Sunday, October 01, 2006

Aimless thoughts while listening to Big Bill Broonzy:

FC Barcelona just defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-3 at San Mamés on an own-goal by the Athletic defense and scores by Gudjohnsen and Saviola for Barça. Athletic's Yeste scored first, but then at about the 20th minute an Athletic player was sent off in a very harsh decision by the ref; even the TV3 announcers thought he'd gone too far. Foul, yes, yellow card, probably, but red card, excessive. That pretty much sealed the game, because there's no way to beat Barcelona with only ten men. Barça didn't play particularly well, but came away with the points. Athletic is in very serious trouble. Their club president--Athletic, Osasuna, Real Madrid, and Barcelona are the only four teams left in the Spanish league that are still owned by their membership--had to resign last week, and has been replaced by a woman, the first ever in Athletic's 104-year history.

I've been trying to avoid gloom-and-doom forecasts of future confrontations between European "Christians" and Muslims, but people here in Barcelona seem considerably more worried about immigration than in the past. The mass car-burnings in France last year got a lot of people around here talking about how France had failed its Muslim immigrants, some of whom are now third-generation French citizens but are also still foreigners. The wave of black Africans washing up on the shores of the Canaries, which the world media is still ignoring, has stirred up more concern, especially since the Zap government has literally been evacuating these immigrants to the mainland and just turning them loose with a sandwich and a bottle of water in downtown Madrid. And the alleged crime wave of armed home invasions and burglaries in the Catalan countryside has some rural folks literally up in arms, patrolling their vicinities in vigilante groups just like in Arizona.

Actually, the black Africans coming to the Canaries (maybe 30,000 total so far, I'm guessing) are a small minority of the number of illegal immigrants, most of whom simply get off the plane at Barajas or cross the frontier from France. The Zap administration legalized a whole bunch of them last year, more than 600,000, and there's not any question that this has attracted even more to arrive in hope of a new mass legalization.

Even Vallfogona de Riucorb, my wife's village, has seen immigration, with several Romanians and a South American family renting apartments there. They either work at the spa hotel, if women, or as casual laborers, if men. So far they're a novelty and very well treated by the townspeople, who appreciate the fact that these folks are law-abiding and here to work. I just hope things stay this way, because when a house in the village is broken into, which will happen sometime just because of the laws of probability, I'm afraid immigrants will be blamed.

The town's social center is the bar, and the weekly major social event is the Barça game on TV there. The immigrants all show up, among with the locals; sports bring them together. (None of the Romanians seem to be Real Madrid fans, or things might be different.) So that's one positive sign for the future.

My Barcelona neighborhood, Gracia, is quite multiculti, with a good few Latin Americans, Chinese, Pakistanis, Lebanese, and Moroccans. Most Graciencs are pretty liberal, it's a boho-lefty neighborhood, and I haven't heard much complaining about the changes we've seen over the last ten years. But I might be hanging out at the wrong bars.

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