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.

Spain and Portugal: neighbors or strangers?

Por: | 07 de abril de 2011

ZP nad Sócrates 
 
It has transpired many a time over the years. A Spanish person begins to vituperate against the French and when I ask whence surges this boiling bile toward the northern neighbor, the answer comes with a shrug: "Well, they just ignore us." In recent years a rather flimsy tennis-based explanation may have tended to crop up more often, but at root, Spanish hostility toward our Gallic cousins seems to be essentially a case of feeling spurned: here we are, looking gorgeous, tanned at a lively bar in the summery south, and the French boy just shrugs and returns to his interminable conversation with a somewhat thickset German girl.

Well, this is the way things go. All countries have to focus more in one direction than others to keep their bearings. Britain looks across the Atlantic and France has always been more conscientious in its efforts of trying to provide a cultural lead to the landmass of central Europe (not to mention two or three other continents) than bothering to see what was stirring the other side of the Pyrenees. And, for several centuries, the truth is that it wasn't missing much. Now things are different, and the French attitude should change; naturally. But my point is not French guilt or otherwise regarding trans-Pyrenean dealings. No. I am looking further west from Irún and imagining a similar conversation in a café in Porto or Lisbon. “What exactly do you have against the Spanish,” I would ask. “Well, they just ignore us." And could ever a truer word be spoken? 

Living in Spain, Portugal might as well not be there, and any visit to Extremadura should come with a warning not to stand too close to the end of the known world. Anyone who pines for a drop of port at Christmas will know what I mean, with only the Corte Inglés gourmet store (if you have on near) offering a meager selection of the wonderful sweet wine. The languages are so similar and yet those flattened vowels are largely absent from the airwaves or the stage. With the death of Saramago, the Nobel laureate resident in the Canaries, a literary link has been lost. Ask someone living in Spain (and I include myself) to name a living Portuguese writer, and they will most likely flounder. 

Ibero-Socialists Zapatero and Sócrates seemed to enjoy a fraternal rapport, with much talk of a Madrid-Lisbon high-speed train route, despite the serious doubts over whether there is much desire for such a service. But how poignant that now, in Portugal's greatest hour of need, heartless neighbor Spain simply cannot be seen in her company for fear of confirming some kind of Iberian curse, proving that inferior coin is the inevitable order of the day south of the Pyrenean divide.

With the humiliation of following the Greeks and Irish in asking for a European bailout now seemingly inevitable, the Portuguese will hang their heads a little heavier as they walk down high streets where Zara rubs shoulders with El Corte Inglés (that’s how they get the port wine). The Portuguese seem to have little choice but to admire their successful and dynamic neighbor, and even ponder idly the possibility of an Iberian federation, as was supported by Saramago. A survey published this week shows that the number of people on both sides of the border in favor of forming a union between Spain and Portugal is actually on the rise.

Busquets and Ronaldo 

The latest Barómetro de Opinión Hispano-Luso, carried out by Salamanca’s Social Analysis Center, reveals that 46 percent of Portuguese (up from 40 percent in 2009) and 31 percent of Spaniards (up a shade from 30 percent), claim they would support some form of Iberian federation. It would certainly produce a strong soccer team, although Spaniards might blanche at the prospect of glory boy Cristiano Ronaldo ruining the all-conquering harmony of La Roja.

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I am intersted in What you have expressed. I am looking forword to your another article.

Just a few words.....Ignorance in every ways. That´s the only explanation for this article. If you don't know any portuguese writer that's your problem ( try to ask to the portuguese people in the streets for any spanish writer, the answer will be the same, None.) Buy port wine only in Corte Ingles? Come on.... It's not so difficult to figuered out why the spanish arrogance it's problably the most well known caracteristic of the spaniards world wide.

by the way....we took the tea to england.


Screw Spain! Portugal and England once controlled the planet and now those few imbeciles think Portugal is going to become one with those scumbag spaniards...think again! There is no way in hell that wil ever happen...ever!

Portugal is a Spanish problem created by English.

In XVIII and XIX centuries UK protected Portugal against Spanish interest. They use Portugal as a back court of the Spanish Empire.

It has continuous in the XX century, for example permitted that Portugal rules huge African colonies like Angola and Mozambique in English South Africa area.

That’s the reason why the Portuguese are so filo-English (tea time,…) and they are so far of Spanish.

Answer to Pepe, hombre, In wich planet are you living in. seems to me that you are full of hatred against portuguese for personal reazons. And that hatred has just made you say a lot of stupid things. Have you ever travel somewhere else beyond your backyard? I am spanish and i really do admire portuguese people for many reazons , same reazons that doesnt make me admire my on people. when it comes to languajes the spanish are the worst ones, among the french, to learn any. Ive met lots of peple who are not portuguese and they not only speak portuguese, they love doing so. sometimes speaking portugueses may seems more sutil than speaking spanish specialy from some reazons where they seemed to be angry all the time. get some porto wine and sweeten up your life.

I don´t think an Iberian Confederation would be so bad. Geographically it makes sense, and therefore, the appalling communication between the two countries would improve. Look, the AVE railroad between Lisboa and Madrid seems like one step in the good direction. Still, Extremadura, Galicia, and Leon have still poor conections with Portugal, so trade, commerce, and tourism linking could use some revamping...
History it´s a great excuse for losing opportunities and ideas ;) Even FR and UK considered an union in the IIWW . Open minded we stand, close minds don´t survive... (Just joking, but alas, again, why not give it a shot? It´s strange that the Basque Country, Navarra, and Catalonia have such budding commerce with UK and FR, in despite of natural barriers. Portugal´s placement it´s a great Atlantic hub for commerce and tourism. Then, why so poor comunication links with Spain? Maybe Extremadura lacks "meat" to fill in the gap... )

I have had the occasion to know in depth what Portuguese people think in the bottom of their heart about Spain and Spaniards. If you really think that the general feeling about French people in Spain is bad, then you should multiply that by one million to really have the truly feeling of Portuguese people about Spain and the Spaniards.
The upper you go in the Portuguese society, the deeper that feeling against Spain is.
On the Spanish side I would say that the general view about Portugal is rather friendly and, of course, no Spaniard will think that there is any problem with our neighbours remaining. But ask a Portuguese, still in 2011, about Olivenza!!!
I wouldn't therefore support the idea that the fault of scarce relation between these two countries falls on the Spanish side but would tend to think that Portugal and the Portuguese people have still a long way to make.
And a final comment about languages: Portuguese people absolutely know that it is almost impossible to find a foreigner (doesn't matter from which country) able to speak their language. Therefore, there shouldn't be surprise that Spaniards don't speak Portuguese.

There´s anything really important. Many portuguese speak spanish but few spaniards speak portuguese. That intention -that´s changing due to many portuguese that want us to listen, read and understand their language- shows the attitude of spanish people.

I´m afraid that´s an attitude because you can find spanish people speaking and writing in their own language inside english forums.

Thanks a lot. Bringing a blog like this to a national paper is nutritive. I hope you dig up facts that join us both; spanish and portuguese.

Mark: Spain is four times Portugal, so symbols are the same. Your comment shows spanish complexes with the world and with co-oficial languages perfectly

we dont need an union,why? just need comprehension and tolerance , this is not the best point of spanish people :D
love portugal people and portuguese language and is time to recognise our closest neighbours exist even we try to ignore them... i like this blog ;) nice idea!
una salmantina :)

En México nos llaman Gabachos a los españoles, por otra parte, un tonto es un tonto (ver Forrest Gump).
About languages, too often english people has something to say about Spaniard international languages knowledge..........seems like, If you're English it's OK you only speak English, but my friend, if you're Spaniard is not the same case, YOU MUST learn English, if not you're stupid or something, English people are so clever only speaking in English and at Spelling TV Programs (seriously, a TV Program in which people SPELL words, like primary kids) then, Who's the illiterate? How many English can speak in one of the other 2 most spoken languages? I really believe that there's more people at Spain that can speak in English, that people in England that can speak in Spanish?, Are we Spaniard people all day singing the stupid song "English people only speak in english? So why you?

En México nos llaman Gabachos a los españoles, por otra parte, un tonto es un tonto (ver Forrest Gump).
About languages, too often english people has something to say about Spaniards international languages knowledge..........seems like, If you're English it's OK you only speak English, but my friend, if you're Spaniard is not the same case, YOU MUST learn English, if not, you're stupid or something, English people are so clever only speaking in English and at Spelling TV Programs (seriously, a TV Program in which people SPELL words, like primary scholars) then, Who's the illiterate? How many English can speak in one of the other 2 most spoken languages? I really believe that there's more people at Spain that can speak in English, that people in England that can speak in Spanish?, Are we, Spaniard people, all day singing the stupid song "English people only speak in english? So why you? Dudes, your shit smells the same

Históricamente, la tirria por los "gabachos" (franceses) viene desde la invasión napoleónica e incluso desde más atrás tras los nefastos Pactos de Familia borbónicos, en los que España no era sino un títere de los reyes franceses.

Aunque eso no lo sabrá casi nadie en la actualidad, pero ha perdurado en la conciencia colectiva. Hoy en día ha quedado más que fobia en un simple desprecio a los franceses, sin más, que es incluso menos visceral que el que tienen los británicos por los franceses. A mí, personalmente, me caen peor los ingleses, pero porque los turistas que exportan a España las islas británicas son deleznables en su comportamiento, no por rencillas históricas. El día en el que los británicos sepan comportarse en el exterior, ganarán muchos puntos, más que los franceses.

I love Portugal. I think we have a lot of thing to learn about them, but PLEASE let LA ROJA quite.

Seriously, do you have a clear idea about what you say?

1. As someone else commented, that hate relationship you "explain" between Spain and France does no longer exist. You may hear pejorative words as "gabacho" but most people say it don't even thinking about the relation we may have with our neighbors.
2. I think Spain hasn't this so fraternal relationship with Portugal just because we are not so similar, despite we live in the same peninsula (though we have absolutely no problems). Actually I'd swear we have a much closer contact with Italy and they live further away. So what?
3. Who agrees with this federation thing? For real, I've never met anyone that does. Neither Spanish nor Portuguese. Nevermind what surveys say. Let's stick to reality - things are different here.

As someone commented before, the logo of the blog falls again in the spanish etnocentric vision of the iberic situation. That's one of the reason why the people from Portugal believe that the spanish ignore them. We –as spanish– don't care and don't respect the other (for instance: just remember how the central goverment of Spain deals with the co-oficial languages in the territory). To start a dialogue we must think first in our position, and then respect the other.

The journalist writes just the truth. Hard, but truth

I don't feel very close to Portugal. We'd better off separated:

http://www.ingenioconsaboralaca.com/2011/04/ocupado.html

To understand the subconscious hate of the French ("gabachos", as they're usually called as an insult) I'll just point you to search what happened in Madrid the 2nd of May of 1808.

However, this hate is not real today and nobody (except the old or the illiterate who hasn't ever traveled abroad) shows any anger when actually talking to any French.

We're in the 21st century and that's a 200-year-old story!

To understand the subconscious hate of the French ("gabachos", as they're usually called as an insult) I'll just point you to search what happened in Madrid the 2nd of May of 1808.

However, this hate is not real today and nobody (except the old or the illiterate who hasn't ever traveled abroad) shows any anger when actually talking to any French.

We're in the 21st century and that's a 200-year-old story!

I have just started reading the blog, but before I continue, may I just make a plea for grammatical English?
"Living in Spain, Portugal..." is clearly nonsense!

This blog is a good idea. Welcome. Too bad the first post had to be full of hackneyed cliches. The "anger" Badcock sees in Spaniards towards France and in Portuguese towards Spain may have hold some truth thirty years ago. Not today.

The question about the writers is tricky, as a lot of people don't read much these days. Now, if you ask about football players you might be more successful getting some names. That said, I think a journalist who writes about Portugal should be able to name quite a few Portuguese writers. Off the top of my head, start with Lobo Antunes. Miguel Sousa Tavares is a good read too.

Portugal is a great, great country, and our relationship with them will improve if we leave behind old cliches. I for one am totally in favor of an Iberian Federation with Portugal. Would change Cataluna for Portugal in a heart beat and add the Vasque Country in the deal for free (Just kidding, don't jump at me. Actually, I think a Confederation of all regions in the Peninsula would be a good idea and maybe a solution for some of our problems).

Witty writing; stereotyped content. Let me add another stereotype to these series: very British much style and little content.

That´s not the spanish view about french people... what you mean about that is so old... maybe you are remembering aged words from your granp -and have no noticed... it sounds so old fashioned -"fiction-prejudice" journalism

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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

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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

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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.

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