Monday, 30 March 2009

Tenerife might be a Spanish province, but are the islanders Spanish?

At the end of last week a lightning strike scored a direct hit on an electrical substation and the electricity supply for the whole island was kaput, or as one news report put it “Tenerife was plunged into darkness” to which one wit replied:

“…JODER, EL SOL SE HA APAGADO TAMBIÉN?” (Loosely translated and toning down the joder - ‘What the heck...the sun’s been turned off as well?’

The ‘luz’ (electricity) came back on after about 5 hours and I was able to find out on the web what exactly had happened.

Comments accompanying Canarian news websites were in some cases more interesting than the reports themselves and were classic examples of the fact that the inhabitants of Tenerife generally refer to themselves as Canarios or Tinerfeños rather than Spanish.

On one news site some comments veered away from the problems with the ‘luz’ and became more of a slanging match between islanders and mainlanders with the words ‘godos’ (a derogatory term used for mainlanders – an implication that they’re barbarians) and ‘paleto’ (the comeback – meaning bumpkins) being bandied about. It’s not uncommon to find this sort of dialogue on web debates.

The reason I mention all this is that in 'Going Native in Tenerife' we have a section about the Tinerfeño people and their quirks which touches on the Spanish/Canario relationship.

I suppose that there’s no surprise that islanders see themselves as quite different from the Spanish, given the distance of the Canary Islands from the mother land combined with their history.

A Canarian friend was telling me recently about his experiences during national service. He regularly got into trouble for mischief making and occasionally found himself thrown in the slammer for a couple of days as punishment. One of his crimes was his stubborn refusal to salute the Spanish flag. When pulled up about this by his sergeant, he explained:

“I’m not saluting that; it’s not my flag,”

Bad enough, but the accompanying spit on the ground to emphasise his assertion sealed his fate and resulted in another stay at the hotel with the bars on the doors. It didn’t stop him from doing it again though.

The Canary Islands might be Spanish but as for their inhabitants, that’s another matter…except when the national Spanish football team are playing.

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