Friday, 24 July 2009

Galicia IS the centre of the universe!

First it was the potatoes: everyone knows that Galician potatoes are the best in the world. Then what is seemingly the oldest working lighthouse in the world, the Torre de Hércules in la Coruña, was declared patrimonio de la humanidad, a world heritage site.

And now we have Estíbaiz Pereira, from La Coruña, who has just been selected as Miss España in the finals in Cancún. As she poses on La Coruña’s Riazor beach in her very unsuitable shoes, the pretty girl declares she has been so busy she has not had time to phone work and let them know she needs a year off. I somehow think they might have seen the news and know that she now has to go and prove that gallegas are the prettiest girls in the world by becoming Miss Universe!

Then we have some cinematic connections. Lesley Howard, the British actor who played Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (drippy but honourable type, not quite honourable enough to make it plain to Scarlett, who fancied she was in love with him, that the one he really loved was his cousin Melanie – you remember!!) has his gallego link. Apparently he flew to Spain in 1943 carrying messages from Churchill to Franco, trying to keep Spain out of the war. His plane was shot down by German fighter pilots who supposedly knew what he was up to. It was always believed that he went down somewhere in the Bay of Biscay but recent investigations have shown that it was off the coast of La Coruña province near a place called Cedeira where on Sunday the mayor unveiled a monument to him and the other people on the fateful flight.

More recently in the world of the silver screen, we have Martin Sheen, also known as Ramón Antonio Estévez, son of two immigrants to the USA, Mary Ann Phelan from County Tipperary in Ireland, and, more importantly, the gallego Francisco Estévez, from a place called Parderrubias (a most evocative name which means "a couple of blonde girls"!!!!) in Galicia. Another source, though, has him coming from Porriño, which makes us almost neighbours! Now, that son of a gallego (and fictional President of the United States – see The West Wing – do keep up!) is reported to be coming to Galicia to make a film directed by his son Emilio Estevez, a story set against the backdrop of the Camino de Santiago.

In the world of sport, earlier this week our free paper, Luns a Venres, praised a gallego cycling triumph: David Herrera of the Xacobeo-Galicia cycling team had won the final stage of the Vuelta a Madrid cycle race, gaining third place overall. All I needed then was a way to make the success of Alberrrrto Contadorrrrr, winner of Sunday’s stage of the Tour de France (and of yesterday's time trial) and proud (Spanish) wearer of the yellow jersey, to be made into a victory for Galicia.

Then in another Luns a Venres there it was: a letter in praise of Contador’s achievement. If he can keep it up as leader of the tour for the next week, the writer told us, we might once again see Galician flags flying on the podium in Paris.

Now, I was under the impression that Alberto was a madrileño so I had to investigate. Yes, I was right; he was born in Madrid. His cousin, still living in the family’s pueblo, a little place called Barcarrota in Extremadura, was interviewed on television and says they are all excited about his progress. Well, so are some people from Galicia.

Maybe if he wins, they’ll make him an honorary gallego!

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