Here is a quick update on my life in Zaragoza. To be honest, we have not done too much since returning to work, we have been meeting up with friends and going to the bar for the odd drink and tapa. January was a relaxing month, returning to the routine of work. This month I have changed my timetable in the high school in order to give more students the opportunity to practise English with me. I will miss the students who I taught for the first four months, but I am looking forward to meet my new classes and see how they are. So far they have been very enthusiastic and they have been very interested in learning about English culture.
On Monday, the people of Zaragoza enjoyed an extra day of work due to the day of San Valero, the ex-bishop of Zaragoza, which was celebrated on Sunday 29th January. Unfortunately, due to my school being outside of the city of Zaragoza, I had to work. However, I visited the city centre on the Sunday to join in with the festivities. The Aragon government hosted a few events around the city, including live entertainment and free entry to all of the museums around Zaragoza. Also, the people of Zaragoza are given free Roscon in the Plaza del Pilar. Roscon is a cake filled with cream, which Spaniards usually eat on the day of the Epiphany as well (6th December). Inside the cake there is a little toy, and the person who finds the toy in their slice traditionally pays for the whole thing. Aside from the very cold temperatures, it was a fun day, with many people visiting the centre to celebrate.
Here are some pictures San Valero from the Zaragoza newspaper El Heraldo.
Although I have no plans yet, over the next few months I intend to visit a few more places around Spain. I am planning to visit Madrid at some point, where I intend to visit the Valley of the Fallen, the gigantic church erected by Franco as a monument to the Nationalist dead in the Civil War, which was also his final resting place. Also, I would like to get up to the Pyrenees to spend a weekend in the snow.
This week in Spain, the newspapers have been filled with articles about the trial of Judge Baltasar Garzón, which could end his career on the Supreme Court. Garzón, a Human Rights judge, is well known around the world, and has worked hard fighting corruption and terrorism in Spain, and also human rights cases in Argentina and other South American countries. He also arrested the Chilean dictator Pinochet in London, charging him with crimes against humanity in 1998, which led to Pinochet being put under house arrest in London for a short time. He is under investigation with three separate cases against him; the first two are for granting permission to record conversations between lawyers and their clients in the corruption case in the Gurtel network, and the other for payments received from Santander bank and his relationship with this bank, a bank which had charges dropped by Garzón in the past.
Garzón is also being charged for abusing his powers by opening an investigation into crimes committed by the Franco regime, with the complaint coming from the extreme right group Manos Limpios (Clean hands).
The case against Garzón for investigating crimes under the Franco dictatorship started this week, followed by massive demonstrations in the streets of Madrid. Garzón opened a case against 35 dead people, including General Franco, for crimes against humanity. He opened the case to help victims to get justice for their families, some of which have not even been able to dig up the remains of their relatives, who were left in common graves during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The investigation was very similar to the ones that he successfully completed in Argentina and Chile, although it has brought great controversy in Spain. As part of the Amnesty Law of 1977, a pact of forgetting was agreed, which meant that there was a general consensus in Spain that the past should be left in the past, and that no one would be prosecuted for crimes committed. Garzón has defended his actions by arguing that he followed the same steps that he took to bring the Argentinian Junta to justice, and that it was his obligation as a judge to represent the victims.
There has been widespread condemnation of the trials throughout the world, particularly in South America, where Garzón worked to bring justice for victims of ex-dictatorships. This week has seen victims of the Franco repression in court recalling their stories, and supporting Garzón. If he is found guilty, he will face a fine and be suspended from practising for up to 20 years. His supporters believe that his many enemies are out to get him this time, whilst people against Garzón claim that by trying to investigate these crimes; he has tried to reopen old wounds, and is breaking Spanish law.
Articles about the case
A video of one woman’s fight to find the body of her mother, who was killed in 1936.
Rajoy slips up twice
Since taking office, Mariano Rajoy has been very quiet, whilst he has been busy at work creating reforms in many areas. He has given one interview to the press, and not spoke in parliament since his inaugration as Prime Minister. The deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, has been left to do most of the talking in press conferences, whilst ministers have spoken about their own reforms. However, this week, Rajoy finally spoke on camera about his reforms. Unfortunately, it was private conversation that was recorded accidently whilst Rajoy was in Brussels with other European leaders this week. The leader of Spain has been busy meeting other European leaders this week in Brussels. During an informal conversation with the Dutch leader, Jyrki Katainen, Rajoy was caught on camera complaining that he had inherited a very bad situation, and that his labour reform is going to provoke a General strike. The labour reform will be announced next week, and now it is certain that it will cause problems with Trade Unions and workers, who were initially invited to work with the government on the reform. On Wednesday, the Spanish press were highlighting a second error infront of the cameras, where he was see telling the leader of the Catalan Generalitat, Artur Mas, complaining about his job.
Finally, this weekend the PSOE leadership will be resolved during the Socialists congress in Seville. Alfredo Rubalcaba will arrive in Andalucía as the slight favourite, but Carme Chacon is still in with a chance. Given the upsets in previous leadership battles, like the surprise victory of Zapatero against José Bono in 2000, anyone could win the leadership, with the militants divided over who is the best candidate to lead forward the socialists