Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Over the past year Spanish news coverage of Brexit has not been especially, shall we say, balanced. The political class and media establishment frequently collude to use Gibraltar as a cultural anvil to smash the awkward hammer of political misdirection. Us British guiris have become accustomed to such cynicism of our ways and our food, but now, this insidious culture war has been escalated with the latest propaganda nuke to be launched into the battlefield of bitterness.
The latest advertising campaign for “El Gordo” Christmas lottery has taken a dark turn. Where this campaign had previously manipulated the emotion whilst smothered in enough saccharine to almost disguise the intent, terrifying Spaniards into missing out on the prize, this latest short film would have drawn approving nods from Leni Riefenstahl.
Called “The guiris” it features lurid sequences of foreigners enjoying their holidays or retirement in and around Benidorm. The cheerful music bounces along with foreign accented comments expressing their love of Spain. Images of brown, wrinkled guiris enjoying the Spanish seaside life accompany these playful sentiments, these gentle, jocular references to stereotypes. As a British voice over talks of their love of Spanish food, we see a big dollop of tomato ketchup being slapped onto a plate, the music suddenly becomes less playful and more sinister as a voice over foreigner says “España, todo muy barato” (Spain, everything is cheap). A narrating voice expresses a love of dancing flamenco as we see line dancing pensioners in cowboy outfits under neon lights. A retired couple express their desire to buy a penthouse on the beach, another, wants to buy a Chiringuito and rename it House Rene from Casa Paco. The next states his desire to buy the entire beach. Quick cuts of these pensioners holding El Gordo lottery tickets, laughing manically and grinning at the camera as the slogan punches up on screen “Ellos...saben...que ya...hay...loteria de navidad” (THEY know there is a Christmas Lottery).
Part of the problem is the Lottery itself. Cleverly dressed up to become as much a part of Spanish cultural heritage as Gambas with the Suegros, it is a tax on hope, a taunting of dreams. While previous campaigns were cynical in manipulating this hope, this latest campaign aggressively enables the attitude that such dreams are being smashed by invading foreigners.
This is a dangerous and unwelcome move, and when coupled with recent reports of “uprising” and aggression toward tourists in Barcelona, it strikes me as a rather unwise move as well. It is a reflection of the enfeebled political class in Spain, gladly encouraging any shift of focus toward other causes for the ill winds that blow over the Spanish economic plain at the moment.
I am sure most Spanish people will roll their eyes and say it is just a bit of fun and I have failed to understand the clever and sophisticated sense of humour in Spain. Yet, considering the relentless expressions on social media and in news pieces as to how fearful and uncertain Spanish people living in Britain are feeling in a post Brexit world, has the Spanish audience considered the feelings of foreigners living in Spain? Considering reports blaming xenophobic rhetoric having a profound effect on the dubious statistical increase in “hate” crime and violence in the UK, is this advert a piece of gentle humour or a hint at a social trend toward something more uncomfortable? Try watching the advert and imagine it is a British lottery promotion, casting Europeans who live in Britain in such a light. Many Spanish families have people who live in Britain, sons and daughters, nephews and nieces. Would they find such an advert funny or a part of a sinister trend to make them feel unwelcome scapegoats?
I do buy a Loteria de Navidad ticket, but only because my wife insists I do. She could not bear the horror of my office colleagues winning if I did not buy one. She clearly fell victim to the effective marketing campaign of the previous years, who are you to suggest this campaign will not have far reaching impacts on Spanish social attitudes? If I win the Gordo I expect to be the poster boy for an enthusiastic campaign to tax foreign winners. As the keyboards burn in outrage at lost dreams, anger toward the failure of Spanish politicians to resolve the issues confronting society and reform the corruption that plagues their house, will once again, be deftly misdirected toward an innocent party.