On The Next Tuna Boat Outta Here

By Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik
It's awfully romantic, Spain...

The Trans-Cantabria first runs through, then alongside the Picos do Europa en route to Leon. It is a landscape so beautiful as to warrant cliché, and forgivably so. At Leon, according to the conduttore, we are obliged to split up and allow the correct ticket-bearer to take their place. Not that the passengers have paid any attention to seating arrangements, which they treat with characteristic scorn. Lovely people, the Spanish. Proud.

The scenery is very typically Asturian – green and lush, a mountainous landscape serrated by great granite peaks, at the foothills of which is a lush, green coast bordered by the deep blue Atlantic. Unquera…Llanes…Ribadesella, it’s all beautiful. It’s all rather Asterix, and on thinking it, it suddenly dawns – ‘Asturias…Asterix’. Of course! This is close to the French border, and the homeland of the ancestors of the Gaul, in Galicia. I check the guide book, and…no. Galicia is way off to the west, a Spanish peninsular that juts out into the Atlantic, nowhere near any escargot.

Suitably grounded, I return to the rolling documentary pan that is the window, and observe that nonetheless, down to the ancient-looking small wooden houses, which have a mushroom shape and are apparently used for curing jamon (ham), it remains rather Asterix. The houses are rustic and come in a range of shades of ochre stone. Yet, as with elsewhere in Catalonia, Cantabria and Euskal Herria (the Basque Country), the industrious call to ‘Build! Build! Build!’ has been heard loud and clear, and the comically perfect pastoral scenes are rent by industry's hunger for raw materials.

Spanish developers are a busy bunch – no vista of the Spanish countryside is free for long of the sight of ever-present cranes, steel superstructures, rubble, processing plants or mills. Despite a stringent ethic of keeping the centre of towns and cities spotless (to the point that these look positively artificial and remind you of ersatz piazzas replicated in casinos back home), outlying areas bear the unsightly brunt of the boom in building and industry. And what a boom it is –

‘Build, boys, build! I got six chicos that need new Nikes and a beautiful chica who’s sitting her psychology majors in Madrid! Don’t listen to those fuckin’ hippie tree-huggers – what we need is more housing estates, and a shitty strip mall to service its shitty inhabitants! Screw the chestnut trees – the days of idealised comic-book verdure are over! Build, boys, build, in the name of progress!’
‘But Senor, what about the housing glut? King Carlos is worried –‘
‘Housing glut? What housing glut, cabron? Don’t listen to that maricon Carlos; he’s fuckin’ loco from all the whores and sherry, every puta from Santander to Sevilla knows that! You keep that up and it’s back to Manila on the next tuna boat outta here for you, you illegal Phillipino asshole! Build, d'ya hear me?!’

Oak, plane, chestnut, hickory, poplar, holly, poppy, daisy, wild fennel, elder, dog rose…and quarries. Lush green hills, majestic granite peaks, dark ravines - none are safe from the lust for rock. Black stone, yellow stone, red stone, ripped and blasted from angry scars and startling mountainside wounds, the lot of them–

‘Blow it out, chop it up and ship it out, boys! No time like the present – we got kitchen counter-tops to get to the home-maker, flagstones for the plazas, marble for the snobs, cement for the developers and it ain’t gonna haul its own ass down this godforsaken mountain!’
‘But Senor, this is a protected area, the environment –‘
‘What’s that, Lupé? Destroying the precious Picos de Europa, eh? Am I spoiling your view, señor? Get lost, hippie – this industry puts food in my mouth! What, run outta trees to hug? Did we cut them all up? Take your new-age gibbering to the city, boy – this is the countryside, hijo da puta, and it’s no place for sentimental whining!’

Yes, it’s awfully romantic, Spain.


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