Ilivetolearn's Blog

September 11, 2006

focal-point dates

Filed under: Spain — ilivetolearn @ 12:39 pm

Once again our anniversary (24 years) is overshadowed by more recent events on September 11th. But, given that we Americans forget dates easily—who under the age of 70 still remembers why December 7th is infamous?—I’m sure the normalization of 9/11 is well underway. (Alex Beam, my Yale classmate, wrote about this in his Boston Globe editorial of today, reprinted in the International Herald Tribune.) Most baby boomers remember exactly where they were when JFK was shot, but probably now don’t remember the date. Although once when I had been rear-ended in Trenton, the police officer looking at my license noticed the birthdate and said, “Oh…November 22nd. At my school the nun who was principal came in and asked us all to get down on our knees before telling us what had happened.”

In Spain these dates would not only be abbreviated for quick reference–they would be 11S (a term in general use on the radio and TV as I explained last February), 7D, and 22N—they would also be remembered for generations, and perhaps even made into public holidays. 11M (the 2004 bombings in the Atocha train station), 23F (the 1981 attempted coup in parliament) are in short-term memory and are not yet days off from work, but Dos de Mayo and Tres de Mayo date from 1808, and mark a spectacular defeat of Madrileños at the hands of Napoleonic troops. True, each has been given a more celebratory basis for fiesta-making—the 2nd is Labor Day, and the 3rd is just called Dia de la Comunidad de Madrid—but their origin is a 200-year-old debacle. It’s as if the US made August 25th a national holiday because that was the day the British burned the White House in 1814.

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