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Posts Tagged ‘spain’

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Photo: Ruben Ortega Martin, Raices de Peraleda
Drought has uncovered a Spanish version of Stonehenge, the 7,000-year-old Dolmen of Guadalperal.

As global warming brings changes to our planet, the permafrost is melting and releasing dangerous bacteria. But sometimes other, less harmful things come to light.

Caroline Goldstein writes at ArtNet, “If there’s even the slightest silver lining to the ravages of climate change, it’s that the warming conditions are revealing some previously unknown archaeological sites and artifacts.

“This past summer, an extreme drought in the Extremadura area of Spain that caused the Valdecañas Reservoir’s water levels to plummet has revealed a series of megalithic stones. Previously submerged underwater, the Dolmen de Guadalperal, often called the Spanish Stonehenge, are now in plain sight.

“Though the Dolmen are 7,000 years old, the last time they were seen in their entirety was around 1963, when the reservoir was built as part of Franco’s push toward modernization. …

“Angel Castaño, who lives near the reservoir and serves as the president of a Spanish cultural group, told the website the Local, ‘We grew up hearing about the legend of the treasure hidden beneath the lake and now we finally get to view them.’

“The approximately 100 menhirs are, like Stonehenge, hulking megalith stones — some standing up to six feet tall — that are arranged in an oval and appear oriented to filter sunlight. Evidence suggests that these stones could actually be 2,000 years older than Stonehenge.

“Castaño is working with the group Raices de Peraleda to move the dolmen before rains come and re-submerge them. ‘Whatever we do here needs to be done extremely carefully.’ he said.”

I guess so. I can’t help wondering if it would be better to move the reservoir and leave the stones, which obviously were placed where they are for a reason. But not being an engineer, I suppose moving the reservoir would be even more difficult. And already access to water is becoming a serious problem around the world. (For a heartbreaking story about the difficulty many Navajo people have getting clean water, read this.)

So hard to balance conflicting goods!

More here.

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Photo: Universo Santi
This haute cuisine restaurant in Spain makes a point of hiring workers with disabilities.

I have posted a few stories about successful operations that hire workers with disabilities, but this is the first I remember seeing about a high-class restaurant set up for the purpose of creating jobs that don’t differ from jobs in establishments that don’t use workers with disabilities.

Stephen Burgen writes at the Guardian, “The first thing that strikes you is the calm, the light, the modern art on the walls – and then of course the food. It’s only later that you realise there is something different, and a little special, about Universo Santi, a restaurant in the southern Spanish city of Jerez.

“ ‘People don’t come here because the staff are disabled but because it’s the best restaurant in the area. Whatever reason they came for, the talking is about the food,’ says Antonio Vila.

“Vila is the president of the Fundación Universo Accesible, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping people with disabilities join the mainstream workforce. He has also been the driving force behind Universo Santi, the haute cuisine restaurant whose 20 employees all have some form of disability.

“ ‘I always wanted to show what people with disabilities, given the right training, were capable of,’ says Vila, who is a senior manager at DKV insurance. ‘They were not represented in the world of haute cuisine. Universo Santi has broken through that barrier.’

“The 20 staff, whose ages range from 22 to 62, were recruited from an original list of 1,500. To qualify, applicants had to be unemployed and have more than 35% disability.

“ ‘I feel really lucky to be part of this,’ says Gloria Bazán, head of human resources, who has cerebral palsy. ‘It’s difficult to work when society just sees you as someone with a handicap. This has given me the opportunity to be independent and to participate like any other human being.’

“Alejandro Giménez, 23, has Down’s syndrome and is a commis chef. ‘It’s given me the chance to become independent doing something I’ve loved since I was a kid,’ says Giménez, who lived with his mother until he was recruited.

“ ‘Working here has transformed my life. So many things I used to ask my mother to do, I do myself. I didn’t even know how to take a train by myself because I’d just miss my stop.’ …

“Universo Santi may soon have a star in the Michelin firmament as the Michelin Guide people have already sampled the menu which, at €60 (£53), is less than half the price of a typical menú de degustación.

“ ‘Of course they didn’t introduce themselves but we knew who they were,’ says Almudena Merlo, the maître d’. …

“The Jerez restaurant takes its name from Santi Santamaria, chef at the Michelin three-star Can Fabes in Catalonia until his sudden death in 2011. Can Fabes closed shortly afterwards but his family wanted to carry on his name and culinary tradition and were keen to support the Jerez project. …

“The family’s enthusiasm attracted the attention of Spain’s top chefs, among them Martín Berasategui, [Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, twice voted the best restaurant in the world] and Ángel León, all of whom have contributed recipes and their time as guest chefs at the restaurant.”

More at the Guardian, here. The article also mentions other European enterprises that employ people with disabilities.

Photo: Universo Santi
Says Alejandro Giménez, a junior chef with Down Syndrome who works at Universo Santi in Jerez, “Working here has transformed my life.”

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Image: Tom McShane
The author of those lines is an unusual 10th century figure — Shmuel HaNagid, prime minister of the kingdom of Granada in Spain, head of both Granada’s Muslim army
and Andalusia’s Jewish community.

The force of history works in mysterious ways. Here is a story about how an ancient Arabic poetic tradition was preserved because Jewish poets valued it.

Benjamin Ramm reports at the BBC, “On 9 December 1499, the citizens of Granada awoke to a scene of devastation: the smouldering remains of over a million Arabic manuscripts, burnt on the orders of the Spanish Inquisition. …

“[Years before], as much of Europe languished in the Dark Ages, the Iberian peninsula was a cultural oasis, the brightest beacon of civilisation. Under the Umayyad dynasty, the caliphate of Al-Andalus stretched from Lisbon to Zaragoza, and centred on the Andalusian cities of Córdoba, Granada and Seville. From the 8th Century, the caliphate oversaw a period of extraordinary cross-cultural creativity known as La Convivencia (the Coexistence). …

“Among the Muslim poets of Al-Andalus, there was a concerted attempt to rediscover and reinvent the literary forms of Arabic, sophisticated and lyrical, rooted in the concept of fasaaha (clarity, elegance). The fire in Granada destroyed part of this heritage, but it survives in an unexpected form – in an imaginative body of Hebrew poetry, which illustrates the extent of cross-cultural exchange.

“Peter Cole, the foremost translator of Hebrew poetry from Al-Andalus, argues in his book The Dream of the Poem that a major legacy of the Moorish writers was to inspire Jewish poets to emulate their work. … The innovations were initiated in the 10th Century by Dunash Ben Labrat. …

“Controversially, Ben Labrat adopted Arabic poetic metre, and was accused of ‘destroying the holy tongue’ and ‘bringing calamity upon his people’. But the Hebrew renaissance that followed produced some of the most beautiful poetry in the language, and the period became known as the ‘Golden Age’ of Iberian Jewish culture. …

“At a time of intercommunal tension, it is tempting to idealise this Muslim-Jewish period of mutual flourishing. There are critics who argue against the notion of La Convivencia – some have called it a ‘myth.’ … Documentation about communal relations during this period is scant, [and] the extent of ‘coexistence’ continues to be a subject of passionate disputation. …

“The kingdom of Granada was the last territory to fall to the Christian Reconquest in 1492, after which Jews were forcibly converted or expelled. Saadia Ibn Danaan, a rabbi who wrote prose in Arabic and poetry in Hebrew, transmitted the tradition to North Africa.” Read more.

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Photo: American Theatre
A scene from “Mentiras Piadosas,” by the troupe Los ImproDucktivos. That’s the audience watching from behind the Venetian blinds.

Theater people keep thinking up new ways to create work that moves you in an immediate and intimate way and that attracts new audiences. We’ve written about theater in taxis in Iran and dramatic productions conducted one-on-one, among other experiments.

Now from Spain comes micro theater, 10-minute plays that allow you to stand in the same room with the actors.

Felicity Hughes writes at American Theatre, “On a rainy Thursday night in Madrid the bar of Micro Teatro Por Dinero is packed with a young crowd of theatregoers waiting to catch a short performance in one of the five tiny rooms in the venue’s basement. When our number is called, we’re led into a small dark room where the audience sits pressed up against each other sardine fashion on tiny stools.

A door is flung open, immediately breaking the fourth wall as a distressed young man stumbles in and sits down on my knee in floods of tears.

“ ‘Never before has there been a theatre so close, so intimate, and so open — there are no preconceptions, no limits, no censure,’ says Miguel Alcantud, the inventor of micro teatro, an abbreviated form of theatre. …

“The concept has since become so popular that the Micro Teatro Por Dinero franchise has been sold to venues in 15 different cities around the globe, including Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lima, Lebanon, even Miami. …

“ ‘The cost of putting on a show is very small, and we change the program every month,’ Alcantud continues. ‘We don’t mind if the piece works or doesn’t work, because we’re always putting something new on. The commercial success of a single show doesn’t matter so much.’ …

“ ‘You feel as if you’re breathing alongside the public and they’re breathing with you,’ says [Juan Carlos Pabón, a Venezuelan actor]. ‘We’re dealing with a lot of emotion inside a scene and a lot of attention. There’s not as much artifice, so it’s a tough discipline; the public are really concentrating on you, and notice the good along with the not so good.’ ” More here.

The director in Miami says audiences seem to prefer comedies to dramas. I can see why. If you are going to be that up close and personal with strangers, you probably want keep things light.

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Street art is not just for stationary walls any more. According to Kate Essig at WNYC radio, some pretty amazing specimens are now on the move.

“Art in Spain got a sweet new set of wheels thanks to the Truck Art Project,” she writes. “In this collaboration between a transport company and the local art community,  street art takes the form of stunning mobile murals on  — you guessed it —  trucks.

“The project works with popular urban artists like Javier Arce, Suso33, and Marina Vargas to take their works off the wall and put them in motion. …

“The goal of the project is to make contemporary artwork accessible to all, even if it’s just a surprise sighting at a stoplight — so those in Spain who aren’t frequent gallery go-ers can still glimpse this art on the go.” An inspiring array of truck-art photos can be seen here.

And be sure to check out the project website, which reads in part, “Truck Art Project is an original art patronage project launched by the entrepreneur and collector Jaime Colsa, and curated by Fer Francés in contemporary art and Óscar Sanz in urban art. …

“The trucks working with the project will be the gigantic backdrops for the artworks. The initiative thereby becomes a living display of the most current tendencies in the country’s painting, drawing, and urban art (although the ambitious program intends to be even more multidisciplinary, involving other art forms such as photography, music, or cinema), away from the confines of a museum and aimed at non-traditional spectators and contexts that don’t usually lend themselves to contemporary art.”

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John is a great source for articles on cutting-edge technologies. He sent me this one Thursday about using plants to make electricity. The students in Spain who designed the technology are nothing if not ambitious. Their goal is to have the whole world covered in trees making electricity. You can watch their video, below, or bear with me as I channel Google Translate’s English rendition of a Spanish blog post.

, at Blog Think Big, says, “Thanks to Bioo system, created by the students of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and Ramón Llull University with the startup Arkyne Technologies, families could cover their basic electricity needs through 10 × 10 meters of vegetation panels. But how?

“The prototype initially created by the students of the UAB is a plant in a pot that lets you charge a mobile phone. According to the explanation for the 4YFN space last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the system ‘generates power 3-40 watts per square meter from some vegetable panels and a biological battery that takes energy waste (matter organic) that plants need not despise.’ [Oops: that has to be Google. Shall we change it to ‘plants don’t need’?]

“Thus, the device is able to steadily produce electricity through a self-supply system. In addition, according to the engineers, the operation does not affect the plants and is economical.

“Students are betting on a ‘smart city’ concept that allows people using Bioo buy or sell electricity. The goal, in addition to developing these systems in homes, [is to extend them to] agriculture or green roofs of public buildings.”

Maybe you better watch the video. But there’s more here, if you read Spanish.

Video: Bioo Lite

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Here is an annual spectacle I’d love to see.

“Shepherds led a flock of 2,000 sheep through the streets of Spain’s capital and largest city on Sunday, in defense of ancient grazing, droving and migration rights that have been increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.

“Those urban settings were once open fields and woodlands, crisscrossed by droving routes. Since at least the year 1273, the country’s shepherds have had the legal right to use about 78,000 miles of droving routes around the country to move livestock seasonally between summer pastures in the cool highlands and more protected lowland grazing areas in the winter.

“Every year, a handful of shepherds defend that right in Spain’s capital city.”

I guess it’s use it or lose it. Plus it’s good to make people think about where their food and wool come from, and whether things have changed for the better.

More from the Associated Press.

Photo: Andres Kudacki/Associated Press
Shepherds led a flock of 2,000 sheep through some of Madrid’s most sophisticated settings on Sunday.

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