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The Climate in Spain Mary E. Farrell

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What the Press Has to Say: El Mundo

This study is an attempt to observe both the quantity and the quality of the press' contribution to forming both the internal and the external concept of an American identity. This identity includes, from the Spanish angle, those aspects assimilated practically without being noticed, such as the gym lexis mentioned above, icons of American culture and low-key, yet conscious referents, such as taking the New England Journal of Medicine of the Massachusetts Medical Society as a measuring stick for rigorous medical findings.

The categories used here are those used by each newspaper for organizing its news and cultural items. To begin we will open the cultural magazine El Cultural distributed on Thursdays with El Mundo. In the first sample issue (28 October through 3 November 2004), the cover features the American baritone Robert Bork who is to open the opera GaudŐ by the Catalan musician Joan Guinjoan. No comments are made regarding the baritone's nationality, only to his quality as a superb singer. On a miscellaneous page, writers Richard Ford and Sandra Cisneros are mentioned among others. And there is a humorous quote by Walt Whitman. As far as best-selling books are concerned, three out of seven are American authors, and in the section on non-fiction Bill Bryson is number five with his Brief History of Nearly Everything. For the paper-back besties, there is Tracy Chapman, number three and Isaac Asimov number six. And surprisingly, a poet Sharon Olds is in seventh place with the translation of her book The Father. All of these are just listed, no comments on their being American or not.

Still within the same cultural supplement, given the United States imminent presidential elections, there is one full page dedicated to "Kerry: another America is possible" with reviews of recent books on the Democratic candidate. To follow, there are two full pages of reviews on books concerning the Republican candidate, "Against Bush and About Bush." Carlos Fuentes, one of the reviewers is adamantly against the "worst president that the United States has had in many years." All in all, the leaning is more against Bush than for him, yet this is not necessarily pro nor contra America. Nevertheless, the general tone and dedication is that the American elections are somehow important on the Spanish political scene.

For the cinema section we have a three-page interview with Woody Allen who was in San Sabastian for the premier of his 2004 film Melinda and Melinda. Naturally, the interviewer asks for his opinion on the possible reelection of George W. Bush. His answer is that it "would be, without a doubt, something very tragic for the United States and for the world." Thus, we see that some Americans are concerned about their position in world affairs. In a class session we might reverse this to see if Spain is worried about its position and how. Most students are not aware of the fact that Spain produces and sells war material as well as other nations do. They are not actively aware that for many, perhaps if not most, a job is a first priority no matter what the manufacture or service involved. Some never stop to think that many companies are owned by the major stock holders, who could be from any number of nations and who, for the most part, are interested in gains.

While checking through the cinema section of El Cultural, we see a three-quarter page review of Jim Jarmusch's film Coffee and Cigarettes. It is given good press; it is American with no insinuations about its being hegemonic, a common comment about American films. Just a review, we could say. The music section dedicates three pages to the opera GaudŐ mentioned on the cover spread. And finally, the science section insists over three pages on an idea relatively new in Spain, but old in the United States--that of capital risk for creating new enterprises with private funds. This is what gets new centers for research off the ground as well as selling American cinema all over the world. Science also dedicates a page on "Emerging Intelligence," which insists on developing "networks of scientific and technological research" as well as "innovation management." In this article such inventions as the internet, the Global Innovation Network, Texas Instruments, Blackberry and Microsoft are cited as examples to follow. In addition, the American magazine Business Week, on a study published for its seventy-fifth anniversary, is quoted as optimistically stating: "Science is advancing rapidly, and each time more countries are willing to invest more resources in research, development and education." And that is the selection of mentions of influences from America all reported with an unbiased tone. Yet, our point is also that in the area of low-key, taken-for-granted-American presence there is a high frequency of mentions in this weekly fifty-eight page review.

The United States is frequently referred to as a "not a mirror" but a back board against which Spanish culture consciously or unconsciously measures itself. The Cultural includes contributions from many cultures; however, its references to the US culture are the most numerous. The overall impression we receive is neither negative as prejudice nor positive for the same reason, yet a rigorous approach to the cultural impact of each item chosen to review or to feature. It is in the number of items that we sense an important weight of American contributions.

El Mundo on Fridays includes a very complete entertainment guide, which tends to boost its sales. This guide called La Luna de Metropoli contains seventy-four pages, with a fourteen-channel TV guide occupying twelve pages. To do a very detailed study would be another very dense project. Here we will offer, again by sheer numeric importance, the presence of American life and culture to be absorbed by the Spanish watcher or reader who just leafs through the magazine to see what's on. Metropoli is thick with references to American-produced events.

In addition to the overall import of things American, another constant is almost always the use and incorporation of new words from the American entertainment and clothes sectors, the way Italian in music and French in dance once were the absolute standards. A good sampling includes Hip Hop, rap, even a Spanish adaptation "rapero", rock, "rockero", breakdance, DJ, scratch, rock, surf-punk, beat, soul, R&B, country, blues, reality show, talk show, late-night show, gore, best seller, jeans, blazers.

The other three readings of the weekly Metropoli tell us that MTV is the most important thematic channel on the Spanish market with a potential audience of about ten million homes. We can view The Simpsons every day at prime time in Spain, at 2:30 p.m. In addition, Crime Scene Investigators, CSI, is a favorite prime-time series on Mondays at 10:00 p.m. as is the late-night viewing 2:00 a.m. Sex in New York. A Catalan imitation of the famous Tonight Show with Jay Leno, featuring a Leno-type monologue, guests, and comedy sketches, is called Amb Manuel Fuentes, on TV-3, evening prime time from 10:50 to 12 p.m. p.m. And then there is the calque on General Hospital, in Spain called Hospital Central, which can also be viewed on Wednesdays at prime10:00 p.m. time.

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Mary E. Farrell is Associate Professor of American Literature at the University Jaume I, Castellon, Spain. She is the author of From Cha to Tea: A Study of the Influence of Tea on British Culture (2002).

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