Despair caused by the economic crisis increases the violence against children at home

9 May
  • UNICEF and the Red Cross warn about the consequences of the evictions or the unemployment.
  • They note that the violence is also  psychological; they are victims of the distress.
  • “A social breach that perpetuates poverty has been generated in families”.


The violence against minors in the family environment is increasing because of the situations of tension and desperation that many Spanish families are living in their homes due to the economic crisis, according to an opinion shared by both experts in the judicial sector those from organizations dealing with childhood defense.

During the celebration of the conference “Economic crisis, minors and justice”, Victoria Ortega, the general secretary of the General Council of Spanish Lawyers – the representative body that controls the professional activities of lawyers  –  claimed that “although the numbers are for guidance only”, the violence against minors could have increased a 13.6 % in 2012.

Precisely, some days before the celebration of the conference, the ANAR Foundation  –  an NGO which provides help for children and teenagers at risk in Spain and Latin America  –  estimated that 1,778 children and teens have been victims of some type of serious violence in Spain during 2012 and indicated this was an increase compared to 2011.

They also stressed that physical abuse  in family environment is the first reason for the intervention of social and legal services from ANAR. It is relevant to add that in 22.5 % of the cases the abuser was the father, in 15 % the mother and in 6.3 % of them violence was exerted by both parents. If we add up these figures, pointed the ANAR program director, Benjamin Ballesteros, “we find that in 43.3 % of the cases the abusers were the people responsible for taking care and looking after the protection of minors. This is something heartbreaking.”

After the statement of the ANAR Foundation, new testimonies add new points of view to this issue. “In daily coexistence, there is a situation of tension, of desperation that unfortunately can lead to violence situations, in which minors are the weakest and most unprotected part; these are anguishing situations that families live. The lawyers’ representative considered the following: “we are not talking about an exclusively physical violence, but about distress that is transferred to the minors.”

In addition, she claimed that “the austerity imposed by public administration” was having an effect on jurisdictional protection of minors. The lawyer was sorry that “all these circumstances, as a consequence of economic crisis or of the way of facing the crisis with a policy based on austerity and cutbacks, could affect the defense of minors’ rights”. She reminded that “treatment towards minors in court must be different from the one given to adults, as in the need of psychological support and the time spent in assisting them, which should be more.”

From Unicef, the responsible for Infancy, Gabriel González Bueno, warned about “the tension at homes is causing a growth of violence suffered by children” and the “future costs originated by not intervening during the childhood.”

“Children live eviction processes, the separation of parents who have difficulties to maintain two homes and they suffer cutbacks in specialized attention because of the reduction of resources in the field of justice”, he explained. He reminded that unemployment affects twice as much in households with children:, in families with minors, in particular, it increased by 120 percent between 2007 and 2010.

“We have a very intense problem of child poverty”, Unicef representative opined. He stated that “child poverty does not depend on the wealth of nations, but on policies that are applied.”

In this sense, he regretted that benefits for children “were more expendable” during the crisis. “May it have something to dowith the fact that children do not vote?”. He also warned that in some countries with very strong economic crisis,” the juvenile delinquency grows a lot.”

The spokeswoman for Save the Children, Yolanda Roman, also agreed that “in familiar setting where high stress is experienced, violence against children increases physically and psychologically.” Carlos Chana, the project manager from the Spanish Red Cross, stressed the “social gap” which the crisis is generating and the poverty that affects two million two hundred thousand children in Spain.

“The face of minors who suffer povert,” said the manager of Red Cross, “is the face of children of unemployed people without social service or family support, minors under guardianship, immigrants, and children with a disability or with chronic illnesses, whose treatments are not covered by public health service.”

“A social gap has been created in families which will be passed on from generation to generation and it will perpetuate poverty”, he added. The coordinator of the Cermi Network for Children with Disabilities, Inés de Araoz, predicted that cuts in social assistance “will provoke the existence of more disabled children in the future.”


Spanish National Department of Traffic urges doctors to point out which patients cannot drive

7 May

Provincial traffic chiefs can “temporarily revoke the driving license” 


Doctors can notify the Provincial Traffic Headquarters that a patient who is taking medication, or with a temporary or permanent illness, can’t drive. In this way, it will be possible for the process of revocation of the driving license to begin, either during a time or indefinitely. “But maybe this mechanism is not known by doctors”, warned last March the General Director of Traffic, María Seguí, who had been meeting with “different collectives” before the statement and continued after it in order to improve the process of communication, and in this way “involve” the doctors in the improvement of the security on the roads.

During the presentation of the Global status report on road safety 2013, Seguí has reminded that the doctors who “feel the certainty” that their patients are not able to drive can protect their health by taking them out of the road, although she admitted that the communication channel existing with the provincial traffic chiefs isn’t “suitably” known. Moreover, “lots of doctors set out the dilemma of the patient’s confidence and confidentiality, pointed out the Traffic director.

In 2010, the Office of Road Safety, prompted a protocol for doctors for doctors to contribute to stop from driving those people who have lost their mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, by disease or by taking any medication. According to this protocol, when doctors were aware that one of their patients could commit a traffic offence, they should try to resolve it with therapy. If this didn´t work, the advise was to bring t it to the attention of the family and, as a last resort, to the attention the relevant administrative and judicial authorities.

Spain, twelfth country in road safety

Spain is the twelfth country in the world with fewer deaths from traffic accidents. According to the document, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO)  –  data from 2010 from 182 countries  –  Spain has a rate of 5.4 deaths per 100,000 populations. However, in 2011, the last year with consolidated figures, the number of traffic fatalities fell again: 2,060 people died, 418 less than in 2010.

Iceland, with a tax of 2.8, Sweden (3), United Kingdom (3.7), Holland (3.9) and Norway (4.3) are the five countries with a lower ratio of deceased. Even though the objective of Spain is to reduce the tax to the 3.7 in 2020, Seguí has already taken the reference of the Swedish tax. “Even a 3 is possible, because other countries with less deceased have less inhabitants and less road traffic”, she pointed. Seguí showcased that Spain is one of the 28 countries in the world with a specific legislation to reduce the accident rate in the five crucial risk factors in traffic crashes pointed by the WHO: over-speeding, drink-driving, non-use of motorcycle helmets, use of seat belts and child restrain systems. According to the director of the National Department of Traffic, the reform of the General Traffic Rules precisely aims to improve the “amplitude” of the Spanish legislation regarding the speed, the seat belt and the use of child restrain systems.


‘Snow White’, “killer” of bulls

6 May

A campaign against the film condemns that animals were slaughtered during the shooting, breaking the law of animal protection.




Anti-bullfighting organizations and defenders of animal rights have started a campaign against  the film Snow White, selected to represent Spain on Oscar’s long road to Hollywood, considering that while filming, bulls were slaughtered, thereby breaking the animal protection laws.

The Platform Torture is not culture, that encompasses Against Animal Abused Party(PACMA), Ecologists in Action and other collectives, claimed that on June 27th and 28th (2012)  two closed bullfights were organized at the Aranjuez’s bullring behind closed doors, coinciding with the shooting of the film directed by Pablo Berger. From that bullring left a refrigerated truck with dead bulls.
According to their investigations, there are “reasonable grounds to believe that” those involved with the movie making were taking advantage of the authorization of these two bull-fights behind closed doors. The scenes of the films were shot there,  which surely caused animal abuse towards the bulls in the fight, that were slaughtered in the enclosure”.

The  Entertainment Bullfights Area of the Ministry of the Presidency of the Community of Madrid denied that they had authorized the bull festival associated with the shooting of the film. On the other hand, the film’s producer had recognized that nine bulls were used, but that they hadn’t abused them.

The organizers, according to the announcement, ensured that a shooting technician confirmed that the bulls were subjugated to the beam part (chopper) and to flags, and were finally slaughtered in the pens of the square. Again according to their version, the College of Veterinarians of Madrid also admitted holding two fights behind closed doors where no incidents occurred.

The facts were denounced in front of the General Management of the Environment of the Community of Madrid but they never started investigating it, so the complaint was raised to the Administrative Courts, where it was accepted for processing.

In his trial, those responsible for the shooting of the film Snow White may have violated animal protection laws and even committed a crime of animal abuse punishable under the penal code.

Among others, the 2007 law for the care of animal’s farming, transportation, experimentation and slaughter considers it a “serious violation” when the use of animals in cinematographic productions, TV, artistic or advertising, even with the authorization of a competent authority, ends in death.

Taking advantage of silent film presentation in Madrid in a concert at the Zarzuela Theatre, the platform Torture is not Culture called for a demonstration against the film, which ensured governmental authorization.











The concert of the music bands of Silleda, A Vertula and Meaño filled A Feira.

6 May

The Valencian composer Jose Martínez Gallego attended the performances. The host group presented the repertoire that takes to Kerkrade – 800 chairs were taken.





Meaño celebrated last April, twenty-seven its traditional bands festival, the doyen of them all that are celebrated in the region, and that brought together the bands of Silleda, A Vertula de Meis and Unión Musical de Meaño in this twenty-second anniversary. The Praza da Feira registered a capacity crowd of the eight hundred chairs fitted out by the organization, with come audience not only from the region, but also from other localities of the province in order to enjoy a festival that is these days considered by music lovers as one of the best of Galicia. Among the guests, the Valencian composer Jose Martínez Gallego, who got around this time on the occasion of his work “Los caprichos de Goya”, that was played that day on the festival by Meaño’s band, which will take part in the World Music Contest of Kerkrade this summer.

The contest started with its usual punctuality at 5 p.m. and with the traditional parade of the participating bands in front of the council in order to make their entry into the square. There, presented by Germán Tizón, the season of concertos was opened by Silleda’s band, which conducted by the Valencian Rafael Agulló, played works of Rossini, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky. Then, A Vertula de Meis began its performance with the paso doble just entitled “A Vertula”, composed by its conductor Casiano Mouriño, and finished with Johan de Meij’s works and the Gustavo Freire’s Galician rhapsody “Ariños Arires”.

The hosts of the Unión Musical de Meaño were responsible for closing the program. Aside from the mentioned one “Los Caprichos de Goya”, the Meaño’s band played “Club Europe” of Martin Ellerby and the muiñeira “Cascarexa”. Precisely the latter was one of the sensations on the stage, a work with echoes folk, rhythmic and visual, in which the Meaño’s band relied for the occasion on the collaboration of two gaiteiros from the cultural Penaguda plus Lucía Verde, teacher of guitar in the Escola de Música de Meaño, who combined their instruments with the band in a performance that drew enthusiastic applauses in the public.

The audience of the concert had an encore when the Valencian maestro Martínez Gallego was invited to the stage to conduct the Unión Musical de Meaño out of program with “Jesus Duque”, a paso doble of the same composer to honour the apprentice bullfighter of Requena. Martínez Gallego admitted to FARO DE VIGO that the fact Meaño’s band had chosen “Los caprichos de Goya” to take part in Kerkrade “It is the whole pride, the work is really like a children for me, when it is born, you want to see how it grows, and now what you want with a work conceived in 2008, is to see it expanding and coming near to the public, and there is no better shop window that Kerkrade’s festival and with a centenary band like this one of Meaño “.

Meaño returned to be a model of the bands’ music, represented with two centenary bands (Silleda and Meaño) together with a young band, the one from Meis, which is an example of overcoming. Created from a popular initiative it is kept, according to what its conductor Casiano Mouriño explained, “by the money of the performances we do because what is the support from the council and from the administration there is almost void, Meaño’s situation is enviable in this aspect”.

In any case, it was a sign of the more and more major eclecticism of the bands’ music, represented that day in the bet for the opera, the classic overtures or the folk. In fact, the conductor of Meaño’s band David Fiuza understood that in Galicia “the folk music with Celtic roots is also a field to explore for music bands, and where there can be a long route”. In fact, the excellent reception of the muiñeira “Cascarexa” from part of the public seemed to endorse the words of Fiuza Souto that, by the way, lived his last festival as Meaño’s band conductor, since it was public that leaves the group this year.



From a terrible violation you get something good: a child, a gift from God

4 May

Although your husband is unfaithful, going on loving him while you shed tears, as Jesus did in the cross, is the real proof of love’’.  This sentence and other ones like “maltreated women shouldn´t separate since that´s love’’, or “to have an abortion in case of rape is not admissible because in spite of being such a terrible experience, at least, you can get something by it: a son, a gift from God’’, exceed the capacity of endurance of most students of Church Social Doctrine  lesson, imparted yesterday by Gloria Casanova, teacher at  Cardenal Herrera-CEU de Moncada University (Valencia).

Since the morning of March, 27th , this private center’s facebook, has been getting full of coments and reviews about the notice published by the Spanish newspaper, EL PAÍS. The teacher declined speaking with the newspaper.

It has been unacceptable. Lessons like this are unbearable’’ told one of the students belonging to the mentioned classroom where Casanova, who also teaches at Valencia Catholic university, displayed her opinions.


One of the University’s building

This subject of Journalism degree is until the third course compulsory.  Students who attends this teacher´s lessons are used to the way they are, usually inclined to the most conservative side of  clergy. Last Tuesday, the topic was about homosexuality and gay marriage and it seems to be that Casanova increased the hostility level of his recurrent speech. “She overstepped the mark, there were people who left the lecture since they couldn´t longer bear it.’’, other guy reports.

The lecture, that elapses without textbook, was embellished with comments referring to some supposed researches “that prove the more incidence of personality disorder on homosexual sons’’ or  that homosexuality “can be redirected“. This newspaper attempted to obtain the professor´s version, without succeed.

Maria Jose Catalá, member of the Education department, was asked this morning in an event about the controversy generated by the CEU teacher´s lecture, and answered alluding to her freedom to act while teaching.

I understand her comments as an opinion under her freedom to act during the lecture’’, Catalá said. Nevertheless she strongly affirms not to share some of her statements and emphasizes that they took place “in a concrete moment, in a correct or incorrect way’’.

CEU University reacted to the news by publishing a press release that assures that “the center promotes the plural debate between lecturers and students and contemplates every opinion respectful to the center ideology.  Listening and paying attention to students by offering different ways of debating and expressing opinions, as well as boosting his own reflections“. “The present debate encourages University to propel a university assembly, so that Church Social Doctrine could be better known.’’

Political parties have also given his opinion.  Today at the parliament, “Compromís’’ regional representative, Fran Ferri, has asked the regional government   for “taking the necessary measures in order to guarantee the students rights in the autonomy of Valencia.’’

Esquerra Unida‘s (a Spanish left-winged political party) representative, Esther López Barceló, have also described Casanova´s asseverations as “offensive, homophobic and patriarchal’’.  As she said in her press release, according to her opinion her affirmations are “worthy of sentence’’ and “push back as  to Middle Ages’’. “They are very dangerous and they retrace the steps taken in gender equality fight’’.

NNGG Campaign

A PP ( Spanish conservative political party) new generations  campaign which urges people to denounce those teachers who indoctrinate students in their  lectures, was the fact which gave rise to this student protest.

The education sciences student of the Jaume I University of Castellón( Valencia),  Álvar Carceller, spoke yesterday about the “disparagement’’ usually displayed by the Spanish language didacticism teacher referring to Valencian language. According to this student, the teacher Javier González Darder, “used to tell us that studying Valencian is an absolute waste of time and he would disrespect us specially the ones who speak Valencian. Many of us felt humiliated’’ concluded.

Last year, the lecturer carried out an inquiry with his pupils about “facts’’ and “opinions’’ in relation to “Valencian’’ and “Spanish’’. In this inquiry Darder referred to Spanish as “the language spoken by more than 400 million people, the one which has Nobel Prizes’’ and to Valencian  by saying “the one whose imposition as exclusive language leads to social conflicts’’. He didn´t want to pronounce himself and alluded to the release issued by Vicent Clement, Jaume I University rector, who strongly defended the way of acting of each professor at his lectures.

The one who also referred to the new generation’s campaign was Alberto Fabra, president of the autonomy of Valencia: “I’m not going to speak about that, but what I do say is that teachers should engage in teaching’’. “I don´t want people to exaggerate things’’ added He avoiding to support the campaign.

STEPV student union announced his intention of denouncing the campaign to Minors Prosecution. “It´s a PP´s new strategy for smearing professorate, politically controlling schools and discrediting public teaching’’

Source: El País    Picture: Google Image

The minister Arias Cañete recommends having showers of cold water in order to save energy

30 Apr


The minister of Agriculture, Supplying and Environment, Miguel Arias Cañete, has explained on Thursday April 18th that “while you wait for the warm water to come out, a lot of water is thrown away”. Cañete repeats his words from April 17th, when he assured that he would have a shower with cold water “rather than consuming another half a litre”.

Cañete has made these statements during his participation in “Desayunos de Forum Europa”, a Spanish morning talk show, together with the European Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, who has pointed out that she is not “willing to give up” her hot showers. “That’s the last thing I‘m willing to do”, she has indicated.

In this sense, the European leader has shown her disagreement with Cañete pointing out that, “in order to save energy and to be more efficient, people just have to think more about what we do in our daily life”.

In her opinion, this kind of actions contribute to make society think that “saving energy implies having a boring life where there’s nothing you can do”. Thus, it was pointed out that a responsible and sustainable life “is more interesting”.

On Wednesday April 17th, during his participation in the presentation in Spain of the initiative from the European Comission for Climate Action “The World that you want with the climate that you want”, Cañete has claimed that, before, he was “a spendthrift of water” until the President of the Government named him “minister in charge of the water in Spain” so that now he even prefers to have a shower “with cold water”.

In the same way, he explained that recently he has known about a system that allows us to “reutilize water and avoid its waste”. Likewise, he had encouraged people to carry out some day-to-day actions which can reduce energy consumption. Arias Cañete has remembered, for example, that turning down the central heating thermostat by one degree can reduce the consumption by 7 per cent.

Hedegaard, who is visiting Madrid to present the European initiative which looks for ecological innovative and creative plans that tackle efficiently the climate change, and who expects to promote a change of attitude and behaviours from every standard of the citizens, has explained that the goal of the initiative is to make the campaign “very useful and palpable” and to achieve the possibility to apply it in the daily decisions of the citizens.

Cañete has already caused much controversy due to its statements. Last January he claimed consuming out-of-date yogurts and that the best before date of some foodstuff has a “very high leeway”.



Ombudswoman condemned the existence of 13.500 VPO (protected dwellings which are financed by Spanish administration) empties

20 Apr

soledad becerril

– Soledad Becerril (ombudswoman from Spain) estimated that 10.000 dwellings could be available to be taken

– ‘It is inacceptable when sets of tens of thousands people suffer dwellings’ lack.

– Her proposition was to use theses house for people evicted who could not pay mortgage or hire in time.

– She regreted administrations’ difficulty to collect these pieces of information.

Ombudswoman, Soledad Becerril, encapsulated the number of dwellings empties (VPO) in, at least, 13.500 units. In addition, she affirmed in that total, as minimum, 10.000 dwellings were available for being taken. Becerril proposed that these flats could be used for evicted families who could not pay mortgage or hire in time.

During the appearance, in the presence of “Comisión Mixta de Relaciones” (Mixed Commission of Relationship) with the ombudswoman to detail Institution’s interventions during 2012, Becerril presented a report about the situation of public dwellings, completed with pieces of information provided for Ceuta and Melilla’s ministries and organizations of Dwelling. In short terms, this research would be realised by the Parliament.

The ombudswoman regretted administration’s difficulty to collect these pieces of information and she proposed to create or to make better registry with similar opinions in all of them. In addition, she announced that there was much autonomy which has not actual information.

“Many people, who need a dwelling with urgency, could benefit of miles public dwellings that currently are empties and available” said Becerril, who suggested to do it “with rents or moderate costs”.

Only in the Comunidades Autónomas (Spanish autonomous communities), according to his datum, 250.000 flats are available with some protection

In particular, the study calculated that, only counting those which autonomous communities manage- that is, more than 250.000 dwellings with any type of public protection-, around 13.500 were empty, and 9.752 of those could consider available.

In addition, the ombudswoman requested information for 10 local governments with a population over 350,000.  According with the information received, this focus of population manage 24,055 protected houses, which would be empty and available at least 427.

For the institution, “it’s inefficient and bit acceptable that there are public empty houses when there are tens of thousands of people suffering from the lack suitable housing”.

The report recommends that protected houses registers include similar parameters that make possible nationwide evaluations. It also suggests increasing the cooperation and coordination between the involved administrations; introduce a more efficient inspection; perfect the allocation housings procedure; and favour the public rent versus sale.

She estimated that there were 332,523 housing petitioners in the country.

In her judgement, “The number of empty homes is high” and “with appropriates measures would be in disposition, in rent system, for families who these days need home”. In particular, at the Institution estimated that there were 332,529 petitioners for housing in the country.

Amongst the recommendations that Becerril shared during her intervention in this cases, were “create or improve the protected house records, with information that provided the autonomous community and the municipalities, using similar parameters that enable national evaluations”.

12/03/2013 El Mundo

Spain is placed among the countries of the EU in which less money is invested in Education since 2010

17 Apr


  • A report from the European Commission evidences that Greece, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Lithuania and Spain have reduced the investment in more than a 5%.
  • The Italian, Greek and Portuguese economies were bailed out by the EU. In Spain, the rescue took place only to avoid the bank indebtedness.
  • These cutbacks have caused multitude of protests and demonstrations in Spain.

Spain has been in the past years among the nine countries from the EU which has cut back a lot of money invested in Education. This was established by the report “Funding of Education in Europe: The Impact of the Economic Crisis” elaborated by the European Commission, which has studied this issue in the 25 member states.

According to the text, which was published on March 21st, eight national governments have approved measures in order to reduce the financing of the educational system. Spain, together with Estonia and Poland, has suffered cutbacks in Education from 1% to 5% between 2010 and 2012, while the reduction in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Hungary and Lithuania was bigger, more than a 5%.

Cyprus, Latvia, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and the French-speaking region of Belgium, as well as Croatia (future member state of  the European Union from July 2013 on), reduced the consignment in one year but increased it in another.

Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta, Sweden and the German-speaking region of Belgium decided to follow the opposite way and investment has risen more than 1%. Spain and other ten countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Portugal) cut or froze wages and teacher’s allowance, which is a bonus payment equivalent to a month’s salary, paid twice a year.

This part represents more than the 70% of the Education budget according to the report. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Romania reduced their teacher personnel, fact that also affected Spain, which together with Cyprus and Poland invested less money in technologies of the information and the communication. 

Moreover, the Spanish government opted for raising the taxes, the enrolments and the prices of the credits in high education. In relation with the unemployment, the European commissioner of Culture and Education,  Androulla Vassiliou, recognised the economic difficulties that the member states suffer from, but she warned that they should invest ‘properly in the modernization of education and competences’ in order not to ‘be left behind even more regarding our global competitors’.

Vassiliou alerted that the lack of educational resources can imply bigger difficulties in fighting against unemployment. A warning already done by the opposition, trade unions, teachers and social agents to the Spanish government. Nowadays, Spain, togheter with Greece, leads the unemployement in the Eurozone. By the end of 2012 the youth unemployement rate in Spain was 55.13%



The culminanting days of Valencian Fallas

16 Apr

On March the 18th, Valencia had come to the culminating days of their festival, the Fallas, a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph in this city, in which beautiful huge figures (fallas) are built in order to be burned. The Fallas coincided this year with a long holiday weekend, and so the city was taken by a tide of visitors moving through the city to enjoy the sunshine of its fallas, the emotion of the Offering to the patron saint and the pyrotechnics spectacle of the Nit del Foc (Valencian for “Night of the Fire”) and the Cremà (the ceremony in which the fallas are burned).

 In that full spring atmosphere, and with no more rainy days, festive music and the symphony of firecrackers became the soundtrack of a film in which the smell of gunpowder, the fritter with chocolate flavor, the devotion to the Virgin and the hours until the arrival of purifying fire are always erected as protagonists.

 A million people  –  including Valencians, visitors from nearby towns and tourists  –  spent a time together in a city besieged by traffic chaos  – causing more than 550 blocked roads  –  and which saw the “no vacancies” billboard hanging in many of the hotels in the city, whose average occupancy is estimated to have been around 85%.


The city, packed out

 With the new freedom of schedules in many areas of Valencia, a lot of small retailers and big malls took advantage of the avalanche of people which invaded, mainly, the centre of the city to open their shops and search for an opportunity that could give them a rest.

 On this March 18th, one day more  –  and it had been already eighteenth of them – thousands of people packed out the town hall’s plaza to enjoy the rythm, the intensity and the roar turned into art in the typical mascletá, which consists of firecrackers that explode one after another making a lot of noise. These firecrackers were shot that day by the Caballer de Godella Pyrotechnics.

 Barely having time to digest this thunderous spectacle, at 3.30pm the second day of the touching Offering to the Virgin of the Defenseless started, one of the most crowded and emotional acts of the festival. Around 100.000 people participated during two days, including falleros – people in charge of taking care of the fallas – and musicians.

A cape of carnations

 60,000 bouquets of white and red carnations – though there were some yellow ones too  –  were left at the patron saint’s feet by touched “falleras”. These bouquets were later arranged by the “vestidores”, men who are in charge of preparing the Virgin’s cape. They must distribute the bouquets in the right places of the “vestidor”, a base to place the bouquets that forms the cape, so that the design of the cape is completed at the end of the day.

 “Dressing my queen” was the title of the spectacular design of this year’s cape, that the Virgin wore figuratively with a typical “manteleta”  – a kind of embroidered shawl, part of the traditional valencian costume.

 Hundreds of people gathered during the route along the streets of the city up to the Basilica in order to cheer up, make flattering comments and immortalize the participants with their cameras and mobile phones, specially babies and little “falleras” that paraded with grace to the festivity music

Halfway between civic and religious, this ceremony, in which people cry and smile while paying tribute to their patron saint, finished, according to the tradition, when the Virgin was given an offering by the main fallera, Begoña Jiménez. After that, since the weather allowed it, the “Nit del Foc” took place, the most important fireworks display at the Fallas.

Nit del foc: the Night of the Fire

 Ricardo Caballer Pyrotechnics has been responsible for the spectacular fireworks for eight years. And this year, the sky was decorated by them with smiling faces, stars, spirals and butterflies for more than twenty minutes. 7,500 elements and 2,750 kilos of regulated materials were used to achieve this spectacle.


It took place on Monday, 18th March, at 1,30 a.m. ; and it announced the arrival of Saint Joseph’s Day, when each year almost 800 monuments – big and children’s sizes –  all around the city are burnt for all night and morning long. Then they rise from their ashes to welcome spring and, of course, 2014 Fallas.



Concern at Spanish universities about students’ language skills

31 Mar

Spanish students have several spelling problems and a severe lack of reading comprehension. Teachers wonder if besides specific knowledge, language skills should be also evaluated to avoid spelling mistakes, considering that, for instance, some students are used to write like if they were sending text messages.

Some of these spelling errors, like an extra “h” in “habrir”, are inappropriate. Such error looks like it has been done on purpose. For example, people who occupy uninhabited places are “okupa”; an incorrect form of the Spanish word “ocupar”, to occupy in English. It may seem strange, however, when a Spanish teacher of Linguistics and a science agronomy specialist think about coincidences searching usual spelling errors made by their pupils. Both specialists find “Habrir”. How can they write such a bizarre word? They speculate that maybe they can’t differentiate between “habría” (past of to be) and “abría” (past of open). Spelling and grammar mistakes usually happen in high schools. Despite the fact that most teachers are realizing about this situation, just a few of them are willing to low the grades.

Salvador Gutiérrez, coordinator of the polemic latest edition of the Spanish orthography, explains: “this is both myth and reality. Excluding metric, poets would gladly say that old orthography was way better. In the past there was a part of the population who hadn’t been educated so they could barely write. Nowadays, we have an education so this part of the population has to write better. Nevertheless, those who studied longer had to endure a long and hard process in which they acquired idiomatic correction. Because of this process, their spelling ability was higher than those who are currently applying for going to the university.

 Flor Salazar, lecturer of Spanish philology in Complutense University of Madrid, thinks that there are more problems than spelling. Orthography is used incorrectly. For instance, we have punctuation: Periods, colons… A Spanish speaker may understand “Baca” as cow even if it is written with B instead of V, but they may not understand the speech if it is not organized correctly. It might be difficult to punctuate but they just don’t even try. For example, it is trendy not to put indentations after periods. They copied it from English speakers mostly because it was useful. She recalls that she had to write essays daily. Current students should also do it. “I still remember a classmate at university who misspelled the word diminutivo (diminutive, in English) and got a Zero as score. It happened fourteen years ago”

A former teacher of Spanish at high school, Amparo Medina Bocos, remarks the importance of stressed syllables in Spanish . Depending on which syllable is stressed “revolver” it may mean “revolver” (to stir) or “revólver” (handgun). Strangely, people don’t bother so much about this error as they do with confusing B and V. People are guilty of sloth. On streets, you may find words like “antiguedades” in instead of “antigüedades”. Even shop’s names are written incorrectly.


                     Some students with their smartphones


José Luis Pardo, professor of Philosophy in the Complutense University of Madrid puts as an example: If a student writes incorrectly that the Storming of the Bastille was two years before it really happened it is unlikely he will get the full score but he won’t fail the exam for sure. However if he moves the year 2 centuries he may fail it. Time ago, a student mistook just a letter; this mistake changed the meaning of the expression to the “Storming of the pill”. In such cases, the student does not need a mark but a warning since he hasn’t reached the needed level for getting a qualification. It also happens with spelling errors. It is not the same if a philosophy freshman writes the German surname Wittgenstein without double t than if he writes the Spanish word for should wrong. Such error would make him fail the text, as there is not another method to explain him that his level is not enough for getting a qualification. It would be like asking an engineer if a bridge should be built correctly or “it is ok to just build it carelessly”. Maybe a sudden squall collapses it.

Professor of physics, Jose Manuel Sanchez Ron has decided recently to introduce some changes in History of Sciences, his elective subject. This time he is going to penalize both orthographic and spelling errors. He considers that these errors won’t determine if they pass or not. “If I tell them to pay attention, they will be more skilled on the future. They would probably ignore it. That’s why I chose to penalize them instead.” Of course, the first day of the course he reminds them about how important writing skills are. “I’m not one of their buddies. They can’t write like text messages in my lectures”.

Mr. Ron explains that English is the most important language in Sciences but he doesn’t want his students to use it as an excuse, because solving mathematical theorems and problems are enough for them. Spelling is not relative but absolute. it is like the manifestation of some sort of Postmodern Movement.

Reaching an agreement about if they should evaluate structure besides contents is not easy. Ten years ago, some Spanish Philology teachers at Complutense university of Madrid, told the rectorship about creating a common regulation for dealing with students. However, he replied that it was beyond his competence. “The score should be lowered for really huge mistakes or if the student continues to have the same mistake again and again” “Since we don’t have regulations such as being fully clothed or not to bring pets, we don’t need a regulation for this issue. Also dignity (The felling of shame to common reproach) should be enough to make anybody think twice before doing so. Obviously, as it no longer works, a common regulation or even a state regulation is needed. It may be the easiest way to stop it. So that we don’t need to warn students about something they should already know”.

If there is someone who may be interested on this, it would be our next teacher. This teacher works in a communication degree in a prestigious university. He was confronted by his students because he lowered scores of those who committed spelling or orthographic errors. Some students even failed the exam. “It is both students and teacher fault,” he explains. Teachers have lowered the required standards too much. We have forgotten that we ought to make them realize that they need to know how to write properly. In some cases, students have requested to be graded for their knowledge, not for their writing style. Editors are not so frequent in the present. And there is no time for correcting most of the texts. Also, even if their texts can be corrected, this shouldn’t be used as an excuse.

This teacher suggests a hopeless present and future at University: “The educational community is more and more afraid to prevail. Students dare to say and do things that we would have never say or do in our generation.” Some teachers get frightened; some of them just try to avoid dealing with problems. Mostly because, in the actual crisis, seeing as their income has dropped, as their job increases. They would rather not to bother about it than to face their students complaining.

In Valencia, Education professionals are considering setting a limit for orthographic errors on university admission exams. Right now, these errors are taken into account just on Language and Literature subjects. It would reduce the score up to three points for grammar mistakes and four by 2015. This plan will be set gradually so that high schools can solve this problem. The Ministry of Education reform forecasts exams at the end of most pre-university levels. These exams will probably make spelling and orthography being taught more carefully.

Journalist and language teacher in high school, Javier López, complains about how difficult is to vanish grammatical mistakes. Unrelated people think this is just part of language, so they think they should not bother about lowering scores for it. Some of them even complain about language teachers’ attitude. “If they don’t make their students fail their exams for it, why should I do it? My subject is history.” But he explains “The correct use of the language is not just a part of Spanish classes but is part of every subject. Every different field of knowledge has specific terms which students need to learn. This vocabulary ought to be written correctly. For instance, a math teacher would not allow the term for angle written like “hángulo” with an extra h.”

Three years ago, thirty seven year old Mr.López, started to teach Language and Literature. He was speechless when he found teachers using learning methods similar to those used in the XIX century. Despite exercises like dictation or copying errors used successfully by previous generations of students, those methods no longer work. He frequently talks with his students through Social networking sites and forces them to write correctly. When you had to write a letter even if it was for a friend, didn’t you struggle to write it? It was because that piece of paper showed who you were. What I’ve done was to make them understand than in websites like Tuenti or Facebook it is possible to write correctly. I know that the communication between a student and a teacher would never be the same as how they communicate between themselves. Mr. López became famous with his “Your ignorance feeds me” campaign. For every mistake, he would lower the score of the exam. Students who wanted to get the full score back had to bring some sort of food. This is how they were able to donate half ton of food.

Not everything is bad. There is a certain minority of people who are concerned about how to use the language, as it is explained on the department of Doubts of the Royal Spanish Institute of Language. This website, Today’s Spanish, receives more than a hundred questions every day. More people have access to medium education, high education and so have good knowledge of language which is essential for most skilled works. Now people have several different ways to get such information or solve language questions easier without requiring to use harder-to-understand or complicated grammar and reference works.


There are some serious errors


As Mr. Pardo suggests “in the police entrance exams of Canary islands, at the south of the country, they decided to set an othographic exercise for measuring it. Just 17 out of 168 people passed it. THe polemic exercise consisted on searching othographic errors in 22 phrases in 10 minutes. SHould they lower the level?” “They shouldn’t be harsh but fair,” replies Mr. Gutiérrez, Language teacher in University of León. Those who want to work in public administrations must know not only the requirements for their desired occupation, but also the language they need to use. If a police officer have to fill a report, he should be able to show in public that they can do it.”

Mr. Pardo does not believe it. Those who infringe the most basic principle of coexistence: respecting, using and sharing the same language are the one who sued the authority. If such infringement is allowed – something really regrettable – everybody would be able to do the same. Such public morality shall not be allowed. The authority should penalize them as it does with those who disobey traffic laws.

According to the Minister Wert’s new law of Education, high schoolers will have at least 25% of maths, 25% of English, and 25% of Literature classes. So maybe the tragic story of spelling mistakes would end soon. Or at least it will be less prevalent. This may be the end of the latest Spanish Internet meme, version of the slang “watcha doin?” “Ola k ase”.