Practically all Spanish homes tune in to watch one of these shows, with family and friends holding individual bowls of grapes that have to be eaten exactly as the clock ding-dongs the old year away.
Like one of those love songs where everything’s upside-down and who cares, the Spanish town of Bérchules –in beautiful Andalusia, a hundred kilometers from Granada– celebrates New Year’s Eve on the first day of August. It all began in 1995, when the mountain village of 800 dwellers had yet another electricity shortage that made it impossible to commemorate the traditional “Old Year” festivities –or “Fiesta de Año Viejo”– on December 31st.
The main activity that 46 million Spaniards practice on New Year’s Eve is eating twelve grapes while listening to an old clock chime the last 12 seconds of the year. Main TV channels –public and private– have programs dedicated to this, competing with local dolled-up celebrities to grab the audience’s attention. Practically all Spanish homes tune in to watch one of these shows, with family and friends holding individual bowls of grapes that have to be eaten exactly as the clock ding-dongs the old year away. Failing to do this is considered dreadfully unlucky for the incoming season.
But nobody in Bérchules has had that problem for twenty years now, ever since neighbor Miguel Toro suggested celebrating the fiesta in August. This year they’ve had 9,000 visitors –ten times their population– who duly ate 2,500 kilograms of grapes under a shower of white Styrofoam snow. As usual, the press from Madrid covered the event, which even The Wall Street Journal featured last year. Two decades ago nobody seemed to know where the small Andalusian village was on the map, but now everybody’s talking about Bérchules. One can’t help but wonder if they chant that old Sinatra song: “I’ve got some habits even I can’t explain. Could start for the corner and turn up in Spain. But… why try to change me now?”
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Ian Bremmer –politólogo estadounidense de origen alemán y armenio, columnista de “Time” y “Financial Times”, fundador de la consultoría multinacional Eurasia Group– es un personaje relevante en Twitter, donde opina con fundamento e ironía sobre la actualidad internacional. El 9 de agosto brindaba a sus casi 200.000 seguidores un polémico tuit con una foto de Ibtihaj Muhammad, esgrimista estadounidense que, tras ganar una modesta medalla de bronce, ha acaparado la atención de la prensa occidental. Bremmer aquilataba con el laconismo característico de Twitter: “Ibtijab Muhammad, primera estadounidense olímpica con hiyab” y apostillaba que “Estas cosas dan sentido a nuestros Juegos Olímpicos”.
When traveling around the world one is astonished to discover that football is –in the eyes of many– a country’s main defining component. In Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, hundreds of taxi-drivers are fans of Real Madrid or Barça and know the smallest details about Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, even though they will never travel the 12,000 kilometers from Southeast Asia to Southern Europe. Can the essence of a nation really be fathomed through its sports teams?