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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
"Why don't you shut up?" 
24th-Nov-2007 02:09 pm
Postage stamp

At the 17th Ibero-American Summit on Nov. 10, King Juan Carlos I of Spain told President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, "¿Por qué no te callas?"

There's been a lot of fallout over the last two weeks here in Spain over that incident. His Majesty had long been popular with most Spaniards. Chávez, by contrast, consistently ranks almost as low as George Bush in public opinion polls. At the summit, he was talking trash about Spain and continued to speak even though Spain's prime minister had the floor, so the King became a hero for telling him to stop.

Overnight, the recording of his Highness saying those five little words became a popular mobile phone ring tone. You can also buy them immortalized on a tee-shirt. You can listen to the words transformed into music mixes ranging from techno-beat to pasodoble. The auction price for the Internet domain porquenotecallas.com reached 10,000 euros.

One restaurant has even created a menu item called Por qué no te callas. The ingredients include two eggs (a reference to an item of male anatomy that represents courage) served up in an arrangement reproducing the Spanish flag.

It's the phrase of the year, along with "¡Viva el Rey!" Long live the King! Even if -- or maybe because -- he sometimes transgresses protocol.

P.S. To reference to the two most recent posts, I just heard Thanksgiving referred to in Spanish is Día del Paving. "Pavo" is Spanish for turkey, and what we do involves a turkey, thus it is the Day of el Paving. Hope you ate well.

Comments 
24th-Nov-2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
I dunno, he one huuuuge points with me telling Chavez to can it.

I mean, the guy CAN'T shut-up!
24th-Nov-2007 03:36 pm (UTC)
This story got some coverage in the U.S. too. I thought it was great. Is the king taking much criticism for this, or are most people cheering for him? (I'm sure he's hearing SOME complaints, but probably not a lot.)
24th-Nov-2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks for covering this, Sue. I thought of doing it myself, but since you've done all the work.

Vylar, nobody criticizes the King. This is the first time I've seen people publicly express their wish that he had expressed himself in slightly more contained maner--notice that they don't criticize what he said, but how he said it.

Even if he had said something totally wrong, it would go against Spanish reporter grain to criticize his stance on any one issue.

I think Sue will agree with me, or jump in to tell me I'm wrong. Sue?
25th-Nov-2007 11:55 am (UTC)
I pretty much agree.

The King and the royal family get incredibly deferential treatment for their private lives. I routinely learn more from the English-language press and word-of-mouth than I do from the Spanish media -- about the Princess's sister's suicide, for example. (Although if you compare this with the bashing that the British royals get from the British press, I'm not sure this is all bad.)

As for politics, the King usually gets treated with kid gloves (except for Radio COPE), and since the rest of Spanish politics is a brass-knuckles brawl, the difference stands out. In the Chávez incident, a few people in the press, in politics, and in business have gently expressed their dismay that the King spoke so bluntly, and usually no one says anything about what the King does. But they hasten to add that they are glad he said something, and I think that's the general feeling. Chávez was way out of line, and no one but the King dared to speak plainly, so good for him. (In Latin America many people are utterly delighted by what he said. It's now the slogan for anti-Chávez activists.)

Of course, we have to remember that almost always the King carefully tries to avoid doing things that might be controversial, so the general lack of criticism may mean he's succeeding. He's not likely to say something totally wrong, so if he did, reporters might not know what to do, so they'd do nothing.

At the street level, where people say whatever they think, there seems to be strong support for the King. Or at least people are favorably amused. Someone's buying all those tee-shirts and scarves that say "¿Por qué no te callas?" And I don't think I'm alone in wishing he'd tell certain other people to shut up, too. But, sad to say, he probably won't.
25th-Nov-2007 12:00 pm (UTC)
A little muted criticism and a lot of praise. I saw one political cartoon where the King was presented as a bullfighter being carried triumphantly out of the bullring by fans wearing tee-shirts that said, "¿Por qué no te callas?"
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