Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

Nen, nena, niña or niño, baby knows best

Por: | 07 de agosto de 2013

Habitacion
Forget learning the language, boning up on local history and getting to grips with neighbourhood customs, if there is one way to fit in as a foreigner in Barcelona, it is to have a baby.

Such, at least, has been my experience in the eight months since my daughter was born and even before, when my girlfriend was noticeably pregnant. Suddenly people know my name in the shops and I’m on speaking terms with the postman.

I am under no illusions that such attention has anything to do with me. And why should it: my daughter is cuter than I’ll ever be, will speak better Catalan and  Spanish and could one day help the Spanish (or Catalan) synchronised swimming team to Olympic glory, something I could never do even if I did have an ounce of the requisite grace.

This affection typically shows up on the streets of the city, where complete unknowns will smile, talk to, touch and even ask to hold my baby daughter.

At first I found this attention – and the accompanying advice – somewhat overwhelming. In Britain, where the media has driven fear of child abuse to levels utterly out of proportion to the actual threat, asking to hold a stranger’s baby is seen as odd, possibly threatening, behaviour. What’s more, the British are more reserved than the Catalans and tend to keep their emotions well hidden, even when faced with a rubber faced, grinning baby.

Over time, though, I’ve grown to appreciate this attention, which seems driven by genuine, unrestrained affection. Babies are permitted – even encouraged – in bars, restaurants and public transport in Barcelona; in Britain they are sometimes seen as invading a public, adult space.

I’m not suggesting for a second that people don’t like babies in Britain. They do, with full hearts. Nevertheless, I have seen a marked difference in attitudes between the two countries and I wonder whether it has to do with the plunging birth rates in Spain.

Recession ravaged Spain has apparently been in the fertility “danger zone” for years, with an average of 1.32 children per woman in 2012, way below the 2.1 rate that is required to keep population stable. Meanwhile, the UK has seen an unexpected baby boom, with 688,120 babies born in England in 2011, the highest number since 1971. Spain needs babies, in other words, and should be happy to see them.

As I wander down the Barcelona streets with my baby, though, it is not just the local well wishers I have in mind.  How, I wonder, will my Catalan / Spanish / Scottish / British grow up? 

Will she be a dyed-in-the-wool Catalan, like her mother’s family, favouring Lluis Llach over The Beatles and permanently annoyed by my dodgy grasp of the imperfect subjunctive? Or will she be moved by my own Scottish roots into a love of The Jesus and Mary Chain and fried food?  Will Catalonia be part of Spain when she hits her 20th birthday? Will Scotland be part of the UK? And will the UK be part of Europe?

I don’t know the answers and I’m guessing my daughter doesn’t either. And yet for all the uncertainty and the difficult years ahead, I feel a kind of hope during my early-morning rambles. Maybe it’s just the lack of sleep. Or maybe I’m delusional. And yet when total strangers show such love to your baby, it is hard to feel differently.

El País

EDICIONES EL PAIS, S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 – 28037 – Madrid [España] | Aviso Legal