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How the other half lives

Salvados interview with Cayetano Martinez de Irujo. The Spanish generally enjoy a good relationship with their aristocracy - they tolerate their picadilloes and foibles, discussing them in animated chat shows, poring over them in the prensa rosa, and treating them like a live telenovella (soap opera) created for their own benefit and entertainment. Jealousy and resentment for their good fortune at being born into wealth and privilege tend to take a back seat to amusement at their inability to conduct their private lives with any degree of dignity or happiness. The Duquesa de Alba, as Spain's richest woman, has always managed to retain the affection of the people, for her common touch, her love of flamenco and bull-fighting, her tragic past (twice widowed), and her lack of airs and graces. She also - with a few notable exceptions - avoids politics, a delicate subject for those with a silver spoon in their mouths - or, in her case, an industrial-sized ladle. Her youngest son, unfortunately, is not as astute as his octogenarian mother. Cayetano Martinez de Irujo, Duque de Salvatierra, was interviewed on Salvados, a programme on Channel 6 presented by Jordi Evola, last Sunday. Evola is a very clever interviewer (or else his producers know how to prepare him) - he knows how to get what he wants from his subjects - controversial, often embarrassing statements. His style is softly-softly, non-confrontational - more Norton than Paxman. He probes gently, presenting evidence, facts and statements, building up confidence with his subject, before asking leading questions ("How did they not see that coming?" you think to yourself) and provoking reactions. He conducts his interviews either on the subject's home ground (in this case, Cayetano's sister Eugenia's casa de invitados), or else in neutral territory - in a park, for example. The subject feels in control, or at least more relaxed and at ease. It's very different to being in a TV studio, with lights, assistants and an audience. In this case, Jordi was talking to Cayetano about European Union subsidies - not the sexiest of subjects. A politician had complained that the Casa de Alba receives 3 million euros a year of subsidies, the third-highest in Spain, and that this is outrageous for a family which is worth 3,200 million euro. Cayetano defended the Casa, by saying that their wealth is in land and art, and not in their bank accounts (perhaps, but I reckon his is a bit healthier than the 22.5% of Spaniards who live on 500 euros a month). One statement which was understandly incendiary was "nunca hemos sido ricos" (We've never been rich"). If he had a PR person, they'd have found some reason - any reason - to stop the interview at that point, to exercise some damage control, and prevent further ill-advised comments. Cayetano said the Andalucians have become lazy due to the European subsidies - and this is where the programme becomes relevant to this blog - because Andalucia receives more subsidies than any other part of Spain, but, according to Cayetano, it has seen the least progress - in the last 20 years there has been no incentive to work. Excuse me? Jordi showed Cayetano an interview he had done with a young unemployed Andalucian man, totally demotivated, with no hope of finding work. This was Cayetano's response: "Cuando ves a esta gente joven, que no tiene el menor minimo animo de progresar, eso es grave, eso solo pasa en Andalucia. En el norte de España, eso no pasa, ni en el centro, nisiquiera en Extremadura." ("When you see these young people, who have absolutely no desire whatsoever to progress, that's serious, that only happens in Andalucia. In the north of Spain, that doesn't happen, or on the centre, or even in Extremadura.") In one fell swoop, he insulted the Andalucians, their attitude to work, their state of mind - and, especially, all the people who a) do work hard, and b) do want to find jobs, which is the large majority. And coming from someone as privileged as him, who has never had to find a job, or support his family on 426 euros a months, such comments are about as offensive as it gets. Andalucia's economy is a mess, but that's not the fault of its general population. The PSOE's response was to call him a señoritingo - a spoilt brat. That was a new word for me - I know señorito, which is rich kid, but I've never heard señoritingo before. It perfectly sums up all the disgust which the Socialists must feel for the Duke of Salvatierra, and his attitude towards the people of Andalucia. I have to admit that when I first arrived in Andalucia, I was a bit shocked by people constantly sloping off for a half-hour breakfast, siesta, cigarette break... Yes, their attitude to work is definitely more relaxed than elsewhere, but saying that none of the young people want to work is just wrong. Do you think the Andalucians are work-shy? Do you think there's any truth in what Cayetano said? What's your experience?
Blog published on 15 December 2011