23 Jul 2009

Obama "roasted" in Alicante, Spain

A bit late, I know, but other posts and "Real Life" (pesky thing isn't it?) kept getting in the way!

Way back during the Hogueras (so a month ago) I dropped a line at the White House webpage asking if they would be interested in seeing some pictures of the POTUS in Alicante, no answer! I also wrote up a (rather lengthy) note about President Obama's presence in the Hogueras de San Juan in Alicante and sent it to the Washington Post in case they might be interested (hard to find an e-mail address to send stuff to!)... but never got an answer so I'll just adapt it and post it here! But perhaps with a few more photos! Be sure to click on them if you want to get a closer look! ;o)

Every year for the past century the inhabitants of the city of Alicante, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, have greeted the arrival of the summer solstice with the construction of large wood and paper sculptures called Hogueras or Fogueres. Composed of larger than life figures and smaller “ninots”, these images are often the equivalent of an editorial cartoon brought to life. Amongst figures representing the “average Juan” trying to get through daily life (or survive the current economic crisis), more “saucy” representations of famous persons abound: politicians, athletes, actors and other celebrities from the tabloids, of both national and international origin. Anyone is fair game. They populate the streets of the city for 5 days and then on the night of “San Juan”, June 24th, they get burnt to the ground amidst the noise of firecrackers and fireworks and the cheers of the crowds.

With the effects of the 2008 US elections having such an international impact, there was no way President Obama wasn’t going to find himself a part of this summer madness. Indeed, he appeared in 3 of the biggest Hogueras.

In the Hoguera Hernán Cortés he was present as a chess piece, placed on a white square, representing “el Rei Negre en una casella blanca” which is to say “the black king in the White House” (casella is a square on a chess board, but it’s also the diminutive for house).

Each figure is accompanied by a note, usually adding a bit more depth to the representation. One of the notes accompanying President Obama says:

"When Obama moves a piece
the world is engrossed

since the play is called

short castling of the King."

In the Hoguera del Puerto, floating in Alicante’s harbour, President Obama is represented as a cowboy atop a raging bull, placed next to Buzz “George W. Bush” Lightyear.

And finally, in the Hoguera Polígono de San Blas, the U.S. president has been placed with the Spanish and French Presidents Zapatero and Sarkozy.

The three form a marching band (Obama plays the drum, the others a trumpet and saxophone) trying to awaken the world from the global economic crisis.

As the sign says (click on photo to read the Spanish):

"A percussion awakens the whole world
It's Obama with a musical air

(charanga would be a festive marching band of wind instruments)
A trumpeteer joins the rhythm
They awaken the economy against the money problems."

They dig a bit into Zapatero:

"In the Americas and in Paris they're improving the jobs
We have our dear Zapatero

And even though the news talks about swine flu

With this president my salary isn't even enough for swine."

President Obama has been honoured in a distinctive manner, unique to the Valencian Community in Spain.
And in the "just to prove I was there" category, I made sure to get my photo taken with the 44th President of the U.S. of A! :o)

I wish we could have gotten a glimpse of Obama engulfed in flames (for more about the cremà read this post), but as you can see below we had a bad angle (he's just to the left of zebra, right behind that bush!).

So which one's your favourite Obama? The chess piece? The cowboy? Or the musician? I think by the number of photos you can probably guess mine... ;o)


  1. The chess piece...I like that one.

    Am I imagining things when I say that he looks like a happy drummer in the long distance shot, but rather sad in the close up one?

    No matter, I think I'll keep it that way, as it makes for a better story.

    My word verification reads as "emonan"...is that like emotion in "WV" speak, and how did they know I was gonna talk about emotions! Ooooo....Okay, I need some shut eye...ta daa.

  2. Great photo of you with the President! I am still horrified with the knowledge that they burn all of those beautiful pieces.

  3. Kaotic, you're right it makes for a better story! But I think it's because of the difference in the angle of the photo... :p

    Dive Girl it still surprises me as well, but I guess we could look at it like ending in a "blaze of glory" instead of forgotten in the basement of some musty museum...

  4. "Blaze of Glory" - I love that perspective!

    My favorite is definitely The Black King in the White House!

    My patience has payed off Cris — wonderful, fabulous post!!!!! Thank you once again for taking us along for all the festivities with your photo essay. The pictures and videos have been amazing and your dialogue brought it all to life for me.

  5. I like the musician the best - it's topical too and tries to relate him into Europe. Think Zapatero gets a lot of stick but he's now worse than the other euro presidents (not that that's much of a high bar!). What surprised me most was how little power the church has in Spain. I always imagined they were as catholic as the Italians but apparently not!

  6. The chess piece! I continue to be amazed how the world has responded to him. There is a part of me that doesn't understand the interest in the US - weird, huh?

  7. O, unfortunately the Church in Spain remains closely associated in many eyes to the Franco régime and so fell out of favour with a whole generation and therefore with their kids during the following generations...

    Nancy, why would you be surprised in the World's interest in US affairs? After all, the US is the only remaining superpower left and American culture permeates the rest of the world... so it's logical that people would be curious about the one person who would appear to be the most powerful person on the planet! ;o)

  8. What an impressive array of photos and accompanying explanation. Thoroughly enjoyed my virtual adventure. Such clever symbolism!! GREAT presentation. APPLAUSE! In your cyberspace travels do stop by.

  9. *takes a bow*

    thank you Rose! I try my best! it helps when there are interesting things going on that I can talk about! ;o)


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