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Another Day of Mourning



     The festive millennium tinsel (defined as "empty show, sham") was thrown into the garbage can of history, and the old drabness was revealed. In Mexico City, hundreds lined up outside the famous national pawn shop (monte de piedad) to pawn things to pay for the festivities. In Spain, the soccer teams were fighting over the sharing of the profits from the championship games. In France, people continued to shiver in darkness, some schools remained closed because of the damage suffered, the oil mess got messier and birds died a miserable death. A small victory was won over the English language; after annexing the word, the French gave French citizenship to "le bogue" (the thing that affects computers). In democratic Germany, the Christian Democrats suffered to see Helmut Kohl humiliated (just money, no Monica Lewinsky).
     In Spain, for the second day, real popular solidarity (not the tinsel kind) was shown during the second day of mourning for Doña María de las Mercedes. An impressive private funeral was held in the Royal Palace. King Juan Carlos brushed away tears. For some reason, the whole affair had a military character. The eulogy was made by the Bishop of the Army (obispo castrense), who praised her for having helped heal the wounds which had afflicted Spain for sixty years (a discreet reference to the Civil War and the Franco period).
     An army escort accompanied the body to San Lorenzo del Escorial, the grim monastery-palace designed like a grill to commemorate the one on which the martyr Laurence was burned to death by order of Emperor Valerian. There the body was turned over to the Augustinian friars who placed it in the "pudridero" where it will rot for twenty-five years before being transferred to a sarcophagus in the walls of the crypt (the word "sarcophagus" means "place where the flesh is eaten, so the "pudridero" is really a sarcophagus).
     The crypt is where the kings of Spain since Carlos Primero (known elsewhere as Charles the Fifth) are buried. Don Juan and Doña María never ruled, since Franco passed them over in favor of their son Juan Carlos. It was certainly he who wished them to be buried there, to show that for him they had ruled. It was a generous act, since Doña María will occupy the last space in the crypt. What will happen to Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia? They will rest in "el pudridero", allowing plenty of time to decide. However, I feel certain that Juan Carlos will leave precise instructions.
     In all of these solemn celebrations, there was no mention of nobles, who constitutionally now have no standing. The Spanish people have long viewed their loyalty as being exclusively to the king. The present royal couple has performed admirably in uniting a divided people behind the symbol of monarchy. As far as I know, there was not a discordant note in Spain except for the usual ETA bomb threats, but not against the king. The sad affair had not given them time to prepare. They tried once to kill him. They may try again.

Ronald Hilton - 1/4/00


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