Thoughts on a Gibraltar Street Fair

There are thousands of them around the world, different names, different sizes, and the like, these local street fairs. Some of them are primarily for tourists, but usually, they're for the locals, a chance to get together and hang out for an afternoon or evening while giving one's diet a short break.

Some major cities have several every weekend during the summertime; in others they're an annual affair. In Gibraltar, it's the latter and it's called Calentita, and this year they had fireworks. It took place a few weekends ago.

For some reason Calentita only goes back four years. Why the Ministry of Culture didn't come up with it earlier is something I forgot to ask. But this is Gibraltar, a teensy-weensy British sore on the skin of Spain, a mountain on a peninsula surrounded by a small town and a bunker-like border. Except for a small glass factory and banks designed for tax avoidance, (and the navy) there's nothing really here except tourism, which is why one of Calentita's highlights is the introduction of the Miss Gibraltar contestants (Miss World). Pretty women are always fun to look at, and while doing so; it's interesting to ponder how this pinprick on the Mediterranean, and it's Spanish counterpart in Africa, Ceuta, fit into the bigger picture of international politics, especially the Middle East.

On the face Gibraltar and Ceuta should be totally inoffensive. They are extremely tiny, and filled with friendly people who wish no one any harm and provide tourist dollars for people living on the other side of the border. But actually they're extremely offensive to their neighbors. The main reason is that they're THERE. It hurts the dignity of Spain and Morocco to have these tiny enclaves just sitting there figuratively thumbing their noses at two major countries.

Spain blockaded Gibraltar for most of the last third of the 20th century (they gave up in 1984) and when the Blair government in Britain negotiated a co-dominium with Spain in 2002, but the locals had to be consulted, and the referendum rejected the proposal by 17,900 to 187.

Ceuta is a slightly different matter. The Portuguese "stole" the city in 1415 and Spain took over a century and a half later, the people, in the only known referendum to take place prior to the 18th century, decided to stay with Spain when Portugal got it's independence back in 17th century.

When Spain gave Morocco back most of the "occupied territory" in 1956, it kept Ceuta on the grounds it had the city before it grabbed the rest. The Moroccan government is still fuming... Like Gibraltar, Ceuta's border with Spain is a bunker-like affair, and there's a major illegal alien problem. Morocco is to Europe what Mexico is to the US, and this enclave and its sister Melilla a few hundred miles to the east are the equivalent of Tijuana or Nuevo Laredo, easy gateways to the riches of Europe, Everyone in Africa wants to pass through. The Spaniards down there feel Arizona's pain.

But getting back to Calentita... Casemates Square, right off Main Street, was filled to capacity as everyone waited for the fireworks display. I was amazed how much Spanish was being spoken. One shouldn't be, as since the border was opened lots of Spaniards came to get work. Then it happened. I was amazed on how low to the ground they were. That plus the music and the freaky lasers made it quite an experience.

Fortunately, Spain has pretty much given up getting the Rock back, but they will never fully accept it and always resent it being British. It's been that way for over 300 years, longer than the Spanish have held it after they took it from the Moors in the 1430s.

This should be a lesson for the Middle East. Nobody is going anywhere so get used with it.