Homage to Canarias

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May 14th 2007
Published: May 14th 2007
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Paul thoughtfully grazes his bishop placed on F2 in defence of his king. He picks it up from the chessboard in the apparent intention to capture my D4 pawn. It is a good move, my pawn is not protected while his bishop in the actual position could cause him checkmate in two moves. “Watch it out” suggest I casually. “I’m a bastard” think I, while Paul puts the bishop down and back he goes to his doubts -unjustified this time- about the possible ominous consequences of another rash move.

Salva left the Meteor after the last, sour argument with the boss and Paul has replaced him. He’s a round faced Canadian with a skin so fair coloured to become immediately hot red when exposed to sunlight. He has got some experience with motors but none with navigation. The best bet, I would say, to make one feel at ease in the eve of the Atlantic crossing. To compensate his total inexperience, as if trying to give the idea that after all he’s got some of the seaman character, he is a true champion in the little enviable art of bullshits telling. In the few days that we shared on

Photo: Emanuele Armeni
the Meteor, he told me that has been Jackie Chan bodyguard in America, guitar player with Manà (the equivalent of U2 in the Latin music scene) in Mexico, great seducer and junior chess champion in Canada. I had neither the chance nor the will to blow his three first tales. But the last one…

Eleven times we played, eleven times he lost. And I am nothing but an amateur. After the first defeats, surprised, he justified himself saying he had forgotten how to play. In truth, a real former chess champion would trash a modest player like myself even if suffering from Alzheimer. Checkmates have going succeeding one another without continuity solution like loaded wagons of a fast moving train. Now we reached the paroxysm and unsportsmanlike I tease him by making him doubt of those few appropriate moves. Charades cost dearly. In the end, he shifts his attention to the king, moving it on F1 and hence suffering defeat number twelve.

It was one my last evenings on the Meteor. Nine weeks after boarding, the vessel continues harboured and with no hints of imminent departure. Salva’s farewell and a series of confrontations with the boss have been the causes of my abandonment, of my defeat, to say it in a way. Salva was among us the only true seaman and without him the trip, already pretty risky, becomes a jump in the darkness. I don’t feel like putting my life in the hands of a bunch of men totally lacking of experience and who would sell their own mother to make money. Two months at sea (so to speak, inasmuch as we never left our anchorage) have taught me that the romanticism I had always associated with life at sea is just a chimera, thus disappearing if approached. Perhaps we should learn not to follow our dreams, just leaving them exist like such, forever free from the asphyxiating yoke of reality and its too many moral compromises. Amen.

I dedicated the past week to the search for an another boat, but this time I’ve got no luck. I knocked on every doors, none opened. In a life of healthy laziness, I believe that for once I can use too the expression "I did my best" with no risk of being called a liar. Fortunately, the alternative didn’t take long to show up in the shape of a one-way plane ticket to Dakar, Senegal. If the western way it is not feasible, I’ll try an eastern passage, however I’m not in a hurry. Before to jump into this new African experience, two lines of thanks towards a land, Canarias, that keeps hosting me yesterday as much as today without ever making me feel a foreigner.

Fascism do exists. In some cases, the known ones, manifest themselves in the traditional shape, that of authoritarian and dictatorial governments where freedoms of thought and expression are strongly limited or totally absent. In the rest of countries, the so called free world, fascism exists with less marked contours, not like a political doctrine but in its social shape, that deleterious conviction of a group of people, of a majority, than if many think/say/do something, that something must be true, good and just. Ideas like efficiency and productivity, as an example, have been carried ahead like a crusade by westerners against all others races, against those savages that dared living like animals (in other words, without the need of breaking their backbone working from dawn till sunset). We all know the history of colonialism, the official one that took place in America, Africa, and Australia between years 1400 and 1900. We all consider it a terrible mistake, an injustice and something of what being so ashamed to self-limit our own vocabulary to the politically correct when it comes to blacks, aboriginals or Indians. But when the matter is not to repeat the same errors, then it’s a different case altogether.

Canary islands is the only region in Europe to enjoy a regular climate all year round with temperatures constantly between 18 and 30 degrees (Celsius) and, contrarily to what happens in the tropics, with neither rainy season nor mosquitoes. From the ‘70s on, with the opening of Spain to Europe, the seven islands that used to have an economy based on farming (tomatoes, bananas, corn, tobacco, sugar cane), have suffered (enjoyed) an economic boom and the related, uncontrolled building because of (thanks to) tourism. Paradoxically, here where during the harsh years of Franco regimen entire hippies communities had lived unmolested on the beaches, from one day to the next, farmers became estate businessmen, fishermen turned into restaurants tycoons and the hippies… bounced off.

Wars apart, I don’t know any other region in the world where in such a short period things have changed so drastically. It happened here with tourism what had happened in the Arabic countries with oil. Even for God, present from a lifetime, took almost no time before being supplanted by the smaller god money. Churches to be replaced by tanning rites, family values by hedonism. From the ‘80s on, foreigners began to pour in in flocks: tourists searching for winter sun, retired people from Germany and Scandinavia looking for a present, immigrants looking for a future. And, along with those people, sad imported ideas such as productivity or working costs optimization arrived, imposed as if they were the eleventh commandment to the wonderful mañana philosophy which had survived to 40 years of dictatorship.

At last census, the island of Gran Canaria alone counted for over 800 thousands inhabitants. Several more hundred of thousands who live here in a status of more or less permanent visitors (like myself) must be added to this figure. Because of the island’s mountainous nature, approximately 90%!o(MISSING)f its inhabitants live on the narrow coastal strip, with consequent excessive human density and all the social problems arising from it. Nevertheless, even in a situation of obvious demographic saturation, episodes of racism or refusal of the alien are rare. Caribbean girls wearing dresses two size too small walk here side by side with Arab ladies wearing garments two sizes too big.

Boats loaded with sans papiers arriving from neighbouring Morocco have been arriving on Canarian beaches since the ‘80s. At that time, locals used to receive, give job and protect from police raids the new comers. Today, the arrival of pateras (wooden, powerfully motorised vessels big enough to carry over 20 people) is constant, an uninterrupted flow of desperation arriving from more and more remote lands. With the progressive intensification of controls kept by the spanish navy, more and more southerner ports get chosen as departure point: from Morocco to Mauritania to Senegal to Nigeria. A couple of months ago, a boat from as far as Sri Lanka reached Canarias!

In spite of being still a wonderful place, too many areas of the archipelago, specially in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, are today an endless line of hotels and structures thoughts merely for tourism use. But the development of a totally canted economy plus the current unfavourable conjuncture in the tourism market, is showing now the limits of those choices made yesterday considering only the money factor. Or maybe it was all written: the cow has been milked, now we abandon her and go looking for a new, less pretentious one. The offer-demand rule put the knife with its handle facing the powerful northern European tour-operators, leaving the blade to my Canarian friends. And therefore, the previous come paying a tuppence and asking for the moon, the latter can’t avoid thinking of how beautiful was when it could be answered that for the moon they had to wait for… mañana.

La versione italiana di questo blog la trovi sul sito Vagabondo.net
Link: Omaggio a Canarias


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