Friday, September 13, 2013


One of the declared aims of setting up the Cervantes Institute in Gibraltar was to teach Gibraltarians how to speak Spanish. True, the majority of Gibraltarians speak Spanish already, and Llanito, and English, but the Castellano heard on Main Street is not the same as they speak in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol.

So the logic in Madrid was and I guess still is if Gibraltar Español is one day to become a reality then it would help if Gibraltarians could speak the language properly. I know not whether the ability of Gibraltarians to speak the King’s Spanish is better now than when the institute was opened but by all accounts its Spanish classes are very busy indeed.

Ironically leading Spanish politicians have been ridiculed over recent years for not being able to speak English. The media have labelled recent Spanish Prime Ministers as being an embarrassment to the nation because when they appear before international forums, such as in Davos, they cannot communicate in the language of business: English. Hence you have a Spanish leader having to be accompanied by his translator so he knows what everybody else is saying. Indeed Zapatero was blasted for avoiding international gatherings in favour of Moratinos because of his poor language skills.

Which brings me to the weekend’s events in Buenos Aires. I am sure many Gibraltarians were delighted when Madrid’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games fell flat on its face. It would be nice to think that the chaos at the border played a part in the Spanish capital being eliminated in the first round. However what played on the delegates’ minds far more was the fact that Spain is a financial basket case.

How could the IOC ask Spain to spend multi-millions of euros on creating the infrastructure for the games when the first priorities should be combating the economic and indeed corruption crises? So it follows that success was never really on the cards. To lose in those circumstances to Tokyo would have been no shame. However to be dumped in favour of Istanbul in the first round, with all the problems that country faces, was nothing short of humiliating.

To hide the national embarrassment Spaniards have rounded on the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, who is also the wife of the former PP premier José María Aznar, to vent their collective spleens. Botella is in the firing line over both her use of English and her lack of proficiency. Her words to the IOC Committee were cruelly subtitled on YouTube as “Diar Allosi Menbers, Leidisan yentelman”. By the by Rajoy wisely spoke to the Olympic chiefs only in Spanish.

Her phrase: “relaxing cup of café con leche en la plaza Mayor” has a certain element of Llanito about it. By Monday, T-shirts were on sale at 18 euros each with a parody of the Starbucks logo, featuring a profile of Botella and the logo: “Relaxing Cup of Cafe Con Leche in Plaza Mayor”.

Now that Botella has woken up and smelt the coffee it begs the question should the Gibraltar Government set up a Llanito Institute in Madrid to teach Madrileños our tongue? After all hell will freeze over before Gibraltar becomes Español so the sooner they learn to speak to us on our terms the better.

The hapless Ana Botella also caused a stir on social networks because of the press conference on Friday in Buenos Aires in which she defended the candidature of Madrid to host the 2020 Olympics. She was questioned in English by a journalist and judging by her response, she did not understand what the reporter was asking. Botella dispensed with headphones to hear the question and talked about the infrastructure in Madrid when the journalist had asked about the suitability of organizing the Olympics in a country that is in a very serious crisis with a 27 per cent unemployment rate.  To her humiliation she was duly upbraided by the Chairman of the Spanish Olympic Committee who did not realize his table microphone was on.

The incident has now gone viral... as has Botella’s shame.