Today is a holiday in Andalucía, it being the annual day off commemorating the “day of Andalucia”. It’s 30 years since Andalucia became a federal region and the politicians are trying to use the day to whip up the nationalist fervor you see in other parts of Spain.
Of course, it doesn’t really work in Andalusia, as Andalusia = Spain and Spain = Andalusia + the Castillas (and the Murcians who nobody really remembers about until it’s too late).
Saying that, Almería isn’t really part of Andalusia, having been stapled forcibly into the union, so rather than Andalusia wanting to split from Spain, its more a case of Almeria wanting to split from Andalusia. But split from Spain? Nobody around here isn’t agreeing with the general principal of booting out the Catalans, but the concept of splitting away from Madrid just doesn’t cut it.
Let’s put it this way: Seville, our administrative capital, is some 500km and 5 hours driving away. The culture is different, the accents are different, the way of life is different. Almeria has far, far, far more in common with Murcia than, say, Granada. Which is why the average Almeriense isn’t too bothered about dia de andalucia. Although the free paellas and a day off help create some interest. (I’ve got my plate ready).
This is rather evidenced by our local paper La Voz, one of the poorer examples of regional journalism, which today ran a political cartoon showing a map of Andalucia with Almería plastered onto the rest of the region with some plasters from a box marked “plasters 28-F” (28-F: 28th Feb, dia de Andalusia as it is known. Get it?).
How big is Andalusia? It’s 87,268km2, with a population of 8 and a half million (pop density 96,53 p/km2 according to Wikipedia). That’s bigger than Eire (and Northern Ireland put together). Twice the size of Switzerland. Three times the size of Belgium. It’s a big place. But it’s got the highest unemployment of the eurozone, one of the lowest per capital incomes, and one of the most corrupt bunch of individuals running the place it’s ever been my misfortune to encounter.
That’s probably why, after 30 years of holding the reigns, the Andalusians are saying enough is enough, and preparing to kick them out in elections on the 25th. The opposition PP is currently running at 29% higher voting intent than PSOE in Almería, and across the region look set to hold a comfortable majority in the Andalusian parliment. Andalusia has grown up, and the populace are no longer willing to blindly trust in the socialists to do the best for them. They realise that Seville has fiddled away most of the opportunities it’s had over the last 30 years, and the populace want a change, a fresh face in power.
And with the man who is looking likely to hold power in Seville on the 26th of March, Javier Arenas, actually leading the list for Almería province, for the first time ever the province is starting to realise that it may just get a look in at the corridors of power in Seville. After all, if the President of Andalusia himself is a deputy for the province, then surely he will remember the province when writing the cheques? As opposed to sending all the money to his mates in Seville and Cadiz……
So, maybe there is some excitement about this particular dia de Andalucía. Maybe people are thinking a bit more about Seville, and how Almería will fit into the union. Or maybe they’re just thinking about the free paella down at the square in Los Gallardos. Just don’t indulge in too much of the free wine if you’re driving home.