Dynamist Blog


Mario Vargas Llosa writes on Madrid in The Guardian

Madrid's modernity is not only in its buildings, new developments, infernal traffic jams, proliferating fast food outlets, the piebald invasion of tourists, or the alert ear that can, in the queues at the Prado or at night around the Plaza Mayor, hear all the languages in the world. It is in the mental cosmopolitanism of its people who, in their diversity, have grown emancipated from the stigma of a "municipal" Madrilenian identity (as Ruben Dario would say) and who, like the people of London, Paris or New York, have become citizens of the world. Thus, in an exhibition at the Galeria Moriarty, the Japanese photographer Atsuko Arai a couple of years ago could show how, without leaving the historic centre of town, the capital of Spain was a microcosm harbouring the landscapes and cultures of half the planet.

It has been this free spirit and this unblinkered mentality of an open city, hospitable and democratic, the emblem city of a remarkable transformation of Spain in the last quarter-century, that the fanatics sought to destroy, on the morning of March 11, when they placed in Atocha the bombs that have left more than 200 dead and 1,500 wounded - 12 nationalities, typically enough, being represented among the victims - in the most ferocious terrorist massacre suffered in Western Europe in modern history.

The killers were not mistaken in their target: today's Madrid represents precisely the negation of the radical inhumanity of the obtuse, exclusive tribal spirit of fundamentalism, religious or political, which hates mixture, diversity and tolerance and, above all, liberty. This is the first European battle in a savage war that began exactly two years ago with the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, and whose inroads will probably fill with blood and horror a good part of this new century. It is a war to the death, of course, and owing to the present fantastic development of the technology of destruction and the fanatic, suicidal zeal that inspires the international movement of terror, it is perhaps a trial even more difficult than those represented by fascism and communism for the culture of liberty.

Vargas Llosa goes on to discuss the likely policies of the Zapatero government and their implications. Read the whole thing. (Thanks to Xavier Lewis, who posted a note about this article on the Dynamist listserve.)

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