CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Foreigners in Spain ...

They have blasphemous thoughts you know.

No, I don't mean religiously, simply that we don't appreciate the nation's passions, like the natives do. I'm glad to discover I'm not the only one though to have been rather taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the reaction to the death of Spanish singer, Rocio Jurado, this week.

The news had just broken when I woke up on Thursday morning and I left TVE1 on, in the background all day. And, all day long they showed nothing else. I mean nothing else at all. On Friday too, from full coverage of the funeral to a re-run of a gala special that went on for hours into the late evening, the entire nation became voyeurs, all too closely, watching the pain of the singer's nearest and dearest.

Tens of thousands of people turned out in the streets, her coffin was carried into the church by the very "brotherhood" that normally carry the figure of her "favoured" Virgin - that carries a significance beyond "full honours" - and, if I am not much mistaken, they declared three days of mourning in the town of her birth.

Two whole days of solid coverage from the announcement of her death, the re-runs, the old interviews, the "laying in state", the coffin being taken to her birthplace, the funeral ... Actually, I thought the helicopter filming over the cemetery was a bit much, considering the family had asked for it to be private ... took over Spain's main, national TV station.

Like the Americans at The Spanish Cockpit, I simply cannot imagine this reaction anywhere else. At least, not for a singer.

What the heck would the reaction be to someone like a president or royalty?

But this is the Spanish way. It is not turning death into a circus, any more than is bullfighting. We foreigners will never understand that and we will always think it is cruel, but the Spanish have a way of facing death that's head on and full-frontal. News reports here are more graphic than most of us are used to in our overly-protected nanny-states and, psychologically, it seems to work.

The first time I went to Spanish funeral - for a friend's father and someone who had been kind and mattered to me - and went through the all-night vigil, the open coffin part (the first time in my life that I had seen a dead person).

Actually, I'd gone to the hospital just after he'd died, only to find the deceased on a trolly in the middle of the room with the family gathered round. Then the man from the funeral parlour came in and did his preparations right in front of us ... It was all a shock to me, I can tell you, but, at the end of the two days, I understood and felt that I could more easily deal with the loss, having been there, confronted it and had to assimilate it.

One must not "speak ill of the dead", but since SC have already put their head in the noose, describing Rocio as "famed singer of that unpalatable sap known as cancion espanola", I will add that I have heard better from the tone deaf at karaoke.

The absolute Primadonna act, I can overlook, because it is just the way. You can't really get up on a stage and put on show, without a bit of it. It makes business sense to do the material that the Spanish audience wants too, although this is a shame. There were times in that re-run gala where Ms Jurado's notes and musical phrasing belied that she would have been capable of much more, with different material.

Nevertheless, I do think "La mas grande" was WAY overdone.

With pointed reference to La Pantoja, who is also described as a "diva de la canción española" and "la reina de la copla" (Queen of song. Aren't they all?), for whom I have no patience, it did make me giggle that Spanish Cockpit also noticed the trend that these singers always seem to be of a certain type and marry bullfighters.

(On a positive note, at least there is a place on the Spanish stage for singers who are "somewhat past their sell-by date", not exactly pretty and getting a bit chubby. It makes a change from a music industry that seems obsessed only with talentless, anorexic teenagers. What I really mean is that there is hope for me yet! :)

But therein lies the key, I think. This generation of both the copla singers and their bullfighter husbands, made their name during the time of the dictatorship in Spain. Both were acceptable to that regime, because of their highly visual tendency to Catholic religious ritual. And, while there was no monarchy in Spain, they were the nearest thing that the Spanish public had to an "aristocracy" to watch.

They have retained that status, even though there are now genuine royals and, indeed, these two "classes" seem to mix and be mixed by the press more than they would, for instance in the UK. A fact, which British surprise at The Duchess of York and her daughter recently attending the Beckham's party, seems to bears out.

That status, I think, is what explains the reaction to Jurado's death, but, I will agree that, especially, to those of us from elsewhere, it leaves you gobsmacked.

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