Friday, November 19, 2004

One of the problems I've always had as a teacher is explaining the word "nigger" to Spanish students. They get the idea that it's OK to say "nigger" because of all the Quentin Tarantino movies they've seen and rap records they've heard, and I have to disabuse them. See, Spanish doesn't have a direct translation, which is logical because since medieval times there have been extremely few black people in Spain. (One thing I'll give Spaniards credit for is that most of them are not particularly prejudiced against blacks, or at least have not been in the past. Now, Gypsies, Arabs, Latin Americans, that's a different story.) The word "negrata" exists, but it's not too common, and I'm pretty sure it's new.

The direct translation of "black" into Spanish, in all senses of the word, is "negro". The deal in Spanish is that, when said normally (e.g. "I know a black guy from Cameroon named Pierre" = "Conozco a un negro de Camerún que se llama Pierre") it's perfectly non-offensive, merely a statement of fact. It becomes racist, though, when it's said impolitely (e.g. "Los putos negros son todos vagos y ladrones"). Then it's better translated as "nigger" into English, and that sentence would be "Goddamn niggers are all lazy thieves."

Well, our national soccer coach, Luis Aragonés, did an Al Campanis or Jimmy the Greek. At a training session a few weeks ago, he called French player Thierry Henry a "negro de mierda", which would best translate as "fuckin' nigger". When called on it in public by the British press, he first actually came out with the "some of my best friends are black" line, and then proceeded to blast the British over their colonial record, saying that he knew some black people whom English colonists had tried to hunt down. This did not endear him to anyone except a bunch of assholes.

Meanwhile, at Wednesday's Spain-England friendly match in the Santiago Bernabeú stadium in Madrid, the crowd made ape noises every time one of England's four black players (Cole, Jenas, Defoe, and Wright-Phillips) got the ball. A common crowd chant in Spain is "Pogo, pogo, if you don't pogo you're a (merengue or culé or perico or whatever the enemy team's followers are called)". On Wednesday night "nigger" was substituted. The English players lambasted the Spanish crowd, saying they'd never seen the like before, not even in Newcastle, which is sort of England's Philadelphia. The Vanguardia interviewed some of the 30-odd black players in the Spanish soccer league and they confirmed that they received racist insults, most commonly the "uuuh, uuuh, uuuh" ape noises, everywhere they play--even at home, because their home crowds insult the black players on the rival team. This is, of course, an absolute disgrace.

Now, get this. La Vanguardia's take is that the importance of this incident is--you won't believe it--the competition for the 2012 Olympic Games. See, the British press is trying to work up aminadversion toward Spain in order to torpedo Madrid's chances of getting the Games and thereby help London. The French press is following them, trying to benefit Paris's candidacy. This is the subject of the Vangua's LEAD EDITORIAL today. Uh, no, the importance of this incident is that Spain's fans and coach have been revealed as a bunch of racist bastards.

Anyway, La Vanguardia is just rolling in it, loving the idea of anything disprestigious (like having their candidacy shot down) that happens to the city of Madrid. They actually ran, on the front page today, a story about a power station outage in Madrid that affected thousands of people for several hours, and framed it in the perspective of the further damage it would do to Madrid's candidacy.

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