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Happy 19th birthday, andalucia.com!

April 16, 2015 – 10:25 pm
Andalucia.com is 19 years old!

Andalucia.com is 19 years old!

On Friday 17  April Andalucia.com celebrates its 19th birthday - the website was founded by Chris Chaplow on 17 April 1996.

Andalucia has established itself as the leading website about the region, with visitor statistics which have grown exponentially, as southern Spain is a consistently popular destination for English-speaking visitors who want reliable, comprehensive, up-to-date information.

Over the past year, the English version has had over 10 million page views, with 4.2 million visitor sessions  and 3.1 million users. Our Alexa ranking is 52,143.

Google Analytics for Andalucia.com

Google Analytics for Andalucia.com

Andalucia.com is staffed by a varied group of people whose passion for the region is equalled only by their dedication to providing the best and most incisive details about all parts of southern Spain. The writers on our site are respected professionals, experts in their areas, published in the British and international press.

So if you’re planning a trip to this fascinating and varied part of Spain, you know where to go – with 10,000 pages we have more data on Andalucia – its beaches, cities, history, fiestas, parks, gastronomy and produce – than any other website.

Consolidating our established position as the most respected site in this field, we look forward to a bright and exciting future.

Our celebration on 19 April will be a low-key event, but we are already making plans for a big 20th birthday bash!

Read more about our 19th birthday here.


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Semana Santa in Seville 2015: a whole Holy Week of sun!

April 10, 2015 – 11:25 am
Band of Las Cigarerras of La Carreteria procession in Seville takes up the entire street.

Band of Las Cigarerras of La Carreteria procession in Seville takes up the entire street.

No celebration in Spain is as weather-dependent as Semana Santa. At the Feria de Abril, you can duck inside a nearby caseta to avoid a rain shower, nibbling some tasty queso and jamon, and sipping some manzanilla sherry until it’s clear to go outside again. At a food festival, you’re generally safely inside a marquee, restaurant or bar. But in Semana Santa here in Seville, if the heavens open, or the sky simply looks threatening, it’s game over. The statues remain safely inside their churches, instead of being carried through the streets to the cathedral and back again. These adored masterpieces are far too old and precious to risk them getting soaked in a downpour.

This year, we had an entire Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday) in which the sun shone in a blue sky every day, and the temperatures were in the mid to high 20sC, even 30 – shorts, sandals and sunglasses weather. It was the first complete Holy Week, without any pasos being rained off, since 2006 – that’s nine years of cancelled processions and distraught nazarenos (pointy hats) and costaleros (who carry the statues).

In truth, I did find the heat a little wearing – yes, I’m complaining about sunshine in March – and ended up seeing most processions at night, although this was largely because I was lucky enough to be invited to a couple of balconies on evening procession routes – Cristo de Burgos on Wednesday, and La Carreteria on Friday. But this meant that my photos were not great; night-time photography is notoriously tricky, and if your subject is moving, it becomes even more challenging. The advantages of a balcony are that you’re away from the crowds, you can sit down and have something to eat without watching your bag – it’s more relaxed; but that’s also the downside – I love the buzz of the street. So the ideal combination is a mix of the two – the rarified lofty viewpoint, and the in-with-the-masses street-level perspective. The complement each other perfectly, in my view.

The Madrugada (early hours) Jesus del Gran Poder is one of the city´s most venerated religious works of art.

The Madrugada (early hours) Jesus del Gran Poder is one of the city´s most venerated religious works of art.

I got in with the crowds on Thursday night, for La Madrugada, known as La Madruga’, a series of night-time processions starting at 1am – people stay out until the next morning watching the pasos at various points around the city, fortifying themselves with beer, and later churros and chocolate. This is hard-core festivalling, as only the Sevillanos know how.

Jesus del Buen Fin in Plaza del Salvador, Seville.

Jesus del Buen Fin in Plaza del Salvador, Seville.

The temperature at night was a delight – mild enough not to need a coat, and feel comfortably just right – more pleasant than day time, just without the light. The nazarenos must have suffered, dressed from head to toe in sun-soaking black, in hooded robes, with only their eyes exposed to the air.

Did you see any Semana Santa processions in Spain this year?


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HolaBank launch in Marbella

March 28, 2015 – 11:22 pm

GUEST BLOG By Chris Chaplow

I was interested to attend the launch of a new bank last week – HolaBank by La Caixa. The event, held at the Don Pepe Hotel in Marbella, was attended by around 400 customers, as well as lawyers and estate agents.

The Launch of Hola Bank

Speakers at the HolaBank launch included Victorino Lluch, Mayoress Angeles Muñoz, Juan Antonio Alcaraz and Vincente Morato.

First to speak was Victorino Lluch, director of Eastern Andalucia for La Caixa (Almería, Córdoba, Granada, Jaén, Málaga and Melilla), who set the scene by telling us that La Caixa has 13.8m clients (the highest number of any bank in Spain) and 6,000 branches. In Andalucia La Caixa has a 16 % share of the banking market.

HolaBank is a new programme (rather than an actual bank) aimed at international clients who have bought or are renting property in Spain, whether residing in the country permanently or just for part of the year. These can fit a number of profiles: families who have bought holiday homes, investors, business people, professionals or retirees. They are often European, but may also be from elsewhere in the world, and have moved to Spain for business or leisure purposes.

We were shown a video where foreigners were being interviewed about what they wanted from a bank, with answers across the scale, from interesting to unpredictable. English-speaking staff, security, no fees (which got the biggest laugh), and service, service, service.

We hear complaints from foreign tourists and residents about service levels in Andalucia all the time, but strangely this never appears in published Tourist Board marketing audits. Interesting that La Caixa have picked up on it.

Juan Antonio Alcaraz was introduced as Director General of HolaBank. He is also Chief Business Officer at CaixaBank. He explained that “La Caixa had identified a group of clients with important characteristics and specific needs – this is why we set up Hola Bank.”

As the press release says, “CaixaBank currently serves 375,000 clients in this segment, generating business volumes standing at 6 billion euro (figures as of February 2015). By setting up this business line CaixaBank aims to secure market penetration of 25% among international customers over the next four years, in line with the bank’s 2015-2018 strategic plan.”

HolaBank will have 16 special branches in the Malaga province, starting with Manilva, Estepona, Marbella and in other provinces: Alicante (16), Murcia (5), the Balearic Islands (38), Las Palmas (12) and Tenerife (13). These chosen branches will be rebranded to ensure they are easily recognizable to clients.

So what will HolaBank customers get for their money? Specialised customer service provided by multilingual account managers in the branches, supported by documentation available in several languages. The account managers can explain both banking services and financial products. The bank account will be called a HolaBank “living solutions account”.

The Launch of Hola Bank

´Making your life easier´ - The motto of the new Hola Bank

Under the meme “Ways to make your life easier”, a living solutions plan includes a series of concierge-type services, legal advice (including unlimited telephone queries), online access to translations and interpreters, handyman service, household staff service, removal service, service bureau (ie gestoria), and medical appointments

After a speech on great Marbella by Mayoress Angeles Muñoz, Vincente Morato @vicentemorato, a lawyer and economist from Martínez-Echevarría, gave an interesting presentation on the economics of the foreign investor.

Currently 70% of Spain’s foreign investment is in Madrid concentrated on industry and insurance. The foreign investor in Andalucia is individuals or micro-empresa, while most of the private investment is in inmobilaria (real estate).

HolaBank is not only concentrating on inmo, but also on small business. Foreigners buy companies, and not just bars or hotels. Recent interesting contracts Vincente has seen include a finca of cranberries and a spring water operation.

Vincente spoke about house building and purchase statistics, saying “We can confirm today that the point to inflection has been passed. Real estate transactions in Malaga are more than five years ago.”

Malaga is the fourth province of Spain for house purchases, and for foreigners Malaga is number one, with Marbella being purchasing capital of Malaga.

The presentation finished with a lighthearted chat by Leopoldo Abadia, an economist and guru who has written a number of popular economic books and papers, all in layman’s language. A good choice of speaker to finish a banking conference.

Find out more at holabank.es

 

 

 

 

 


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Andalucia 2015 elections: #22M

March 18, 2015 – 1:11 am
vote

This Sunday there are regional elections in Andalucia.

If you live in Spain, you’ll have noticed banners and posters around towns and cities advertising various political parties.

The reason is because this Sunday, 22 March, regional elections will take place across Andalucia. The results – which are impossible to predict, with no clear frontrunners – will set the scene for the national vote in November of this year, whose outcome is also anybody’s guess. Diputados to the Andalucian parliament will be elected on Sunday, and when seated, will elect the President of the Junta de Andalucia, the most powerful post in southern Spain.

The biggest change on the political spectrum since the last elections is the appearance of Podemos, the left-wing party led by Pablo Iglesias. Changing Spain’s political landscape by adding a fourth party, Podemos’ rise has been far from smooth – its policies and politicians have been getting a rocky ride in the Spanish media, with considerable  foreign press interest including coverage in the Guardian and a cover story in the New York Times.

Spanish politics can be confusing at the best of times, so we’ve put together a short guide to the main parties and their SM handles.

 

Parties and Candidates for the president of the Junta de Andalucia in the 2015 elections

PSOE – PARTIDO SOCIALISTA OBRERO ESPAÑOL

The Spanish Workers’ Socialist Party is centre-left and its Andalucian branch is very appealing to many workers across this region, in particular those in the inland rural areas and some of the cities. The party has governed Andalucia since its creation in 1982.

Candidate: Susana Diaz

Election Slogan  Andalucia tiene mucho que decir (Andalucia has much to say)
@psoedeandalucia
#YoConSusana

PP – PARTIDO POPULAR

The “Popular Party” is Spain’s conservative party. This party has been fighting to win majority of the Andalucian parliament and form a government, but so far has been unable to win the necessary support. Coastal cities and towns in Andalucia are considered to be closer to the Popular Party. The party has difficulty connecting with a working class that has traditionally made up the bulk of Andalucian society.

Candidate: Juan Jose Moreno Bonilla

Election Slogan     Contigo por Andalucia (With you for Andalucia)
@ppandaluz
#ContigoPorAndalucia

 

IU – IZQUIERDA UNIDA

United Left” is formed of groups of the communist party and other factions including the Greens under a united front. While some towns might be headed by United Left, this party has been considered the third force in Andalucia politics.

Candidate: Antonio Maillo

Election Slogan     Transformar (Transform)
@iuAndalucia
#ContigoPorAndalucia

 

PODEMOS

Podemos is the far-left political party (translated into English as ‘We Can’) founded last year by charismatic political science lecturer Pablo Iglesias, elected to the European Parliament in May 2014 when Podemos burst onto the political scene.  Teresa Rodriguez (34), a Spanish language and literature teacher from Rota (Cadiz) and former MEP, was among the founding leaders. Its place in polls ranges from first to third.

Candidate: Teresa Rodriguez

Election Slogan     El Cambio Empeza en Andalucia (Change starts in Andalucia)
@podemos_AND
#ContigoPorAndalucia

 

PA – PARTIDO ANDALUCISTA

This regional party was a minority force in Andalucia politics but has lost ground since the 2008 elections when it joined forces with the PSA (Partido Socialista de Andalucia, or Andalucian Socialists) as well as other smaller parties to form the Coalición Andalucísta (CA) and lost all of its representatives in the regional parliament.

Candidate: Antonio Jesús Ruiz

@PAndalucista
#DefendeAndalucia

 

UPyD – UNION PROGRESISTA Y DEMOCRATICA

The Union, Progress and Democracy Party, formed in 2007, is a social liberal party that rejects nationalism (including Basque and Catalan) and wants to adopt a system of European federalism, along with proportional voting. Its roots lie in the Basque Country and anti-ETA civic associations. Prominent members include former PSOE MEP Rosa Diez. The party is not defined as left or right with active members on both ends of the spectrum.

Candidate: Martín de la Herrán

Election Slogan
@UPyD
#LevantaAndalucia

 

CIUDADANOS

Citizens (C’s) is a rightist party formed in 2006 whose origins lie in Catalunia as a platform of intellectuals. Nationally C’s has 350 groups, 75,000 registered members and 2 MEPs. Juan Marin is vice-mayor of Sanlucar de Barrameda, where the C’s have governed in coalition with the socialists since 2007.

Candidate: Juan Marin

Election Slogan     Ha llegado nuestro tiempo   (Our time has come)
@CS_Andalucia
#MejorUnidos

  

Each of these parties has candidates in all eight provinces

Falange Española de las JONS (FE de las JONS)

Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal (PACMA)

Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de España (PCPE)

Recortes Cero

VOX

 

As I mentioned, it is impossible to predict the outcome of this election. The two TV debates with the PP, PSOE and IU (the exclusion of the new fourth party, Podemos, was much remarked upon) on the past Sundays both descended into the usual slanging match of “LIAR!”, shouting over each other and being reprimanded by the presenter like naughty school children, for not letting the other candidates speak. Let’s see if the results produce a clear winner.

It is also worth mentioning that EU residents in Spain cannot vote in these elections, however they will be allowed to vote in the forthcoming municipal election in May.


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Two major openings in Malaga: Caminito del Rey and Pompidou Centre

March 13, 2015 – 10:22 pm

In two weeks’ time, on 28 March, Malaga province will have two exciting new attractions for visitors.

On the Saturday before Semana Santa, one of Andalucia’s most intriguing and death-defying attractions reopens to the public after a major refurbishment, the same week as a fourth major art gallery opens in Malaga, joining the Carmen Thyssen Museum,  CAC (Contemporary Art Museum) and Picasso Museum.

The refurbished attraction isn’t a palace, a castle, or a church. It’s a walkway. So what’s the big deal? Well, this particular walkway, known as “the King’s Little Path“, clings to a 100-metre tall cliff and is just three metres wide.

The thrilling Caminito del Rey

The thrilling Caminito del Rey

Not for the faint-hearted or those affected by vertigo, the 6km wooden path follows the sheer limestone wall which drops down towards the churning rivers of the Guadalhorce river below. The section along El Chorro gorge is the most stunning. For years, the camino was in a terrible state of repair – parts had fallen away completely and the only way to navigate it was using rock-climbing equipment. Several souls fell to their deaths, and in 2001 it was closed off completely, although some daredevils  continued to use it.

The Caminito del Rey is likely to become one of Andalucia’s most popular visitor attractions. As soon as the date was announced, the website had so many hits from people wanting to book tickets that it stopped working.

Tickets are free for the first six months, but numbers have to be strictly limited due to the narrowness of the walkway – streams of tourists pushing past each other are not an option on a walkway like this.

It is hoped that King Felipe VI will come to reopen the Caminito del Rey, originally opened in 1921 by King Alfonso XIII, whose costs have been met jointly by the regional and provincial governments – Junta de Andalucia and the Diputacion de Malaga.

For more information, see our page on the Caminito.

Pompidou

The Pompidou Centre in Málaga

The other big draw for Malaga is in the city itself – the new Pompidou Centre on the waterfront, which also opens on 28 March. This new art gallery will feature 20th century works by the likes of Malagueño Pablo Picasso, Bacon, Brancusi, Calder, Chagall, Dufy, Giacometti, Kahlo, Magritte, Schnabel and Tapies, in its current premises (it is billed as a five-year “Pop-Up”) which incorporate a futuristic cuboid glass building.

Exhibitions at the Pompidou

Exhibitions will be held regularly at the Pompidou centre.

In addition, the Centro Pompidou Malaga will hold two or three exhibitions per year, with 2015’s shows being dedicated to Joan Miro’s works on paper, and to the works of women photographers in the 1920s and 1930s. Known as the Pop-Up Pompidou, it is scheduled to stay in its current location for five years, until 2020. The French ambassador to Spain called it a “new and beautiful Franco-Spanish adventure”.

A Cross-Section of the Pompidou

A cross-section of the new Pompidou Centre.

Malaga locals should note that on the afternoon of Saturday 28 March, and all day Sunday 29 March, admission will be free.


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Down’s Syndrome benefits from Cordoban fashion house

February 26, 2015 – 7:49 pm
Raul Rodriguez models the latest collection for Cordoban menswear company Silbon.

Raul Rodriguez models the latest collection for Cordoban menswear company Silbon.

During the month of February, one dynamic young Andalucian fashion company has been running a laudable charity initiative.

For every article of clothing sold in one of Silbon’s eight stores, which are mostly located in this region, and on its online store, the menswear label which makes classic Anglophile smart and casual clothing (its logo is two crossed tennis rackets) has donated 1 euro to Down Cordoba, the provincial charity for those with this condition.

A generous offer, to be sure, but the other aspect of this month’s initiative was a first for Spain: the model used in Silbon’s ads is a man with Down’s called Raul Rodriguez. This is the first time someone with the condition has appeared in a fashion company’s advertising campaign.

In a video shot in the Jardines de Patos in Cordoba for the Compromiso Silbon initiative, Raul, who is 32 and has a keen sense of style, explains that he enjoys swimming (he’s won a number of competitions), he travels independently, is working in the Delegacion de Salud and is going to do a course in new technology, and he wants to get a job.

The idea came about because one of the Silbon team had a child with Down’s, which made the company more aware of the syndrome.

Co-founder Raul Lopez says “Everyone in the project wants to make a social commitment a reality.”

“With this initiative of donating one euro for every item of clothing sold in our shops, we estimate that we will be able to donate 3000 euros to Down Cordoba,” explains Lopez.

“El Syndrome de Down no es una enfermedad,” says Raul. “No soy enfermo. Soy una persona adulta.” (Down’s Sydrome isn’t an illness. I’m not ill. I’m an adult person.)

The Down Cordoba association aims to show that people with Downs can work on an equal level with people who aren’t intellectually discapacitated.

Find out more on the Silbon blog, and in the video.

 


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Asian Festival and Seville Orange Days February 2015

February 19, 2015 – 10:31 am
The cultural festival of Asia in Seville.

The cultural festival of Asia in Seville.

This month, after a chilly January, two events – one cultural and one gastronomic – are trying to tempt us out into the orange-scented streets of Seville.

The first is the Cultural Festival of Asia, which is on until 22 February encompassing the Chinese New Year.

Events include a guide to the traditional Chinese tea ceremony (18 February); a series of Korean films such as The Face Reader (18 February); sessions devoted to feng shui, shiatsu, and mindfulness with meditation (19 February), traditional Tibetan medicine (21 Feb) and yoga (21 Feb); and workshops in sushi and other oriental cuisines (19 and 20 Feb), kimonos, Indian dance for children, origami (20 Feb), as well as martial arts day (20 Feb).

Venues include the Centro Civico Las Sirenas in the Alameda and Centro Civico El Tejar de Mellizo in Los Remedios.

This festival celebrates the famous bitter Seville orange as a tapa ingredient.

This festival celebrates the famous bitter Seville orange as a tapa ingredient.

Jornadas Gastronomicas de la Naranja de Sevilla (Seville Orange Days) starts tomorrow, Friday 20 February, and lasts until Sunday 1 March. A total of 27 tapas bars and restaurants in Seville will offer tapas which use that most typical of ingredients from the city, the bitter Seville orange. Previous editions have proved popular, and I myself recently visited a farm which grows Seville oranges – Huerta Ave Maria is the first organic certified such producer, and is Waitrose’s sole supplier of these hallowed marmalade ingredients, featured in recipes everywhere during their short season, which is coming to an end now.

Paddington is well known for his love of marmalade sandwiches.

Paddington is well known for his love of marmalade sandwiches.

This year Seville oranges have seen a boost to their profile with the release of the utterly charming movie Paddington, starring the lovable bear from Darkest Peru with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches – apparently sales of Seville oranges in the UK are up by more than 15%.

This Saturday, 22 February, sees an exhibition of Guadalquivir Valley gastronomic products, including jam, oil, win and sparkling wine, tea, chocolate and sweet goodies, in front of the Centro Civico las Sirenas, on the Alameda from 11am – 5.30pm. In addition from 12 midday – 2pm there will be showcooking as well as a tasting of oranges and orange juice.

These three tapas from the list caught our eye (and are sure to tempt our tastebuds):

aromatic

DMERCAO
Conde de Barajas 23. Tel 954 389 125
Tapa Gourmet:  Bacalao con piel de naranja, parmentier cítrico, gel de aceitunas prietas de Arahal y salteado de trigueros con ajetes

intriguing

DON JUAN ALEMANES
Alemanes 7. Tel  954 563 232
Tapa gourmet: Falso huevo de naranja

innovative

CASA ROBLES
Álvarez Quintero 58. Tel 954 213 150
Tapa gourmet:  Salsa vieira con su caviar de naranja

 

For the full list of participating bars and restaurants see the Jornadas de Naranjas de Sevilla page here.


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La Isla Maxima – Andalucia scoops the Goyas 2015

February 9, 2015 – 12:08 am
The Goyas 2015 saw Andalucian cinema triumphant.

The Goyas 2015 saw Andalucian cinema triumphant.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, several films shot in Andalucian were nominated for a total of 29 Goyas this year.

In the glamorous ceremony, on Saturday 7 February, they won a total of 17:

El Niño: Best Special Effects, Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best Song

La Isla Minima: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Photography, Best Costume Design, Best Newcomer Actress, Best Music, Best Original Screenplay

Ocho Appellidos Vascos: Best Supporting Actress, Best Newcomer Actor

Paco de Lucia. La Busqueda: Best Documentary

Goya de Honor – this award went to Antonio Banderas, the actor, director and producer who has starred in countless films both in Spain and the US, and hails from Marbella.

The presenter of the ceremony was Dani Govira, who was also the winner of the Best Newcomer Actor.

It was a triumphant night for Andalucian cinema.

La Isla Minima, Gopya, Goyas, Seville, Sevilla

The landscape is a hugely important element of the film.

La Isla Minima is an area, along with Isla Mayor and Isla Menor, wetland rice fields near the Guadalquivir river, on the outer parts of Doñana National Park to the south-west of Seville. The opening credits of this film noir thriller have stunning aerial shots of the patterns of emerald-green fields criss-crossed by small waterways (the translated title is Marshland). The film is set in the 1980s, when this area was a remote, forgotten backwater, despite being located only 30km from Seville.

The plot is based around the murder of two girls, who like most people in the tiny town, are desperate to get out. The constant, oppressive sense of doom and stark beauty is beautifully conveyed by shots of flat, featureless fields, wide open sky, and long, straight roads which lead to nowhere.

Two detectives come to investigate the murders, and find the local people scared and largely unwilling to cooperate. The film is perfectly paced, with suspense that never lets up. The colours are largely faded and dull, adding to the sense of an empty, colourless existence. It creates a strong sense of mood, of time and place – it is as if Franco is still in power. These people have difficult lives, working for a rich landowner who exploits them, and little future. A snapshot of a moment in time in a small, isolated rural community where terrible things have happened.

This excellent movie was directed by Alberto Rodriguez, who also made the more urban cop film Grupo 7, film set in Seville at the time of the Expo 92,  which won two Goyas at the 2013 awards.


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Andalucia’s celluloid gold: Sherry and the Mystery of the Palo Cortado

January 29, 2015 – 10:28 pm

We read a lot about budget cuts to cultural events and activities as part of the government’s austerity measures these days, so it’s good to see that celluloid culture in Andalucia continues to hold its own, despite these challenging times.

Cinema is already having a good year – three movies shot in the region have been nominated for an impressive amount of Goyas (the Spanish Oscars), with 28 nominations between them. El Niño and La Isla Minima are both police thrillers, set in the Campo de Gibraltar and the marshlands of the Guadalquivir in Seville province respectively, while Ocho Apellidos Vascos is a comedy set in Seville and the Basque Country. The ceremony will take place on 8 February, so we’re rooting for locally-made films to scoop plenty of awards.

Sherry & the Mystery of Palo Cortado is showing at the Berlin Film Festival.

Sherry & the Mystery of Palo Cortado is showing at the Berlin Film Festival.

And a very different Andalucian film will be taking part in the Berlin Film Festival, which starts next week. The Culinary Cinema section, now in its tenth year, is showing Sherry y el Misterio de Palo Cortado (Sherry and The Mystery of Palo Cortado). This film is about the world of sherry wines, which is still unknown, and indeed unfathomable, to many. Sherry wines are only made in the “Sherry Triangle” of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda, and are aged and blended using a system called solera.

The movie is produced by Antonio Saura, whose father Carlos is a renowned film director; his works include documentaries about dance such as Flamenco Flamenco, as well as a screen version of one of the most famous operas of all time, set in Seville: Carmen. The director, Jose Luis Lopez Linares, has won two Goyas, as cinematographer on Carlos Saura’s dance film Iberia, and for best documentary for Una instante en la vida ajena which he directed.

Palo Cortado is one of the least well-known wines, and indeed is a rare type of sherry which used to be considered unsuitable for commercial use. Recently it was “rediscovered” and is now highly prized. Technically palo cortado is a fino or amontillado which has lost its layer of flor (yeast) and is now more similar to an oloroso, with the same alcohol content – 17-22%. The name (literally “cut stick”) refers to a mark made on the barrel to denote this type of sherry, which comes about accidentally.

Sherry & the Mystery of Palo Cortado is showing at the Berlin Film Festival.

The traditional way to pour sherry, as shown by a venenciador in the film.

The 89-minute film was shot partly at Bodegas Tradicion in Jerez, as well as many other sherry wineries, and tells the story of sherry’s history, starting in the 16th century. Sherry is one of the oldest wines in Europe – it has been popular in England since Shakespeare’s day, who arrived in London “at a time when the taverns are full of this sherry brought by Frances Drake”. You can see such culinary luminaries as Josep Roca, co-owner and sommelier of the legendary El Celler de San Roca in Girona, voted the world’s best restaurant, and five-Michelin-starred chef Paco Perez.

Sherry y El Misterio de Palo Cortado will premiere at the Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival) on 11 February, as part of the Culinary Cinema programme, which features 20 productions from around the world. At the showing a menu will be prepared by Paco Perez, whose restaurant 5-Cinco is in Berlin: palo cortado will play a leading role.

You can see the trailer here.


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Semana Santa, Podemos, and an unfortunate gaffe

January 15, 2015 – 1:09 pm
Semana Santa in Seville - the city's most beloved festival. Mess with it at your peril, politicians.

Semana Santa in Seville - the city's most beloved festival. Mess with it at your peril, politicians.

Earlier this week a news story took Social Media in Seville by storm. But it wasn’t about anything that had actually happened. Instead, it was the perfect example of Social Media picking up on a frighteningly misjudged, quote-worthy comment which was destined to become a bete noir for the speaker. This asunto encompassed politics, tradition, religion, and local pride and passion – a combustible combination.

Begoña Gutierrez, the Provincial Secretary of Podemos Seville, was speaking to El Mundo newspaper in an interview published on Monday. In describing how Podemos’ remit was to devolve more decision-making power to the people, the hapless civil servant-turned-politician suggested that, “If it came to a vote (on whether Semana Santa should be banned), the people would decide.” Semana Santa banned? Gasp! Horror! Outrage!

“Pregunta: Dígame por último si es verdad eso de que si Podemos gobierna prohibirá la Semana Santa.

Respuesta: En Podemos todo lo decidimos los ciudadanos y los ciudadanas. Si se llegara a plantear esa cuestión, serían ellos quienes lo decidirían.”

(Question El Mundo): Lastly, tell me if it’s true that if Podemos was elected, you would ban Semana Santa.

(Answer Begoña Gutierrez, Podemos Sevilla): In Podemos, all the citizens make the decisions. If it came to a vote, it would be they who would decide.

Podemos is Spain's youngest political party - it was founded just one year ago.

Podemos, Spain's youngest political party, is at the far left of the spectrum.

The knives have been out for Podemos for some time with mainstream media and the other political parties, notably the two main players – the PSOE and PP – desperate to sling mud at this new party which was formed just a year ago and which came from nowhere to win five seats at the European elections in May last year.

With some unconventional views, Podemos is a far-left party which promises participative democracy, financial transparency, a monthly minimum salary for all, and debt restructuring. Some unfortunate comments about ETA and terrorism have not helped its cause. It’s a grass-roots anti-establishment party which isn’t about millionaire backers and high-profile campaigns – its European election campaign last year was crowd-funded. Corruption is one of the biggest concerns of the Spanish electorate, and Podemos is all about confronting the culture of back-handers head on.

Any opportunity to make the new party look bad is grabbed with both hands by the two principal parties, as well as many media channels. Unsurprisingly, considering that the political establishment is running scared – Podemos’ leader, an economics professor from Madrid called Pablo Iglesias who famously sports a ponytail, is favoured by 44% of the electorate as Spain’s next prime minister compared to the other parties’ leaders at 32% (PSOE) and 23% (PP). The latest poll, on 11 January this year, gives Podemos an election-winning 28.2% of the vote.

The unfortunate Begoña handed her party’s multiple detractors a loaded gun and said “Go on, shoot me.” Perhaps the 39-year-old mother of two, who is herself from Seville, is inexperienced in dealing with the media. Otherwise she would have known not to even suggest, albeit as an example of citizens’ democratic participation, that Seville’s most famous event be banned.

Begoña Gutierrez, Podemos, Seville, Sevilla, Semana Santa

Begoña's tweet to calm the storm of protest provoked by her comment.

Podemos is all about a return to genuine democracy in which decisions aren’t made by out-of-touch suits who have become rich through questionable business and financial dealings and loyalties, also known as conventional politicians, but by The People. So even if she was simply trying to illustrate a very important point, she chose the wrong way to do it.

Within hours, rumours were circling around the internet saying “Podemos wants to ban Semana Santa in Seville.” Sticky. You have to feel sorry for the poor woman. Begoña responded with some clarifying/backpedalling tweets, and El Mundo charted the storm, with some glee. So it seems that banning Seville’s most popular religious festival is not in the party’s manifesto after all.


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