“There is a fool patriotism: the one that takes as a merit something as involuntary as the place you were born in. The opposite attitude is simply hating the idea of patria or the idea of belonging to a place. But there is another option: the affection towards “your place” just because it is a part of what you are, not because it is objectively better (as it happens with “your family”). That affection doesn’t excludes others, neither makes “your place” better than others, and it has inherent the impulse to make it better. That is my idea of patriotism (that I did not learnt when I was little, but when I was living out of Spain).”
In a country as Spain is impossible to become patriotic.
At least, it is impossible if your ideology places you in the defeated faction during the Civil War. A war that was already part of the History when you were born but whose shots and injuries are still felt in your present, making you impossible to identify yourself with your patria or your flag. Because those were Francisco Franco’s icons. Because he stained with blood and death the idea of nationalism in our country, and during decades saying in public “I’m proud of being Spaniard” was equivalent to support the fascism. The dictatorship-flag and the democracy-flag share the same colors, so for the defeated faction, the red-yellow-red, is not identifying a country but an ideology of repression and freedom elimination.
So, because of all of this, when I live in my country my Spanish identity is hidden and enclosed on that drawer where you simply keep the things you know it wouldn’t be accepted if they were publically seen.
However, when you live abroad, the reality forces you to think in another way.
In my opinion, the patriotism is expressed in the complicity that comes up with a stranger in a random airport, when facing the limitations of another language.
– Ask to that girl if the seat is occupied – she says to him, while pulling his sleeves.
He looks at me. He pants. His mind is working, looking for the words. Our eyes share a look. I smile.
– No, it is not. I am travelling alone.
He sighs, relief.
“Oh, you are Spaniard”.
The waiting room is clear and huge at Bergamo’s airport. At the other side of the big window that is between us and the taking-off roads, it is possible to see how the sun is dying in reds and oranges, to let the night starting. “Where are you from? Madrileña? We are from Santander”. They are seven and 60 years old on average. They are travelling to Catania and, due to a delay on their plane, they are late to pick up the book they had rented. The man sitting next to me puts on the glasses to read. His fingers, belonged to other time, are fighting with his smartphone to make a call. “Parla español?”, he says, and I smile because the second person of the present of indicative of the first conjugation in Italian ends up in i and not in a. A grammatical error I made all the time during my first weeks in Padova. “¿Capisci lo que le digo?”. I continue looking into my computer, organizing my pictures, but I have my attention set on his conversations.
– It’s impossible, Mari Fe – he says, talking to her – he doesn’t understand me at all.
At that moment I turn around, with complicity, saying yes with my eyes, offering my help with my look.
He doesn’t ask.
“Wait… wait one second, a signorina is going to talk to you” and he gives me his phone while repeating his problem with the plane and the rental car. “Is it incredible, isn’t it – he says to me – and then they say that Italian and Spanish are similar!”. I agree with a movement of my head while taking the phone, because that was the first stereotype that the reality of Italy removed of my head.
And at that very moment everything explodes, do you guys understand?
Because after living for three months out of your country, with almost no contact with Spaniards in your daily life, you look at the reality in a different way. And suddenly you feel affection and you feel close to a person that you don’t know. Because at that moment you realize that they understand, you know?
Because yesterday I was explaining to a Russian guy that the dictatorship of my country finished not that long ago. “In mil novecento settanta e cinque?? Davvero?” “Sì, sì, ti lo giuro.” “Ma SETTANTA e cinque?”. He insisted, atonished, trying to understand, but without doing it.
With these seven people, however, the explanation would not be needed. I wouldn’t need to explain to them that our dictatorship finished in 1975. Nor that Francisco Franco died of age. Nor the reason why the airport I will be landing in few hours was added an “Adolfo Suárez” in its name some years ago. Nor that Pedro Sánchez has resigned. Nor that Pedro Sánchez was the PSOE president. Nor what the PSOE was. Nor what the PSOE is. Nor that we had a Civil War that was already part of the History when I was born but whose shots and injuries are felt in the present and divide Spain in two confronted halves.
It is just this, do you guys see it? It is just sharing a History. A cultural frame. A politic context. A language. A sense of humor.
It is to have a “shared-meaning”.
It is the fact of not needing to explain, do you guys see it?
Is it the fact of not needing to explain because they do also know.
– What happens with the car then, José Luis?
– Everything is solved, guys! This nice young lady helped us.
We smiled to each other. We talked for a while. One hour passes. They walk along the airport. They offer me a gum. They tell stories and laugh out loud. “I’m eating pasta tonight in Sicilia, I swear it to God”. Another hour passes. The departures board announces their flight. They stand up and get ready. “Jose Luis, I’m going to start queuing because I don’t want they to check in my suitcase”. They look at me for the last time and they say thank you for my help, once more. They wish a good flight to me. We say goodbye to each other.
I look how they are dressing and I analyze the stories that they were telling about their children. They probably vote to the PP *conservative political party of Spain*.
– And who cares? – I say to myself.
How stupid and coward it is to create two factions when a simple conversation in an airport sets you immediately into the same team. Into that cultural frame that we share for the fact of being born into the same country. Despite our differences or, maybe, due to them, do you guys get it?
Benedetti talked about it when talking about Uruguay, adding that how ever full of affection.
When I live in this country that doesn’t dream
When I live in this city with no eyelids,
where, however, my wife understands me
my childhood remains and my parents get elder
and I call my friends whenever I want
and I can see the trees from my window,
forgotten and clumsy at three in the evening (…).
Benedetti talked about it and he was really accurate, wasn’t he?
Maybe is just this.
Maybe my only idea of nation
is the urgency for saying “We”
Maybe my only idea of nation
is the return into the own confusion.
Spain is incredibly beautiful, people.
We should give to ourselves the right of being able to say this publically.
I beg it.