Thursday, September 1, 2016

Muchas Gracias

Geographically speaking, Spain is about 7900 kilometres away from India. But culturally speaking, they’re much, much closer as we owe nearly everything we do to the Spanish. Trust me, I am not exaggerating.

The guitar we strum; the cigarette we smoke; the hot chocolate we drink; the radio we tune into; the wheelchair your granddad uses; the glass mirror you peer into; the foosball you play; the calculator you punch into; the lollipop your kid craves for; the eye glasses you so depend upon; the humble mop your maid uses; the stapler your office cannot do without; the pocket knife you need during travels; even the first telescope, the first space suit and the first planetarium were all invented by Spaniards.

And I am just getting started. Kid you not. If we paid a dollar for everything we owe Spain, they’d probably be the richest country in the world. Allow me to elaborate.

Tungsten, the metal used in mobile phones, circuit boards, rock drills, planes, cars and trains, was discovered by the Elhuyar brothers in 1783. Platinum, the precious metal behind jewellery, catalytic converters, pacemakers and magnets, is yet again a contribution of Spanish ingenuity.

Linguistically speaking, the Hispanic species has made the English language richer by at least 150 words. Alligator (‘the lizard’), Mosquito (‘little fly’), Breeze (‘cold northeast wind’), Tornado (‘thunderstorm’), Vigilante (‘watchman’), Bonanza (‘prosperity’), Cafeteria (‘coffee store’), Peon (‘labourer’), Savvy (‘wise’), Vanilla (‘little pod’) and Zorro (‘fox’) are a few surprising loanwords you’ll never attribute to Spain.

Three of the foodie universe favourites – Tacos, Nachos, and Burritos – have their roots to people or things from the land of the Tomatino festival. ‘Nachos’ is named after Ignacio Anaya, a Mexican restaurateur who cut tortillas into triangles, fried and served them with shredded cheese and jalapeno peppers when he couldn’t locate his cook to serve some American military officers. ‘Tacos’ is derived from an old custom of miners to wrap paper around gunpowder to use as explosive charges. If you really think the Mexican dish involves the same process of rolling a tortilla around a filling. ‘Burrito’ literally means ‘little donkey’ in Spanish. The cylindrical shape of the dish probably reminded people of the packs that donkeys carried in the olden days.

Tequila, Sherry and Mojito are some more spirited Spanish gifts to die for. Given this armada of delights, it would be safe to conclude with a pithy aphorism: No Spain, No Gain.