’s Spain is a different planet and its younger inhabitants are almost a different species.

What encouraged me to re-examine and re-offer these personal memories to a much wider public was precisely that perceptuion of such an unthinkable change in the space of 50 years (1950-2000). In today’s uneasy atmosphere of suspicion between ethnic groups and the fear of future clashes between populations predicted and so heavily promoted by the media and politicians, the reality of the socio-cultural abyss which separates Spanish women of 1940-1960 from their twenty first century descendants, and which was not forecast or even imagined by the media forty years ago, may encourage people to be slightly more optimistic about the development of human and international relations in the next forty years. In particular, long term media predictions about the continuing plight of Muslim women, which tend to present overwhelmingly negative scenarios, may well turn out to be based on false premises and expectations, for example, the central assumption that the power of authoritarian régimes and religions are immutable. This is surely an auspicious possibility for women in some of the countries where their current situation is as bad as or worse than that of their Spanish sisters of the mid-twentieth century.

The Status and Role of Women in Spain circa 1960

At the end of the Second World War, there was a wide gulf between the political, economic and social systems of English-speaking countries and those of post-Civil War Spain. Firstly, there was a much sharper contrast between conditions in urban and rural communities. Rural areas in Spain were more backward than towns and cities and preserve even today customs and att­itudes which have disappeared from the urban areas. In subsequent references to Spanish women, I shall be referring mainly to those in urban areas, although many of the observations are also applicable to rural Spain.


The full 4,000 word article is available HERE:
You may have to copy and paste the URL: