In Tui, in the Province of Pontevedra


I was brought to the city of Tui because I had asked to see Portugal, which lay on the other side of the Miño river, although, to tell the truth, the meaning of the phrase to see Portugal and the moral significance of this desire were not at all clear to me. In Tui, a city of 15,000 people, there is a stone ornamental tablet affixed to the outer wall of an artfully constructed but very dingy building commemorating the birthplace of the famous fascist Calvo Sotelo, whose murder marked an important flashpoint in the escalation of enmities that culminated in the Spanish Civil war. We had a coffee there and ate a Spanish omelette laced with long strands of golden potato like the flat, rectangular pencils carpenters use. In a pattern repeated incomprehensibly throughout the world, the people of Tui, who are in general quite poor, choose to be governed by a conservative party that would gladly see them ground into dust. Our guide was a man who, although an atheist and a Marxist, had special rights of entry to the cathedral, and we were therefore able to see the cloister, the orange trees, the stone lions with bronze tongues that flanked the rear egress, and the tomb of the cathedral’s builder, who bore the last name Torquemada, but was of no relation to the Grand Inquisitor and Hammer of the Heretics. Tui was among the last redoubts of antifascist forces in the northeast of the peninsula during the Spanish Civil War, and as a consequence suffered brutal repressive measures on being overtaken. There, against that wall, said our guide, pointing to the church of Saint Dominic, is where not only the insurgents themselves, but often their wives and children were brought to be shot.

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