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Introducing a new segment… Being Brave Abroad

Springing forward sucks. Daylight savings sucks. This is known.

Unless it falls within the realm of His Majesty King Johnny Chaz I. Everybody’s favorite vestige of Spanish Fascism is the selective (un)recognition of longitude lines. As it isn’t a slab of poured concrete, this time zone shared with Berlin doesn’t comply with La Ley de Memoria Histórica (post-Franco law condemning the regime and it’s remaining artifacts); then again, plenty of facha granite stands to this day. What a great and noble land of incongruence in judicial interpretation. By golly, it feels like home.

What do you expect, you know, when Greenwich (that Mean-est of Times) isn’t even pronounced “green” + “which”.

It’s closer to a “grin + itch”.

Contemplating Edward Gorey’s drawing, “Being Brave Abroad,” an itch and a grin prompted a split-minute decision (i tried talking myself out of it, like usual) and got me out the door. An extra hour of daylight.

Bilbao is hiding up here too.

Bilbao is hiding up here too.

Destination: Peñascal (Spanish for ‘rocky crag’ while the Basque name Iturrigori means ‘red spring’)

Method: Getting on the number seventy-something and taking it to the very end.

My bus driver has got to be a nice guy. Yeah, he’s got the look: chases chonis (affectionate name for Jersey Shore-esque ladies, but in Euskadi we spell that txoni, aight?), lifts weights and tans in a box, probably maybe all accomplished on the same city block. But he’s definitely got the look of being a nice guy.

Start: Mina del Morro, the Santutxu brink that could fall into the river, if it weren’t for the deep roots of the eucalyptus grove (any unbroken stand of trees in an urban setting is AKA feral cat piss depository, and I can’t get it out of my tennis shoes).

End: Peñascal.

Two ends of the tract, save the best for last, good hoods of a working class.

Three generations of women at the park sit facing the monkey bars and my attention goes to my ankles exposed and I’m fine.
Because, girl power.

PenascalParque

In the thin valley sliced by centuries of rain, the Peñascal sidewalk presses against a high wall, where the terracing starts staking claim up the hill. A break in the solid concrete there’s a black chihuahua doglet.

I couldn’t tell if he was puppy. Passed him, backed up (and in that simple decision and follow-through, interestingly enough, made me feel less like an outsider and more like a documenter, someone with the right and reason to be in that neighborhood… my bravery in confronting this mighty tiny thing suggests that if I start with the dogs and their jean jackets and bejeweled raincoats, surely I can end up taking shots of bipeds), and readied my camera to peek.

His screech-howl confirmed he was not a baby dog.

NotPuppy

No ma’am. This cartoonishly steep staircase is mine. Go. Now.

No ma’am. This cartoonishly steep staircase is mine. Go. Now.

In this neighborhood I expected to find gitanos and the usual marginalized state of affairs. I think to myself about how I do so enjoy the stuck-on buildings of sharp gradients, as if they were slums and slums being the first word that came to mind and my privilege won’t stop reminding me that it’s very much alive and well. The real problem with that thought is that I am not seeing what I’m in; instead, I’m imagining an elsewhere, a cloudy fold-out spread from National Geographic, vaguely São Paulo. I’ve never seen either of these places before and prejudice is boring.

Worn out debate interrupted by a valid contribution…

Statement: We are Bilbao too.  Source: these mailboxes.

Statement: We are Bilbao too.
Source: these mailboxes.

At the foot of the way to Pagasarri.

less gunk on the ground than my own damn street which is in the left hemisphere subdivision of my brain. being brave abroad turns out just fine. white girl in broad daylight, white saint of broad brush strokes.

less gunk on the ground
than my own damn street
which is in the left hemisphere
subdivision of my brain.
being brave abroad turns out just fine.
white girl in broad daylight,
white saint in broad brush strokes.

Waiting for the bus again at the Plaza de Errekaldi there’s a man, middle-aged and blond, with rectangular and rounded-edge light orange lenses. On the ground facing up, his longboard’s belly graphic is impeccable and recently bought, a milky turquoise and electric lavender galaxy. My best guess is that guy walked out of a cave where his flux capacitor-powered DeLorean had just landed.

Then, in the span of 3/100th of a second, I decide to move away from this dude, out from under the bus stop shelter.
I do not need to consciously recognize that this is what I’ve learned to do. As a woman.
I do not apologize to him silently. As a feminist.
I do not explain my actions to myself. As a pragmatist.
I do not wonder about seeming impolite. As a realist.
Fuck the possibility of becoming unsettled.

The low-lying center of Bilbao is on the middle of the route. In an Ensanche still with Sunday emptiness, Louis Vuitton shop windows crystallize two bags on the crooks of two arms of two ladies standing in knee high grass 50 meters in front of a giraffe. Photoshopping that has nothing to do with image manipulation.

A beige-because-it’s-not-yet-pastel-season wearing double date of coiffed retirees say agreeable and conclusive things to each other on the corner in front of the Immigration office. This is the uncluttered neighborhood.

PlazaErrekaldi

Way back now,
sitting out the afternoon,
viaduct undercarriage
a flat brightness
accomplishments and
spots of thick paint
dissolved political parties,
one offering, “una vía nueva de la izquierda
a new way left.
I left around 17:20 and
found a new way around 18:45.

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11-M, the 11th of March of 2004: 10 years after

First, the names* of those who are no longer sharing this life with their families and friends, nor with their co-workers and neighbors, nor with their fellow passengers and pedestrians:

ABAD QUIJADA EVA BELEN
ABRIL ALEGRE OSCAR
ACERO USHIÑA LILIANA GUILLERMINA
AGUADO ROJANO FLORENCIO
ALONSO RODRIGUEZ JUAN ALBERTO
ALVAREZ GONZALEZ MARIA JOSEFA
ANDRIANOV ANDRIYAN ASENOV
APARICIO SOMOLINOS MARIA NURIA
ARENAS BARROSO ALBERTO
ASTOCONDOR MASGO NEIL HEBE
AVILA JIMENEZ ANA ISABEL
BADAJOZ CANO MIGUEL ANGEL
BALLESTEROS IBARRA SUSANA
BARAHONA IMEDIO FRANCISCO JAVIER
BARAJAS DIAZ GONZALO
BEDOYA GLORIA INES
BEN SALAH IMDDAOUAN SANAE
BENITO SAMANIEGO RODOLFO
BODEA ANCA VALERIA
BOGDAN LIVIA
BRASERO MURGA FLORENCIO
BRAVO SEGOVIA TRINIDAD
BRYK ALINA MARIA
BUDAI STEFAN
BUDI TIBOR
CABREJAS BURILLO MARIA PILAR
CABRERO PEREZ RODRIGO
CALVO GARCIA MILAGROS
CANO CAMPOS SONIA
CANO MARTINEZ ALICIA
CARRILLERO BAEZA JOSE MARIA
CARRION FRANCO ALVARO
CASAS TORRESANO FRANCISCO JAVIER
CASTILLO MUÑOZ CIPRIANO
CASTILLO SEVILLANO INMACULADA
CENTENERA MONTALVO SARA
CISNEROS VILLACIS OSWALDO MANUEL
CIUDAD REAL DIAZ MARIA EUGENIA
CONTRERAS ORTIZ JACQUELINE
CONTRERAS SANCHEZ MARIA SOLEDAD
CRIADO PLEITER MARÍA PAZ
DE BENITO CABOBLANCO ESTEBAN MARTIN
DE LAS HERAS CORREA SERGIO
DE LUNA OCAÑA MIGUEL
DE MIGUEL JIMENEZ ALVARO
DEL AMO AGUADO JUAN CARLOS
DEL RIO MENENDEZ MARTA
DEL RIO MENENDEZ NURIA
DIAC NICOLETA
DIAZ HERNANDEZ BEATRIZ
DIMA GEORGETA GABRIELA
DIMITROVA PAUNOVA TINKA
DIMITROVA VASILEVA KALINA
DJOCO SAM
DOS SANTOS SILVA SERGIO
DURAN SANTIAGO MARIA DOLORES
ELAMRATI OSAMA
ENCINAS SORIANO SARA
FERNANDEZ DAVILA CARLOS MARINO
FERNANDEZ DEL AMO MARIA
FERRER REYMADO REX
FIGUEROA BRAVO HECTOR MANUEL
FRUTOS ROSIQUE JULIA
FUENTES FERNANDEZ Mª DOLORES
GALLARDO OLMO JOSE
GALLEGO TRIGUERO JOSE RAUL
GAMIZ TORRES MARIA PILAR
GARCIA ALFAGEME ABEL
GARCIA ARNAIZ JUAN LUIS
GARCIA FERNANDEZ BEATRIZ
GARCIA GARCIA-MOÑINO MARIA DE LAS NIEVES
GARCIA GONZALEZ ENRIQUE
GARCIA MARTINEZ CRISTINA AURELIA
GARCIA PRESA CARLOS ALBERTO
GARCIA SANCHEZ JOSE
GARCIA SANCHEZ JOSE MARIA
GARROTE PLAZA JAVIER
GENEVA PETRICA
GIL PEREZ (Y FETO) ANA ISABEL
GOMEZ GUDIÑA OSCAR
GONZALEZ GAGO FELIX
GONZALEZ GARCIA ANGELICA
GONZALEZ GRANDE TERESA
GONZALEZ ROQUE ELIAS
GRACIA GARCIA JUAN MIGUEL
GUERRERO CABRERA JAVIER
GUTIERREZ GARCIA BERTA MARIA
HERMIDA MARTIN PEDRO
IGLESIAS LOPEZ ALEJANDRA
ITAIBEN MOHAMED
IZQUIERDO ASANZA PABLO
JARO NARRILLOS Mª TERESA
KLADKOVOY OLEKSANDR
LAFORGA BAJON LAURA ISABEL
LEON MOYANO MARIA VICTORIA
LOMINCHAR ALONSO MARIA DEL CARMEN
LOPEZ DIAZ MIRIAM
LOPEZ PARDO Mª DEL CARMEN
LOPEZ RAMOS Mª CRISTINA
LOPEZ-MENCHERO MORAGA JOSE MARIA
MACÍAS RODRÍGUEZ MARÍA JESÚS
MANCEBO ZAFORAS FCO JAVIER
MANZANO PEREZ ANGEL
MARIN CHIVA VICENTE
MARÍN MORA ANTONIO
MARTÍN BAEZA BEGOÑA
MARTIN FERNANDEZ ANA
MARTIN PACHECO LUIS ANDRES
MARTIN REJAS MARIA PILAR
MARTINAS ALOIS
MARTINEZ RODRIGUEZ CARMEN MONICA
MELGUIZO MARTINEZ MIRIAN
MENGIBAR JIMENEZ JAVIER
MICHELL RODRIGUEZ MICHAEL
MODOL STEFAN
MOPOCITA MOPOCITA SEGUNDO VICTOR
MORA DONOSO ENCARNACION
MORA VALERO Mª TERESA
MORAL GARCIA JULIA
MORENO ARAGONES FRANCISCO
MORENO ISARCH JOSE RAMON
MORENO SANTIAGO EUGENIO
MORIS CRESPO JUAN PABLO
MUÑOZ LARA JUAN
NARVAEZ DE LA ROSA FRANCISCO JOSE
NEGRU MARIANA
NOGALES GUERRERO ISMAEL
NOVELLON MARTINEZ INES
ORGAZ ORGAZ MIGUEL ANGEL
PARDILLOS CHECA ANGEL
PARRONDO ANTON SONIA
PASTOR PEREZ JUAN FRANCISCO
PAZ MANJON DANIEL
PEDRAZA PINO JOSEFA
PEDRAZA RIVERO MIRIAN
PELLICARI LOPEZOSA ROBERTO
PEREZ MATEO Mª PILAR
PINEL ALONSO FELIPE
PLASENCIA HERNANDEZ MARTHA SCARLETT
PLES ELENA
POLO REMARTINEZ MARIA LUISA
POPA IONUT
POPESCU EMILIAN
PRIETO HUMANES MIGUEL ANGEL
QUESADA BUENO FRANCISCO ANTONIO
RAMIREZ BEDOYA JOHN JAIRO
RAMOS LOZANO LAURA
REYES MATEOS MIGUEL
RODRIGUEZ CASANOVA JORGE
RODRIGUEZ CASTELL LUIS
RODRIGUEZ DE LA TORRE Mª SOLEDAD
RODRIGUEZ RODRIGUEZ ANGEL LUIS
RODRIGUEZ SANCHEZ FRANCISCO JAVIER
ROGADO ESCRIBANO AMBROSIO
ROMERO SANCHEZ CRISTINA
RZACA PATRICIA
RZACA WIESLAW
SABALETE SANCHEZ ANTONIO
SANCHEZ LOPEZ SERGIO
SANCHEZ MAMAJON MARÍA ISABEL
SANCHEZ QUISPE JUAN ANTONIO
SANCHEZ-DEHESA FRANCES BALBINA
SANTAMARIA GARCIA DAVID
SANZ MORALES JUAN CARLOS
SANZ PEREZ EDUARDO
SENENT PALLAROLA GUILLERMO
SERRANO LASTRA MIGUEL ANTONIO
SERRANO LOPEZ RAFAEL
SFEATLU PAULA MIHAELA
SIERRA SERON FEDERICO MIGUEL
SIMON GONZALEZ DOMNINO
SOLER INIESTA MARIA SUSANA
SOTO ARRANZ CARLOS
STAYKOVA MARIA IVANOVA
SUBERVIELLE MARION CINTIA
SUCIU ANLEXANDRU HORACIU
SZPILA DANUTA TERESA
TENESACA BETANCOURT JOSE LUIS
TORIBIO PASCUAL IRIS
TORRES MENDOZA NEIL FERNANDO
TORTOSA GARCIA CARLOS
TUDANCA HERNANDEZ MARIA TERESA
UTRILLA ESCRIBANO JESUS
VALDERRAMA LOPEZ JOSE MIGEL
VALDES RUIZ SAUL
VEGA MINGO MERCEDES
VILELA FERNANDEZ DAVID
ZAMORA GUTIERREZ JUAN RAMON
ZOKHNYUK YAROSLAV
ZSIGOVSZKI CSABA

[List source: El Mundo]
*Note: Names are listed in the following order, 1st Last Name – 2nd Last Name – First Name

photo credit: arquitextonica via photopin cc

Atocha Station Monument (the subterranean perspective of the glass cylinder) inscribed with messages left by mourners in the days after the attacks – photo credit: arquitextonica via photopin cc

This is not an opportunity to take advantage of towards some end. Having said that, it is a moment set apart and deserving of reflection.

On March 11, 2004 beginning at 7:37AM, multiple explosions on 4 commuter trains arriving and in route to Madrid’s Atocha Central Station killed 192 people from 14 countries and wounded nearly 2,000 more.

Today is, in light of it’s significance, the deadline for me to broach the broad motif of political violence. Despite my absorptions of and reflections on the societies (Spain, Basque Country and USA) in which I interact, there remains in me a deep temptation to leave analysis and interpretation for later, to procrastinate and push off this endlessly complicated and sociolinguistically-loaded topic, for another day down the road, for some impossible moment in which I conclude that I am completely, thoroughly and objectively informed.

Such an omission, however, would do no justice to the victims of a history of violence that has spanned over 100 years; insecurity of conscience offers no hand to the people caught in cycles of action and reaction; perfectionist inaction fails to reveal the diverse persuasions and identities entwined in conflict. To exclude any additional narratives to the Big Story of History is an easy and often unnoticeable form of injustice.

Without being able to quote my source, the definition of the word that I find most clear is that terrorism is the use of the tactics of war in a civil setting, against civilian targets. I would add one thing: terrorists act with symbolic purpose against a symbolic target, in attempts to communicate a message.

The World Trade Center buildings and those occupying them stood and fell to acts of terrorism, symbols of sociocultural values manifest in physical targets. The terrorists of 11-M saw a symbolic target in the peoples’ trust of public transportation, specifically in a rail system whose great expansion began in the first years of Franco’s dictatorship. That fruit of fascism, reclaimed as a tool of democracy and plurality, contributed to the multicultural makeup of contemporary Iberia. Striking the center of these values (not to mention similar patterns in the London attacks a year later) was, I suspect, an attempt to halt social progress by obscuring it beneath bloodshed. Public transport acts as an equalizer of individuals and its existence implies freedom of movement, a basic right of any free people. The preservation of liberty requires the active use of the rights and responsibilities it imparts. I am not alone in witnessing these societies fulfill said responsibilities by rejecting the use of violence. I am not alone in witnessing these societies exercise said rights by expressing the narratives that allow for peace.

I do not take the use of the term terrorism lightly. The word and it’s variants have been overused, underused, politicized and disguised. From here on out, at some points I will find it necessary to invoke it and at others I will refuse to do so. It’s a puzzle that adds new pieces on a nearly daily basis and thus requires careful consideration that will inevitably evolve as well.

What does not change is the finality of trauma in body and mind. And I am reminded in concluding that despite my best intentions and all the words I can muster, I also owe some silence to the voices that never caught the train back home.

photo credit: frado76 via photopin cc

photo credit: frado76 via photopin cc