Welcome to Tertulia, vol. 1

Cultural news from the Spanish-speaking world

Hola, I’m Barbara. I’m pretty excited to announce my new bi-weekly newsletter about cultural news from the Spanish-speaking world. If you like it, please share widely so that we can talk about these topics with other likeminded people.


So, let’s start.

The Ladino renaissance

For Ladino or Djudeo-Espanyol, the Spanish variant the Sephardic jews spoke in their diaspora, COVID-19 has brought a kind of awakening. UNESCO considers it one of the world’s 6,000 languages at risk of extinction. Despite this gloomy outlook, the Ladino language has benefitted from the pandemic lockdowns. Thanks to distance learning, many people started a Ladino class, as eSefarad is reporting on its website or wanted to know more about the culture of their ancestors. While prior to Covid-19 Liliana Tchukran Benveniste gave her Ladino classes in an office in central Buenos Aires, she is now able to teach the language of her ancestors to interested people from all over the world. For those of you who also follow my blog in German, already know that I was one of them. I could join her classes from Zurich in the early evening hours via Zoom. That was very convenient. It was fun having a language class with people from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, the U.S., Spain, and Israel. If you’re interested in learning Ladino and wish to know more about the cultural world of the Sephardic diaspora, Liliana is the person to speak to. Cost is about 30 USD per month with 4 one-hour-long classes each month: https://esefarad.com/?s=curso+ladino

Premio Nadal for Najat El Hachmi

Najat El Hachmi (born Nador/Morocco, 1979) has won the prestigious Nadal novel prize, worth 18,000 Euros. The writer got it for 'El lunes nos querrán'(On Monday they will love us), a novel that illustrates the oppressive lives of two immigrant girls, who live in a suburb of Barcelona. This is how the author herself describes the ambition of her book:

"There are two women protagonists, both from Muslim families, who have to grow up on the periphery of the periphery, in a neighbourhood that conditions their lives. It is very hard for them to conquer freedom due to their ethnic origin, sex and social class. I’d like to tell all those women who - in the middle of the 21st century - continue to live in circumstances in which freedom is far away that it is possible to reach it, that there is no life in dignity without freedom." (citation taken from an interview with her in La Vanguardia, the translation is mine)

She gives a more detailed description of the plot in this interview (in castellano):

I also like very much how she describes the process of writing the novel. She apparently felt very much at ease writing parts of the manuscript in Catalan, others in Castellano, both nurturing each other. That’s how multiculturalism works when it works well. Both language versions will be published on February 10, 2021. All her work is published in both Catalan and Castellano.

Winter and summer

While heavy snow falls prevented museums and theatres to open in Madrid last weekend, the Southern hemisphere is in the middle of its summer recess. When it’s hot and sunny, it’s very hard to stay inside. Even though Argentinian president Alberto Fernández and his government have increased COVID restrictions so people have to stay at home some are rich enough to spend their vacation time in secluded gated communities (they are called “country” in Argentina) playing golf and polo. The newspaper Clarín, for example, reported that Costa Esmeralda, a high-end private resort with nice long beaches, was almost fully occupied. All this despite strict restrictions on travel. It’s is a very attractive place, only four (optimistic) car hours away from the capital. If you wish, you can take a look, how to get from central Buenos Aires to Costa Esmeralda. It looks a little bit like an ideal setting for one of Claudia Piñeiro’s thrillers.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine with me if people can escape and can continue with their lives in an almost pleasurable way. However, we have to make sure that those in economically less favourable circumstances don’t pay the bill in terms of getting Covid more often. As in other parts of the world, we see that in Argentina COVID-19 may have increased the health gap between those who have to live with the restrictions of the pandemics and those who can afford to live around them.

Final editing: January 13, 2021, 03.30 PM CET.

Since this newsletter is brand-new, let me know about your feedback.

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