This summer has been a real eye-opener and I have to confess I haven't a clue what is Spain or what it means to be Spanish.
In the Basque Country, virtually nobody wanted the national team to do well in the World Cup, and presumably it was the same in Catalonia.
I've spent the whole summer in the country of the world champions, but what a divided place it is.
In the Basque Country, people wore the orange shirts of Holland on the night of the final. The balconies of San Sebastian were adorned with hundreds of banners of Real Sociedad, who won promotion to La Liga in June, and there was not a single red and yellow flag to be seen.
In Catalonia, a small village voted for independence, only to be ruled out of order by the Central Government in Madrid. Weeks later, Catalonia voted to ban bullfighting, which was seen as 'two fingers' to the rest of Spain.
Bullfighting might be a part of Spanish culture, but then again drink-driving was part of the Irish culture until about 15 years ago. I attended a bullfight in Valencia, but while I was impressed by the skills of the matadors, I couldn't help feel that the 'sport' was unbelievably cruel on the bulls.
So should it be banned? All I know is that they could retain the entertainment value and the skills without having to spear the helpless animals time after time until they fall to their death.
But that vote in Catalonia wasn't really about bullfighting at all. It was a form of defiance from a people who want to break away from Spain.
The fans of Real Sociedad and Barca might love their big games against the over-hyped giants of Real Madrid, but to take some of their wishes to their logical conclusion their teams would play instead in Basque or Catalan leagues.
In the Basque Country, the language of the people was banned for decades under Franco. Now a teacher cannot work in the Basque Country unless he or she speaks Basque, which rules out anyone from outside the region or those over a certain age who were educatd during the Franco years.
The national media seems to hype the threat of ETA to the maximum, even though thankfully there hasn't been an atrocity for a year now. Less popular than the IRA, the Basque terrorists still clearly have plenty of support in the region if you judge by some of the bars in San Sebastian's Old Town.
In Valencia, I was startled by the number of Spanish flags around the place two weeks after the World Cup final. What a contrast with the embittered North, it felt like a different country ... which the Basques argue it is.
In Galicia, where the local language is going through a massive revival, I've seen quite a lot of grafitti in favour of independence. Galician is quite similar to Irish (or Gaelic) and the people don't consider themselves Spanish, either.
Both Spain and Ireland are going through an economic crisis, as the newspapers in both countries remind us every day.
But Spain is also going through a crisis of identity, as huge chunks of the country don't feel they belong to Spain.
I love its climate at this time of year, the food, the warmth of the people, the beaches and the diving. But, despite the high of the Mundial, there is hardly a country in Europe which is more divided right now. It's been an eye-opener!
Our Students’ Desires
1 week ago