Tag Archives: Barcelona

Jarabe de Palo : Bonito

I’ve had Spanish group Jarabe de Palo‘s 2003 song “Bonito” stuck in my head for over a week now. I think that the weather has been so cruddy in San Luis this winter that I just needed a pick me up.

Bonito, todo me parece bonito.
Bonita mañana
bonito lugar
bonita la cama
que bien se ve el mar
bonito es el día
y acaba de empezar bonita la vida
respira, respira, respira.

El teléfono suena, mi pana se queja
la cosa va mal, la vida le pesa
que vivir así ya no le interesa
que seguir así no vale la pena
se perdió el amor, se acabo la fiesta
ya no anda el motor que empuja la tierra
la vida es un chiste con triste final
el futuro no existe pero yo le digo.

Bonito, todo me parece bonito.

Bonita la paz, bonita la vida
bonito volver a nacer cada día
bonita la verdad cuando no suena a mentira
bonita la amistad, bonita la risa
bonita la gente cuando hay calidad
bonita la gente cuando que no se arrepiente
que gana y que pierde, que habla y no miente
bonita le gente por eso yo digo.

Bonito todo me parece bonito.

Que bonito que te va cuando te va bonito,
que bonito que te va.

Bonito, todo me parece bonito.

La mar la mañana, la casa, la samba,
la tierra, la paz y la vida que pasa.

Bonito, todo me parece bonito.
Tu cama, tu salsa, la mancha en la
espalda, tu cara, tus ganas el fin de semana.

Bonita la gente que viene y que va
bonita la gente que no se detiene
bonita la gente que no tiene edad
que escucha, que entiende, que tiene y que da.

Bonito Portel, bonito Peret
bonita la rumba, bonito José
bonita la brisa que no tiene prisa
bonito este día, respira, respira
bonita le gente cuando es de verdad
bonita la gente que es diferente
que tiembla, que siente
que vive el presente
bonita le gente que estuvo y no esta.

Bonito, todo me parece bonito.

Que bonito que te va cuando te va bonito,
que bonito que te va.

Que bonito que se esta cuando se esta
bonito, que bonito que se esta.

Bonito, todo me parece bonito.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona : a film by Woody Allen

I feel like I start many of my posts by saying, “I don’t generally care for…” Well, I generally don’t care for Woody Allen’s films, at least those from the mid-80s on. Though I should admit that I was once a huge lover of his work from the 70s, particularly Manhattan. That film has such lush and powerful images of New York that the city itself is basically a protagonist in the film. The same is true for Barcelona in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which is easily the best Woody Allen film I’ve seen in years. I enjoyed it so much that I now regret not having seen it on the big screen when it was first released.

On the face of it, the film is about two young American women spending a summer in Cataluña before getting married (in the case of one) or getting on with figuring out what to do next in life (in the case of the other). The women, the eponymous Vicky and Cristina, meet a fiery Spanish painter (Javier Bardem) who tries to romance and seduce them with a trip to Olviedo. All the while, a wonderful Spanish soundtrack plays in the background and the golden lighting of Spain’s sunshine emits the country’s warmth to the viewer.

While the film is categorized as a romantic comedy, I found the work mostly about passion and art. And I can’t believe I just wrote that because normally such a sentence would make me groan. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is practical, yet she’s obsessed with the energy and serendipity of Cataluña. Juan Antonio (Bardem’s painter) is the embodiment of such qualities for her, and she finds her passionate attraction to him disquieting and confusing. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), on the other hand, already lives on the fly. She actually finds the stability of a romance, albeit a three-way one, to be an enticing forbidden fruit. Meanwhile, she also finds new expression in photography. But her Achilles’ heel of dissatisfaction always looms on the horizon. And then there’s Juan Antonio’s ex-wife Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz) who is nothing but passion and artistic expression. In the past, she tried to kill Juan Antonio because of her intense feelings. Now she steps back into his life when he’s in the middle of a new romance. Cruz’ facial expressions in the film are worth a thousand Oscars alone. And have fun practicing your Spanish skills while listening to her mostly improvised dialog with Bardem.

The film also rekindled my appreciation for Allen’s humor. In particular, I keep running my favorite scene from the film over and over in my head. In it, Juan Antonio explains the philosophy of his father Julio Josep (Josep Maria Domènech) to Vicky. Julio Josep is a crusty Spanish poet who refuses to publish his work because he hates the world. By withholding such beautiful words from people, he’s punishing this place that he hates. I had no idea that poets had such power!

Holy Sh*t! Catalonia’s Caganer Christmas Surprise

(Thanks to a new ISP, I’m back in business!)

To outsiders, there are perhaps few things stranger in Catalonia than the popular caganer figurines that have been part of that region’s nativity scenes for over three centuries. Traditionally the caganer (literally “the pooper” in Catalan) is a peasant man in a red hat and country garb, bare bummed and squatting in the act. Nativity sets in Catalonia are generally larger than we are used to in the English-speaking world; they often display whole parts of the city or countryside, not just the manger. So the squatting fellow usually does his business behind a bush and a bit away from Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

His role in the nativity set has several possible meanings. Some think that he represents fertility, since his defecation fertilizes the land. Some say he represents equality since we all have to go at some time. Many think he just gives the otherwise otherworldly scene of Jesus’ birth a hint of naturalism. Or perhaps his presence suggests that God works on His timetable—whether nature is calling someone close at hand or not. But generally I think most folks can see that the figure is meant to inject a little humor into the season, which has led to a certain change in caganers sold since the 1940s.

Yup, while the traditional red-capped peasant is still available, lots of folks these days prefer a caganer statute of a celebrity, politician, athlete, cultural icon, or even my beloved Pocoyo (who has blue poo!).

Joan Brossa

I walked into a room once and found a collection of chairs set up for a chamber ensemble. A music stand was placed before each seat. But instead of instruments waiting for their musicians to return, machine guns were leisurely resting in their spots. It was a visual poem by the Catalan artist Joan Brossa. I was just thinking about that piece this morning and had to laugh. He was magic.


*Joan Brossa (wikipedia)

*Fundació Joan Brossa (Brossa Foundation)

*Joan Brossa (Catalan Literature Online)

*Els entra-i-surts de Brossa (Interactive site, in Catalan)

Barcelona en mi corazón

"Squat and resist": You probably recognize this from my banner. It was taken from Montjuïc.

I just started reading George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia yesterday. The book details the British writer’s time fighting for the POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) militia during the Spanish Civil War. And as you can tell from the title, much of this war memoir takes place in the Catalonia (Cataluña) region of Spain, whose heart is the city of Barcelona. Reading the book has gotten me romantically dreaming about the (way too short) visit I paid that city almost nine years ago.

*Side note: all these photos were taken with a cheap throwaway camera. Excuse the quality.

Graffiti outside my hotel.

Orwell writes at length about the political factions in the region. Various leftist groups, from Communists to Anarchists, held power in Catalonia at the time of the war, while the right-wing Nationalists were working towards control of the country as a whole. To me, the city seemed to still have strong political currents. Graffiti was everywhere, and it was often polemic: “The bosses are all thieves!” “Resist the global economy.” Beggars on the metro were apt to reference economic policies when asking for change. Leftist parties had booths along las Ramblas—including quaint seniors hawking hammer-and-sickle buttons. And every night seemed to bring a new protest march: gay rights, social reforms, vegetarianism, and so on.

Antoni Gaudí's still unfinished Sagrada Familia, parts of which were destroyed by Anarchists during the Civil War.

Culturally, the city has an interesting mix of architectural styles, museums, and venues. On the one hand, there is the highbrow modernist side: the Miro museum and Gaudí’s works. But then there is also the Erotica Museum in the heart of the city. And on the outskirts of town is Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona’s beloved football team. But my favorite place in the area is Montserrat, which is literally a “serrated mountain” that is conquered by a combination of cable car, funicular, and hike. The view is certainly worth the stomach-dropping ride up and calories burnt once on the ground.

Some of Montserrat's teeth.

But nothing in life is perfect. And whenever I get too misty about Barcelona I start to remember my last 24 hours there. It began with one last excursion to a Gaudí landmark. I don’t even remember which one. But on the way up the escalator from the metro, I was targeted by some pickpockets. In a flash, a commotion started and I quickly noticed a foreign hand in my pocket. Dashing away, I still had all my belongings. In fact, the thief would have only come away with the cruddy camera that I took these pictures with. But it was a definite mood damper. And arriving at the airport to find out that my flight home had been canceled didn’t improve things much.