Salamanca Diaries: A Night Out in Valladolid | Bar Fight with Los Rojos

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We almost got the shit beat out of us.

Let me explain.

On Friday we went out to the gypsy bar in Valladolid. The boyfriend or friend or ex of L. was staying the weekend because they had to “talk” and M. was there too and we had been “talking.” So, in order to get out of the flat and get some fresh air the six of us headed out at 1 am in the fucking snow cumming like shooting stars over our paraguas and freezing my feet through my NYC boots. T’was to be an unusual night.

We arrive to the gitano bar, El Penicilino, which is actually a lefty hangout in the Plaza Portugalete and a place I consider to be my scene. Finally finding a table with half empty wine bottles, litter and cookies scattered across, we sit down. We are lucky. The place is packed: young people, old people, couples with matching rastafari hair and striped pants. Punk kids. Metal kids with long black greasy hair and studs on their pants. Also, that crazy guy who paces around saying “hola.” We don’t know what his deal is, though he manages to get me to admit that I’m Americana and N. that she is Iranian.

Anyway, while the crowded couch of hippies beside us stacks glasses one on top of another and laughs, we start drinking our  shot glasses of vino dulce and eating our zapatillas cookies (6 shared bottle).


Debo escribir algunos versos sobre El Penicilino, una tasca de la plaza de la Libertad que toma su nombre del sabor que le provoco a un estudiante de químicas probar por primera vez el vino dulce con alpargata (un pastelito clásico del pueblo de Portillo) que le sirvió el cantinero. Hoy nadie recuerda el verdadero nombre del bar, lo cual no impide que llegue hasta el abarrote cada noche de fin de semana, con un público variopinto.

Our conversation is a bit inhibited, being that S. only speaks Spanish sprinkled with English and N., only English with Farsi. We are getting tired from the wine, feeling woozy  in a wet, dreamy outpost in some humid seaside alley in Morocco (hence… gypsy bar).

Suddenly, after an exciting trip to the girls bathroom stall covered in piss, me apetece to sing the Marcha Real, which my 8 year old student Iñogo taught me months ago:

gloria a la patria,
que supo seguir sobre el azul del mar,
el caminar del sol.
viva españa,
los yunques y las ruedas cantan al compas
del himno de la fe.

My Spanish friends are yelling at me–this part’s a little hazy–I can’t sing that in this lefty place, “te pega, alguien te pega.” I get pissed that they tell me someone is gonna hit me. And say in my country censorship is worse to us lefties than whatever other thing and that if I want to sing well joder I’m going to do it. But that was Franco’s song. It means fascism. It reminds us. You can’t come here in this lefty place filled with Communists and start with that fascist song “es provocar, para provocar.”

So now I am curious. This country is still marked by the civil war and by Franco. It’s still healing. It’s still an open wound and I am rubbing in salt to make it sting. I want to know how far this could go. I get an adrenaline rush: this is investigative journalism at it’s finest I think through a cloud of wine. After all, I agree with them anyway. I am on their side. I love Zizek.

At this point my friends decide to get up and leave complaining about the sweet wine that rushed to our heads. I follow the group, as expected in Spain where the group always comes before the individual.

On our way out, sliding through a horde of wasted commie rojos, a beefy-looking gitano guy with a funny jerry curl approaches us. To make a long story short, I end up asking him if the Marcha Real is reason to hit someone. He says what??? I say you know, “gloria a la patria que supo seguir” he says “did they tell you to sing that???”” I say no, no no. He runs over to S. and to M. who are trying to leave through the crowd and starts threatening them for telling foreigners to come into a communist bar and sing the fascist anthem. I am thinking, oh shit! I have got to do something. ..culpa mía.

I catch up and hear that the jerry curl guy and M. are fighting. M. is defending me and himself and S. The jerry curl guy is like hey you want to take this to a boxing ring and we can fight it out. I am yelling at the top of my lungs over the sound of the bar, no no they didn’t tell me to sing it, no no. Fuck. They are going to get the shit beat out of them and it’s my fault.

In the end, I am not sure why, but the tío calms down, gives us each a big kiss on the forehead. Then leans in for a frenchie…. at that point, I’m like alright, fuck, let’s get the hell out of here.

We slither out of the bar, seeing double. My friends are pissed. I’m like look guys, you were right. But, still. N. says in Iran you get killed for that, not only hit, and she says it all normal like too, with a straight face. I am thinking very American: no one is going to kill me for practicing my freedom of speech, bro, tha’s just crazy.

In the streets, people are yelling and making botellón. After a 15 minute walk, we arrive back on our street, Corpus Christi. Around the corner, there is a drunk homeless guy in a blanket who calls us “morenos” coming close and saying “no tengais miedo, hay que vocalizar, vocalizar, vocalizaaarrr”.

We finally cross the threshold into our building and I’m all like “ahh, safe.” Then I turn around and M. is stopped at the doorway, talking to a strange voice coming from the first flat in out building. The guy is saying he is lonely and inviting M.,–a thirty year old man–and all of us to come in for “a game” at 4 am. Whaa the fuuu. Creepy bastard heard us in the hallway and ran to the peephole…

It’s just another Friday night in Valladolid in which I get skooled.

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Photo Credit: Naghmeh Ahmadi


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