04 agosto 2007

Lost for words

Jul 26th 2007
From The Economist

The naughty ditty that generations of Spanish schoolchildren have sung to one another to the tune of the national anthem is hardly respectful. The words refer, among other things, to the former dictator, General Francisco Franco, his mother and his buttocks.

That today's schoolchildren still giggle over this is due, in part, to the fact that Spain's national anthem no longer has any lyrics. A Francoist paean to the fatherland was dropped after the death of the Generalísimo in 1975 and was never replaced. So Spanish sportsmen and women have nothing to sing when they take to the field in their country's colours or win international competitions. Whereas others belt out their anthems, Spaniards can only tap their toes or hum along.

“It is not fair that our sportsmen can only sing along by going chunda-chunda-chunda or lo-lo-lo-lo to the anthem,” says an official from Spain's Olympic committee, which has asked Spaniards to come up with new lyrics. (...........)

The very idea of putting words to the Spanish anthem, a jaunty tune known as La Marcha Real (The Royal March), is explosive. Exuberant patriotism is still considered suspect. Politicians in one of Europe's most decentralised countries expend vast amounts of energy trying to define how many “nations”, “countries” or “nationalities” exist within its borders. How can one come up with stirring patriotic words that will not offend those Basques, Catalans or Galicians who either do not want to be Spaniards or profess far greater loyalty to their region than to their country? (....)

So what would be acceptable to the vast majority of Spaniards? One clue comes in the winning entry to a competition run by the Telecinco television channel. This sings the praises of love, freedom, culture, Europe, the world, the flag and the constitution. One difficult word, however, was avoided altogether: España.

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