The very idea of Brand Spain (the name of a government video prepared by a pretentiously titled High Commission) amounts to a sort of plagiarism. With a few exceptions (mostly in sport) Spanish officialdom has never given any support to talent. More likely it puts obstacles in the way. The recent case of the young physicist Diego Martínez Santos, who won an important international prize on the same day he received a letter telling him that a Spanish academic committee had turned down his application for a study grant, needs no comment. Nor does the similar case of the award-winning biologist Nuria Martí, who fled to a job in Oregon after being fired at home. From Goya to writer Rafael Alberti, official Spain has always treated talent with neglect, jail and exile.
My father, I remember, explained in his memoirs why he did not leave the country after Franco's victory, even though he was danger and had gloomy prospects. There were personal reasons, but what interested me was the following: "Though I didn't expect much for myself, I thought that if those who have some degree of literacy abandon their nation, the people may sink so far they will never rise again."
I am not going to participate in a project sponsored by a government that incessantly attacks cultural activity"
What, then, is all this eagerness to advertise individual achievement, if not to hypocritically exploit it? All the more so, when the Rajoy government has picked on culture, education, science and research as the preferred victims of its cutbacks? What would my photo, or that of any other writer, be doing "adorning" that video I mentioned last week, which was pompously presented the other day in Brussels, when this year's budget for public libraries is zero euros, and absolute permissiveness is still the government's approach to the internet piracy that is putting writers out of business? Or the photo of any director or actor, when theaters and cinemas in Spain have been hit with a brutal hike in VAT, the highest in Europe on those two art forms, which the government terms mere "shows"? Or of any musician or singer, adorning propaganda not for Spain, but for a government that is starving the schools of classical music and (like previous governments, for the Socialists did much the same) snuffing out the recorded music industry, again with its pusillanimously soft line on internet piracy? Or that of any self-respecting doctor, while the public health system is being dismantled, privatized, reduced and rendered more expensive? Or that of a well-known scientist or researcher, when his colleagues are being deprived of the economic aid necessary for their work, and driven out of Spain to find a job?
The government does not wish to support science or culture (no money on hand, it says); but its aversion to culture is such that it is not even prepared to allow private sources to finance it, as has always been the case in the US. Why else is the possible Patronage Law - allowing tax exemptions for donations to museums, cultural publications, concerts, theaters and the like - being kept in the deep freeze, and facing open hostility from the Finance Ministry? Why, then, should the Brand Spain video boast the faces and names of outstanding people in the arts, while it disdains and harasses those arts?
I don't know what the other individuals who received an authorization request from the Brand Spain Commission to use their image, have answered, but my own response was brief. "I thank you for your proposition and your interest, but I am not going to participate in a project sponsored by a government, such as the present one, which incessantly attacks every sort of Spanish cultural activity. Your policy in that area, and the project that you tell me of, are pure contradiction." I preferred the word contradiction to another one I had on my fingertips, "hypocrisy." I must add that I received a prompt acknowledgement, even more concise, but perfectly polite and understanding. At least the High Commission for Brand Spain knows how to keep up appearances.