Ed Driscoll

SPANISH TOURISM

One thing I haven’t seen addressed by the Blogosphere in the back-to-back action of the Madrid train bombing and the replacement of Spain’s government with Bush-hating, terrorist-appeasing Socialists is, will Spain’s tourism from America take a nosedive?

France’s certainly did, and curiously, from what I’ve read, Chirac and company were genuinely surprised. It sort of reminds me of Gray Davis during California’s dreadful rolling blackout period of a few years ago. Davis railed on about how he’d tear a new one to any power company who refused to supply him with electricity at rates he deemed appropriate. But when a utility said, “You know what? We think we’re going to pass on building a generating station here. California doesn’t seem too business-friendly right now. Have a nice life, Governor!”, Davis seemed genuinely astonished that a business took his words seriously. (This is a huge paraphrase on my part. I remember the story, but I can’t seem to input the right parameters to bring up a Webpage with the details via Google.)

I wonder if Spain’s new government will be equally surprised when revenue from tourism goes south. They’ll draw exactly the wrong conclusion from it: tourists today know that a horrific terrorist attack can–and will–occur somewhere. What they care about is, what are you doing about it? (That’s sheer speculation on my part, but it seems like common sense.)Spain’s appeasement of terrorism doesn’t seem like a message that cries out, “Come visit us! Come back to Spain!” when the subtext is, “We’re now two-thirds softer on terrorism!”

And that’s a shame. I visited Spain for a weekend in the middle of a ten day trip to England back in 2000. At first, it was purely to satisfy my modern architecture Jones, and visit Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona Pavilion, generally considered to be one of the jewels of modern architecture, even by people who doesn’t like much else in the genre.

I spent many hours at the Pavilion, taking God knows how many shots of it (I think I went through three or four rolls of film on it alone. And yes, we finally bought a digital camera a year or so later.)

But what I discovered beyond Mies’s building was Barcelona itself, a marvelous city. I had interviewed Franz Schulze, the Chicago-based architecture critic, journalist and professor, for an article on Mies’s furniture for Modernism magazine. He introduced me to the firm that arranges architecture tours for the Illinois Institute of Technology, where Mies taught architecture from the late 1930s (after fleeing Nazi Germany) until the late ’50s, designing its campus in the interim. Our tour guide drove my wife and I around Barcelona in a private car with another woman driving, so our guide could concentrate on explaining the city to us.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful city. (you may very well be reading this and thinking, “no kidding, Sherlock”. But sometimes I have to see these things for myself.) Up until 9/11, I wouldn’t have hesitated to go back. After that terrible day, I’d probably think about it, and then bite the bullet and say, “what the hell”.

With an appeasing government in power, that’s all changed.

And I’ll bet I’m not alone.