sábado, 25 de junio de 2011


Within a month, it will be one year ago when I left Bulgaria. All my good feelings from my experience there are still on me, but there were also many negative points that I had not wanted talking about... Until now.

To make a summary: I have been ten months in Bulgaria working for a NGO called “Youth Tolerance” from Gorna Oryahovitsa. I carried out many activities, such as teaching Spanish, working on a theater group, helping children with disabilities,... And those experience have been really good for my self-realization and I do not regret at all for having done them... Completely the opposite!

However, the supervisor, the leader of “Youth Tolerance of Gorna Oryahovitsa” tried to make my life miserable during my time in Bulgaria. Why? I do not know. I think she simply did not like me and she though that an EVS project is like a job: if she didn't like me (as a worker), she may fire me...

But an EVS project is not that: I was a volunteer, I wasn't a professional, and I tried to give all my best. I had never taught anything, I had never worked with disabled, I had never played a role as an actor,... Everything was new for me, and I tried to do as best as possible.

I am modest, and I also think that it is not a good idea to valuate myself... The most important thing is that I went to Bulgaria in order to help. And I did it.

But, according to this person, I did nothing...

First of all: who is her?
Her name is Violeta Panova. She is more than 50; she can not speak any language, but Bulgarian (her mother tongue); and she is the leader of the NGO “Youth Tolerance of Gorna Oryahovitsa”, together with her husband.

Secondly: what is “Youth Tolerance”?
“Youth Tolerance” is an organization set in Gorna Oryahovitsa (Veliko Tarnovo region, Bulgaria) which works with youths and for youths: at the school, at the theater, at the disabled center, etc. They usually have 3 foreign volunteers every year.

And, finally: what is EVS?
EVS means 'European Voluntary Service'. It is a grant (supported by the European Union) that youths receive in order to have an experience abroad by helping in a non-profit organization. Another non-profit organization from the country where the volunteer is from (the SENDING organization) have to agree with the organization that the volunteer is going to work for (the HOSTING organization).

I went to Bulgaria on 21st September 2009. I suppose, Violeta Panova chose me after watching my application. We signed an “Activity Agreement”, a type of contract with the tasks that I would carry out. I may write a book with all the things Violeta did to me: exploitation, disrespects, lies to my Sending Organization, etc. But I am just going to make a summary with the biggest ones, and the most easy to prove.


One of the reasons why it is probably that she did not like me is “the German volunteer”... What do I mean? There was a German volunteer one year before I arrived, who worked in the same role than me. Although he was German, his father was Bulgarian, thus, he was 50% Bulgarian: he improved Bulgarian really fast and Violeta loved him because of this.

I received more pressure than my coworkers concerning the language... I am Spanish and, in my country, we speak only Spanish (maybe Galician, Basque or Catalan... but we are very bad with foreign languages). Anybody who has met some Spanish people before may understand what I am telling. It is a shame, but it is true: Spanish people are REALLY bad with foreign languages.

Anyway, I think I learned quite Bulgarian language, more than other volunteers who I met in Bulgaria. Of course, people from Slavic countries like Poland, Serbia or Russia could speak almost perfect Bulgarian. But people from countries like Spain, France, Germany, UK, Sweeden,... had more difficulties to learn Bulgarian.

Violeta started to be angry at me since the first month in Gorna Oryahovitsa because, according to her, I did not want to speak Bulgarian (by the way: Violeta Panova could not speak any foreign language, in spite of the fact that she leaders an organization which works with foreign volunteers). I should say that, in my country, obliging someone to speak a language is found very fascist. Franco (the fascist dictator in Spain during 1936-1975) did that to Catalans, Galicians and Basque people.


One of the things that I was worried about was the possibility to do nothing. I mean: sometimes this kind of projects usually promise and promise and promise many thing to do and eventually the volunteer does nothing... Or maybe just little jobs like make coffee or photocopies. However, as soon as I arrived, Violeta gave me the opportunity to teach Spanish language at the school. A bit later, I started to play at the theater and attend weekly to the disabled people center. I was very grateful about this and I appreciated this very much, as I had been working abroad before in a project in England and, as I said, I only made coffee and photocopies... But the pressure came soon from Violeta.

First of all, she started to criticize my way of working. That is not bad. I am not a professional, so it is normal to have mistakes. But I found her attitude quite rude. I got worried about it, and I asked teachers about how to do it better, and they gave me some advices. I also met two Spanish teachers (from Spain) who worked in Veliko Tarnovo (the nearby city) and they helped me too.

Meanwhile, I also received critics from Violeta about my Bulgarian language and she got really angry at me because, according to her strict rules, I was not allowed to upload pictures from Bulgaria on my Facebook (I will talk about this on next articles). Moreover, she gave me and gave me more things to do, more than I was able to carry out. However, I did not complain as I though of my experience in England and I tried to appreciate the Bulgarian one.

The next activity she ordered to me was a video about the organization. Actually, I had to make two videos: one about the disabled children center, and another one about the NGO. I studied media and I though this would be a great chance for me to do something related to my occupational field. However, I didn't suspect she was taking advantage of me... Making videos was something not written on my Activity Agreement but, as I said, I didn't mind as that was a good opportunity for me. On the other hand, making a video for the disabled children (for their parents, actually) is a collaboration... But, making a video for promoting the organization is a way of having something for free. Violeta Panova got a video without paying any cent and she would use it to get collaborations and, who knows?, money from public institutions...

I had worked making videos before, and I had never been so pressured like Violeta made me be: she ordered many changes, she wanted the video ready on time,... I really felt I wasn't working for a NGO at all.

My EVS: with horses in Arbanasi (Bulgaria). Part 1/2 from La Fabriquilla C.A. on Vimeo.

My EVS: A day with horses in Arbanasi (Bulgaria). Part 2/2 from La Fabriquilla C.A. on Vimeo.

My EVS: Promotional video of the organization from La Fabriquilla C.A. on Vimeo.


I stood and stood all these things until the end of the project. I reported to my Sending Organization in Spain and to the Bulgarian National Agency of EVS, but I didn't get anything. It seems to me that Violeta have some friends who work at the Bulgarian National Agency and they didn't put too much effort to solve these problems.

Anyway, the activities I carried out were really nice and I would have them written on my Youthpass, which is great. But, what a Youthpass is? Youthpass is a document which contains all the activities that the volunteer have done, as well as the points or competences that s/he improved, such as language skills, computer skills, etc. So that, I would have a really good Youthpass, I though... But I didn't.

The Youthpass have to be written by the volunteer and his mentor. I had a mentor during my stay in Bulgaria. She was a girl who collaborated for “Youth Tolerance”. That wasn't allowed... A mentor has to be a person who has nothing to do with the Hosting Organization; someone totally out of the project. However, Violeta broke this rule and chose a subordinate of her... As you can imagine, I had everything to lose. But the point was that she decided to write the Youthpass herself. Not me, not my mentor,... She, the supervisor, the leader of the NGO, would write my Youthpass (another broken law). And what did she write?

Here you have some examples:

After a hard negotiation between "Youth Tolerance" and my Sending Organization, Violeta Panova promised to make the Youthpass that I wrote myself. She made me sign a kind of document to assure that I wouldn't complain any more. But, she did the same thing again and send a Youthpass with negative things like the followings:


When I came back to Spain, I got in touch with some organizations and some EVS volunteers working for them. One of the volunteers in my city, a Belgian girl, had problems with the organization. After she left the project, the Spanish National Agency didn't allow this organization to have volunteers and started an investigation. However, as I understood, Violeta Panova is going ahead with her organization to exploit volunteers and get money from the EU. Nobody stopped her although I made one million complains... Where is the fairness here?

My Sending Organization, the Spanish National Agency, the Bulgarian National Agency and the European Commission in Brussels eventually ignored my last emails. I just hope they can read the articles I am going to write here. Ban on using my Facebook, ban on travelling around Bulgaria, accusation of a fire,... The list is endless. That is why this article is just the first one.

sábado, 11 de diciembre de 2010


"What a surprise!" That is what I exclaimed that morning at the bookstalls that they set in El Ejido's main street because of the Christmas arrival. I took the oportunity to buy some Spanish comics. Mortadelo y Filemón, Zipi y Zape, El Botones Sacarino,... When I was a child I loved them! And I still love them... What can I say? And, among them, I found up a Súper López comic. But it wasn't any Súper López story: it was "the Bulgarian periplus" of Súper López.

Súper López is one of these Spanish antiheroes. I have never liked it as much as Mortadelo y Filemón, for instance, but... can you imagine my surprise when I read a title like "the Bulgarian periplus" in a Spanish comic? I had no doubts to buy it.

But... who is Súper López? Súper López was created by the cartoonist Juan López Fernández (also known as Jan) during the 70's as a Superman parody. "Periplo búlgaro" was published in 1990 and tells a Súper López adventure in the country where I've been living for 10 months. "Periplo búlgaro" was the first Súper López issue within a series of comic that we can name "touristic comics". Jan likes to set his stories as faithful as possible. That's why he likes to take information, make pictures,...etc I didn't manage to know if he has been in Bulgaria before. I swear he was, because it would have been impossible to create a more accurated image of Bulgaria like what he made. And, moreover, how to take information about an unknown country for Spaniards in 1989 without any Internet? Clearly, Jan had to be in Bulgaria...

Jan, the creator of Súper López
And, what is "the Bulgarian periplus" about? Honestly, I haven't read it yet... But, after taking a look, I suppose it is about an antidote which Súper López's boss needs because he is kind of sick (I believe Al Trapone, the bad of the story, tried to poison him). Luisa, one of the Súper López co-workers, is in Bulgaria on vacation with her boyfriend Jaime and she wants to know nothing about job... Súper López goes to Bulgaria to take the antidote back to Barcelona.

Súper López: "Pe... pe... pero... entonces... Luisa..."
"B.. b... but... then... Luisa..."

Boss: "¡Se fue a Bulgaria esta tarde! ¡Se fue sin traerme el antídoto! ¡Todos me fallan aquí! ¡Nadie hace su trabajo en esta casa!"
"She went to Bulgaria this afternoon! She left without bringing the andidote for me! Everybody lets me down here! Nobody makes his job in this house!"

At the begining, Jan shows Bulgaria as an unknown country... I mean: it'll be hard to find it for Súper López, who flys to one of the Poles (North or South, I dunno...). He checks a map and, afterwards, he flys to Egypt, Athens, and, finally, Bulgaria:
As you can see, Bulgarians speak with cyrillic alphabet... But, is that Bulgarian language? No, it isn't at all. Jan learned the Bulgarian alphabet and he transcribed (didn't translate) sentences from Spanish language with Bulgarian letters... As you can imagine, the transcription is not so good because it is almost impossible to have a standard latin-cyrillic alphabet transcription. For example, in this vignette we have:

Bulgarian man: "София?... Ал норте! Жиен километрос!"
 “¿Sofia? ¡Al norte! ¡Cien kilómetros!”
“Sofia? Northwards! One hundred kilometers!”

Súper López: "¿Hacia allá...? ¡Gracias!"
“Over there? Thank you!”

Finally, Súper López arrives in Sofia:
Súper López: “¡Epa! Esto ha de ser la catedral de Sofía, se parece a la foto...”
“Hey! This must be the Sofia's cathedral. It looks like the picture...”

Once there, he looks for Luisa and Jaime, who are shopping in Sofia.
Súper López: “Vaya... tal vez hubiera sido mejor entrar en su cuarto del hotel y registrar el equipaje...”
“Oh... perhaps it would have been better to get in her hotel bedroom and search the luggage...”

Jaime: “No, yo no querer perfume de París. ¡De aquí! Perfume de rosas, Bulgar...”
“No, me not want perfume from Paris... From here! Roses perfume. Bulgar...”

Shopgirl:  "Ваиасе а хажер гаргарас!"
"¡Váyase a hacer gárgaras!"
"Go to blazes!"

Luisa: “Se dice búlgaro, Jaime, no vulgar
“You must say Bulgarian”, not vulgar...”

Jaime: “No, si hasta se lo he dicho en francés...”
“Yes, I even spoke to her in French...”

Luisa: “Mira, tú señala con el dedo y basta. Los búlgaros hablan en búlgaro”
“Look! You must point with your finger and that's all. Bulgarians speak in Bulgarian!"

Meanwhile, Súper López still looks for them. At the hotel, they told him that Luisa and Jaime went to make a trip.
Súper López: “Debe ser esto... Ahí veo un microbus que pone Balkantourist... ¡Cuanta gente!”
“It must be this... I can see a microbus which has written Balkantourist... So many people!”

He tries to follow the bus, but it is not going to be easy... Carasucia, a Al Trapone's partner, will try to steal the antidote to Luisa. The next stop in this Bulgarian trip is Rila's monastery:
Súper López: "Bueno, llegaré antes que ellos y los esperaré..."
"Well, I will arrive before them and I'll wait”

Bulgarian man: "Ниет! ¡Rila más al suroeste! Esto es Shipka..."
“No (a bad translation of не). Rila is further southwest. This is Shipka..."

Súper López: "¡Pues vaya...!”
"Oh dear...!"

He arrives in Rila's monastery and trys to avoid Carasucia to steal Luisa.
Súper López: "¡Carasucia escapó!"
“Carasucia escaped!”

Then, Luisa and Jaime go to Plovdiv by bus. Súper López follows them.
Súper López: "¡Uf! ¡Estos búlgaros están locos...!”
“Oof! These Bulgarians are mad...”

Countrywomen: "Естос туристас естан флаута!"
"¡Estos turistas están flauta!"
"These tourists are like a flute! (are insane, mad,...)"

Súper López: "¡Ya estamos!"
"We are here already!"

The streets from Plovdiv's Old Town are maybe the most faithful reproduction of “the Bulgarian periplus”. Here you have some vignettes: 
Luisa: "¡Qué bonito!"
"It is so beautiful!"

Jaime: "Me alegro de que se te pase el enfado, Luisa. Ahora vamos a andar un poco por el centro antiguo de Plovdiv."
"I'm glad you are not angry any more, Luisa. Now, let's take a walk by the Plovdiv's Old Town."
Luisa: "Grrmbl..."

Súper López: "Luisa... Deja que te explique..."
"Luisa... Let me explain..."

This is one of my favourites: Can you see the obituaries? And the Bulgarian offering change?

Luisa: "¡Toma bolso! ¡Toma...!"
"Take the bag! Take...!"

Súper López: "¡Ay, bueno! ¡Que ya me voy! ¡Ya...!"
"Ay, ok... I'm leaving now! Now!"

Bulgarian man: Change?

Tania (touristic guide): "¡Todos al autobus! Vamos a..."
"Everyone to the bus! Let's go to..."

Súper López: "...y si se lo quita ¡yo se lo quito a él y listos!"
"...and if he steals it... I'll steal it to him, and that is!”

Luisa: "Oooh, Jaime... ¡Qué espectacular!"
"Oh, Jaime... It is so espectacular!"

Tania (touristic guide): "...es uno de los anfiteatros romanos mejor conservados del mundo y..."
 “...it is one of the best conserved roman anphitheaters in the world and...”

The next stops are the monument of Shipka, Etar and Lovech. As you can see, “the Bulgarian periplus” is more than a Súper López comic. It is almost a touristic guide:
Luisa: "¡Cuántas rosas...!"
"So many roses!"

Jaime: "Bulgaria es el país de las rosas, Luisa... Hacen agua de rosas, colonias, perfumes,..."
"Bulgaria is the country of roses, Luisa... They make rosewater, colognes, perfums,..."

Tania: "...es la reconstrucción de una aldea del siglo XVIII, tal como funcionaba aprovechando la fueza del agua..."
"...it is a reconstruction of a village from the XVIII century, such as it used to work, taking advantage of water strenght..."

Jaime: "Eso es un molino..."
"That is a mill..."

Jaime: "¡Mira! ¡Esto es una lavadora automática, Luisa...!"
"Look! This is an automatic washing-machine, Luisa...!"

Luisa: "¡¿Qué?!"

Tania: "...y funciona muy bien. Aquí lavamos tapices y..."
"...and it works very well. Here, we wash carpets and..."

Luisa: "Pues está bastante vieja... ¡Podrían comprar una Pru!"
"It is quite old... They might buy a Pru"

Tania: “...y este monumento, que se llama Monte Shipka, fue construido en memoria de los heróicos combatientes rusos caídos durante la guerra de liberación contra los turcos, y...”
"...and this monument, which is called Mount Shipka, was build in memory of the heroic Russian fighters who were killed during the war of liberation against the Turks, and..."

Luisa: "¡Qué emocionante!"
"So exciting!"

Jaime: "¡Mira qué cañones!
Look at the cannons!"

Finally, the trip around Bulgaria ends in Lovech, and they come back to Sofia.
Luisa: "¡Bah! ¡A Lovech teníamos que llegar en domingo! ¡Con la de tiendas que hay! ¡Todo cerrado...!"
“Buh! We had to get to Lovech on sunday! There are so many shops! And all are closed!"

Jaime: "Sí... Ya no sé cómo gastar el dinero que hemos cambiado..."
"Yes... I already don't know how to spend the money we changed..."

Luisa: "Ya estamos en Sofia otra vez, Jaime."
"We are already back in Sofia, Jaime."

Jaime: "Dice Tania que después de comer, en el hotel, tendremos la tarde libre."
"Tania says that, after having lunch at the hotel, we will have the afternoon off."

And, finally, Súper López catchs the thief who stole the antidote to Luisa. He gets it at Sofia's airport. As I can guess, it is the Terminal 1. Anyway, did the Terminal 2 exist in 1989? Maybe, it didn't...
Carasucia: "!"

Súper López: "¿Me dejas que te ayude?"
"Do you let me help you?"

And... the end:
Súper López: "¡El antídoto! ¡Claro! Si no estás verde, te vuelve verde, si lo estás te lo quita...
¡Tendrás que volver a esperar!"
"The antidote! Sure! If you are not green, it gets you green. If you are, it takes you off... You'll have to wait again!"

Jaime: "Ejem... ¿Voy a por unas hamburguesas, jefe...?"
"Hum... Shall I go for hamburgers, boss?"

Luisa: "Pobre..."
"Poor him..."

And this was “the Bulgarian periplus”. The first Spanish comic about Bulgaria that I've ever seen... probably the one that exists. A really big surprise when I found it at the bookstalls, and a really good present for a Bulgarian girl who I met in Almería and had a birthday just yesterday ;)

viernes, 6 de agosto de 2010


On 20th of July I left Bulgaria... They were 10 amazing months of great adventures, new friends and a lot of histories. EVS was an experience I'll never forget. Finally, I am in Spain again. Wind, dust, and that white landscape formed by greenhouses' plastics. Yes, I am in El Ejido. My town.

Once here, I went to visit my friend Luis. He invited me to have dinner with his girlfriend Noelia at his flat. He bought some prepared food. When he took it out from the fridge, he asked me, at the same time he was showing me the pack: "Have you tried this before? It is Mexican food". Then, I could read on that pack: burritos. "No, I haven't", I answered. "But, did you know burritos are very popular in the rest of Europe? But they call them Spanish food?". "What?!", Noelia exclaimed. "This is not Spanish!".

Then, I told them the history... The history of the Spain-Mexico confussion. Now, I'm gonna write it here, in my blog. Let me take you on a trip around Europe. Do you wanna come with me? Хайде бе!

A little test: This is Don Quijote... Spanish or Mexican?
And this is El Zorro: Spanish or Mexican?

   First stops: from Sweeden to Poland, across Portugal.

This trip starts in Sweeden. Why Sweeden? Because David, my room-mate in Bulgaria, was from there, and he had the honour of being the first person who made me know that Spain is a totally unknown country... I meant, an confused country.

One of our first days living together, I told him "I should cook some Spanish dish". "Nice!" He replied. "I like the Spanish food: burritos". Then, I said "But, burritos are Mexican". He said sorry, but one second later he said "and, what about tacos?". During a while, I thought "what the fuck is a taco?", and I said "did you mean tapas?" (that small dish of any food that we eat in Spain with an also small and very cold beer). And David said "no, no. I mean tacos". Suddenly, an old TV advertisement came to my mind "El Paso: the best Mexican food. Burritos, tacos, fajitas,...". "Ey, man!", I kept talking, "tacos are also Mexican. When you were in Barcelona -David told me he was there- did you eat in a Mexican restaurant?". David recognized that Sweedish people calls "Spanish food" to the Mexican food (*).

(*) Actually, there is a similar case. Many people calls "French fries" to chips, because they have a Belgic origin and in Belgium they speak French... Why is it not "Belgic fries"?

Some months later we went to Varna to visit Narciso, a Portuguese volunteer. Narciso also thought that burritos were Spanish (yes: even my neighbors from Portugal don't know the difference between Spain and Mexico!). All went to buy something to eat. David said to cook some tacos. Finally I'd try tacos! We bought some vegetables and meat. But David said that, for making tacos, it would be necessary to have tortilla. He said so, in Spanish: tortilla. Tortilla means omelet, and, in Spain, if someone says tortilla, s/he means "Spanish omelet" (as simple as omelet with potatoes). In fact, in order to differentiate the Spanish omelet from the normal omelets, we use to say tortilla de patatas: potatoes omelet. Anyway, the translation in English is always "Spanish omelet".

But the thing was that I really didn't know what David meant with tortilla... We found some bread to make pancakes and he said that we might use them. Some days later, my curiosity made me to write "tacos" on Wikipedia. And I discovered that a Mexican omelet exists: it is very slim and made with corn.

When we were eating those tacos, it reminded me when I ate something similar with some friends in Spain: we called kebab. Turkish kebab. Because, although you won't believe me (I said "you" because this article is not in English by chance), Mexican food is not popular in Spain. If you go to my country, you will find exactly the same kind of international fast food places than in Bulgaria: döner kebab, pizza, chinese restaurants and fucking McDonalds.

Let's leave behind Sweeden and Portugal, and carry on with this travel in Poland. Why Poland? Because the other coworkers of mine during my EVS project were from there. In the end, as I promised, I cooked a Spanish tortilla for David and Ana, one of the Polish volunteers. She asked me why I don't cook tacos for the next time. My answer was "because I am from Spain, not from Mexico". Ana, who was really confidence, said "but, although the origin of tacos is Mexico, they are very popular in Spain". I said that she wasn't right: Mexican food is not popular at all in Spain. It is not easy to find it in my country and if she wants to eat Mexican food in Spain, she should go to a Mexican restaurant, but, anyway, there are not too much... She looked at me with a very mistrustful face and said "really?". I think she didn't believe me, even though I am Spanish and she is not... But she wouldn't be the last one.

Tortilla de patatas. Spanish omelet made with eggs and potatoes.
Tortillas mexicanas. Mexican omelets to make tacos and burritos.

   Spain and America... I mean, Latin America.

I should recognize that Spain is very influenced by Latin America. We listen to their music (Colombians Shakira and Juanes, or the shitty reguetón: the Hispanic version of чалга) and we watch their TV series (during the 90s, the Venezuelan ones were extremely popular). But we don't eat their food. I think it is normal to be wrong about the origin of some actor or musician. For instance, sometime I don't know if some rock band that I like are from the UK or from the USA... But, at least, I perfectly know where they eat hamburgers and where they eat fish&chips. And, by the way, there are 22 countries where Spanish is the official language. Twenty-two! So, why is the confussion just between Spain and Mexico? Why not between Panamá and the Western Sahara?

These things got me angry often. I mentioned it to some friends and one of them, Iram (the only Mexican who I know in Spain) told me the fault is mine: "you look Pancho Villa with that moustache!". I even changed my moustache for a beard during one month! But it didn't work... I still was Mexican, wey! (*)

(*) Wey: A Mexican word used in the coloquial speech. It means "man", "mate", "dude",...

So, I decided to take it easy:

- Initially, when they asked me what is the meaning of mariachi, I used to answer "a Mexican musician". In the end, when they asked the same, I said "I don't know. That's not from Spain".

- Some people told me they knew a Spanish song, and after that, they started to sing "La Cucaracha" (a traditional song from Mexico). I used to say: "I haven't heard before. Maybe it's not Spanish".

- A guy said to me that he could insult in Spanish. Then, he said: "¡chinga tu madre, pendejo!". I said to him "I don't know what is the meaning of chinga and pendejo".

Because, as you can imagine, the Spanish language from Spain is not exactly the same than the Spanish language from Mexico. It is like in English: in the UK they have lifts and in the USA they have elevators. In they UK they have lorries, and in the USA they have trucks... In Spain we have coches (cars) and in Mexico they have carros. In Spain we have móviles (mobile phones) and in Mexico they have celulares. And, as I said, both of us have tortilla, but they are not the same kind.

   Third stops: France, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia,... and Bulgaria.

I forgot this was a trip. So, this travel has a stop in France, with my neighbors from France. Neighbors like Stephane, also volunteer. After I cooked a Spanish omelet and said to him that it is called tortilla de patatas, he replied: "Tortilla? Did you steal it from Mexico?" No, man... We went to Mexico more than 500 years ago. We killed a lot of them and we imposed our culture. That was more than enough and I promise you we are not proud of that. Nowadays, this country is independent and has its own culture. They are not the same than us -Spain- even though we share a language. As well as Mali and France: are they the same? Or Ivory Coast, where they also speak French. Is this country similar to France? And what's up with Haiti? Does France look like Haiti or vice versa? If it's not so, why do they share the language?

Next stop: the Baltic Sea. During our mid-term evaluation meeting, a Russian-Latvian girl called Karina, who presumed to have been living in Spain for a month, asked me if I was missing the Spanish beers in Bulgaria. I said that I wasn't, because the Bulgarian beers are so good... and so cheap!. And she said: "but you have very good beers like Corona or Desperados...". Well: Desperados is beer with a little bit of Tequila. Should I give more clues? (by the by: Tequila is not Spanish. You knew that, right?). Another clue: watch this picture:

Did you realize something? Should I help you?

Yes. Corona (as well as Desperados) are Mexican beers. And, moreover, we don't have Corona in Spain. We have Coronita, which is the same brand than Corona, but they had to change the name in order to sale in Spain, because there is a brand of tobacco called Coronas. Anyway, the most important thing is the following: in Spain you can drink Heineken, Calsberg, Beck's, Guinness, Foster, Stella Artois and Desperados. But we are not Dutchmen, Danes, Germans, Irish, Australians, Belgian or (of course) Mexicans. We are Spanish and we drink San Miguel, Estrella, Mahou, Cruzcampo and Alhambra. It is so easy to get...

I could suffer situations like this until one of my last months in Bulgaria. Some Spanish volunteers there (Isma and Pili) came to visit Veliko Tarnovo and they stayed in my flat at Gorna Oryahovitsa. The day before, I told this to the restaurant staff (the restaurant where the volunteers in Gorna must eat in everyday). Niki, the waiter, spoke no English, so (with the Gosha's help, the other Polish volunteer who was in the same project than me) we had a conversation similar to the following:

Niki: Ще имате испански купон? - Will you make a Spanish party?

Me: Може би - Maybe.

Niki: Да! Мариачи! - Yes! Mariachi!

I got serious, as if I didn't know what he was talking about.

Niki (singing): La Cu-ca-ra-cha, la cu-ca-ra-cha...

I kept so serious, as if I didn't know the Mexican song "La Cucaracha".

Niki (pointing his head): Сомбреро, нали? - Sombrero, isn't it?

Me: Да. Сомбреро е шапка на испански език - Yes, sombrero means hat in Spanish.

Niki: Но, голяма шапка, нали? - But, it is a big hat, isn't it?

Me: Не. Няма голяма шапка в Испания - No, there is not big hat in Spain.

Then, Gosha took part of the conversation to say (in English): "Don't you have big hat in Spain?". And I said that we don't: "maybe in Mexico they have, but not in Spain". In the end, I tried to ignore this conversation because making him know he was talking about another country would be impossible.

Unfortunately, this history didn't end here and, later, I went to Veliko Tarnovo to visit Alejandro (a Spanish teacher who worked there) and some Erasmus students like Magda from Slovakia. I came to Alejandro, really annoyed, to tell him that they said a lot of things from Mexico as if they were from Spain. I said this in English, because Magda was there and I didn't want to be no polite speaking in Spanish. Then, Magda did exactly the same than Gosha did before: she took part of the conversation and said "but, don't you have big hats in Spain?". "No! We don't!" I exclaimed. She put the same mistrustful face than Ana put when I told her that there are not tacos in Spain and, after some seconds for reflexion, she said "but, anyway, Spain and Mexico are very similar!". "Yes" (I only thought) "Like Slovakia and Japan... They are as 'close' as Spain and Mexico, aren't they?" (*)

(*) This is not any exaggeration at all. The distance between Madrid and Mexico D.F. is 9061 km. The distance between Bratislava and Tokio is 9097 km.

Sombrero cordobés. Typical Spanish rider with a Cordovan hat (hat from Córdoba, southern Spain)
Sombrero mexicano. Typical Mexicans mariachis with their big hats.

   Last days in Eastern Europe.

Days in Bulgaria were going on and going on... Until they were almost over.

I was invited to have dinner by Lusi, one of my pupils in Gorna Oryahovitsa. Her father made a not difficult question for me: "what do you least like in Bulgaria?". I said that people from the rest of Europe (not only Bulgarians) don't know the difference between Mexico and Spain, and I was very disapointed. Lusi's father felt offended and said that I wasn't right: "there are almost one million of Bulgarians living in Spain, so that, Bulgarians know perfectly what is Spain and what is not Spain". Some minutes later, when we were eating, he said: "maybe the Bulgarian food is very different to the Spanish one, because the Spanish food uses to be quite chili..." (*). No more words.

(*) One of the main features of Mexican cuisine is that it uses to be hot.

My last moments in Eastern Europe were in Macedonia, with Laura, a Spanish EVS with whom I cooked a wonderful Spanish tortilla at Narciso's flat, in the same kitchen where David prepared tacos. On my way back, I met two Mexicans on the bus: Aura and Eduardo. Finally, I could solve some doubts! They told me they were really glad because Mexico is very popular in countries such as Serbia, Montenegro or Macedonia. The reason is that they watch some Mexican TV series like Kassandra (which was so famous in Spain too during the 90s). They said it is amazing to hear Eastern Europeans speaking in Spanish with Mexican accent. They were really impressed. So, definitely I came to the conclusion that Spain is simply unknown, and everything is thanks to North American (*) movies, which promote their culture, their music and their food. Moreover, there is the fact that a lot of people from the USA call "Spain" to everywhere which is bellow Texas and California. Many of them think Spain forms part of America! So that, the USA export not only their bad cinema and worse food... They export their ignorance and crassness. It's a pity. An actual pity.

Perhaps, this comment has been unappropriated. I should have in mind that I also knew a girl from the USA, Tricia, who was also volunteer from another program similar to EVS and called Peace Corp. I spoke to her about this (actually, I wanted to know if she would be able to differentiate Spain and Mexico) and she started laughing a lot. "Do people mistake Spain and Mexico? How can it be possible? They are very different!". I checked that not all the people from the USA are like people who appear on their commercial movies... I must give them an opportunity.

(*) When I say North America, I mean the north of the American continent: Canada, the USA and Mexico. I don't mean only the USA, as many people does.

   This is the end...

In this guessed trip that I took you on, I didn't pass by Norway, Belgium or England. But at least one person from these countries has once said something Spanish that was actually Mexican...

When I came to Bulgaria, as a "good Spanish", I wanted to fight against some stereotypes I hated, such as "we love bullfighting", "we are having party at anytime", "we don't work too much", "we always sleep siesta" or “in Spain it is warm during the whole year”. But now, after realizing that paella is unknown and most of them have never listened to flamenco music, I became more "promoter" of my country. I also became more patriotic, and nowadays I am a misunderstood in Spain, because, in my weird country, being patriotic means being fascist. Fortunately, Spain won the football world-cup and that makes OK to show Spanish flags hung on balconies and windows. To make matters worse, I have disagreed with bullfighting ban in the region of Catalonia. May I be more fascist and conservative? I want to spit myself (please, feel the irony).

Coming back to my friends' apartment, Luis and Noelia, I must say that they were surprised: very surprised and as disappointed as me. They thought Spain and its culture were famous abroad: How not to know writers as Lorca or Quevedo, cities as Toledo or Salamanca, or food as gazpacho or sangría? No. They know almost nothing of that. I noticed Noelia in particular, because she is going to Italy as Erasmus next course: "promote Spain, Noelia. Promote Spain".
The pearl in the crown of Spanish cuisine: PAELLA.
One of the most popular Mexican meals: BURRITOS.
Today, November 28th, I updated this article JUST to correct some mistakes regarding English language... I also wanted to say a couple of stuff:
First of all, in the "little test", Don Quijote is a Spanish character created by Miguel de Cervantes. For its part, El Zorro is a Mexican character created by a writer from the USA: Johnston McCulley. Many Europeans think that El Zorro is from Spain, and, actually, he is a hero who fights against the Spanish colonists.
Second of all, tortilla means "omelet" in Spanish from Spain... I have been checking and I wasn't able to find how is "omelet" in Spanish from Mexico. I believe they simply don't have... The Mexican tortilla is something totally different to an omelet, because "omelet", by definition, is always made with eggs. Remember: the Spanish tortilla is a potatoes omelet.
And, finally, I would also like to make clear my irony when I mess with the USA. Tricia exists, she read the article and she didn't get offended... I currently have many friends from the USA who live in Almería (they work as English teachers), and I should say that they perfectly know the differences between Spain and Mexico, particulary regarding food.

domingo, 11 de abril de 2010


Бузлуджа es un lugar difícil de explicar desde su mismo nombre. La transcripción al alfabeto latino vendría a ser una impronunciable Buzludzha... Lo más cercano a los sonidos del castellano sería algo así como Buslud-lla.

Perdonad si hoy no vengo documentado. Tampoco lo estaba cuando aquel viernes 2 de Abril llegamos a este sitio. Sólo pretendo mostrar, en imágenes, las impresiones y las sensaciones durante mi visita, junto a Juan y Alejandro, a este majestuoso lugar.

Sean bienvenidos/as al monumento de Бузлуджа:

En teoría, Бузлуджа es sólo esta montaña. Situada en la parte central de la cordillera de Stara Pranina, en todo el corazón de Bulgaria, Бузлуджа se eleva hasta 1441 metros sobre el nivel del mar.

Aunque había una carretera que nos hubiera llevado hasta la misma cima, estas escaleras nos invitaron a subir a pie hasta el monumento de Бузлуджа, que no es otro que aquella torre futurista junto a un no menos extravagante edificio circular.

¿Lo habéis adivinado? Sí: se trata de un edificio construído durante los años del Régimen Comunista en Bulgaria. En concreto, el monumento de Бузлуджа fue levantado en 1981 en honor al Congreso del mismo nombre celebrado 90 años antes.

Vista general del edificio: parece un platillo volante junto a su torre de control.

Llegamos hasta los pies del monumento: empezamos a comprobar cómo la ira del pueblo se ha cebado (y sigue cebándose) con el inmueble.

Detalle de la estrella roja.

Vista de Stara Pranina desde Бузлуджа

Entrada principal al monumento de Бузлуджа. A la izquierda y a la derecha se puede leer la letra de "La Internacional". En el centro, sobre la puerta principal, un mensaje post-1989: "olvida tu pasado".

Juan y Alejandro, frente al monumento de Бузлуджа.

Sesión fotográfica junto a la sellada puerta del edificio. Minutos más tarde, al doblar la esquina, Juan nos avisa de un agujero en la pared: "¡chicos! ¡aquí hay una entrada!".

Dudamos un poco, pero finalmente accedemos al interior del edificio. El suelo está congelado, todo está muy oscuro: una pintada en la pared nos advierte de que no se puede subir. Llegamos a temer por nuestra integridad física.

La clara de luz en la parte central derecha es el hueco por el que accedimos. Juan sube escalera arriba. Pensábamos que no iba a ver mucho más que oscuridad, humedad y desorden. Pero al llegar a la planta superior, Juan exclama varias veces la misma palabra: "¡Hostia! ¡hostia! ¡hostia! ...".

Subo las escaleras sabiendo "que lo voy a flipar". Antes de coronar mi ascenso, me detengo para inmortalizar el momento.

No es una pose: mis ojos no dan abasto.

Detalle del logo comunista en el techo.

Como en una película de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Así me sentí en la planta alta de Бузлуджа. Aquí debieron celebrarse reuniones y congresos.

Los mosaicos y las esculturas fueron creadas por importantes artistas de aquel tiempo.

Detalle de uno de los mosaicos.

Atento y atónito al mismo tiempo, sigo observando.

Debe ser que no puedo evitar ser español, pero mi comparación fue inmediata: parece una plaza de toros.

Engels, Marx y Lenin: piedras angulares del ideario comunista.

Restos de la moqueta que, presumiblemente, cubrían tanto suelo como techo. El color es rojo. No podría ser otro.

La ira del pueblo búlgaro destruyó pieza a pieza este rostro. No pongo en pie si se trata o no de Todor Zhivkov, el último Jefe de Estado búlgaro.

Salimos al corredor exterior de esta especie de "OVNI".

Vistas desde el interior del monumento de Бузлуджа.

Observando más mosaicos.

Una familia.

Un soldado rojo y un niño.

Es hora de partir, pero no puedo evitar asomarme una vez más a la sala principal. Me preguntaba cómo sería durante los años del Régimen. Internet (cómo no) me dio una respuesta:

Y esto fue Бузлуджа. Una pieza más de la historia búlgara situada a pocos kilómetros del monumento de Shipka (en honor a la victoria ante los turcos durante la batalla de 1868), y no menos cerca de las tumbas de los reyes tracios (civilización milenaria que, hasta el siglo III a. de C., ocupó buena parte del centro-este europeo).

Pese a todo, Бузлуджа es un lugar que no aparece en las guías turísticas de Bulgaria. Por esto, y por mucho más, me siento afortunado de haber estado dentro del él. Dentro de la historia reciente de Bulgaria.