Couto Mixto: The 700-Year-Old Independent Galician Microstate

Dani Keral in Traveler.es on what might have been the first democratic territory in Europe (Spanish):

Couto Mixto was something incredible for its time, almost unexplainable. Formed by the towns of Meaus, Santiago and Rubiás [now located in the present-day municipalities of Calvos de Randín and Baltar], the territory of just 30 square kilometers began to be governed independently of both crowns.

In the Couto, no kings of feudal lords ruled, it was the townspeople themselves — the heads of the family — who elected a judge or political chief every three winters, who was assisted by three men from each village, os homes do acordo.

Check out the Wikipedia for more Couto Mixto in English.

Left Abroad #3: Podcasting Spanish Politics with Alan McGuire

I talked to British writer, teacher, podcaster, and fellow immigrant to Spain Alan McGuire last week about politics, history, books, and his own podcast Sobremesa.

There’s a dearth of in-depth information in written or podcast form in English about Spanish politics that doesn’t have the same tired tourism angle and I wanted to talk to him about how he came to Spain, his own political trajectory, and why he decided to start his project.

It ran a little long, because Alan and I have quite a bit in common. Thanks to Alan for taking the time to and to you for listening to Left Abroad! Please give us your honest review on Apple Podcasts if you get a chance.

Show Notes

Alberto Garzón on the Spanish Right

Tommy Greene and Eoghan Gilmartin interviewed Consumer Affairs minister and Izquierda Unida leader Alberto Garzón for Jacobin on the Spanish Right’s refusal to accept the current governmental coalition:

You have to remember that the right wing in our country does not have democratic origins. It is not like the mainstream right in France or Germany, where there is, at least in part, an anti-fascist tradition. The Spanish right hasn’t looked to isolate the extreme right, as German chancellor Angela Merkel has done. In Spain, the right-wing parties broker power-sharing agreements and govern with the extreme right [at the regional level].

They conceive of Spain as their own patrimony, in which they are the arbiters of who is truly Spanish and who is a patriot or not. Their vision of the country doesn’t allow for a party like ours [Unidas Podemos] to be in government — it’s a kind of coup d’état, in their eyes, that we are governing Spain at present. They’ve called us traitors, criminals, terrorists, assassins — they have raised the level of discursive belligerence in public life to the point whereby its polarizing consequences have seeped into and are felt in almost all sectors of Spanish society. You can see this in the ongoing campaign of harassment against deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias and equality minister Irene Montero [with members of the far-right camped outside their family home for the last three months].

A Fugitive Old King and an ‘Impossible’ Republic

Following Juan Carlos I’s quick exit and self-exile (Portugal, Dominican Republic, perhaps Abu Dhabi?) to prevent more bad publicity for la casa real, some are wondering what the future of the Spanish Crown holds.

My wife has nurtured a strong opposition towards the Spanish royals much longer than I have.

What I did not know, however, was the constitution from 1978, the one written during the transition from the Francoist state into an ostensible democracy, makes it practically impossible to hold a popular referendum on the monarchy and construct a third republic. “Armor-clad,” says Alberto Lardíes of the monarchy. He should know, he wrote a book on the called The Borbon Democracy.

Aitor Hernández-Morales in Politico:

In order to hold a referendum on the monarchy, two-thirds of members of the Spanish Congress and Senate would have to vote in favor of the proposal, and immediately afterward the parliament would have to be dissolved. Two-thirds of the successor Congress and Senate would have to ratify the same motion, and only then would it go before the Spanish public — which would have to vote in its favor to make it successful.

Monarchies are old world systems that need to be abolished entirely. It will be an interesting September, when Spanish republican factions will start mobilizing.

Unified Veranda Theory

It’s my Saturday today. I’ve been out on the terrace, watching the fig tree away with the breeze. There are more insects buzzing, snails crawling up the stone walls, and birds darting between the electrical and phone lines that surround our house. I’m also playing around with the vintage camera app Vooravo for some retro-looking photos around the house. I’m bored of photographing the same trees from the well-worn paths of the monte.

This is one of those weekend mornings that reminds me of my years in Sierra Leone; the unhurried day, the privilege of watching time and life of the village pass by from a veranda, the warm sun on my body, the ability to read as much as I want to.

Grateful and guilty, which has been a recurring tension during the lockdown. Grateful to have had the privileges and opportunities to organize my life in this manner, and guilty knowing that not everyone is so lucky. But I know I’m in my head a lot, and that guilt will lead to paralysis or unnecessary suffering.

I misread a quote from some article a few weeks ago. In my head in went something like;

The best safeguard to life under late capitalism is withdrawing from it.

But it actually wasn’t that, at all. It was a critique, that the privileged ones, the ones with an inessential, work-from-home job are the ones who can safeguard themselves from coronavirus.

I recently talked to a friend, a madrileño musician from West Africa with a similar practical philosophy. He mentioned the protests in barrio de Salamanca and the incessant material desires that nag certain classes of people in the capital. It feels foreign, otherworldly. That wasn’t always the case, but a product of half of my life, maybe started after they extubated me. Who’s to say. But I think it’s possible that most can come to the conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is illogical.

We can thread the needle, withdraw from the capitalist mentality without completely withdrawing from society like Christopher McCandless; plant a garden, reduce costs and discourage consumption habits, prioritize immaterial experiences, read books, go for walks, re-valorize the countryside, or enjoy voluntary frugality in the city. Flatten the curve of coronavirus and of climate change by socially distancing and driving less, flying less, removing animal products from my diet, eating seasonally and locally. Prefigure a better world by thinking, talking, and planning other ways of organizing life and social relations. Want less, need less, and perhaps work less because of those priorities and that organized withdrawal.

For now, I’ll “do praxis” by non-participation, as much as I can, and theorize by writing into the void, ruining conversations with family and friends by talking climate, and reading Bookchin in my hammock. And I’ll never forget to enjoy the conference of the birds on the phone lines.