Photo: Toro de Cuerda, Gaucin, by John Harris
Last week there was a passionate response by Spanish readers of this blog to a post I wrote linking to a satirical article making fun of 24 hours in the life of a Spaniard. It made me think that it might be interesting to attempt a serious definition of the Spanish, and the question of passion and wild abandon (recklessness?) seemed an interesting place to start.
Are the Spanish passionate? Can they be reckless? They speed up at the site of orange (or recently red) traffic lights, let seven-year-olds play with fireworks (in Valencia at least) and run in front of bulls – all that suggests a recklessness to their character that you won’t find in, say, the UK – but that may just be because in the UK all the things that seem to make the Spanish wild and reckless have long ago been quashed by rules and regulations designed to put safety ahead of wild abandon and fun. A shame, as anyone who has been to a riotous Spanish fiesta will know that there is nothing better than a good dose of wild abandon once in a while.
And how about passion? The Spanish might not be as romantic as the French, but they have just as much national pride, and will defend their favourite national dish or corner of Spain tooth and nail… and boy can the guys at the bar talk about football. So passionate in fact are the Spanish when it comes to a healthy discussion about almost anything, that many newcomers to Spain often mistake a lively conversation on a street corner for a full scale argument – though the Spanish word for argument is ‘discusión‘, so I don’t know where that leaves us!
Before I am shot down, I would like to add that all this passion and recklessness is balanced by a seriousness of character and respect for correct manners, comportment, and indeed a respect for respect itself, that it is hard to find elsewhere, but we shall come back to that later. In the meantime I want to start two small lists, perhaps you can add to them below in the comments?
When the Spanish are at their most passionante:
- Talking about Spanish cuisine or the beauty of Spain
- Discussing politics
- Arguing with difficult or dishonest taxi drivers or waiters
- When someone has ‘faltado el respeto‘, shown a lack of respect, or been ill-mannered
- Playing with bulls, while drunk, in town fiestas everywhere
- During Las Fallas, anywhere in the Valencia region
- Behind the wheel of a car (according to accident statistics – over 100 dead again this Easter)
Do the Spanish strike you as passionate or reckless? Is there a link between the two? What would you add to these lists?