The road from Sintra to Porto was completely clear being that it was Christmas Day. The toll lanes, however, still functioned. Not realizing it at the time, I drove through one of the toll lanes designed for people with speed passes and didn’t pick up a ticket. This didn’t bother me so much until an hour and a half later when I stopped at one of the toll points and was asked to deposit said ticket into the machine. As I had none and only a five Euro bill in my pocket the cars started piling up behind me. All possibilities of escaping not just the fine but being able to continue driving seemed impossible. Surly, if I was pulled over, the Civil Guard would see how terribly I started the car into first gear and would follow me until I made some sort of other gaff that would then cause him to pull me over and prevent me from getting to my destination. As all sorts of contingencies ran through my head as I was unable to think of what to do next the intercom came on. In English I explained that I had lost the ticket. Responding in kind, he told me that I had to pay 60 Euros, the cost of driving the whole of the toll road up to that point, but that as they only accepted cash he would print me out a bill that I could pay in a few days. With this printed out he opened the gate, and let me go.
I thought this escape to be a positive portend for things to come but after arriving in we found our hotel closed. The lights were on but no one was home. We knocked. We called on the intercom. We called on the phone. Both rang endlessly. And after a half an hour of this we finally decided to drive around and find someplace else to stay. Nearly immediately we found a hotel right next to the main square that was open. As, we decided to take care of our hunger pains with some Indian food – one of the few restaurants that were open and something that I’d wanted to try since getting into Portugal given their colonial linkages. It was good, however it was little different from the northern Indian cuisine that I’ve had at dozens of other restaurants.
My alarm woke me up at 7 a.m. so I could find the free parking spot the hotel receptionist had gave me directions to. She said that it was only four blocks away. I passed by the x she’d market on the hand made street map and saw the number on the building but there was no lot there. After an hour of driving around and not being able to find it I reluctantly settled on an underground lot by a mall. I walked back to the hotel and slept some more. Around 9 a.m. we woke, had the hotel’s free continental breakfast and started out on our day to walk around the sights of Porto.
Because my foot was still in pain from my sprain, we decided to get tickets for one of the hop on hop off bus tours. As so many tourism websites state with more florid verbiage, Porto is beautiful. The gothic churches which abound with blue and while tiles are gorgeous. The old schools and homes of the rich give it an imposing air deflated by the massive amounts of unoccupied buildings and homes. Next to grand edifices are dilapidated houses claimed by stray animals and wayward substance abusers. We stopped at many places, such as the statue in honor of those who died defeating Napoleon’s army, a cultural center bankrolled by British merchants with regional investments and went into many unique places, such as the bookstore once frequented by J. K. Rowling. There are many beautiful statues and fountains in Porto worthy of note, but they almost seem to slip into the background as even the storefronts and apartments above them have a distinct old-world charm.
While attempting to check in for our flights at the hotel we discovered that there were no tickets for our return trip. As we were having such a pleasant time in Porto, we decided to stay an extra day. This meant, however, that I had to return the car back immediately rather than on the way to the airport. Now my ability to drive stick goes as far as that I can do it. I can’t do it very well, and I can’t do it very calmly. This is because ten years ago, over the course of a half an hour, my friend Aaron taught how to drive stick and since then this skill has lain dormant. This lack of practice combined with no area or language knowledge made driving for me a very anxiety inducing experience. How Josselyn was able to find the grace to deal with me like this I don’t know, but I am very appreciative for it and her help in getting us to where the car needed to be returned. After dropping off the car, we walked to the ocean. It was perhaps a mile and a half walk but it was such a wonderful day. Josselyn and I sang and talked on the way over.
We stayed there a bit then took the bus back to the main part of town. One there, we took a boat tour up the Douro River and down to the mouth that leads out into the Atlantic. We passed by many boats that one loaded Port wine onto larger ships for delivery to the New World and now take tourists out. It was gorgeous and pleasantly brief.
In order to catch the last Cortez port tastings we went down the Teleferico. Compared to the one in Medellin it is very short, but having the carriage for just the two of us was romantic. The Cortez tasting had just closed when we got there, but luckily for us there was another one open nearby. There we had several glasses of Port as well as an appetizer of cheese, chorizo, olives and tostadas. Because this wasn’t very filling, we walked out towards the river looking for a place to eat. Facing the water was Sandeman’s restaurant, which has no connection whatsoever to the tour guide promotions company. We walked in and had delicious food and amazing sangria without a huge price. Now slightly tipsy, Josselyn and I chased each other around, her running and my skipping on my one gimpy foot, before arriving at the Dom Luis bridge. We walked across the bottom and then climbed some four hundred steps, which I nicknamed “The Steps of Truth,” in order to arrive at our hotel.
We slept early that night so we could have a final look around in the morning – yet when morning came our plans for an early wakeup didn’t come to fruition. We were both tired and didn’t end up leaving the hotel until almost noon. We ate lunch at a vegan restaurant then ambled our way around the city until finally catching our flight home.
We took the bus back to the Lisbon airport and picked up our rental car. As it’d been about ten years since I’d been taught to drive a stick shift, I bought the additional insurance which would exempt me from . and it showed as I spent about five minutes trying to get the car to start by going into third. Driving stick itself was taxing on my nerves enough, but lacking familiarity with the roads and the language the signs were written in made it even worse. The drive to Sintra was not bad, but once there it became much more problematic. Sintra very hilly and has mostly tight, winding, one-way, mostly unsigned streets. The directions I’d printed out to our hotel listed their old location, and so upon getting there we were greeted with an empty building.
We walked over to the Gardens and though it was officially closed, we found an open door and got to view the gardens for a little bit. Unfortunately, however, a groundskeeper saw us and shortly thereafter we had to leave. We walked around some more, going into several little gardens but as it got dark the temperature dropped very quickly, due to Sintra’s microclimate, and we returned back to the hostel. The proprieter of the hostel we were at made a Christmas Ever dinner for all those staying and we had a traditional Portuguese dinner. Much fun and merriment occurred.
On Christmas Day we drove up to the Moorish castle. Because of the holiday the site was closed. While looking at the door we met a group of travellers, an Iranian and a German guy and two Brazilian girls who also wanted to see the castle. We climbed over the sidewall, only a few feet high, and then started walking around. Appearently we weren’t the first ones to have this idea as once inside we encountered several couples that were meandering their way through the park area. As we walked around, we joked about how typical this scene was for American horror movies about travelers – how soon an zealous security guard, obsessed with rules, how the spirits of the dead which once protected this site would come and get us, or how one of the Brazilian girls was actually working for some sort of group that would torture us to death, a la Hostel.
We eventually made our way to the area directly outside the castle walls, but the gate was locked so we had no way to get in. We creeped around the wooded are to the side of the gate and found a two ways of climbing the twenty-foot tall walls. Josselyn and the Iranian climbed at the first and more difficult entry while the rest of us went to the easier one some hundred feet away.
Being alone except for these other four people here at the top of the castle was so spectacular. We walked along the ramparts, looking out onto the Atlantic ocean and into Sintra, talking copious pictures. Walking up and around the hundreds of stairs combined with the strong sun made it warm enough to walk around without jackets.
After Josselyn climbed back down the side, walked our way around to the front and came out of the vegetation we encountered a security guard who was unlocking the front gate to tell us all to leave. He said that we were not in trouble, that this happened every year, and that we just could only walk around in the non-Castle area. Having already seen this, we decided to just leave rather than waiting for our new found companions to catch up to us.
After arriving in Lisbon I immediately encountered a problem: There was no immigration controls and therefore my passport would not get a stamp. This was a point on which my refined particularities could not rest and so I asked a police officer near the exit in Spanish if we had somehow passed an examination point while gesturing to my booklet that I wanted it stamped. He gave me a dimissive chuckle and said no. I swallowed my disappointment and Josselyn and I grabbed a bus into the city center to go to our hotel.
Making the west to east path from the airport in even on just a public bus was a beautiful sight. In the outskirts of the city we passed by large single-family houses, buildings that look like middle class South American projects, amazing graffiti and then we came across a statue of Christopher Colombus. From this point on the rest of our journey would be around the city center and we would be seeing beautiful statues referring to conquest, peace and the foundation of new constitutions, large gothic buildings for churches and schools, opulent plazas made to showcase the wealth extracted from the New World. While in this public bus I felt so taken aback by the tight proximity of so many significant buildings. We got off the bus at the last exit and from there got out first sight of the Atlantic from the other side of the ocean.
While at the moment finding our hotel was a greater priority than a little oohing and ahhing at a sight that I had spent many hours of my youth looking at across from the other side, it did strike me as being an important moment.
After checking in and dropping off our bags we ate and walked around Belem. Here we had our first taste of the Belem pastries. They were as delicious as I’d heard they were and we ended up eating a dozen before leaving four days later. These pastries are so important to the region that rumors circulate as to how many people know how to make them. In fact, over breakfast the next day I listened to two British travelers heatedly discuss whether it was two or three people who knew the secret recipe for them. They both agreed that none of them were allowed to travel together in case an accident happens which would cause the recipe lost forever, but whether or not a teenage grandson, whose name escaped the graphic designer from Manchester, had been informed of the family secret seemed to be the cause of discord. The high-bred, Hong Kong born youth on a gap-year claimed that this was non-sense. He claimed that as he hadn’t worked his way through the company yet from the lowest position to the top he hadn’t yet earned entry into the inner circle or trust and it was only at this point that he would be told the secret recipe. It was at this point I couldn’t resist joining in, saying that it didn’t matter if all the family owners disappeared as the workers, despite none of them being informed of the whole recipe, would be able to talk to each other and recreate it perfectly. This new set of considerations caused an immediate row, though I didn’t listen to the fruition of it for Josselyn and I then made our way to the attractions of Belem. Coming back from the future, following our meal we walked around without any particular place on the itinerary for a while and eventually retired for an early evening over some port.
The next morning we woke early and went to the Jeronimos Monastery. After the visiting De Gama’s resting place we went to the Maritime Museum – a testament to the role of sea exploration in Portugal’s culture and history. Everything related to the seafaring life was documented, save the cargo going to the New World, and a mighty picture did it paint. Not only were there paintings of battles with the British, but there were many a model of ships that were greater in size than human beings, giant maps showing Portuguese possessions along Africa and India, showing the natural goods of a region, showing the holdings of other powers, paintings of important captains and admirals – all with beards indicative of powerful patriarchs, cannons and guns, compasses, astrolabs, anchors, portable examples of ropes for use in the maritime academy – even a dozen full ships taken from the ocean and placed in the museum so that they royal glory can be held onto as a relic an looked onto as a sign of continual importance despite the fact that it is from a outdated world of, as Nietzsche would refer to is, as monumental history. The ships that ended the exhibit, transitioning from wind powered war ships to combination wind/engine to just engine sly not so slyly commented on the Portugal’s decline in relation to other western powers. One exhibit here specifically showcased the ordinance used in a pre-World War I naval battle between them and the Germans. While the latter used 20 mm guns, clear evidence of their intention to be able to conquer other industrialized nations, the Portuguese responded with 7 mm guns, evidence of orientation to rule over people without access to industrial weapons capabilities.
After this exhibit we went to the Tower of Belem, the site at which many of the voyages to the New World would get their official farewells from royalty and a place that was used for a short period of time as a political prison.
Following this we went to the Berado Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which has a very impressive permanent collection of modernist artwork starting with the Dadaists and moving up into the myriad “isms” of the post 80’s art scene. What I liked most about the museum was though there clearly an imperative to obtain certain artists’ works to be able to say that they were represented there, none of them were chosen with care onto the work itself. Thus though a small museum in Belem, the collection was impressive even after having seen Madrid’s gems.
In addition to the permanent collection was a temporary display on the propaganda posters from the Second World War. The posters were from every combatant’s side, though predominantly from the American, and ended with a long animated documentary originally shown in movie theaters that illustrated the importance of building long-range bombers to fight the German war machine. I’d seen many of the posters before when doing a research projects on American propaganda and looking at them now gave me the same sort of feeling – that despite all the tragedy involved in such a large conflict, the social strains that happened for the non-combatants, what an amazing effort towards organizing daily life for a purpose. I found the manner in which all sorts of items and practices were limited, tabooed or structured in such a way that it benefitted the war effort, such as the saving of animal fats at home for dropping off at butchers who will pass them on to the government for bomb-making, to be fascinating. Especially so as now more and more scientists state there is increasingly a need for all human’s behavior to be monitored and corrected or it is highly probable that barbaric conflict caused by global population movements in response to climactic change will occur on a scale never before seen.
After we left the museum, we walked to the Presidential Palace to get some pictures of the gardens and statuary across from it. From here we watched the sun set and then went to eat at a Chinese restaurant.
Lisbon is also known as the city of seven hills and going up and down it’s three highest points over a three hour perambulation through the thin pedestrian corridors leaves one drained but still fascinated. The city itself reminds me in many ways of some South American cities I’ve been too – a very clean city center with evidence of decay all around it. Buildings with cracked paint are endemic and there are literally hundreds of abandoned buildings that have been bricked up. I was to see this not only in Lisbon but in Sintra and Porto as well. Strangely enough, considering the state of economic affairs in Portugal, I didn’t see evidence of squatters in any of the buildings. This contradiction between the high cost of housing and the wide scale availability of use for residential or business use is something that needs to be addressed by those that are fighting for reforms not created by the E.U. I saw several posters for a United Left movement in Lisbon, however there’s none of the direction action culture here like there is in Barcelona. Yet unlike the Brazilian barrios, there were no barriers between the hillside/poor areas and those below that are richer.
In the poorer section of Lisbon, where once the Arabs and Jews were segregated following the reconquest, you can see their lingering influence in arcitectural qualities that aren’t as readily apparent as, say a migilah. The streets are very narrow, which keeps the sun out, thus making it cooler. The age of the city is also apparent in how it is made, evident in the communal showering and clothes washing facilities in some areas.
As we walked back into the city center area Josselyn and I were immediately harassed by drug dealers. Despite my very firm refusal of their offers, people would continue to harass us with offers of hashish and marijuana. After the third time this happened, I stopped being polite when someone would greet us and just ignored them. This was more effective than a firm “no”. My experiences in Dublin, where we stopped and talked to amiable people with enjoyable accents speaking on behalf of groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Greenpeace had softened my normal New Yorker tendency to ignore people I don’t know trying to stop me on the street. Ignoring their advances brought many of the more admirable qualities of the city into view.
Many of the Lisbon’s buildings facades are tiled with light blue patterns or large pictures if not maritime influenced decoration. I can only imagine that it was having grown up in a house where Danish plates of similar color but different images attracted me so much to these blues and themes – but I kept commenting on them to the point that Josselyn started to make fun of me for constantly gushing on how beautiful I thought it all was. I was somewhat sensitive to such poking fun at my expense, but when she agreed that this would be a nice color theme that could be brought into an imaginary “kitchen of our dreams” one day I felt happy. While walking we also met a few honest, lazy beggars who provided us with a hearty laugh.
After all this walking around we went to a Portuguese wine tasting to relax. We got to try several whites, roses, reds, and muscatels and followed this by eating cuttlefish and squid at a non-descript restaurant a few blocks from the Praça do Comércio.
The next night we went out and visited some more of the city and finally decided to see some of the nightlife. There are few places on this world that I would view parts of as being favorable to New York and Barrio Alto is one of them. Here the people fill the streets like I’ve never seen. I imagine it being similar to the gin bars that Engels describes in his tome on the conditions of the English working class, but rather than the desperation born of super-exploitation written on the faces of those present there was the drinking for an enjoyment of the epicurean kind. Barrio Alto is the student quarter and here there are indeed thousands of people on the street chatting, going in to dance, outside to smoke from bar to bar to circulate. The drinks here were exceptionally literally 1/5 to 1/8 of the price that it is in Barcelona and the people much more welcoming and convivial. We looked for a fado show amidst the anarchy of the street but found none. However we did come upon a live music venue. As the song playing when we came in was Oasis, Josselyn’s favorite, we stayed there for a while dancing and making friends with the locals then followed the four a.m. torrent of people down the hill to go home or to other less than respectable locations.
We arrived in Madrid at 9:30 a.m., which was just enough time to go from the airport to a Civil War tour starting at 11 a.m. if we were to walk briskly. However I sprained my ankle three day ago, causing me great pain when walking. The pain was so bad that Josselyn offered to push me around in a luggage cart and the strange stares didn’t dissuade me from this course of action. By the time we’d left the get and the luggage cart, however, we changed our plans and went to visit the airport doctor rather than trying to rush to the tour.
Two different doctors checked me out, each telling me to stay off my feet for a few weeks then wrote a prescription for an anti-inflammatory to help with the swelling. My response that I was on vacation and wouldn’t miss out on seeing the city elicited a laugh as well as an advisement not to push myself. While it’s true that I could always return, the idea of being bedridden over the next two weeks that we’d planned on traveling was detestable and I decided to grin and bear the pain as much as possible.
We took the train in and got off at Sol stop, in the middle of the plaza of the same name. The plaza was huge and filled with vendors selling lottery tickets for Navidad. There were also several people in children’s costumes encouraging tourists to pay for a photo with them and beggars with physical impediments. This last category was somewhat shocking as it’s something that I hadn’t seen in Barcelona at all.
After dropping off our bags we walked over to the Prado Museum. The Prado, like many of the other museums that visited this trip, has an extensive and impressive collection of art too numerous to examine in any detail. What I found to be the most enjoyable, however, was Carvaccio’s, the Goya’s and the one Picasso that they had in “Acrobat on a Ball.” Several of the Romanesque style commemorative sculptures made for Spanish generals in the 18th century, a form of art not normally to my liking, impressed me as well.
A few hours into exploring the museum, the peckishness that we quelled with mini-wraps and carrot cake at the café gave in to a full out hunger. We were both tired and got some empanadas and pizza and went back to the hotel. While eating we flipped through the television in our room and happened to come across the movie Everything is Illuminated. As it was the first movie that Josselyn and I watched together some three and a half years ago and we weren’t interested in experienced Madrid’s famous nightlife while I had footpain, we watched it again.
We had a refreshing sleep, prepared for our day and had some pastries and mulled wine from Mercado de St. Miguel. After the enjoyable Sandeman’s tour we went on in Dublin, we decided to go on their NewMadrid Spanish Civil War Tour. While our guide, who was Irish, was extremely well informed and didn’t rely upon notes at any time for dates or names, the actual sites were less than compelling. This is of course understandable, however, as being that it happened so long ago and is an occurrence many are eager to forget the architectural traces of it are few.
The tour started off in Plaza Mayor and continued to Plaza Sol, the main site for populist political life in Madrid. After this we walked to a rather undistinguished bar. Here it was, we learned that the first Spanish socialist party was formed. Anyone familiar with the origins of other socialist parties will know that beer hall origins are a common denominator, this being one of the few spaces open and available for workers to have the space to talk. I was somewhat disappointed that this wasn’t explained.
Another issue that I took with the tour was the guide’s use of the terms Nationalists and Republicans. While there were certainly groups within this denomination that were of an internationalist orientation, such terms present the Republican’s as somehow fighting against the interests of the “nation” per se. Each group was fighting for a different notion of modernism and how the “nation” of Spain would be organized. Going into this makes it more of a lecture than a walking tour, though a passing mention of this would have eased my historian’s sensibilities.
Following this we went along the main street that the German airplanes bombed and there was cursory talk about Fourth Internationalist involvement in the war. We went to a cite commemorating an attack on Nationalist soldiers and some remnants of pillboxes in a park which was near by a statue that had gunfire markings on it.
One of the aspects of the tour that greatly pleased me was its use of comparison to one of the other main sites of the Civil War – Barcelona. While Madrid had many more Communist cadres that were disciplined and open to military organization the rebellious citizens in the capital of Catalunya were predominantly anarchists. This orientation had a profound effect on the manner in which each city was defended from the Fascist army. How it was that the city managed to defend itself longer and stay a more cohesive unit was gone into in depth and this was pleasant, however
This tour is somewhat of a paradox: those that are interested in this period will know much of the information and, like myself, while finding it enjoyable will feel as if is lacking the physical qualities as the actual traces of the war are so few. While those that are uninformed may find the material interesting, finding the sites less than compelling they will view this struggle as something essentially Spanish rather than relating to the entire economic world system that would lead to the eruption of World War II. For those that are interested in touring the sites of Madrid I’d simply recommend skipping the tour and mapping out a few sites to visit yourself.
After this, I went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum on my own as Josselyn was tired from the previous days perambulations. On my way there I took a non-direct route and discovered a plaque commemorating Filipino author Jose Rizal. To say that a non-violent anti-imperialist activist against Spanish rule in the Philippines had a plaque in the capital city surprised me is an understatement.
Once arriving at the museum I was delighted to discover that there was a special exhibition on the Russian Avant-Guard. The security there was much more lax than at Prado and as such I was able to take pictures of the better works on my phone to share with Josselyn. I hobbled back to the hotel and as we were both hungry we went to eat at an Argentine steakhouse.
Now with the exception of Colombia, which I didn’t visit during a festival season, I’ve never spent much time in Catholic countries. Because of this seeing the Christmas spirit in Madrid was a unique experience for me. Like Barcelona there were lots of lights atop the streets showing with themes of wreaths and decorative balls, however the sheer number of people in the street, many with ridiculous hats, singing with others was completely unique.
Our last day in Madrid, Josselyn and I went to the Museo Reina Sofia. We left to get there shortly after it’s opening as I’d heard the Guernica room filled up very early and didn’t stop until close and I wanted to get some “alone time” there. However this didn’t happen. I was grateful for seeing it as well as the other wonderful pieces of art and photography there.
The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 is a comprehensive history of the New York bourgeoisie, without a doubt most powerful and influential class in the 19th century United States. His work is not simply a regional history because the people are quite literally shaping the infrastructure and institutions of America, but also because Beckert consistently moves his level of historical abstraction from local developments in New York to the national implications and consequences of their actions. Combining the social, political, economic and intellectual history of this class, he provides many compelling arguments that give insights in to the reasons for their development. One of the starting points for his analysis is kinship-networks, the prevalent form of business organization at the time. As family business was usually something either born or married into, it becomes evident just how cautious this group of people is in maintaining it’s power and privilege. One’s mistake at the office could quite literally have the effect of turning the family into workers rather than employers or traders.
Beckert’s historiography is such that much of the information as to how the bourgeoisie came to set themselves apart from the working class comes from their own business literature, cultural publications, letters, diaries, property records, club membership rosters and congressional testimony. Beckert focuses on institutional formation, which included acculturation through clubs, churches, high society functions, marriage, militia and government service as well as the mores related presentation of the self and home, travel, raising children and women’s role as maintainer of respectability and kinship networks. As Beckert summarizes, it is the combination of this “complex web of behavior, tastes and taboos (which) provided them with the symbolic capital that proved to be a major asset in navigating the world” (40). However The Monied Metropolis also clearly shows that it is not merely the possession of these cultured qualities that makes one a part of the upper crust, as many of those in the newly formed professions had similar aspirations.
During the period of a financial crisis, much like today, Beckert shows how the bourgeoisie mobilized for class retrenchment via greater government control. Showing similar insight that Poulantazus would write about hundred years later, these New Yorkers feared that there were great dangers to be had from public works. Employment programs, welfare “limited their ability to cut wages and indirectly supported the power of unions” (214). By embracing and propagandizing a culture of private charity they were thus able to keep a large army of the unemployed as a disciplinary measure against workers seeking redress of economic or workplace grievances. Charity became a sort of terrestrial and celestial insurance by making sure that those receiving such pittances were actually “deserving” rather than shirkers, drinkers or idle, and that those giving out a portion of their bumper profits were seen as saintly. While those receiving handouts hardly conceived the rich as benevolent saints the construction of the latter shows how later liberal institutions created to monitor the activities of the unemployed came about. It is during the period of retrenchment we also see the various means that the wealthy sought to subvert democracy. Not merely by influencing local politicians but by changing state legislature so that appointment would be the means of determining significant political positions. Such changes were considered to be of the utmost importance specifically after the Tammany machine finally broke down.
Beckert provides a wealth of details to the various conflicting and at times overlapping ideologies of governance held by the New York bourgeoisie. Such rallying ideas for political mobilization are consistently shown in relationship to southern influence and developments. This meticulous approach is instructive as it illustrates the divides within the New York bourgeoisie itself, whether merchant or manufacturer. This becomes especially important during the debates leading up to and during the Civil War. Wile the former seeks to maintain the harmony always desired by the trader, the latter recognized that until the South provides raw goods to the North rather than being part of the transatlantic trade with the British it won’t be able to fully come into it’s own. Beckert puts aside contingent and determined economic factors of economic development, this not being a history of the North/South relationship, while rich detail about the political activism and ideological constructions of manufacturers and merchants are provided. Exegesis on the “tax-payer” ideology is particularly interesting as it shows how after the civil war the former southern plantation owners started using adopting the terminology of this northern ideology to deal with the conditions of Reconstruction. This allowed the southerners landholders to continue an essentially racist series of social and political policies by masking the historical conditions via coded language. As Beckert clearly shows, this was received with a wink and a nod by the northern elites who also found universal franchise to be an unfortunate barrier to their continued capital accumulation.
Beckert is also keen on showing how it was that the New Yorkers were able to build an ideology that showed them, correctly, as the new economic and cultural hegemon of the world. In this he builds up similar arguments as those put forward by T. Jackson’s Lears No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, yet this is not a restatement of Lear’s positions, but one that is more specifically concerning the New York bourgeoisie. Those that had descended from old stock American families started creating imagined communities, in groups such as the Song and the Daughters of the American Revolution, where their shared heritage became cultural capital and evidence as to their dominance in the direction of American life.
Heritage provided by European aristocracy also became of ideological interest to the bourgeoisie. While first seen as a holdover from the feudal era and a sign of European backwardness, as immigrants stocks arriving to America began changing, along with the primacy of means of production, social Darwinist theories came to be ever more popular in explaining the ascendency of the rich and the degeneracy of the poor. Pseudo-scientific theories were formulated in order to show how the new, less skilled, workers were genetically inferior. At the same time, sons and daughters of the New York elites increasingly showed status by marrying European aristocracy in order to obtain titles, regardless of how poor their partners were.
By the end of this book, Beckert showed that through all of the aforementioned practices and others elided from this review that by the dawn of the 20th century, the New York bourgeoisie had made themselves the most powerful group in the United States. Foreshadowed within this period are the inchoate tendencies that would make themselves felt again as the lower classes continued to clamor for more wages, as war would break out and risk investments in Europe, as a million of other crises large and small required assistance or guidance of some kind. Beckert leaves us with the clear impression that the New York bourgeoisie is the guiding light for the world bourgeoisie and that their input, experience and influence will eventually lead to the type of internationalist elite which The Atlantic write about here.
This past weekend my fiancé and I took advantage of a cheap flight special by RyanAir and flew to Dublin for the weekend to celebrate my birthday. Though waking up to get to the Barcelona airport was a bit unpleasant, being able to arrive and start the day with a typical Irish breakfast next to a coal fire was worth such discomfiture.
We checked into our hotel then walked around the areas around the Lifee river, around which Dublin is developed. After about an hour of ambulation later, we then walked to the Old Jameson Distillery. I obtained tickets in advance through the website so was able to escape having to wait in line or hope that a tour would happen before close. The tour started with a video providing a brief history of whiskey, the founder of the Jameson distillery and the manner in which the company was growing today. It had the feel of an informercial, but was well-enough produced and had enough information of interest to keep even the disinterested entertained. From here we walked inside and saw a series of tableau vivants. It started showing the storage and processing of wheat, then continued on to different steps in distilling with a special emphasis on showcasing the equipment used to make the alcohol. The next section had barrels with corked lids in order to show the “angel’s share” over time. In total the tour was not very long, perhaps half of an hour, but being able to see the videos and experience even a simulacrum of the production involved is well worth the price of admission. The ticket price also includes a free drink, which is how we finished the tour.
When I’ve drank whiskey in the past, I’ve typically done so straight or with a dash of water. However here I was given the option to try it with cranberry juice and was presently surprised how refreshing it tasted. Josselyn had the whiskey with ginger ale, which was also so pleasant that she expressed her first liking for the liquor. Because we had been randomly chosen at the beginning of the tour, at the end we were then separated from the rest of the group in order to develop our “whiskey tasting skills”. Two non-Jameson brands were pre-poured next to the Jameson and we sipped them while the tour guide gave active commentary on our experiences. At the end she asked each person what their favorite is.
The purpose of this is to have all those chosen for the tasting say in front of everyone that they prefer the Jameson to the others, relying upon social pressure if not on actual personal preference. While I was a little put off by this, both as my favorite liquor is peaty single malt Scotch’s like Laiphroaigs, I do usually buy the Jameson more as it’s more widely drank by guests.
After finishing this whiskey flight, the tour ended but Josselyn and I continued on our tastings into the beautifully decorated bar in the foyer. There we had another flight of whiskey, which consisted of their 12 year, 18 year, Special Reserve, Jameson Gold and Middelton labels. The whiskies were delicious, being their premium labels, but it was the bartender’s effort into the Irish Coffee that was especially commendable. The coffee was sweet, as Josselyn likes it but I don’t, yet cut with just enough of the whiskey so as not to make it seem overwhelming. It was a perfect way to end our tour before having to go back into the cold and we left feeling very warmed by our experience – though this may stem from the fact that we’d just had several shots of liquor on mostly empty stomachs.
It was these empty stomachs that prompted us to stop at an all-you-can-eat Asian restaurant. It was after eating here that I discovered one of the problems that I soon found to be endemic to Dublin that a former New Yorker found to be an especially perplexing problem – lack of acceptance of credit cards and ATM’s that were blocks apart. As anyone who has lived in Manhattan or the areas close to it in Brooklyn know, ATM’s are omnipresent and cards are accepted everywhere. In Barcelona that has been the case as well, so their lack here also surprised me. The situation was such that after we ate, having no cash to pay, I had to go find a second ATM that was two blocks away from the one that had been suggested to me by the wait staff as upon getting there I discovered it was out of order.
It was too late for us to go to the Guinness Storehouse and as we would have had to run in order to catch up with the Literary Pub Crawl we decided to instead top at a few places on the way back ourselves. With the food, the lateness and the tiredness, however, this desire actually only translated itself into one stop which was followed by the rest of the weary traveler.
We awoke early to eat a simple but pleasant breakfast at the hotel then embarked on a three and a half hour tour of the city via Sandemans. We learned a great deal about the tragic and humorous history and culture of Ireland’s capital – specifically in relationship to the Irish’s many attempts to obtain home rule from the British. Our guide, Gavin, had extensive knowledge of this and told it with gusto, detached humor despite suffering. It is not just this style of speech but the tour itself that gave me memories of a similar guided jaunt in the Golan Heights. There too the guide showed us around the areas once occupied by others, giving the history of a regional conflict with obvious attempts to sway sympathy to one side. I don’t mean to evoke any sort of deep comparisons between these two places, but merely state that being in this tour I came to realize that one of the cultural fronts between two such peoples consists precisely in such seemingly innocuous tours. The mobilization of sympathy through such narrative structure that one physically relates to at that precise moment it very powerful. Whether it is someone telling you that the spot you are now standing on was once a shooting ground for British snipers and mortar rockets, or that one a clear day you can see Damascus which one directed a full scale invasion through the are on which you stand, makes for compelling narrative. Combining this with memorial art immediately after seeing this definitely has an effect of emphasizing this. In the Sandeman’s tour, the lack of accounts to counter those given stemmed in the first place as a systemic result of the political system while the latter was due to the lack of British visitors – however I doubt this would have blunted much of the edge of the comments. The result would have likely been merely barbed banter and apologetics for something outside of one’s control. Regardless of the political issues at hand, the architecture, as the picture here shows – was very romantic.
That said, as we ended the tour Josselyn and I were joined by Phil, from Prospect Park, and went to a restaurant in order to eat some Guinness Irish stew. It was served cafeteria style in a large bar that the group attended after we went, and while it was good considering the hunger we’d worked up in our walkings through the cold, I couldn’t help but thinking that even though it was less “authentic,” I’d made it better before. After eating we split a cab to the Guinness Brewery as we were all tired from the walk. While not someone who drinks regularly, I am a fan of stout beer in general and Guinness in particular.
The Storehouse which tourists can visit is an actual working brewery in the same way that those who visit Brooklyn Brewery’s tours on the weekend see the people working, but it is so much better for not being so. The seven story edifice is filled with everything Guinness related – the actual ingredients that go into the drink, machinery that is used in order to brew it, the history of the now obsolete but once very important cask makers, as well as advertising. The production value of the place is indeed impressive and reminded me of the science museums that I used to love to visit as a kid. Josselyn and I spent probably two hours going through the entirety of the Storehouse, and at the final part of our educational edification we able to top off such knowledge with a full glass of Guinness draft.
The view was breathtaking and sipped our beers as respite from all of the activity of the day so far.
After this we had enough time to change clothes, drop off the small presents picked up from the Guinness gift shop and managed to catch up with the pub-crawl. We went to several bars and clubs, the names of which all escape me except for “The Kitchen”, which is owned by Bono of U2 fame. It wasn’t anything spectacular – but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
The next day we woke up around mid-afternoon, very comfortable and protected from the slightly chilly room by the enormous blankets provided by the hotel.
We walked around the city in order to see some of the other sights, including the Book of Kells, which is as impressive in person as it is when looking at a picture of it’s contents, some more parts of Trinity college, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Amusingly enough, Josselyn turned down my suggestion that we look inside the church as she wanted to view more parts of the city. We were told later by Dani, a Brazilian friend Josselyn made the previous night, that if we would have gone in the church at that time they would have been starting mass shortly, which I would have wanted to stay for, and that if we would have done that we would have met Bono. While I personally don’t care, seeing Josselyn’s face as she related this fact to me the next day did bring me some laughter.
We stopped for coffee and inside I saw a newspaper article that I found telling of the general state of world economic affairs. A local rag related the proclamation of the Irish Arts and Crafts council that stated that if at the time of the upcoming Christmas each person was to spend only 5 Euros on domestically produced craft than the nation as a whole would save 13 million Euros. The news story made me think of Jonathan Swift’s famous satirical manifesto as well as a comment made by the Dublin guide the previous day. The first because he upbraided the wealthy landowners of his time for, among other things, importing foreign goods at great expense rather than purchasing and helping develop markets closer by and the latter as he explained that during the period when the loans were rushing into the country there was no lack of spending on foreign produced goods. The figure of speech which the guide had used had been quite telling – what happens when you give a bunch of money to a people that had never been instructed on how to spend money before – they spend all sorts of stupid things like new clothes and TV’s and what not – which do nothing to accumulate additional capital. This is a theme that ‘ll develop further in another blog, however, I’ll simply point out the huge difference in the possibilities in Irish and American newspapers as the latter would never publish such a news story, funded as it is by the advertising of multinational corporate interests.
We stopped to eat at a lovely little Cornish pastry bakery run by an Argentine woman about to return home for the holidays. As Josselyn and I have been considering moving there at some point, and as the two of them have some sort of connection as Latin Americans in that region, we stayed there for a while and learned about the economic conditions there right now. I’m still open to considering it, but there are admittedly many other places that I would prefer to move to next.
After making a brief stop to watch a flash mob, we walked through the main commercial thoroughfare, looking at some of the street artisans works and stopping to watch to one of the juggling buskers, then went to the hotel for a brief rest. After which, Josselyn took me out for my birthday dinner at One Pico. One Pico serves modern Irish cuisine with a price that is a steal compared to similar quality restaurants in other countries. The almost casual ambiance lacking signs of opulence consists of low lighting, minimalist decoration in the form of early twentieth century glass and gold wall lamps with decorated mirror balls hanging underneath. These mirrored balls are not tawdry seemed to indicate that the culinary traditions of various places receiving large Irish migrations will influence this location.
My fiancé took me here for my birthday and upon entering the unseasonably cold night we were promptly asked for our coats and quickly seated. The waiter was a little pushy in obtaining our orders immediately, but this could be false as I may have just gotten more accustomed to Spanish cameraras languid attitude more than I had thought. While we waited for our orders to appear we were offered a selection of breads – whole grain, raisin and walnut, tomato, and plain.
I started off with the foie gras appetizer. It had included square cuts of fresh pear dusted with breadcrumbs, a thick slice of fluffy white brioche toasted so as to give it a texture that perfectly complimented the spread and a pear –vanilla puree. I had this paired with a German Riesling whose fruity notes accented this wonderfully. My fiancé had the Beef Carpaccio, which she enjoyed greatly.
For the second course I had shallots and pork while my wife had steak. There are few things that are more simple or delicious that an excellent cut of steak. When combined with a fried onion, pureed sweet onion sauce, a grilled leek and a small dash of spicy sauce on the side it makes it perfect. I had to plead extensively to obtain a second bite from my wife of this delicious combination – and it was my birthday dinner! Along with our dinner we had a delicious sauvignon blanc, chosen as my wife is averse to red wines. I was at first somewhat reluctant as to how this would pair with the pork and steak respectively, however the sommelier was spot in his assessment of the pairing. While not as full bodied as I am used to preferring, I found that the lightness of it countered well with fat of the pork and brought out the slight fruit notes in the semi-spicy sauce holding the shallots to the plate. My wife said that she greatly enjoyed it as well.
We finished our meals by both ordering strawberry cheese cake and, as the lime sorbet was out that day, raspberry sorbet paired with a Moscatel wine from Malaga. The cake came out slightly chilled and topped with a fresh, room temperature compote made of raspberries and blackberries. The tart of the berries juxtaposed with the sweetness of the cheesecake was not the only exceptional aspect of the desert – but both the cheesecake and the sorbet itself were exceptional. In the United States it is typical for cheesecakes to be quite hard to the downward thrust of the fork, from the cheesecake itself to the hard crust at the bottom. The desert we had at One Pico, however was soft on the top and bottom. The crust seemed to he held together simply by the wish to be delicious and the cake itself was light as a down pillow and had none of the overwhelming denseness that so many other restaurant mistake for the sign of a well executed cheesecake.
With this combination of excellent service, delicious food unto itself and it being an exceptional value we will definitely return when next we are in Dublin. The next morning we woke early, yet again, and took the bus back to the airport and a short flight later we were back home.
Since moving to Barcelona several events of regional import have occurred. A ban on bullfighting in Catalonia, viewed as a cruel and solely Castillian pastime, has been put into effect. The Popular Party, which began from the ashes of Franquismo and still contains elements of it, has ejected the PSOE from national power. Wide scale revelations of Catholic social agencies falsely pronouncing newborn children dead to their mothers so that their children could be given to deserving Francoists has happened. Additionally, the Civil War pictures of Robert Capa, Chim (David Seymour) and Gerda Taro have returned to Spain. While this last event is of the least world-historical significance, there is good cause to recognize the pictures themselves for their artistic value but to see in it also a return of something precious once lost to Spain’s cultural history. If it weren’t for the fact that the photos reproducible, the return of the photos to Catalonia for the first time would be similar to the return of the Elgin marbles to Greece.
The Civil War is a taboo topic in Spanish society. According to one of my Spanish instructors, the extent of its teaching in schools is that “it happened” and the only to the extent that Franco took power. The sundry reasons for the war, the scope of the tragedy during the war and that afterwards political purges against those sympathetic to the Second Republic killed tens of thousands more are disavowed. Yet what cannot be silenced is the profound influence that such occurrences had on the current makeup of Spanish society. When all that is spoken of is that a political liberalization followed Franco’s death it ignores the fact that many of the potential political activists, intellectuals and other people that could have been significant in institutional statecraft or non-governmental structures were exterminated.
Yet despite the potentially painful and conflict inducing nature of this exhibit, this hasn’t stopped many people from visiting the museum and coming to see them. I have no figures to say just how many people have gone, but I can relate that it wasn’t until the second time that I went to the museum that I was able to see the pictures as the first time the exhibition was filled to capacity and had a long line of people going outside of the MNAC.
The exhibition was organized from the start of the Civil War. The narrative thrust of the pictures, from the speeches of agitators and crowd shots of peasants and factory workers, the first preparations of defense from an assault by those that had once been their neighbors, the ruins following aerial raids, and ground combat was gave an idea of what was going on, however with the above historical understanding there is many things implicitly missing. Unseen are the roving squads of Nationalists going through conquered cities at night in search of those that had been enemies or sympathizers by day. Visible are the poor conditions that the Republican Army and International brigades fought under and their stoic faces when preparing for an air raid by Nazi planes. At the end of the exhibition we learn through that the photographers felt they must flee to Paris and then the United States in order to survive the continued victories of fascism.
The exhibit is designed to show a dialogue between these pictures that were known of and printed in international magazines documenting the war along with the 4,500 other negatives that hadn’t been published. It exudes a certain sadness to it in that not only is the effect of though we see widely publicized pictured hinting at what a new conflict would look like amidst the advanced industrial powers of Europe, people were still unwilling to mobilize in order to prevent it’s occurrence. Along with the pictures themselves were two videos, one of which was an American newsreel, with subtitles in Spanish and the other a film reel shot by Capa, as well as original magazines from the period which used the pictures of the three authors. One of these magazines includes an article by Winston Churchill, which tellingly states that unless the United States is willing to openly declare that it won’t allow any one power to control the European continent that there will be war. Such articles are an interesting accent to the exhibition as they openly hint at the historical context outside the immediate pictures. It displays not only the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States, but the idealistic isolationism of the latter and the devastating effects of it’s unwillingness to replicate the balance of power diplomatic policy used by Britain for hundreds of years.
In this regards, despite the fact that very little attention is given to the details of the Spanish Civil War, Henry Kissinger’s writing about this in Diplomacy is highly insightful in pointing out the context wherein virtually every Western power saw a Fascist Spain as less of a danger to their interests than they did a marginally Leftist Spain presumably tied to the Soviet Union. That such a position was radically misinformed, as the Spanish Republicans and Libertarian Communists were not puppets tied to Stalin and certain sections of the myriad groups supporting the left only later came under Soviet influence after the total isolation by the world community left it little choice, only became clear in hindsight for those involved.
While all of this is only visible through a dialectical reading of the pictures, the pictures themselves are significant not only in their documentary nature but in their composition as well. The photos of Branguli, which I wrote about earlier, are another set of images quite literally helps provide a fuller picture to the economic and political developments occurring in Barcelona at this time.
If you cannot get the chance to see them in person – I would highly recommend buying the book showing all of these once thought to be lost pictures.
I’ve not gone into too much detail on the history of the photographers as there is an excellent documentary on Capa and La Maleta Mexicana that once released is eminently worth viewing.