Friday, May 2, 2008

cinco de mayo, schminco de mayo

Or, Yes, I Can Read a Calendar


My, my - how time flies. It was just 200 years ago - 200 years today to be exact - that Spaniards decided that Napoleon Bonaparte's occupying forces had overstayed their welcome. After all, they had been there since the 3rd week of March, and you know what they say about houseguests and fish - how they both start to smell after 3 days ...

So, 200 years ago - 200 years today to be exact - poorly-armed Madrileños took to the streets in order to ask the occupying army to leave por favor. Several hundred dead Madrileños later, the French regained control. On the following day - not today - when cooler heads prevailed, the French retaliated established a commision to deal with the uprising and summarily executed anyone who had been unfortunate enough to be captured bearing any kind of weapon. One can only imagine that the definition of 'weapon' was fairly loose if not completely arbitrary. Potato peelers were probably included.

Hundreds of Madrileños who were fortunate enough not to be killed in the May 2nd rebellion were executed on May 3rd.

Much of what we know - at least visually - about the Dos de Mayo Uprising is due to the efforts of Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. Or Goya as he is known to history. And although by rights I should be illustrating this post with El dos de mayo de 1808 en Madrid, I have instead chosen El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid, only because I like it better when I finally saw this painting in the flesh (or oil & canvas, depending on your perspective), I stared at it for 26 minutes, ingesting its palpable fear and trying not to throw up on the parquet floor of the Prado. And since I have the attention span of a mayfly and a questionable digestive system, that's no mean feat.

So, 200 years - 200 years today to be exact - after the uprising (whose commemorative painting I have elected not to show you), Madrid is on holiday. And how best to honour the memories of the May 2nd rebels and the man who chronicled their fates? If the re-enactments, exhibitions, dance, street theatre and the giant puzzle depicting the events of May 3 aren't enough - and apparently they're not - there's what I like to call 'Goya On Parade'. At 6:00 this evening, six of Goya's cuadros or paintings were 'received' by Madrid's mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón from the Prado and then distributed them by caravan throughout the city. Among the 6 were both El Dos and El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid.

For some reason, Goya's Burial of the Sardine wasn't included. Pity. I'm rather fond of that one.

And as much as I love living in Andalucía, I would give my eye teeth to be in Madrid right now. Somehow watching Goya sailing along the streets of Madrid on the evening news just didn't cut it. But being here in the south does have its perks. I did buy a new pair of flip-flops today. They have little fabric roses and sequins. I have great faith that if Goya had seen them, he would have asked me - or at least my feet - to sit for a portrait. But without the firing squad.

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