Dec 242017
 

On this date in 1777, captain James Cook sighted Kiritimati and named it Christmas Island. It should not be confused with Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean which is an Australian external territory. The name “Kiritimati” is a respelling of the English word “Christmas” in the Kiribati dialect of Gilbertese, in which the combination /ti/ is pronounced /s/, and the name is thus pronounced /kəˈrɪsməs/. Kiritimati was first discovered by Europeans when the Spanish expedition of Hernando de Grijalva found it in 1537, and named it Acea. At the time it was uninhabited. This discovery was referred to by a contemporary, the Portuguese António Galvão, governor of Ternate, in Tratado dos Descubrimientos of 1563. Cook visited on Christmas Eve 1777, but did nothing more about it. It was claimed by the United States under the Guano Islands Act of 1856, though little actual mining of guano took place. Permanent settlement started by 1882, mainly by workers in coconut plantations and fishermen but, due to an extreme drought which killed off tens of thousands of coconut palms – about 75% of Kiritimati’s plant stock – the island was abandoned between 1905 and 1912.

 

The island has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world, about 388 square kilometers (150 square miles). Its lagoon is roughly the same size. The atoll is about 150 km (93 mi) in perimeter, while the lagoon shoreline extends for over 48 km (30 mi). Kiritimati comprises over 70% of the total land area of Kiribati, a country encompassing 33 Pacific atolls and islands. It lies 232 km (144 mi) north of the Equator, 2,160 km (1,340 mi) south of Honolulu, and 5,360 km (3,330 mi) from San Francisco. Kiritimati Island is in the world’s farthest forward time zone, UTC+14, and is one of the first inhabited places on Earth to experience the New Year. Despite being 2,460 km (1,530 mi) east of the 180˚ meridian, a 1995 realignment of the International Date Line by the Republic of Kiribati moved Kiritimati to west of the dateline.

Upon Western discovery, Kiritimati was uninhabited. As on other Line Islands there might have been a small or temporary native population, most probably Polynesian traders and settlers, who would have found the island a useful replenishing station on the long voyages from the Society Islands to Hawaiʻi, perhaps as early as 400 CE. This trade route was apparently used with some regularity by about 1000 CE. From 1200 onwards, Polynesian long-distance voyages became less frequent, and had there been human settlement on Kiritimati, it would have been abandoned in the early-mid second millennium CE. Two possible village sites and some stone structures of these early visitors have been located. Today, most inhabitants are Micronesians, and Gilbertese is the only language of any significance. English is generally understood, but little used outside the tourism sector.

Many of the toponyms in the island date back to Father Emmanuel Rougier, a French priest who leased the island from 1917 to 1939 and planted around 800,000 coconut trees there. He lived in his Paris house (now only small ruins) located at Benson Point, across the Burgle Channel from Londres (today London) at Bridges Point where he established the port. Joe’s Hill was named by Joe English, who served as plantation manager for Rougier between 1915 and 1919. English was left alone on the island for a year and a half (1917–19), with two teens, when cholera broke out in Papeete and transport stopped due to the First World War. English was later rescued by Lord John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, admiral of the British Fleet. English, still thinking the war was in effect and that the ship was German, pulled his revolver on the British admiral, causing a short standoff until some explanation defused the situation. Upon his rescue, English’s adventures were later chronicled in the Boston Globe.

Kiritimati was occupied by the Allies in World War II. US troops took over the island garrison, allowing Australian troops to be used for mainland defense. The first contingent of US troops was a company from the 102nd Infantry Regiment, a National Guard unit from New Haven, Connecticut. The Island was important to hold because if the Japanese had captured it, an airbase could have been constructed that would have allowed obstruction of the main Hawaii-to-Australia supply route. The first airstrip was constructed then for servicing the US Army Air Force weather station and communications center. The airstrip also provided rest and refueling facilities for planes traveling between Hawaii and the South Pacific. There was also a small radio-meteorological research station operated by the Kiribati Meteorological Service. In 1975 the Captain Cook Hotel was built on the former British military base.

During the dispute over the Carolines between Germany and Spain in 1885, arbitrated by Pope Leo XIII, the sovereignty of Spain over the Caroline and Palau islands as part of the Spanish East Indies was analyzed by a commission of cardinals and confirmed by an agreement signed on 17th December. Its Article 2 specifies the limits of Spanish sovereignty in South Micronesia, being formed by the Equator and 11°N Latitude and by 133° and by 164° Longitude. In 1899, Spain sold the Marianas, Carolinas and Palaus to Germany after its defeat in 1898 in the Spanish–American War. However, Emilio Pastor Santos, a researcher for the Spanish National Research Council, claimed in 1948 that there was historical basis, supported by the charts and maps of the time, to argue that Kiritimati (or Acea as in the Spanish maps), and some other islands, had never been considered part of the Carolines. Thus, Kiritimati was not included in the description of the territory transferred to Germany, and therefore was not affected, on the part of Spain, to any cessation of transfer and theoretically Spain should have had the only jurisdiction and right to the island. Pastor Santos presented his thesis to the Spanish government in 1948. In the Council of Ministers of Spain on 12th January 1949, the Minister of Foreign Affairs declared that the proposal had passed to the first stage of public attention. The Cabinet of Diplomatic Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs circulated the following note:

The Minister of Foreign Affairs informed the Council of Ministers of the situation in which we find ourselves in view of information and public commentary in the press and because of the requests made of the Spanish administration. The Ministry recognizes that it is a certain fact and historic truth due to Article 3 of the Treaty of 1 July 1899, that Spain reserved a series of rights in Micronesia and for another thing, the specifications of the territories which Spain ceded in 1899 leaves apart certain groups of islands in the same zone.

However, no Spanish government has made any attempt in this respect, and this case remains as a historical curiosity related to Kiritimati.

During the Cold War there was some nuclear weapons testing in the Kiritimati area. The United Kingdom conducted its first successful hydrogen bomb test at Malden Island on 15th May 1957; Kiritimati was the operation’s main base. In fact, this test did not work as planned, and the first British H-bomb was successfully detonated over the southeastern tip of Kiritimati on 8th November 1957. Subsequent test series in 1958 (Grapple Y and Z) took place above or near Kiritimati itself. The United States conducted 22 successful nuclear detonations as part of Operation Dominic here in 1962. Some toponyms (like Banana and Main Camp) come from the nuclear testing period, during which at times over 4,000 servicemen were present. By 1969, military interest in Kiritimati had ceased and the facilities were abandoned and for the most part dismantled. Some communications, transport and logistics facilities, however, were converted for civilian use and it is due to these installations that Kiritimati came to serve as the administrative center for the Line Islands. Islanders were usually not evacuated during the nuclear weapons testing, and data on the environmental and public health impact of these tests remains contested.

The natural vegetation on Kiritimati consists mostly of low shrubland and grassland. What little woodland exists is mainly open coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) plantation. There are three small woods of catchbird trees (Pisonia grandis), at Southeast Point, Northwest Point, and on Motu Tabu. The latter were planted there in recent times. About 50 introduced plant species are found on Kiritimati. They are most plentiful around settlements, former military sites and roads. Beach naupaka (Scaevola taccada) is the most common shrub on Kiritimati; beach naupaka scrub dominates the vegetation on much of the island, either as pure stands or interspersed with tree heliotrope (Heliotropium foertherianum) and bay cedar (Suriana maritima). The latter species is dominant on the drier parts of the lagoon flats where it grows up to 2 m (6.6 ft) tall.

More than 35 bird species have been recorded from Kiritimati. Only the bokikokiko (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis), perhaps a few introduced Rimitara lorikeets (Vini kuhlii) – if any remain at all – and the occasional eastern reef egret (Egretta sacra) make up the entire landbird fauna. About 1,000 adult bokikokikos are to be found at any date, but mainly in mixed grass/shrubland away from the settlements. On the other hand, seabirds are plentiful on Kiritimati, and make up the bulk of the breeding bird population. There are 18 species of seabirds breeding on the island, and Kiritimati is one of the most important breeding grounds anywhere in the world for several of these.

The local cuisine of Kiribati is what you would expect, fish, shellfish, bananas, and coconuts predominate, cooked in Polynesian fashion.  This website gives the basic idea: https://www.internationalcuisine.com/category/kiribati/ I’ll go with pumpkin and coconut soup because it’s very common, but is also easy to prepare practically anywhere these days. The soup can be served hot or chilled

Kiribati Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

Ingredients

2 lbs pumpkin, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
1 13.5 fl oz can coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
coconut oil for frying
chives to garnish

Instructions

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the pumpkin and ginger and cook until the pumpkin is soft, but not browned. Cover the pumpkin with water, bring to the boil, and simmer until the pumpkin is cooked and easily mashed with a fork.

Drain and then mash the pumpkin with a fork, or use a food processor. Add the mashed pumpkin back to the pot with the coconut milk and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Either heat through to serve warm, or chill in the refrigerator to serve cold.

Serve garnished with chives.

Jun 072017
 

The Treaty of Tordesillas was signed at Tordesillas in Castile on this date in 1494, and authenticated at Setúbal in Portugal. It divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Portugal and the Crown of Castile, along a meridian 370 nautical leagues west of the Cape Verde islands, off the west coast of Africa. This line of demarcation was about halfway between the Cape Verde islands (already Portuguese) and the islands entered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage (claimed for Castile and León), named in the treaty as Cipangu and Antilia (Cuba and Hispaniola). The lands to the east would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west to Castile.  This treaty would be observed reasonably well by Spain and Portugal, despite considerable ignorance concerning the geography of the New World. It did, however, omit all of the other European powers. More to the point, it did not take account of the fact that most of the lands included in the treaty were fully occupied by indigenous peoples. Despite its antiquity the treaty is still occasionally invoked by the governments of successor nations to the former Spanish empire.

The Treaty of Tordesillas was intended to solve the dispute that had arisen following the return of Christopher Columbus and his crew, who had sailed under the sponsorship of the Catholic Monarchs (Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon). On his way back to Spain Columbus first arrived at Lisbon in Portugal. There he asked for a meeting with king John II to discuss the newly discovered lands. In turn the Portuguese king sent a threatening letter to the Catholic Monarchs stating that the Treaty of Alcáçovas signed in 1479 and confirmed in 1481 with the papal bull Æterni regis,  granted all lands south of the Canary Islands to Portugal, all of the lands discovered by Columbus belonged, in fact, to Portugal. Also, John II stated that he was already making arrangements for a fleet (an armada led by Francisco de Almeida) to depart shortly and take possession of the new lands.

After reading the letter the Catholic Monarchs, knowing they did not have any military power in the Atlantic to match the Portuguese, pursued a diplomatic way out. On 4th May 1493 Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), an Aragonese from Valencia by birth, decreed in the bull, Inter caetera, that all lands west and south of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Castile, although territory under Catholic rule as of Christmas 1492 would remain untouched. The bull did not mention Portugal or its lands, so Portugal could not claim newly discovered lands even if they were east of the line. Another bull, Dudum siquidem, (“Extension of the Apostolic Grant and Donation of the Indies”) dated 25th September 1493, gave all mainland territories and islands, “at one time or even yet belonged to India” to Spain, even if east of the line.

John II was not pleased with that arrangement, feeling that it gave him far too little land, and it prevented him from possessing India, his near term goal. By 1493 Portuguese explorers had reached the Cape of Good Hope and knew they could round Africa to head to India. The Portuguese were unlikely to go to war over the islands encountered by Columbus, but the explicit mention of India was a major issue. John II opened direct negotiations with the Catholic Monarchs to move the line to the west and allow him to claim newly discovered lands east of the line. In the bargain, John accepted Inter caetera as the starting point of discussion with Ferdinand and Isabella, but had the boundary line moved 270 leagues west, protecting the Portuguese route down the coast of Africa and giving the Portuguese rights to lands that now constitute the eastern quarter of Brazil. Both sides knew that such a boundary could not be accurately fixed and each felt comfortable that the other was deceived. Portugal felt it was a diplomatic triumph because it gained the Portuguese a viable sea route to India and gave them most of the South Atlantic. Not known at the time was just how much of the Americas it granted Spain (and how much gold, silver, and precious stones there were in South America).

The treaty effectively countered the bulls of Alexander VI but was subsequently sanctioned by Pope Julius II by means of the bull Ea quae pro bono pacis of 24th January 1506. Even though the treaty was negotiated without consulting the pope, a few sources called the resulting line the “Papal Line of Demarcation”. Very little of the newly divided area had actually been seen by Europeans, as it was only divided via the treaty. Castile gained lands including most of the Americas, which in 1494 had little proven wealth. The easternmost part of current Brazil was granted to Portugal when in 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral landed there while he was en route to India. Some historians contend that the Portuguese already knew of the South American bulge that makes up most of Brazil before this time, so his landing in Brazil was not an accident. J.H. Parry in The Age of Reconnaissance: Discovery, Exploration, and Settlement, 1450–1650 (1973) says that the likelihood of Cabral’s landing on the Brazilian coast 12 degrees farther south than the expected Cape São Roque, “as a result of freak weather or navigational error was remote; and it is highly probable that Cabral had been instructed to investigate a coast whose existence was not merely suspected, but already known”.

The line was not strictly enforced—the Spanish did not resist the Portuguese expansion of Brazil across the meridian. However, the Catholic Monarchs attempted to stop the Portuguese advance in Asia, by claiming the meridian line ran around the world, dividing the whole world in half rather than just the Atlantic. Portugal pushed back, seeking another papal pronouncement that limited the line of demarcation to the Atlantic. This was given by Pope Leo X, who was friendly toward Portugal and its discoveries, in 1514 in the bull Praecelsae devotionis.

Spanish empire

For a period between 1580 and 1640, the treaty was rendered meaningless, because Spain controlled Portugal. It was superseded by the 1750 Treaty of Madrid which granted Portugal control of the lands it occupied in South America. However, the latter treaty was immediately repudiated by Spain. The First Treaty of San Ildefonso settled the problem, with Spain acquiring territories east of the Uruguay River and Portugal acquiring territories in the Amazon Basin. Emerging Protestant maritime powers, particularly England and The Netherlands, and other third parties such as Roman Catholic France, did not recognize the division of the world between only two Roman Catholic nations brokered by the pope, however.

Portuguese empire

Well, the story continues of course. But I’ll stop except to note that in the 20th century The Treaty of Tordesillas was invoked by Chile to defend the principle of an Antarctic sector extending along a meridian to the South Pole, as well as the assertion that the treaty made Spanish (or Portuguese) all undiscovered land south to the Pole, and by  Argentina as part of its claim to the Malvinas Islands. In both cases the treaty was only a part of the legal tussles, and did not have enormous force by itself because it excluded all other European nations.

If you want to start a fight either within Iberia or between foodies abroad ask what the difference is between Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. You’ll get multiple answers, but, in reality, it is a meaningless question.  Both countries have diverse cuisines based on region, and there is a great deal of overlap. Even if I narrow things down to the sausage called chorizo in Spanish and chouriço in Portuguese I’m not much further along.  I’ll give it a go, though, and in the process talk about these sausages in the Spanish and Portuguese diasporas. I’ll begin by saying that chorizo and chouriço are fairly generic names for a wide variety of sausages, usually preserved in some way.

Generic Spanish chorizo is made from coarsely chopped pork and pork fat, seasoned with pimentón – a special smoked paprika – and salt. It is generally classed as either picante (spicy) or dulce (sweet), depending upon the type of pimentón used. Hundreds of regional varieties of Spanish chorizo, both smoked and unsmoked, exist and may contain garlic, herbs, and other ingredients. There is Chorizo de Pamplona which is a thicker sausage with the meat finely ground or chorizo Riojano from the La Rioja region, which has PGI protection within the EU. Spanish chorizo can be made in short or long and hard or soft varieties; leaner varieties are suited to being eaten at room temperature as an appetizer or in tapas, whereas the fattier versions are generally used for cooking. A good rule of thumb is that long, thin chorizos are sweet, and short chorizos are spicy, although this is not always the case. Depending on the variety, chorizo can be eaten sliced without further cooking, sometimes sliced in a sandwich, or grilled, fried, or baked alongside other things, and is also an ingredient in several dishes where it accompanies beans, such as fabada or cocido montañés. The version of these dishes con todos los sacramentos (with all the trimmings, literally sacraments) adds to chorizo other preserved meats such as tocino (cured bacon) and morcilla (blood sausage).

Portuguese chouriço is made with pork, fat, wine, paprika, garlic, and salt. It is then stuffed into natural or artificial casings and slowly dried over smoke. The many different varieties differ in color, shape, seasoning, and taste. Many dishes of Portuguese cuisine (and Brazilian cuisine) make use of chouriço – cozido à portuguesa and feijoada are two of the best known. A popular way to prepare chouriço is partially sliced and flame-cooked over alcohol at the table (chouriço à bombeiro). Special glazed earthenware dishes with a lattice top are used for this purpose.

In Johannesburg in South Africa, the high influx of Portuguese immigrants in the 1960s from Portugal and Mozambique tended to settle in a suburb called La Rochelle and though most of them have either returned to Portugal or moved on to more affluent suburbs in the city, restaurants in the area still have chouriço as the centerpiece of many items on their menus. In the heavily Portuguese counties in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, chouriço is often served with little neck clams and white beans. Chouriço sandwiches on grinder rolls, with sautéed green peppers and onions, are commonly available at local delis and convenience stores. Stuffed quahogs (also known as stuffies), a Rhode Island specialty, usually include chouriço.

Mexican chorizo is probably the commonest chorizo in the United States. It is based on the uncooked Spanish chorizo fresco (fresh chorizo), usually made with fatty pork, but beef, venison, chicken, kosher, turkey, and even tofu and vegan versions are made. The meat is usually ground rather than chopped, and different seasonings are used. This type is not frequently found in Europe or outside the Americas in general. Chorizo verde (green chorizo) is an emblematic food item of the Valle de Toluca, and is claimed to have originated in the town of Texcalyacac.

The area of around Toluca, known as the capital of chorizo outside of the Iberian Peninsula, specializes in “green” chorizo, made with tomatillo, cilantro, chili peppers, garlic, or a combination of these. The green chorizo recipe is native to Toluca. Most Mexican chorizo is a deep reddish color, and is largely available in two varieties, fresh and dried, though fresh is much more common. Quality chorizo consists of good cuts of pork stuffed in intestinal casings,[10] while some of the cheapest commercial styles use variety meats stuffed in inedible plastic casing to resemble sausage links. Before consumption, the casing is usually cut open and the sausage is fried in a pan and mashed with a fork until it resembles finely minced ground beef. A common alternative recipe doesn’t have casings. Pork and beef are cured overnight in vinegar and chili powder. Served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it has the finely minced texture mentioned above, and is quite intense in flavor.

In Mexico, restaurants and food stands make tacos, queso fundido (or choriqueso), burritos, and tortas with cooked chorizo, and it is also a popular pizza topping. Chorizo con huevos is a popular breakfast dish in Mexico and areas of the USA with Mexican immigration. It is made by mixing fried chorizo with scrambled eggs. Chorizo con huevos is often used in breakfast burritos, tacos, and taquitos. Another popular Mexican recipe is fried chorizo combined with pinto or black refried beans. This combination is often used in tortas as a spread, or as a side dish where plain refried beans would normally be served. In Mexico, chorizo is also used to make the popular appetizer chorizo con queso (or choriqueso), which is small pieces of chorizo served in or on melted cheese, and eaten with small corn tortillas. In heavily Mexican parts of the United States, a popular filling for breakfast tacos is chorizo con papas, or diced potatoes sautéed until soft with chorizo mixed in.

In Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, chorizo is the name for any coarse meat sausage. Spanish-style chorizo is also available, and is distinguished by the name “chorizo español” (Spanish chorizo). Argentine chorizos are normally made of pork, and are not spicy hot. Some Argentine chorizos include other types of meat, typically beef. In Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru, a fresh chorizo, cooked and served in a bread roll, is called a choripán. In Colombia, chorizos are usually eaten with arepas (cornflour buns).

In Bolivia, chorizos are made of pork, fried and served with a salad (tomato, lettuce, onion, boiled carrots, and quirquiña), mote (hominy), and a slice of bread soaked with chorizo fat.

In Goa, former Portuguese colony in India, chouriço is very common. Here, chouriço is made from a mixture of pork, vinegar, red chilies, garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cloves, pepper, and cinnamon – a combination which is extremely hot, spicy, and flavorful – that is stuffed into cow/ox intestine casings. These are enjoyed either with the local Goan bread (pão), or pearl onions, or both. They are also used in a rice-based dish called pulão.  Goan chouriço is so must be cooked before eating.

Three kinds of chouriço are found in Goa: dry, wet, and skin. Dry chouriço is aged in the sun for long periods (three months or more). Wet chouriço has been aged for about a month. Skin chouriço, also aged, is rare and difficult to find. It consists primarily of pork skin and some fat. All three chouriço are made in variations such as hot, medium, and mild. Other variations exist, depending on the size of the links, which range from 1 in (smallest) to 6 in. Typically, the wet varieties tend to be longer than the dry ones.

In Louisiana, Creole and Cajun cuisine both feature a variant of chorizo called chaurice, which is frequently used in the quintessential Creole dish of red beans and rice.  This dish undoubtedly derives from the time when Louisiana was part of the Florida territory in the Spanish empire.

So there you have it. I’m sure you can find one of these kinds of sausage locally. Make a Spanish or Portuguese dish — your choice.

Nov 062016
 

gm6

On this date in 1975 the Moroccan government coordinated The Green March, a strategic mass demonstration to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco. The demonstration of about 350,000 Moroccans advanced several miles into the Western Sahara territory, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops, and meeting very little response by the Sahrawi Polisario Front. Nevertheless, the events quickly escalated into a fully waged war between Morocco and the militias of the Polisario, the Western Sahara War, which would last for 16 years. Morocco later gained control over the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold. Ideally the region would be a sovereign nation. An African nation taking over imperial rights from a European nation is not exactly ideal. The U.N. continues to negotiate for complete independence for Western Sahara.

gm1

Morocco, to the north of the Spanish Sahara, had long claimed that the territory was historically an integral part of Morocco. Mauritania to the south argued similarly that the territory was in fact Mauritanian. Since 1973, a Sahrawi guerrilla war led by the Polisario Front had challenged Spanish control, and in October 1975 Spain had quietly begun negotiations for a handover of power with leaders of the rebel movement, both in El Aaiún, and with foreign minister Pedro Cortina y Mauri meeting El Ouali in Algiers.

gm9

Morocco intended to vindicate its claims by demanding a verdict from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which was issued on 16 October 1975. The ICJ stated that there were historical legal ties of allegiance between “some, but only some” Sahrawi tribes and the Sultan of Morocco, as well as ties including some rights relating to the land between Mauritania and other Sahrawi tribes. However, the ICJ stated also that there were no ties of territorial sovereignty between the territory and Morocco, or Mauritania, at the time of Spanish colonization; and that these contacts were not extensive enough to support either country’s demand for annexation of the Spanish Sahara. Instead, the court argued, the indigenous population (the Sahrawis) were the owners of the land, and thus possessed the right of self-determination. This meant that regardless of which political solution was found to the question of sovereignty (integration with Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, partition, or independence), it had to be explicitly approved by the people of the territory. Complicating matters, a UN visiting mission had concluded on 15 October, the day before the ICJ verdict was released, that Sahrawi support for independence was “overwhelming”.

However, the reference to previous Moroccan-Sahrawi ties of allegiance was presented by Hassan II as a vindication of his position, with no public mention of the court’s further ruling on self-determination. (Seven years later, he formally agreed to a referendum before the Organisation of African Unity). Within hours of the ICJ verdict’s release, he announced the organizing of a “green march” to Spanish Sahara, to “reunite it with the Motherland.”

gm10

In order to prepare the terrain and as a riposte to any potential counter-invasion from Algeria (according to Morocco) or in order to invade militarily the land and kill or deport the Sahrawi population (according to the Polisario Front), the Moroccan Army entered the northeast of the region on October 31, where it met with hard resistance from the Polisario, by then a two-year-old independence movement. The Green March was a well-publicized popular march of enormous proportions. On 6 November 1975 approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into the region of Sakiya Lhmra. They brandished Moroccan flags and Qur’an; banners calling for the “return of the Moroccan Sahara,” photographs of the King and the Qur’an; the color green for the march’s name was intended as a symbol of Islam. As the marchers reached the border, the Spanish Armed Forces were ordered not to fire to avoid bloodshed. The Spanish troops also cleared some previously mined zones.

gm3

According to Morocco, the exercise of sovereignty by the Moroccan state was characterized by official pledges of allegiance to the sultan. The Moroccan government was of the opinion that this allegiance existed during several centuries before the Spanish occupation and that it was a legal and political tie. The sultan Hassan I, for example, had carried out two expeditions in 1886 in order to put an end to foreign incursions in this territory and to officially invest several caids and cadis. In its presentation to the ICJ, the Moroccan side also mentioned the levy of taxes as a further instance of the exercise of sovereignty. The exercise of this sovereignty had also appeared, according to the Moroccan government, at other levels, such as the appointment of local officials (governors and military officers), and the definition of the missions which were assigned to them.

The Moroccan government further pointed to several treaties between it and other states, such as with Spain in 1861, the United States of America in 1786, and 1836 and with Great Britain in 1856 . The court, however, found that “neither the internal nor the international acts relied upon by Morocco indicate the existence at the relevant period of either the existence or the international recognition of legal ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State. Even taking account of the specific structure of that State, they do not show that Morocco displayed any effective and exclusive State activity in Western Sahara.”

gm4

The Green March caught Spain in a moment of political crisis. The dictator General Franco, who had been leading the country for almost 40 years, was dying. Despite the overwhelming military and logistic superiority of the Spanish Armed Forces based in Western Sahara in relation to the Moroccan Armed Forces, the Spanish government feared that the conflict with Morocco could lead to an open colonial war in Africa, which could put Franco’s regime into question and lead to an abrupt political change or a social instability and disaster. The Spanish government, directed by Prince Juan Carlos, who was acting Head of State in substitution of General Franco, and the incumbent Prime Minister Don Carlos Arias Navarro, was in no mood for troubles in the colony. Only the year before, the Portuguese government had been toppled by the Portuguese armed forces after becoming bogged down in colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique. Therefore, following the Green March, and with a view to avoid war and preserving as much as possible of its interest in the territory, Spain agreed to enter direct bilateral negotiations with Morocco, bringing in also Mauritania, who had made similar demands. Under pressure from Morocco, Spain also agreed that no representatives of the native population would be present in the negotiations that resulted in the 14 November Madrid Accords. This was a treaty which divided Spanish Sahara between Mauritania and Morocco. In the agreements Spain agreed to cede the possession of the colony to Morocco and Mauritania, under the condition, expressed in point 3 of the Trilateral Agreement, that the views of the Saharan population had to be respected.

gm8

Spain received a 35% concession in the phosphate mines of Bou Craa and offshore fishing rights that were not respected by Morocco. Morocco and Mauritania then formally annexed the parts they had been allotted in the Accords. Morocco claimed the northern part, i.e. Saguia el-Hamra and approximately half of Río de Oro, while Mauritania proceeded to occupy the southern third of the country under the name Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Mauritania later abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979 and ceded this area to Popular Army of Saharwi Liberation (Polisario), but it was instead promptly occupied by Morocco. Nevertheless, Mauritania preserved for itself a small area called Ras Nouadhibou to preserve the security of its capital Nouakchott.

The Polisario, now with heavy Algerian backing, refused the Madrid Accords, and demanded that the ICJ’s opinion on Sahrawi self-determination be respected; it turned its weapons on the new rulers of the country, sticking to its demand for independence outright, or a referendum on the matter. The conflict has still not been resolved. Currently, there is a cease-fire in effect, after a Moroccan-Polisario agreement was struck in 1991 to solve the dispute through the organization of a referendum on independence. A UN peace-keeping mission (MINURSO) has been charged with overseeing the cease-fire and organizating the referendum, which has still not taken place as of 2007. Morocco has rejected the idea of the referendum as not workable in 2000 and is suggesting an autonomy for Western Sahara within Morocco. That proposal been rejected by Spain, the Polisario, and also by its Algerian backers; according to the Moroccan government, it will be presented to the UN in April 2007.

gm11

Spain is divided between its desire to preserve good relations with Morocco, its Southern neighbor with whom it shares territorial borders in Ceuta and Melilla, and its responsibility to the international legality as the former colonial power. The traditional position of all the Spanish democratic governments until the arrival of Prime Minister Zapatero in the Government, had been that the wishes of the Saharwi population have to be respected, and of support of the organization of the referendum requested by the United Nations. According to the US Department of State’s documents leaked by Wikileaks, Spain, under Zapatero, has changed its traditional position concerning the organization of the referendum for the Sahara, and now supports the Moroccan position. The documents also stated that Spain had been trying to broker an agreement between the two parties. However, in its speech to the Spanish Parliament of 15 December 2010, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Trinidad Jimenez denied that Spain supports the Moroccan position in Spanish Sahara. She also argued that Spain will support any agreement between the Polisario and Morocco. We will see.

SONY DSC

Western Saharan cuisine has several influences since the population of that area (the Sahrawi), are mostly of Arab and Berber origin. The Saharawi cuisine is also influenced by Spanish cuisine because of Spanish colonization. Couscous is one of the main staples which I have discussed in these posts:

http://www.bookofdaystales.com/jean-dubuffet/

http://www.bookofdaystales.com/santa-monica/

The chief protein sources along the coast are fish, and pastoral animals in the desert interior – camel, goat, and lamb. Meifrisa is a traditional stew that can be made from camel, goat, lamb, or rabbit. It is usually served on Saharawi flatbread that is cooked in the sand.

gm2

Making meifrisa is not complicated, but getting camel meat might be. If you use goat or lamb there’s not much to it that is different from other basic meat stews. You sauté a mix of onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, add the meat and brown it, then cover with water and stew for hours and hours until the meat is in shreds. Then serve it on large pieces of flatbread with couscous.

gm7

Sep 102016
 

gib3

Today is National Day in Gibraltar, a national holiday in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. The day commemorates Gibraltar’s first sovereignty referendum of 1967, in which voters were asked whether they wished to pass to Spanish sovereignty, or remain under British sovereignty, with institutions of self-government. Frankly I find such referenda by the British absurdly cynical and self serving. They did the same in the Malvinas. How about asking New Zealand voters if they wish to remain in the British Commonwealth or have their land returned to the Maori?

It’s the same the world over – legally, semi-legally, or by sheer force, commandeer land from its rightful owners, bring in a raft of British colonists, then years later ask if they want to remain British. How do you think they will vote? Fortunately in places like India, the British were overwhelmed in numbers and got slung out eventually. For centuries the British kept up the absurd pretense that they were developing colonies for the benefit of the local people (who usually fought to keep them out), and would only grant the colonies independence when they could prove they were “civilized” enough to warrant it, whereas the truth was that Britain would grant independence when there wasn’t anything left to steal (and local cultures had been irreparably damaged). In a couple of cases, notably North America and Northern Rhodesia, colonial governments didn’t wait for British approval.

gib4

Gibraltar has been a strategically vital port for the United Kingdom since the early 18th century. An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne. The territory was subsequently ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During World War II it was an important base for the Royal Navy as it controlled the entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea, which is only eight miles (13 km) wide at this point. Today Gibraltar’s economy is based largely on tourism, online gambling, financial services, and shipping.

The sovereignty of Gibraltar is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations as Spain asserts a claim to the territory. Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in a 1967 referendum and again in 2002. Under the Gibraltar constitution of 2006, Gibraltar governs its own affairs, though some powers, such as defense and foreign relations, remain the responsibility of the Government of the United Kingdom.

gib5

During the campaign leading up to the United Kingdom’s national referendum on whether to leave the European Union (known as ‘Brexit’) the Spanish government warned that if the UK chose to leave, Spain would push to reclaim control over Gibraltar ‘the very next day’.

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo warned the UK that if Brexit went ahead Spain could “pounce on us” also stating that “it is safer and more secure for Gibraltar to remain in the EU.” On 23 June 2016 Gibraltar voted with the rest of the United Kingdom on whether the UK should remain in, or leave the European Union. Although the final decision saw the UK decide to leave, Gibraltar overwhelmingly voted to remain in the Union. There was a strong voter turnout of 82% resulting in 19,322 votes to remain and only 872 to leave.

The very day after the result of the Brexit vote, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, as promised, renewed calls for joint Spanish/British control of the peninsula. He labeled the British people’s decision to leave the EU as “a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time” speculating that “the Spanish flag on the Rock is much closer than before.”

gib6

I have visited Gibraltar once, in 1956, when my family was emigrating from England to Australia. We anchored in the harbor in the night and when I awoke and went out on deck there was the celebrated Rock before me whilst a flotilla of small boats gathered around the ship’s port side. Some of the ship’s crew had rigged up ropes to the deck rails so that passengers could buy souvenirs from the boats via baskets that were hauled up and down. On some of the boats were boys, stripped to their shorts, who dived for coins tossed into the sea by passengers. It was my first glimpse of worlds beyond humdrum British middle-class life and a welcome, sunny change from the grey London winter and storms in the Bay of Biscay. From there, on our travels, I saw Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples, the Greek islands, Suez and Port Said, Aden in Yemen, with Arabs, camels and the magic of the gilly-gilly man, snake dancers in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon),all before the long haul across the equator to Australia. Is it any wonder that I have spent my life traveling the world?

My papa bought a cigarette lighter with a parrot painted on it from a trader on one of the boats. No idea why.  He had been a Royal Navy officer from 1935 to 1944 and must have seen this kind of scene all over the world a dozen times. What I didn’t know until we left Gib was that we had taken on a troupe of flamenco dancers as passengers bound for a tour of Australia, but next day there was no doubt. Tour posters of dancers in severe poses appeared throughout the ship declaring that celebrities were on board.

gib1

Gibraltar cuisine is synthesis of elements, primarily British and Spanish, of course, but with a general Mediterranean eclectic mix to it. Fideos al horno (oven noodles) is a popular Gibraltar dish that has analogs throughout the Mediterranean and the Italian community of the eastern United States (baked ziti).  The basics are that you cook some kind of pasta, mix it with a tomato-based meat sauce, add cheese, and bake. My recipe here is something of a modification of the one found at http://deliciousmartha.com/2015/10/05/fideos-al-horno-receta-tradicional/ . The original is in Spanish and seems a bit bland to me. But I’ll give it more or less as is. It calls for canned or dried mushrooms from the Pyrenees which may be a little hard to obtain. Any strong dried mushrooms will work.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Start the day before by soaking the mushrooms. The recipe calls for moixernons o senderillas secas (mushrooms from the mountains). Dried porcini will work fine. Put about 2 cups of warm water in a bowl and soak 100 to 200 grams (¼ to ½ lb) of mushrooms overnight.

Take about 4 very ripe medium-size tomatoes and grate them into the mushroom water, discarding the skins. If this is too much trouble, add a can of crushed tomatoes. That’s what I usually do. Add oregano and salt to taste, place in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer gently for about an hour, until the sauce is reduced and thick. Meanwhile cook your pasta. This can be any type of thick spaghetti, linguine, or noodles broken into short pieces. Cook about 500 grams (1 lb) of pasta in rapidly boiling water until barely al dente. Drain and rinse in hot water. In other parts of the Mediterranean and the U.S. cooks use all kinds of pasta — ziti, macaroni,

Mix together the sauce and pasta in a deep casserole. Generously cover the top with grated cheese and bake in a hot oven (200°C/400°F) until the cheese is melted and bubbling – about 10 minutes.

Sep 032016
 

tp1

The Treaty of Paris which finalized the peace between Great Britain and the 13 North American colonies that became the United States, was signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on this date in 1783. Britain acknowledged the right of the United States to be sovereign and independent. The treaty also set the boundaries between the British Empire and the new country, and also included details such as fishing rights and the restoration of property and prisoners of war. The Treaty took over a year to settle because, as always, the devil is in the details. France and Spain also had a large stake in the establishment of boundaries at the time.

Many things come to mind as I contemplate this treaty. First, this is not a date that means much any more in the US. Declaring independence on 4th July is a BIG DEAL – but WINNING independence has largely been forgotten except for a few vagrant (and mostly wrong) memories of Washington, Valley Forge, and “redcoats.” There were 7 years between declaring and winning independence. Even when the battles were over there was a lot to decide, and not a lot of agreement. Second, after signing the treaty both sides set about ignoring the details, particularly with regard to boundaries, one of the key issues in the War of 1812, which people in the US often see as a Second War of Independence, whereas people in Britain see it as an extension of the Napoleonic Wars, if they think about it at all.

Peace negotiations began in April 1782, and continued through the summer. Representing the United States were Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and John Adams. David Hartley and Richard Oswald represented Great Britain. The treaty was signed at the Hotel d’York (presently 56 Rue Jacob) in Paris on September 3, 1783, by Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Hartley. A contemporary artist attempted to record the events but the British representatives refused to sit, so the painting was left incomplete.

tp2

The key episodes came in September, 1782, when the French Foreign Minister Vergennes proposed a solution that was strongly opposed by his ally the United States. France was exhausted by the war, and everyone wanted peace except Spain, which insisted on continuing the war until it could capture Gibraltar from the British. Vergennes came up with the deal that Spain would accept instead of Gibraltar. The United States would gain its independence but be confined to the area east of the Appalachian Mountains. Britain would take the area north of the Ohio River. In the area south of that would be set up an independent Indian state under Spanish control. It would be an Indian buffer state.

The Americans realized that they could get a better deal directly from London. John Jay promptly told the British that he was willing to negotiate directly with them, cutting off France and Spain. The British Prime Minister Lord Shelburne agreed. He was in full charge of the British negotiations and he now saw a chance to split the United States away from France and make the new country a valuable economic partner. In the west the United States would gain all of the area east of the Mississippi River, north of Florida, and south of Canada. The northern boundary would be almost the same as today.The United States would gain fishing rights off Canadian coasts, and agreed to allow British merchants and Loyalists to try to recover their property. It was a highly favorable treaty for the United States, and deliberately so from the British point of view. Prime Minister Shelburne foresaw highly profitable two-way trade between Britain and the rapidly growing United States.

Great Britain also signed separate agreements with France and Spain, and (provisionally) with the Netherlands. In the treaty with Spain, the territories of East and West Florida were ceded to Spain (without a clear northern boundary, resulting in a territorial dispute resolved by the Treaty of Madrid in 1795). Spain also received the island of Minorca. The Bahama Islands, Grenada, and Montserrat, captured by the French and Spanish, were returned to Britain. The treaty with France was mostly about exchanges of captured territory (France’s only net gains were the island of Tobago, and Senegal in Africa), but also reinforced earlier treaties, guaranteeing fishing rights off Newfoundland. Dutch possessions in the East Indies, captured in 1781, were returned by Britain to the Netherlands in exchange for trading privileges in the Dutch East Indies, by a treaty which was not finalized until 1784.

tp4

Historians have often commented that the treaty was very generous to the United States in terms of greatly enlarged boundaries. Historians such as Alvord, Harlow, and Ritcheson have emphasized that British generosity was based on a statesmanlike vision of close economic ties between Britain and the United States. The concession of the vast trans-Appalachian region was designed to facilitate the growth of the North American population and create lucrative markets for British merchants, without any military or administrative costs to Britain. The point was the United States would become a major trading partner. The French foreign minister, Vergennes, later put it, “The English buy peace rather than make it”. Vermont was included within the boundaries because the state of New York insisted that Vermont was a part of New York, although Vermont was then under a government that considered Vermont not to be a part of the United States.

Privileges that the North Americans had received from Britain automatically when they had colonial status (including protection from pirates in the Mediterranean Sea) were withdrawn. Individual states ignored federal recommendations, under Article 5, to restore confiscated Loyalist property, and also ignored Article 6 (e.g., by confiscating Loyalist property for “unpaid debts”). Some, notably Virginia, also defied Article 4 and maintained laws against payment of debts to British creditors. The British often ignored the provision of Article 7 about removal of slaves.

tp8

The actual geography of North America turned out not to match the details used in the treaty. The Treaty specified a southern boundary for the United States, but the separate Anglo-Spanish agreement did not specify a northern boundary for Florida, and the Spanish government assumed that the boundary was the same as in the 1763 agreement by which they had first given their territory in Florida to Britain. While that West Florida Controversy continued, Spain used its new control of Florida to block US access to the Mississippi, in defiance of Article 8. The treaty stated that the boundary of the United States extended from the center of the Lake of the Woods (now partly in Minnesota, partly in Manitoba, and partly in Ontario) directly westward until it reached the Mississippi River. But in fact the Mississippi does not extend that far northward. The line going west from the Lake of the Woods never intersects the river.

In the Great Lakes region, Great Britain violated the treaty stipulation that they should relinquish control of forts in United States territory “with all convenient speed.” British troops remained stationed at a number of forts (Detroit, Lernoult, Michilimackinac, Niagara, Ontario, Oswegatchie, Presque Isle) for over a decade. The British also built an additional fort (Miami) during this time. They found justification for these actions in the unstable and extremely tense situation that existed in the area following the war, in the failure of the United States government to fulfill commitments made to compensate loyalists for their losses, and in the British need for time to liquidate various assets in the region. This matter was finally settled by the 1794 Jay Treaty.

The cuisine of the 13 colonies reflected the cuisines of their regions of origin. Colonization occurred in four waves:

Virginia. The first wave of English immigrants began arriving in North America, settling mainly around Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Maryland. The Virginian settlers were dominated by English noblemen with their servants (many were Cavaliers fleeing in the aftermath of the English Civil War 1642–51) and poor peasants from southern England. The society the Cavaliers brought with them was highly stratified and this was reflected in food and eating habits. The aristocrats that would be the basis for the First Families of Virginia were very fond of game and red meat. Roast beef was a particular favorite, and even when oysters and goose were available, wealthy colonists could complain about the absence of meat. Virginia was the only place in North America where haute cuisine of any kind was practiced before the 19th century.

New England. New England was first settled beginning in 1620, and it was dominated by East Anglian Calvinists, better known as the Puritans. The religious fundamentalism of the Puritans created a cuisine that was austere, disdainful of feasting and with few embellishments. Though New England had a great abundance of wildlife and seafood, traditional East Anglian fare was preferred, even if it had to be made with New World ingredients. Baked beans and pease porridge were everyday fare, particularly during the winter, and usually eaten with coarse, dark bread.

tp6

Delaware Valley. The Quakers emigrated to the New World from the Northern English Midlands during the 17th century, and eventually settled primarily in the Delaware Valley. They were similar to the Puritans in the strictness that they applied to everyday life, and their food was plain and simple.

The most typical cooking method of the Quakers was boiling, a method brought from ancestral northern England. Boiled breakfast and dinner were standard fare, as well as “pop-robbins,” balls of batter made from flour and eggs boiled in milk. Boiled dumplings and puddings were so common in Quaker homes that they were referred to by outsiders as “Quakers’ food”. Travelers noted apple dumplings as an almost daily dish in the Delaware Valley and cook books specialized in puddings and dumplings. Food was mostly preserved through boiling, simmering or standing.

tp7

A popular genre of dishes made from this favored method of food preparation was “cheese” (or “butter”), a generic term for dishes prepared by slow boiling or pressing. It could be made from ingredients as varying as apples (i.e., apple butter), plums and walnuts. Cream cheese had its origins in Quaker cooking, but was in colonial times not true cheese made with rennet or curds, but rather cream that was warmed gently and then allowed to stand between cloth until it became semi-solid.

Backcountry. The last major wave of British immigrants to the colonies took place from 1720–1775. About 250,000 people travelled across the Atlantic primarily to seek economic betterment and to escape hardships and famine. Most of these came from the borderlands of northern Britain and were of Scots-Irish or Scottish descent. Many were poor and therefore accustomed to hard times, setting them apart from the other major British immigrant groups. They settled in what would come to be known generally as the “Backcountry,” on the frontier and in the highlands in the north and south.

tp5

The back country relied heavily on a diet based on porridge or mush made from soured milk or boiled grains, a diet that was despised in wealthier parts of the colonies as well as in Britain.  Oatmeal porridge was popular but eventually the oatmeal was replaced by corn, and became what is known in the South as grits. Cakes of unleavened dough baked on bake stones or circular griddles were common and went by names such as “clapbread,” “griddle cakes,” and “pancakes.” Rabbit, squirrel, and possum were common hunted meats.

The Revolutionary War disrupted the diet a little, although historians differ concerning the extent. For example, wool was in great need for uniforms, so slaughtering sheep became uncommon, thus pig rearing increased in popularity for meat over lamb and mutton. Imported foods from Britain were banned, and had been highly taxed anyway. Coffee replaced tea as a hot drink, and whisky replaced rum because it could be distilled from corn instead of from sugar which was imported from the British West Indies. Colonists preferred eating barley over brewing beer with it, and, in any case, making alcoholic cider is simpler than brewing beer.

What passes as “American” cuisine these days reflects these colonial realities. I’ll leave you to it, whether it be Boston baked beans, Philadelphia cream cheese, or grits.

Nov 032015
 

panama1

The separation of Panama from Colombia was formalized on this date in 1903, with the establishment of the Republic of Panama, formerly the Republic of Colombia’s Department of Panama. After its independence from Spain (part of the independence of the Viceroyalty of Peru) on November 28, 1821, modern-day Panama became a part of the Republic of Gran Colombia which consisted of today’s Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador. The political struggle between federalists and centralists that followed independence from Spain resulted in a changing administrative and jurisdictional status for Panama. Under centralism Panama was established as the Department of the Isthmus and during federalism as the Sovereign State of Panama. Panama had tried to separate from Colombia throughout the 19th century but was not successful until the U.S. intervened on behalf of Panama because of its interests in building the Panama Canal which Colombia would not agree to.

panama7

The Isthmus of Panama had been an important trade route between the Pacific and the Atlantic for centuries. Panama was enormously important to Spain strategically because it was the easiest way to transship silver mined in Peru to Europe. Silver cargos were landed at Panama and then taken overland to Portobello or Nombre de Dios on the Caribbean side of the isthmus for further shipment.

Spanish authorities exercised little control over much of the territory of Panama, large sections managing to resist conquest until very late in the colonial era. Because of this, indigenous people of the area were often referred to as “indios de guerra” (war Indians) and resisted Spanish attempts to conquer them or missionize them. Because of the incomplete Spanish control, the Panama route was vulnerable to attack from pirates (mostly Dutch and English) and from New World Africans called cimarrons who had escaped enslavement and lived in communes or palenques around the Camino Real in Panama’s Interior, and on some of the islands off Panama’s Pacific coast. One such famous community amounted to a small kingdom under Bayano, which emerged in the 1552 to 1558. Sir Francis Drake’s famous raids on Panama in 1572–73 were aided by Panama cimarrons, and Spanish authorities were only able to bring them under control by making an alliance with them that guaranteed their freedom in exchange for military support in 1582.

The prosperity enjoyed during the first two centuries (1540–1740) while contributing to colonial growth; the placing of extensive regional judicial authority (Real Audiencia) as part of its jurisdiction; and the pivotal role it played at the height of the Spanish Empire helped establish a distinctive sense of autonomy and of regional or national identity within Panama well before the rest of the colonies.

In 1846 Colombia and United States signed a treaty under which the United States was obliged to maintain neutrality in Panama in exchange for transit rights in the isthmus on behalf of Colombia. In March 1885 Colombia thinned its military presence in Panama by sending troops stationed there to fight rebels in other provinces. These favorable conditions prompted an insurgency in Panama. The United States Navy was sent there to keep order, invoking its obligations according to the treaty of 1846.

In 1885 the United States occupied the Colombian city of Colón, Panama. Chile, which had by the time the strongest fleet in the Americas, sent the cruiser Esmeralda to occupy Panama City in response. Esmeralda‍ ’​s captain was ordered to stop by any means an eventual annexation of Panama by the United States.

panama3

The Thousand Days’ War (1899–1902) was one of the many armed struggles between the Liberal and Conservative Parties which devastated Colombia, including Panama, during the 19th century. This last civil war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Wisconsin. However, the Liberal leader Victoriano Lorenzo refused to accept the terms of the agreement and was executed on May 15, 1903. On July 25, 1903, the headquarters of the Panamanian newspaper El Lápiz were assaulted by orders of the military commander for Panama, General José Vásquez Cobo, brother of the then Colombian Minister of War, as a retaliation for the publication of a detailed article narrating the execution and protests in Panama. This event damaged the trust of Panamanian liberals in the Conservative government based in Bogotá, and they later joined the separatist movement.

panama6

In 1903, the United States and Colombia signed the Hay–Herrán Treaty to finalize the construction of the Panama Canal but the process was not achieved because the Congress of Colombia rejected the measure (which the Colombian government had proposed) on August 12, 1903. The United States then moved to support the separatist movement in Panama to gain control over the remnants of the French attempt at building a canal. Panamanian politician José Domingo De Obaldía was selected to become the Governor of the Isthmus of Panama office that he had previously held and was supported by the separatist movements. Another Panamanian politician named José Agustín Arango began to plan the revolution and separation. The separatists wanted to negotiate the construction of the Panama canal directly with the United States due to the negativity of the Colombian government.

The separatist network was formed by Arango, Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, General Nicanor de Obarrio, Ricardo Arias, Federico Boyd, Carlos Constantino Arosemena, Tomás Arias, Manuel Espinosa Batista and others. Manuel Amador Guerrero was in charge of traveling to the United States to get support for the separatist plan; he also gained the support of important Panamanian liberal leaders and the support of another military commander, Esteban Huertas.

With a strong support the separatist movement set November 1903 as the time for the separation. However, rumors in Colombia spread but the information managed by the government of Colombia indicated that Nicaragua was planning to invade a region of northern Panama known as the Calovébora. The Government deployed troops from the Tiradores Battalion from Barranquilla, and instructed the commander to take over the functions of the Governor of Panama José Domingo de Obaldía and General Esteban Huertas, who were not trusted by the government.

The Tiradores Battalion was led by Generals Juan Tovar and Ramón Amaya and arrived in the Panamanian city of Colón on the morning of November 3, 1903. The battalion suffered delays on its way to Panama City caused by the complicity of the Panama Railway authorities who sympathized with the separatist movement. Upon arrival in Panama City, the troops were put under the command of Col. Eliseo Torres. General Esteban Huertas commander of the Colombia Battalion in Panama ordered the arrest of Tovar and his other officials.

The Colombian gunboat Bogotá fired shells upon Panama City the night of November 3 causing injuries and mortally wounding Wong Kong Yee of Hong Sang, China. A United States Navy gunboat, USS Nashville, commanded by Commander John Hubbard, who had also helped to delay the disembarkation of the Colombian troops in Colón, continued to interfere with their mission by alleging that the “neutrality” of the railway had to be respected.

panama5

With the suppression of the Colombian troops, the Revolutionary Junta proceeded to declare the separation of the Isthmus and later the independence with the declaration of the Republic of Panama. A naval squadron in the Bay of Panama was captured without resistance. Demetrio H. Brid the president of the Municipal Council of Panama became the de facto President of Panama appointing on November 4, 1903 a Provisional Government Junta that governed the country until February 1904 when the Constituent National Convention was established and elected Manuel Amador Guerrero as first constitutional president. News of the separation of Panama from Colombia reached Bogotá on November 6, 1903 due to a problem with the submarine cables.

panama4

On November 13, 1903 the United States formally recognized the Republic of Panama (after recognizing it unofficially on November 6 and 7). France did the same on November 14, 1903 followed by other 15 countries. On November 18, 1903 the United States Secretary of State John Hay and Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla signed the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty. No Panamanians signed the treaty although Bunau-Varilla was present as the diplomatic representative of Panama (a role he had purchased through financial assistance to the rebels), despite the fact he had not lived in Panama for seventeen years before the incident, and he never returned. The treaty was later approved by the Panamanian government and the Senate of the United States. Colombia recognized the sovereignty of Panama in 1921, only after the United States compensated Colombia with US$25 million for its intervention in the Panama – Colombia conflict.

panama2

Panamanian cooking has some important differences from other Latin American cuisines. For example, they make corn masa from freshly boiled corn rather than from cornmeal and water. So dishes made with masa are quite different in taste in Panama. But there’s a lot that is familiar too. You can get ox tongue in tomato sauce or soft tacos throughout Latin America. Like most organ meats, ox tongue’s not popular in the U.S., although you can often find it sliced in Jewish delis. Cooking a whole tongue is a bit of a rigmarole, but not terribly complicated. You need a pot big enough to hold the whole tongue which you then cover in water and simmer for about 2 hours. Then let it cool and peel off the skin. For this dish you should cut it in thick slices like cutlets. The indigenous hot pepper in Panama is the chombo. Use it if you can find it; otherwise use any hot red chile you like.

©Lengua Guisada

Ingredients

1 cooked ox tongue, sliced
2 cups red wine
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 leek, washed and sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 can of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, washed and chopped
1 chombo (or other hot) pepper, minced
salt and pepper
bay leaf
thyme
olive oil

Instructions

Sauté the onions, carrots, leek, peppers, garlic, and celery in a heavy-bottomed sauce with a little olive oil until they are soft. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and wine, and bring to a gentle simmer. Add a bay leaf, plus thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Let simmer uncovered for about 1 hour, letting the sauce reduce and thicken. Check for seasoning and then add the tongue slices to warm through. Serve the tongue on a warmed platter with the sauce, accompanied by corn tortillas, or crusty bread.

 

Oct 252015
 

basque4

On this date in 1979 the Gernika Statute, which was approved by a majority in a referendum, made the Basque region of NW Spain autonomous. Nowadays it is one of the most decentralized regions in the world; in this regard it has been described as having “more autonomy than just about any other in Europe” by The Economist. The forerunner of the Gernika Statute was the short-lived Statute of Autonomy for Álava, Gipuzkoa and Biscay, which came to be enforced in October 1936 just in Biscay, with the Spanish Civil War already raging, and which was automatically abolished when the Spanish Nationalist troops occupied the territory. Before the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and its system of autonomous communities, these three provinces were known in Spanish as the Provincias Vascongadas since 1833. The political structure of the new autonomous community is defined in the Gernika Statute.

basque2

Concerning the limits of the Spanish Constitution, Basque nationalists cite the fact that in the 1978 Spanish Constitution referendum, which was passed with a majority of votes and a poor turnout in this area, the Basque Country had the highest rate of abstention (the Basque Nationalist Party had endorsed abstention on the grounds that the Constitution was being forced upon them without any Basque input). To this, the “NO” vote in this referendum was also higher in the Basque Country than in the rest of the state. All in all, many Basques believe that they are not bound to a constitution that they never endorsed.

The Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country is an organic law, but powers have been devolving gradually over decades based on re-negotiations between the Spanish and the Basque regional governments to reach an effective implementation, while the transfer of many powers are still forthcoming, a matter of heated political discussion. Basque nationalists often attribute this limitation in the devolution of powers to concessions made to appease the military involved in the 23-F coup d’état attempt (1981).

basque5

The statute was meant to encompass all the historical provinces inhabited by the Basque people in Spain, who had demonstrated a strong will for the acknowledgement of a separate Basque identity and status, even in non Basque nationalist circles. However, the statute’s original blueprint came up against strong opposition in Navarre (Unión del Pueblo Navarro party founded) and rightist and nationalist circles of the still Francoist central administration. At the beginning of the 1980s the Spanish Socialist party and their regional branch too swerved to a Navarre-only stance, paving the way to a separate autonomous community.

However, the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country retained in its wording the spirit of the original blueprint, namely allowing the necessary means for the development in liberty of the Basque people, while now limited only to the western Álava, Gipuzkoa and Biscay provinces. The possibility of Navarre joining in is anyway emphasized and provisioned for, insomuch as they are identified as Basque people, should that be their will.

It established a system of parliamentary government, in which the president (chief of government) or lehendakari is elected by the Basque Autonomous Parliament among its members. Election of the Parliament is by universal suffrage and parliament consists of 75 deputies, 25 from each of the three Historic Territories of the community. The parliament is vested with powers over a broad variety of areas, including agriculture, industry; from culture, arts and libraries, to tax collection, policing, and transportation. Basque (as a right) and Spanish (as a right and duty) are official languages.

basque3

The equal representation of the provinces regardless of actual population was a wink to Alava and Navarre, the least populated and least prone to Basque nationalism of the provinces. However the Navarrese society seems content with its current Amejoramiento del Fuero’

Up to early 19th century, the Basque districts maintained a great degree of self-government under their charters (they came to be known as the Exempt Provinces), i.e. they held a different status from other areas within the Crown of Castile/Spain, involving taxes and customs, separate military conscription, etc.), operating almost autonomously.

After the First Carlist War (1833-1839), home rule was abolished and substituted by the Compromise Act (Ley Paccionada) in Navarre (1841) and a diminished chartered regime in the three western provinces (up to 1876). After the definite abolition of the Charters (end of Third Carlist War), former laws and customs were largely absorbed into Spanish centralist rule with little regard for regional idiosyncrasies. As a result, attempts were made by Carlists, Basque nationalists and some liberal forces in the Basque region of Spain to establish a collaboration among them and restore some kind of self-empowerment (“autonomy”), while the Catalans developed their own Catalan Commonwealth.

basque6

Attempts at a unified Basque statute including Navarre were repeatedly postponed until the occasion seemed to have arrived at the onset of the Second Spanish Republic with an statute for the four Basque provinces. A draft Basque Statute was approved by all four provinces (1931), but Carlists were divided, and the 1931 draft Statute of Estella did not achieve enough support, against a backdrop of heated controversy over the validity of the votes, as well as allegations of strong pressures on local representatives to tip the scale against the unitarian option (Assembly of Pamplona, 1932).

Following the works started for the Basque Statute, another proposal was eventually approved by the government of the Spanish Republic, already awash in the Civil War, this time only including the provinces of Gipuzkoa, Biscay and Álava. Its effectivity was limited to the Republic-controlled areas of Biscay and a fringe of Gipuzkoa.

After the surrendering of the Basque Army in 1937, the statute was abolished. However, Francisco Franco allowed the continuation of a limited self-government for Alava and Navarre, thanking their support for the Spanish Nationalist uprising.

basque7

Basque autonomy represents a microcosm of the struggles of ethnic groups within Europe. I have written many times here about this situation. For centuries Europe was, and is, torn by opposing ideologies. On the one hand, states and empires sought hegemonic control over large territories that encompassed a range of ethnic and linguistic minorities. Even now there is no state within Europe that is unicultural, although a few come close. Some are inherently pluralistic without even considering recent waves of immigrants. Spain is a classic example. It was originally manufactured out of individual kingdoms whose languages and cultures are quite distinct. Spanish language differences are bad enough – the dialects are much more diverse within Spain than between other Spanish dialects worldwide. Though I speak Argentine Spanish, I can understand Chileans, Filipinos, Peruvians, etc. easily enough, but I have no hope with Catalonians or Galicians. Add Basque to the mix. It is a language isolate, totally unrelated to Indo-European languages, or any other language family for that matter.

On the other hand, these individual cultural and linguistic groups have sought independence from state and imperial hegemonic power. The European Union is merely the latest in a series of unifying powers aimed at bringing a vast region under one government (sort of). Counter to this are Basques, Scots, etc. who want autonomy and self identity. Not everyone is happy with the situation, but the creation of an autonomous Basque Country within both Spain and Europe seems to be a reasonable model.

The Basques may have more recipes for variety meats than any other culture. They delight in tripe, sweetbreads, heart, oxtail, tongue — you name it. This derives from their traditional occupation as shepherds in the high Pyrenees (and subsequently in the American West). As is true of so many peasant cultures of Europe, the herders raised the animals and sold the fine muscle meats, but got to keep the less desirable organ and scrap meats for themselves. Yet, a cuisine born of necessity can, nonetheless, produce magnificent dishes. Many fine Basque stews like this one have a base of tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. The sauce is reminiscent of the taste of gazpacho, tangy with the olive oil and peppers, so be sure to use the most flavorful olive oil you can find. I cook this stew over two days, simmering the tripe on the first day, and adding the vegetables on the second. Like many stews of this type, the preparation is rather simple. The key to success is long, long, slow cooking. This dish is best served with plain boiled rice and a big loaf of crusty bread.

IMG_4912

Basque Stewed Tripe

Ingredients

3 lbs honeycomb tripe
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion diced
1 green pepper diced
2 tablespoons garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup of finely chopped green chiles
1lb fresh or canned (drained) sauce tomatoes peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
beef stock

Instructions

Simmer the tripe in rich beef stock for about 1 hour, or until it is fork tender but not soft, and then let it cool in the broth (preferably in the refrigerator overnight). Remove the tripe from the broth and cut it into bite size hunks. Skim the fat from the broth and return it to the heat to warm through. Gently heat the olive oil in a large skillet or heavy bottomed saucepan capable of accommodating all the stew ingredients comfortably.   Sauté the green pepper and onions in the oil until they are soft. Add the tomatoes, green chiles, parsley, and garlic and continue to sauté gently for 5 minutes. Add three cups of the warmed broth and the tripe, and simmer very slowly, uncovered, for one hour. The sauce will thicken considerably in this time. There is no harm in extra cooking if the sauce appears too thin. Essentially, the longer the cooking the better (if the sauce gets too thick add a little more broth).

Serves 6

 

Jun 062014
 

jb4

On this date in 1808 Joseph-Napoleon Bonaparte (7 January 1768 – 28 July 1844), the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, was crowned King of Spain (1808–1813, as José I). Joseph somewhat reluctantly left Naples where he had been king of Naples and Sicily and where he was popular, and arrived in Spain where he was very unpopular indeed. Joseph came under heavy fire from his opponents in Spain, who tried to smear his reputation by calling him Pepe Botella for his alleged heavy drinking, an accusation echoed by later Spanish historiography, despite the fact that Joseph was abstemious. His arrival sparked the Spanish revolt against French rule, and the beginning of the Peninsular War. The revolt was about both nationalism and ideology, “a reaction against new institutions and ideas, a movement for loyalty to the old order: to the hereditary crown of the Most Catholic kings, which Napoleon, an excommunicated enemy of the Pope, had put on the head of a Frenchman; to the Catholic Church persecuted by republicans who had desecrated churches, murdered priests, and enforced a “loi des cultes” (separation of church and state); and to local and provincial rights and privileges threatened by an efficiently centralized government.

jb7

King Joseph’s Spanish supporters were called josefinos or afrancesados (the frenchified). During his reign, he ended the Spanish Inquisition, partly because Napoleon was at odds with Pope Pius VII at the time. Despite such efforts to win popularity, Joseph’s foreign birth and support, plus his membership in a Masonic lodge, virtually guaranteed he would never be accepted as legitimate by the bulk of the Spanish people. During Joseph’s rule of Spain, Venezuela declared independence (1810) from Spain, the first nation to do so. The king had virtually no influence over the course of the ongoing Peninsular War: Joseph’s nominal command of French forces in Spain was mostly illusory, as the French commanders theoretically subordinate to King Joseph insisted on checking with Napoleon before carrying out Joseph’s instructions. Joseph was a classic puppet ruler, a token of Bonaparte’s desire to rule Spain by proxy. King Joseph abdicated and returned to France after defeat of the main French forces to the British at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. He was seen by Bonapartists as the rightful Emperor of the French after the death of Napoleon’s own son Napoleon II in 1832, although he did little to advance his claim.

Spain had been allied with France against the United Kingdom since the Second Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796. However, after the defeat of the combined Spanish and French fleets by the British at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, cracks began to appear in the alliance, with Spain preparing to invade France from the south after the outbreak of the War of the Fourth Coalition. In 1806 Napoleon was fighting in Prussia, so the Spanish readied the army for an invasion should the Prussians defeat him. Napoleon, however, routed the Prussian army at the Battle of Jena-Auerstaedt and Spain backed down. Yet Spain continued to resent the loss of their fleet at Trafalgar and the fact that they were forced to join Napoleon’s Continental System. Nevertheless, the two allies agreed to partition Portugal, a long-standing British trading partner and ally, and which refused to join the Continental System. Napoleon was fully aware of the disastrous state of Spain’s economy and administration, and its political fragility, and came to believe that it had little value as an ally. He insisted on positioning French troops in Spain to prepare for a French invasion of Portugal, but once this was done, he continued to move additional French troops into Spain without any sign of an advance into Portugal. The presence of French troops on Spanish soil was extremely unpopular in Spain, resulting in the Mutiny of Aranjuez and the abdication of Charles IV of Spain in March, 1808.

jb1

Charles IV hoped that Napoleon, who by this time had 100,000 troops stationed in Spain, would help him regain the throne. However, Napoleon refused to help Charles, and also refused to recognize his son, Ferdinand VII, as the new king. Instead, he succeeded in pressuring both Charles and Ferdinand to cede the crown to his brother, Joseph. The head of the French forces in Spain, Marshal Joachim Murat, meanwhile pressed for the former Prime Minister of Spain, Manuel de Godoy, whose role in inviting the French forces into Spain had led to the mutiny of Aranjuez, to be set free. The failure of the remaining Spanish government to stand up to Murat caused popular anger. On 2 May 1808, Murat ordered the younger son of Charles IV, the Infante Francisco de Paula, into exile in France, leading to a widespread rebellion in the streets of Madrid.

The Council of Castile, the main organ of central government in Spain under Charles IV, was now in Napoleon’s control. However, due to the popular anger at French rule, it quickly lost authority outside the population centers which were directly French-occupied. To oppose this occupation, former regional governing institutions, such as the Parliament of Aragon and the Board of the Principality of Asturias, resurfaced in parts of Spain; elsewhere, juntas (councils) were created to fill the power vacuum and lead the struggle against French imperial forces. Provincial juntas began to coordinate their actions; regional juntas were formed to oversee the provincial ones. Finally, on 25 September 1808, a single Supreme Junta was established in Aranjuez to serve as the acting resistance government for all of Spain.

Murat established a plan of conquest, sending two large armies to attack pockets of pro-Ferdinand resistance. One army secured the route between Madrid and Vitoria and besieged Zaragoza, Girona, and Valencia. The other, sent south to Andalusia, sacked Córdoba. Instead of proceeding to Cádiz as planned, General Dupont was ordered to march back to Madrid, but was defeated by General Castaños at Bailén on 22 July 1808. This victory encouraged the resistance against the French in several countries elsewhere in Europe. After the battle, King Joseph left Madrid to take refuge in Vitoria. In the autumn of 1808, Napoleon himself entered Spain, entering Madrid on 2 December and returning Joseph to the capital. Meanwhile, a British army entered Spain from Portugal but was forced to retreat to Galicia. In early 1810, the Napoleonic offensive reached the vicinity of Lisbon, but were unable to penetrate the fortified Lines of Torres Vedras.

When Fernando VII left Bayonne, in May 1808, he asked that all institutions co-operate with the French authorities. Accordingly, the Council of Castile assembled in Bayonne, though only 65 of the total 150 members attended. The Assembly ratified the transfer of the Crown to Joseph Bonaparte and adopted with little change a constitutional text drafted by Napoleon. Most of those assembled did not perceive any contradiction between patriotism and collaboration with the new king. Moreover, it was not the first time a foreign dynasty had assumed the Spanish Crown: at the start of the eighteenth century, the House of Bourbon came to Spain from France after the last member of the House of Habsburg, Charles II, died without offspring.

jb2

Joseph Bonaparte promulgated the Statute of Bayonne on July 7, 1808. As a constitutional text, it is a royal charter, because it was not the result of a sovereign act of the nation assembled in Parliament, but a royal edict. The text was imbued with a spirit of reform, in line with the Bonaparte ideals, but adapted to the Spanish culture so as to win the support of the elites of the old regime. It recognized the Catholic religion as the official religion and forbade the exercise of other religions. It did not contain an explicit statement about the separation of powers, but asserted the independence of the judiciary. Executive power lay with the king and his ministers. The courts, in the manner of the old regime, were constituted of the estates of the clergy, the nobility and the people. Except with regard to the budget, its ability to make laws was limiteded by the power of the monarch. In fact, the king was only forced to call Parliament every three years. It contained no explicit references to legal equality of citizens, although it was implicit in the equality in taxation, the abolition of privileges, and equal rights between Spanish and American citizens. The Constitution also recognized the freedom of industry and trade, the abolition of trade privileges and the elimination of internal customs.

jb3

The Constitution established the Cortes Generales, an advisory body composed of the Senate which was formed by the male members of the royal family and 24 members appointed by the king from the nobles and the clergy, and a legislative assembly, with representatives from the estates of the nobility and the clergy. The Constitution established an authoritarian regime that included some enlightened projects, such as the abolition of torture, but preserving the Inquisition.

During his stay in Vitoria, Joseph Bonaparte had taken important steps to organize the state institutions, including creating an advisory Council of State. The king appointed a government, whose leaders formed an enlightened group which adopted a reform program. The Inquisition was abolished, as was the Council of Castile which was accused of anti-French policy. He decreed the end of feudal rights, the reduction of religious communities and the abolition of internal customs charges. This period saw measures to liberalize trade and agriculture and the creation of a stock exchange in Madrid. The State Council undertook the division of land into 38 provinces.

jb8

As the popular revolt against Joseph Bonaparte spread, many who had initially co-operated with Bonaparte dynasty left their ranks. But there remained numerous Spanish, known as afrancesados, who nurtured his administration and whose very existence gives the Spanish war of independence a civil war character. The afrancesados saw themselves as heirs of enlightened absolutism and saw the arrival of Bonaparte as an opportunity to modernize the country. Many had been a part of government in the reign of Charles IV, for example, François Cabarrus, former head of finance and Mariano Luis de Urquijo, Secretary of State. But there were also writers like playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín, scholars like Juan Antonio Llorente, the mathematician Alberto Lista, and musicians such as Fernando Sor.

Throughout the war, Joseph Bonaparte tried to exercise full authority as the King of Spain, preserving some autonomy against the designs of his brother Napoleon. In this regard, many afrancesados believed that the only way to maintain national independence was to collaborate with the new dynasty, as the greater the resistance to the French, the greater would be the subordination of Spain to the French imperial army and its war requirements. In fact, the opposite was the case: although in the territory controlled by King Joseph I modern rational administration and institutions replaced the Old Regime, the permanent state of war reinforced the power of the French marshals, barely allowing the civil authorities to act.

The military defeats suffered by the French army forced Joseph I to leave Madrid on two occasions. The king finally left Spain in June 1813, ending the failed stage of enlightened absolutism. Most of Joseph’s supporters (about 10,000 and 12,000) fled to France into exile, along with the retreating French troops after the war. Their property was confiscated. The Allied offensive intensified and culminated in the Battle of Vitoria, which marked the beginning of the end of French occupation and, in December 1813, in the Treaty of Valençay, which provided for the restoration of Ferdinand VII.

The burden of war destroyed the social and economic fabric of Portugal and Spain, and ushered in an era of social turbulence, political instability and economic stagnation. Devastating civil wars between liberal and absolutist factions led by officers trained in the Peninsular War persisted in Iberia until 1850. The cumulative crises and disruptions of invasion, revolution, and restoration led to the independence of most of Spain’s American colonies and the independence of Brazil from Portugal. During Joseph’s rule in Spain, Venezuela declared independence (1810) from Spain, the first nation to do so. Many others followed suit soon after. There is also an ironic twist in that Argentine General José de San Martín fought for Spain in the Peninsular War but then in 1812 sailed to Buenos Aires and began long campaigns to liberate colonies in South America from Spain.

jb6

Since Joseph and Napoleon Bonaparte were from Corsica I though a Corsican recipe would be appropriate. The cuisine of the island is essentially Mediterranean with its own twists. One of these is the heavy use of chestnuts for both savory and sweet dishes. For example chestnut flour is used to make the local version of polenta, and the local flan incorporates chestnuts and brandy (locally produced). The signature cheese of the island is brocciu, a young whey cheese made from ewe’s milk. It too is found in savory and sweet dishes. It can be rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried or used to make the local cheesecake, fiadone. Beignets, combine the two tastes: chestnut flour doughnuts stuffed with cheese.

jb5

The signature dish of the island is civet de sanglier, braised wild boar. It uses local red wine as the base of the sauce.   It is really hard to get wild boar so you’d probably best not try it at home. Substituting beef is all right, but you lose the gamey taste. It does need long slow cooking because the boar meat is very tough. When simmered slowly for hours and hours it eventually yields.

Civet de Sanglier

Ingredients

2 kg of wild boar meat
1.5 liters of full-bodied red wine
2 carrots, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 onions, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
6 chestnuts, blanched and peeled
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf)
salt , pepper

Instructions

Cut the boar meat into chunks. Mix with the vegetables and add the bouquet garni. Cover with red wine and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Drain and dry the meat and vegetables, preserving the marinade. Sauté them all together in a large cast iron skillet. Add the marinade and whatever wine is left over. Add the tomato paste.

Bring to a boil, then slow simmer over low heat covered for 3 to 4 hours, or until the meat is tender. If need be, uncover for the last 30 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.

Serve with pasta and crusty bread.

Serves 8