The Temple of Kukulcan Without Tourists

The Temple of Kukulcan is the centerpiece of Chichen Itza, one of the most famous Meso-American archeological sites in Central America. When I visited, the place was swarming with tourists and vendors with jaguar sound makers. The air was thick with humidity and the crowds didn’t help. But I was lucky enough to get an angle of El Castillo without anyone in the frame.

This is my most viewed photo on Unsplash, with over a million views and ten thousand downloads. It’s definitely not the best of the temple on Unsplash, but I’m proud of it.

Spain’s First Communist Minister Since 1939 On Communism

Alberto Garzón on 1 May 2018
Source: WikiCommons

Some of my favorite pieces written in English on contemporary Spanish politics come from Eoghan Gilmartin and Tommy Greene and this interview in Jacobin Magazine with Alberto Garzón is no exception. Previously unpublished as part of a broader interview for the Tribune done back in April, the general coordinator of United Left and Spain’s first communist minister (of consumer affairs) since the Second Spanish Republic shared his views on communism:

“My communism isn’t a folkloric, symbolic, or aesthetic communism that simply lives through nostalgia. It’s a way of confronting the social and environmental problems we have, in the face of an economic system which is leading us to disaster. It works off the etymology of what “radical” means — that is, to get to the roots of problems. So, my idea of communism is very open. Perhaps in other countries it is understood in another way, but in Spain the communists are those who helped bring about democracy in the 1970s and who defended the Second Republic in the 1930s. Communism doesn’t have the same connotations that it may have in Eastern Europe, or in places where anticommunist propaganda has been extremely effective. And this vision of communism needs to understand the need to reckon with the problems that face us today. Historically socialism hasn’t taken on board questions like feminism and environmentalism, but these need to be incorporated. This isn’t new — it has been the case since as far back as the 1980s. But Spain is one of the countries in the world where feminism is currently strongest, and we’re one of the European countries that is going to be most heavily impacted by climate change and ecological collapse. We need to build a space that I would call “eco-socialist” or “eco-communist” — although at the end of the day, labels don’t interest me that much. I’m a lot more concerned with people understanding what it is we want to do — to construct an alternative to a society dominated by the accumulation of private profit.”

North Americans are still getting used to the idea of democratic socialism with Bernie Sanders as an alternative vision to the inequality of New Gilded Age. There, communism still has much more baggage. But here in Spain, the communists helped bring about the transition to democracy after the death of Franco. And these communist parties in Western Europe were quite different than the Bolshevik variety, though the PCE has recently returned to its original endorsement of Marxism–Leninism. I’m interested to see how the reactionary right responds to Spain’s new coalition government in the new year.

The Oldest Known Document Written in Galician

Source: Archives of the Casa de Alba via Consello da Cultura Galega and WikiCommons

The Foro do Bo Burgo de Castro Caldelas begins:

“In nomine domini nostri Ihesu Christi. Amen. Plerumque sentimus oblivionis incomoda, dum rerum gestarum memoriam per scripture seriem negligimus alligare. Ea propter hoc Eu don Alfonso porla gratia de Deus Rey de Leon a vos omes, assy aos presentes como aos que an de víír, et a vossos fillos et a toda vossa generacion faço karta de donacion et texto de firmidũe, et dou a vos foros en que sempre vivades.”

The small town of Castro Caldelas is situated in the northern part of the province of Ourense. Upon arriving, you’re struck by the beautiful view of the well-preserved castelo. With only around 1,200 inhabitants, this place proudly holds on to a deep cultural and historical heritage that begins (but certainly doesn’t end) with the Foro do Bo Burgo de Castro Caldelas.

The Charter of the Good Town of Castro Caldelas was signed by King Alfonso IX of León and Galicia and established the rights and privileges of the people of Castro Caldelas in the year 1228. It also happens to be the oldest known written document in Galician. It wasn’t the town’s first royal charter, (the earlier charter was written in Latin by King Ferdinand II of León and Queen Doña Urraca 56 years before), but Galicians hold on to this document as evidence of the prestige Galician had in the Middle Ages and should have once again.

Hiking for the Holidays

I haven’t felt ‘in the spirit’ during the holidays for a long time. Between Thanksgiving and New Years is usually the time for coming home to visit and get together with family. I’ve been away or unable to come back to California. I spent my winter vacations in Muslim-majority countries like Guinea, Morocco, and Turkey, or on the road in hostels in Sierra Leone or Colombia. Combined with my more recent uneasiness of the excessive consumption habits and waste between Black Friday and New Years and no real commitment to the Christian component of the holiday, you probably don’t want me anywhere near your holiday party.

We do our own thing wherever we are. And recently that has turned into hiking on the holidays.

When Patricia and I were in the States for the summer, I used a hiking app called AllTrails to find great loop routes that were suitable for dogs and a manageable length. But In Europe, there were fewer routes in AllTrails’ database. So I was happy to find Wikiloc, a similar community-added route database and phone app. It’s also made in Girona, Spain! Apps like this allow you to search for and record your movement to upload them for others, adding waypoints, photos, descriptions, and data (elevation change, distance, etc.).

Patricia has been taking a basketweaving course from the Escola de Cestería in Santa Mariña de Augas Santas, a village of around 50 people to the north of Allariz with an immense church. She told me how beautiful the village was, so we looked up a hike that started there on Wikiloc and took off.

So many things about Galicia impress me. But the opportunity to easily encounter so much history in nature always leaves me dumbfounded. Spain is a living museum. And the national, regional, and municipal governments of the country, as well as private foundations and local initiatives, preserve their historical and cultural heritages. In the short hike, we encountered the unfinished Basilica da Asunción built above a crypt named Os Fornos.

It is here that the cult of Santa Mariña de Augas Santas started, a Roman teenager martyred for her belief in Christianity. From what I can understand, Santa Mariña caught the attention of the Roman prefect Olibrio, who fell in love with her, and punished her severely for his unrequited affections. She was miraculously healed from her injuries during her torture. Then, they tried to burn her alive down in the crypt of Os Fornos before San Pedro rescued her.

A short distance away from the Basilica and Os Fornos, we found a tree surrounded by a small stone wall and a pool of water. This is the tree under which Santa Mariña was beheaded and martyred for her Christian faith. Supposedly a spring of water welled up from the earth where her head hit the ground.

We continued the trail and looped around a bit to the small hamlet of Armeá, where a local man discovered an “enigmatic” archaeological site. Specialists hypothesize it would’ve been a big lodging for people in the first century arriving from the south of Roman Gallaecia.

Christmas Day: O San Salvador and Roimelo

On Christmas Day, we didn’t plan any hike. But a short walk up the monte to stretch our legs turned into a trip to O San Salvador, a small village up the road. The village is nestled in a small, rocky valley. Like many depopulated places, it has a church that seems enormous relative to its current population. We didn’t meet anyone who lived there, and being Christmas Day, we didn’t want to bother anyone either. I checked the census data when we returned home and in 2017, there were three inhabitants.

A few meters from the village is a path heading to a castelo. Arriving at the top of the hill, we saw some ruins but left quickly as we heard the holiday-enjoying hunters and dogs close, which usually makes us nervous with the dog.

After we arrived back home, we bought a YogurtNest, a yogurt maker and slow cooker that doesn’t require any electricity, as our gift to each other and the house.

Note: The Concello de Allariz (town hall) has a tourism page about both Santa Mariña de Augas Santas and surrounding sights and O San Salvador.