Lunchtime politics

Today, school lunch got a little heated.

One of the great perks of my job is that I eat in the school dining room every day for free. We’re a small group of teachers that stick around in the middle of the day for lunch (there’s a two-hour break). It’s convenient and relatively cheap for the other teachers, and it’s a full Spanish lunch. That is, the size of (or bigger than) an American dinner. First course, second course, salad, fruit, and yogurt. The kids eat this too. It’s really a far cry from school lunches in the States. There’s actually a woman cooking everything at my school. That’s not to say the food is out of this world, but it’s good enough, and it’s a huge meal that saves me a lot of money. But this is just background.

The point is that today at lunch we were seven teachers in the cozy room where we always eat. Somehow the conversation turned to Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, and the principal began to lament the fact that statues and monuments to Franco have been (or are being) torn down. And that Spain’s current president, the socialist Zapatero, should be blamed for it. The religion teacher then chimed in to say that it was a crying shame, and that people don’t give Franco enough respect. (Yes, Catholic religion is still taught in Spanish public schools. It’s not obligatory. The few kids who don’t go in my school are Muslim.) He added that Spaniards lived very very well under Franco. And then two of the younger teachers commented that Franco shouldn’t be maligned as much as he is, that the monuments are a part of history. The conversation moved very quickly, like all of these teachers were excited to have discovered that their colleagues shared their views.

I was sitting there feeling my face get hot and that the room was just way too small for the seven of us. Then the school’s youngest teacher spoke up in response to the religion teacher, saying that come on, not everyone lived well under Franco. The other assistant (who’s also American) and I fidgeted in our seats. I said I certainly had heard Spaniards say some not very nice things about life under Franco. The bell rang and the conversation continued until the youngest teacher said, “Wasn’t that the bell?” I sighed inwardly. The other assistant and I walked out of the room shaking our heads in disbelief.

I’ve been thinking about lunch all evening. It is a known fact among teachers at my school that there are plenty of conservatives among our ranks. The principal and the religion teacher are extremely devout Catholics and they’re also some of the oldest in the school. The three of us who kept our mouths shut mostly during the conversation are the youngest working at school. And we are not at all Catholic.

But the point is that Franco was a dictator. He killed people. He isolated Spain from the rest of the world (both politically and economically). He disallowed political parties, the country’s other languages (Galician, Catalán, and Basque), and most press. He imposed strict Catholic mores on all aspects of Spanish life and above all, in the public schools.

Yo flipo.

Oddly enough, tonight I encountered another interesting, but not quite as uncomfortable conversation. After yoga, I stopped by a little market to pick up a few things. The owner, ringing up a customer, was commenting, “Everyone says people in the United States live better than we do. But it’s not true. We live well here.” The customer nodded his head in agreement, as the owner turned to me and explained that he likes to engage this guy in conversation, sorry for the hold up. I offered that I was American. The owner continued, saying that, yes the Spaniards live well. They shouldn’t complain so much. For example, the laws are much stricter in the United States. Here in Spain, we get away with a lot.

I had to agree. Despite my daily complaints or all the Franco lovers out there, life in Spain nowadays is not too shabby.

6 Responses to “Lunchtime politics”

  1. 1 Nacho Tuesday, 19 December, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    JOE,Todavía existen dinosaurios que se niegan a extinguirse .Supongo que la frase correcta no es que con Franco se vivía mejor ,sino que que con Franco abusaban mejor de su poder e influencia .Me he reído mucho al leer en mi deficiente en ingles ,sobre todo cuando has dado un giro inesperado con ese coloquialismo (yo flipo).
    ah ,gracias por darme cuenta sobre dodne está la orgasmic.Cuando pase por al Boquería ,es decir ,cuando vaya a Barcelona iré a buscar el tal lugar.
    Frimado Shokerito de Sevilla.
    pd:Me han gustado mucho tus fotos de Granada ,se acerca bastante a la visión que tengo de la ciudad de un enamorado de la colina de la Sbika como yo

  2. 2 Katie Tuesday, 19 December, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    muchas gracias, nacho.

  3. 3 Emily Tuesday, 22 February, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Franquismo, talking about it, not talking about it, how our memory changes over time so the grass is always greener – fascinating topics, all. (just one of many stories I have been told by my Spanish profes in the south:) During franquismo, soldiers with guns were stationed on either side of college professors, next to the blackboards, just to ensure that no one said anything against the Generalissimo or his regime (or said anything contrary to those imposed beliefs). Divorce was illegal until 1982. The majority of people didn’t have phones until the 80s. There are other equally striking rates for things like showers and refrigerators. And yet people, in hindsight, miss being told what to do, the lack of options and the sense of security many of them felt.

    It’s a hard one to wrap your brain around.

  4. 4 suri Thursday, 24 February, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    No puedo creer lo que cuentas ¿todavía queda gente que dice que con Franco vivíamos mejor? ¿se considera un privilegio la vida bajo una forma dictatorial sin libertades de expresión, de prensa, de reunión, sin partidos políticos con votaciones democráticas…etc?
    yo también flipo.

    Un beso, te sigo desde hace mucho :)

  5. 6 natxotron Monday, 28 February, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    No olvides que gran parte de la culpa de que franco se mantuviera en el poder fue de eeuu, que estaba interesado en plantar bases militares en españa. Indudablemente el régimen de franco es indefendible, pero también conviene recordar como era la españa de los años treinta, un país terriblemente violento e inculto. A estas alturas de película creo que la historia ya ha juzgado a los culpables de todo aquello, pues sólo hay que salir a la calle para ver que la guerra civil la ganó el bando nacional, pero con el paso del tiempo quedó claro que no fue tal, pues la guerra de la propaganda pertenece a la izquierda. Imagino que si llevas tiempo aquí te habràs dado cuenta de que existen tanas españas como ciudadanos de q pie.

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