President Trump's Immigration Policy Didn't Resonate in Spain.
While we were on a trip to Valencia, Spain to check out our new home possibilities, President Trump said in a press conference, “other countries have been taking advantage of us for decades, decades, and decades folks. And we’re not going to let that happen anymore. Not going to let that happen.” Anyone listening to the new administration’s policy announcements knows that this comment and similar sentiments get plenty of media exposure. I wondered if this comment would generate any reaction from the Spaniards we encountered.
My first European travel was in the 1970’s when the “ugly American” reputation was prevalent. Between the Mexican border wall, isolationist talk, and travel ban, I was personally prepared for a little hostility on this trip.
I’m always surprised at the amount of American news reported on and absorbed by Europeans. I haven’t figured out yet if it is just the tabloid behaviors or all news that makes such an impression. I only know that the last time we were in Spain years ago, a taxi driver surprised us with his topical knowledge of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
This trip, Jamie and I made a pact that we would not bring up the subject of President Trump. And we didn’t, but often enough someone else did.
The first person who did was an Argentine immigrant selling olives at the famous Mercado Central Valencia. As she chatted with us about all the usual topics, she casually (and tactfully) mentioned President Trump and his stance on immigrants. Naturally, as an immigrant to Spain who loves her chosen city, she’s sensitive to other immigrants. As a future, albeit temporary, “immigrant” I completely understand this. Besides, Jamie and I both had grandparents who immigrated to the United States.
Our plan to retire in Europe was in place long before the recent election, so I'm confident our reaction isn't political. But, we’re finding the immigrant story resonates with us quite closely at the moment. It’s like buying a new car. As soon as you choose a new model you notice them everywhere.
Our AirBnB host, Clive, and his partner, Steve, are British expats who've lived in Valencia off and on since 2004. Astonished by the Brexit vote by their fellow citizens, they were equally stunned by the Trump victory and the similarities of isolationist politics. Aware that one of our top reasons for making Valencia our new home was for language immersion, Steve said it would be too bad if we returned home to the US and had no Hispanics population left to share our new language skills.
A final and unexpected reference to President Trump surfaced at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. As we were leaving the country, the passport control agent asked when we arrived in Amsterdam. We had a little confusion about the answer he was looking for because we had passed through Schiphol twice – once as we began our journey to Valencia and then with a long layover that allowed us to spend the night in Amsterdam. But he explained that he was looking for our first entry visa stamp and once found gave us a brief lesson on the Schengen Area of the European Union that allows free movement across borders of 28 countries. This is where it got funny. He says, “so you’ve got 50 states and Trump says you are Number 1. We’ve got 28 countries so that puts us in second place says Trump.” Unsure if he’s being funny or trying to get a rise from us, we just smiled, said "sorry," shrugged, took our passports, and moved on.
Ninots at Las Fallas
The pictures included with this post are of ninots (Valencian for puppets or dolls), prepared for Valencia's Las Fallas celebration.
Las Fallas have their origins in Roman times when the city's founders lit bonfires to celebrate the equinox. Somewhere in the Middle Ages under the influence of the Church the celebration migrated a few days to March 19th, the feast day of St. Joseph.
Over the centuries lighting bonfires evolved into burning figurines depicting people and events from the previous year and eventually into today's massive pyrotechnic displays and huge, bitingly satirical or delightfully romantic fallas, some standing as high as five stories.
On the final night of Las Falles, around midnight the ninots and falles are set ablaze one-by-one. This is known as la Cremà (the burning), the climax of the whole event and the reason why the constructions are called falles (torches).
Las Falles was added to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage of humanity list in 2016.