Monday, December 24, 2007

Never Mind the Words, Just Sing!

Spain has had a rough time establishing a national identity. From early on its international image was tarnished by accounts of its conquest and exploitation of the America's and the excesses of the Spanish Catholic Church.  Later, after Spain sank to the rank of a second-rate power, there was the brutal Spanish Civil War, with the eventual rousting of the left-wing contingents in the country and the elevation of Francisco Franco to the role of Fascist dictator. The country is also a hodgepodge of cultural and ethnic identities, many unwilling to be consolidated into even the semblance of a coherent kingdom - later, nation state - and some (Jews and Muslims in particular) forced to convert or leave Iberia.Today, the effects of this tumultuous history are clearly apparent in the fractured federal government, domestic terrorism, and most conspicuously, in the lack of lyrics for the Spanish national anthem. 
There once were lyrics to the Spanish anthem "La Marcha Real" (The Royal March). The problem is that the lyrics that most Spaniards know come from Franco Spain, and as such are not appropriate. So instead of singing the old lyrics, Spaniards improvise by doing something like this:

It is no surprise then that ahead of Spain's bid for the 2016 Olympics, the President of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, has created a competition to create new lyrics for the old anthem. The problem still remains that many parts of Spain do not consider themselves Spanish, and do not wish to sing or support any national anthem. The anthem has thus become a political third rail. Politicians are wary of mentioning the competition for fear of upsetting the already tenuous federal arrangement. It remains to be seen whether a unifying anthem will ever be agreed on. For now a lot can be learned about modern Spain in the quiet contemplation of "La Marcha Royal". 

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