Galician Culture and History on WordPress with Tim Ginty

I’m drawn to places very easily. It could be the way I feel while there, or something read or imagined about the history or contemporary culture of the place. I start daydreaming about what life would’ve been like in the recent or distant past and what it might look like years from now.

What has changed recently is my desire to understand these places through the perspective of others rather than facts and dates. And so, I’m interested in reading more about my new home of Galicia much more than what’s happening in U.S. politics for example.

Other than Wikipedia and information about walking the Camino de Santiago, I don’t see much blogging on Galicia in English. While I can read castellano, it does not come as easy yet, and I struggle with written conjugated verb forms and less-frequently used vocabulary, slowing down my progress.

So I was delighted to stumble onto Tim Ginty’s blog Lives and Times this morning. He has a few posts about Galicia from last year:

  • Unearthing Gallaecia: The Ruins of Monte O Facho for an overview of castro culture, their subsequent romanization by the Roman legions, the unique syncretism of the society it produced, as well as photos of O Facho. “Even today, in Galicia there still exist signs of this fusion of Latin and Pagan, hints of a latent indigenous culture found in their Carnivals and Solstice celebrations, and in their mythology of mouras (siren-like women of the forest) and stories of meigas (witches).”
  • A Conversation with César Lema: On a Rural Return for a window into Lema’s worldview on communalism in rural Galicia and within the long-arc of history, the possibility of utopias. “Modernity, in contrast, offers an atomised community and alienated production, living beside people you might not even know and working to generate a profit you will never possess – that is, the absolute contrary of the shared life.”
  • The Eternal Wall of Lucus Augusti for a look at the fortified wall of Lugo and the building of of them symbolizing power and splendor but also insularity. “Only a few decades after the construction of the wall Lucus Augusti would fall. Its formerly all-powerful rulers – a slave-holding class of indolent elites – would wave the white flag to the invading Suave tribe from the north. The Germanic barbarians did not even need to lay siege upon the fortified city, and some say that the elite of the city were celebrating a feast when the occupiers came, too drunk on sweet wine to organise a resistance.”

I’m inspired by Tim’s writing. The posts on Galicia are just a small sample of what he has. He also wrote about Marinaleda, the communist pueblo in Andalusia. He effortlessly blends history with personal essay and photos, which makes for interesting reading.

I feel allergic to blogs that try to push or sell something; an ebook, a course, ads, more posts, etc. Blogs give everyday people a platform and a space to flesh out ideas, share something with the world, valorize practices and ideas. As I go on with Among the Stones, I hope it can also be a place to share like Lives and Times.

Ermida da Nosa Señora da Lanzada

Most mornings I take Alqo out for a walk before breakfast. In the last week, our walk has become significantly more beautiful, swapping a brisk walk in urban Südstadt to the meadows of Villanueva and now the sea and its jagged, irregular rocky coastline. A few hundred meters away from our place is a small isthmus. The wind has been strong since we arrived to Sanxenxo, so we’d only make it halfway out, to an small meadow where RVs and campers park at night to enjoy the sunsets. But this morning the wind was calm. On this tiny isthmus sits a chapel, the ruins of an old tower, and a pre-Roman settlement.

The Romanesque chapel of Our Lady of Lanzada is a simple affair in juxtaposition with its surroundings. It was built in the 12-century from the ruins of another older chapel, possibly from the time of the tower. Like many older Christian sites, the chapel sits next to something very un-Christian, as if to ward away the pagan gods and worshippers with the Cross.

A castro, a Bronze Age pre-Roman fortified settlement with some remainder of the state walls still visible and preserved, was here long before. And like so many others places, the old rituals mixed with the new and at least tolerable to the Church.

There is a fertility ritual in August on A Lanzada beach called the Bath of the Nine Waves, where women come to the beach to bathe, then sweep the chapel as an offering to the Virgin of Lanzada to cure their infertility.

History is everywhere, if we only find the time to look. Sometimes, the past doesn’t leave artifacts or sites to be toured and admired, only remaining in the legends or historical writings of strangers who came before, closer to the source of time and the people who gave them meaning. But Spain has it all. I think that is why the country is so striking for guiris, there are so many layers of history that fold over each other and onto the present.

Bai Bureh’s Photo

Inscription: “Bai Bureh, Chief of the Timini when a prisoner at Sierra Leone in 1898. An original photograph by Lieutenant Arthur Greer, West India Regiment who died August 7, 1900, when storming a blockade after the relief of Kumassie.”

Bai Bureh is recognized as the leader of a 1898 Temne rebellion against British colonial rule in northern Sierra Leone. His father was a Loko war-chief and in his youth, Bai Bureh was sent to Gbendembu to a training school for warriors. Throughout the 1860s and 70s he served under a Susu ruler but in 1886 was crowned ruler of Kasseh, near Port Loko. Needless to say, he was opposed to British indirect rule. When the protectorate was declared, the British immediately issued an arrest warrant.

From the Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone:

After the British protectorate was declared over the Sierra Leone interior in 1896, a house tax was imposed, which many of the rulers and their people opposed, in addition to imposing the new laws the British were trying to implement. The British reaction was a forceful show of authority, including arresting, deposing, and brutalizing some of the local rulers. Bai Bureh was believed to be one of the rulers staunchly opposed to the tax and thus faced inevitable confrontation with the British who determined to make an example of him. This led to a major war of resistance in 1898 between the British and a Bai Bureh–led coalition that lasted for 10 months. Bai Bureh was defeated by the British-led forces, which had superior resources and armaments and had also destroyed the food supplies and large sections of territory. Bai Bureh surrendered, was arrested, and was exiled to the Gold Coast. He was brought back in 1905 and reinstated as ruler of Kasseh where he died in 1908.

Bai Bureh’s guerrilla tactics were very successful in the initial stages of the rebellion. Due to his reputation as an effective warrior was able to bring many fighters from all around Northern Sierra Leone to help him; Limba, Temne, Loko, and Susu.

This is the only known photograph of Bai Bureh. It was discovered by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Gary Schulze, who found the photo on eBay. Before this discovery, there was only a pencil sketch of him from a British army officer.