Archive for the ‘Hijos ilustres de Zaragoza’ Category

Hugo Chávez – Yes, he’s from Zaragoza!

I thought I had run out of “Famous Zaragozans” to fill these pages, but a few days ago I received an email from one María Eugenia Santarrabia Fulminázquez, who purported to be the Press Secretary of the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez.

Ms Santarrabia’s message was to say that El Presidente was an avid reader of this blog and that he was feeling a bit miffed that I had at no time mentioned that he was a great-great-great-great grandson of Eleazar Blanco Fernández, who left Zaragoza God knows when and bought a time-share in Peribeca, Venezuela.

Well, as you can imagine, I was gobsmacked. I immediately got in touch with Ms Santarrabia who phoned me back and explained that Presidente Chávez would be delighted to accede to an interview for the ZaragozaTwins blog.

It was with some trepidation that I called the Caracas hotline to speak to the Great Man. I wired the phone up to my laptop so that everything would be recorded (I have become an expert at this – secret services of the world, take note) and made sure that I would be calling at 3 am, Venezuela time, so as not to interfere with the Great Man’s crippling schedule.

–         ¿Aló?

–         Aló, Presidente. This is Heen Martínez, from ZaragozaTwins.

         Never heard of you. Go to hell and let me get back to sleep.

–         It’s ZaragozaTwins, Comandante en Jefe.

–         Vete al carajo.

–         Maybe you’d prefer if I called in the morning?

–         Is this some kind of practical joke? No me molestes más, pendejo.

–         I thought they only said “pendejo” in México?

–         What? Are you Spanish or something?

–         Yes, oh Líder Absoluto.

–         What?

–         My name is Heen Martínez, I am one of the Zaragoza Twins.

–         What? Are you seeking political asylum in our beloved country?

–         Hardly. I just wanted to interview you.

–         Who are you, to interview me

–         I am Heen Martínez. ZaragozaTwins. The blog you read and love.

–         ……

–         Presidente?

–         OK, OK, I know who you are. Yes, yes, I remember. I agreed to grant you an interview.

–         That’s right, Jefe en Comandancia.

–         So… Zaragoza… land of my fathers.

–         So I have heard, Comandante en Supremacía.

–         My great-great-great-great grandfather was from Zaragoza.

–         Yes, I believe so, Supremo en Jefatura. Such an honour.

–         A beautiful town. One day I will return.

–         Return, Gran Líder de la Revolución Bolivariana? You mean you’ve been here before?

–         No, no… it’s a spiritual thing. The Revolution is always spiritual.

–         Whatever you say, Guía y Luz.

–         Are you being cynical, fawning, or just stupid, señor Martínez?

–         All three, probably. It’s the price I pay for brown-nosing a megalomaniac crackpot like you, Maestro Iluminado Revolucionario.

–         Why don’t you shut up?

–         I’m quite enjoying this.

–         I will have you shot at dawn for this, you Aznar-supporting scumbag.

–         Eh? Where did you get that one from, Presidente Cariñoso y Cachondo?

–         …

–         ….

At this point the conversation came to an end. Hugo didn’t say much, but he certainly came across as a maño. I emailed María Eugenia Santarrabia the following day and, naturally, she denied that the conversation had ever taken place.

What can I say?


Lucía Méndez

Lucía Méndez

We don’t know much about Lucía Méndez. And when I say “we”, I don’t just mean the Zaragoza Twins, I mean everybody.


I can tell you she was born in the second half of 1901. I can tell you she died on 21/03/37. I can tell you she was 35 years old when she died but I can’t say exactly where. I can tell you (and it’s the only thing we really know about her) that she was probably born in Zaragoza, and that’s what entitles her to be included in this section of “Hijos ilustres de Zaragoza”.


Lucía was never really “illustrious”. She was, perhaps, notorious. “Disreputable” is another adjective that springs to mind. Dead set on flaunting and flouting convention, she was the first Spanish woman to take her own photographs. She posed exclusively for her own gratification and portrayed herself in dozens of amateur photographs, of which absolutely none remain except this one, the one that opens this post, the one that mesmerised you, o reader, when you saw it.


A friend (and perhaps a lover) of the great Hungarian artist Gregyor Czabo, she discovered photography when she was an adolescent, and exhibited her own self-portraits at the Edinburgh Photography Exhibition, the first of its kind, in 1921. Her shocking poses and brutal glare stunned critics and visitors alike. Flushed with success, she even challenged Man Ray to a “photographical duel”, which he refused with the surrealist counter-offer of an underwater pillow fight. Neither event took place, unfortunately.


Méndez moved to Paris some time in the early 30’s. After predictably mingling with dozens of frustrated painters and dissolute poets, she sank into alcoholism and resorted to selling photos of herself in her birthday suit in order to pay for her addiction.


“Lo único que tengo es lo que soy”, she would say. “The only thing I have is what I am.”


What she was, was herself. The only thing she could sell was what she was, a failed artist, perhaps, nothing more than an amateur photographer, probably auto-besotted (she was convinced that she was the most beautiful woman in the world), and she marketed her product with a pathetic desperation not unlike the great and not-so-great singers and actresses who would follow in her sordid footsteps in later years.


There are stories, or rather rumours, that she fell into prostitution. There is no proof of this. In a sense, her art became her prostitution. Lucía Méndez took this photograph of herself minutes before she hung herself, after bribing a friend to dump her body on a train heading towards the French-Spanish border. She was clutching her self-portrait, signed and dated, when border officials discovered the rigid corpse in the luggage compartment.  


If YouTube and MySpace had existed in Lucía’s time, she would be a legend today. Now she is forgotten. But she’s there in her last photograph, very much alive and challenging, bitter, proud, indomitable, aware that we are aware that she will live when we are dead.



Papal Bull

Cosplay for the righteous

Cosplay for the righteous


Asking around for candidates to be included in our occasional series “Hijos ilustres de Zaragoza”, I came across the name Fermín Miñambres a couple of times, which was quite a surprise to me as I’d never heard of him. None of my informants was willing to go into any details as to what this Fermín Miñambres was renowned for, but I definitely got the message that he was worth tracking down.


I eventually located him, which wasn’t easy because several years he changed his name and nowadays prefers to be called Pope Wayne II.




I arranged to meet His Holiness in the foyer of a local hotel. No sooner had I entered the hotel when an athletic-looking, middle-aged man greeted me with a smile and an outstretched hand.


“Heen Martínez?”


“Yes. Pope Wayne?”


“The second.”


We sat down and I switched on my voice recorder. What follows is the interview I had with this remarkable illustrious son of Zaragoza.



First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking time out for this interview.


Not at all. Always glad to speak to the press.


Well, it’s not exactly the press, just a blog.


Communication, my son, can take many forms. The Comanche’s smoke signals, the nightingale’s madrigal, the Daily Telegraph, the runes carved in the menhirs, a birthday card to your sister… it’s all press, it’s all messages. The Communist Manifesto, the Rosetta Stone, the Huffington Post, an SMS from your mistress, your neighbour’s electricity bill…Press. All press.


Ah, right. Well, anyway, thank you.


Don’t mention it. I’m always delighted to share my words with journalists, and before you say you’re not a journalist, let me ask you this: The rooster that announces the dawn, the ping that a microwave oven makes, the Osama bin Laden videos on Al Jazeera, the mother’s contractions before childbirth… are they all not examples of journalism?


Well, I had never really stopped to think about it.


Ah ha! And you call yourself a journalist!


No, no, hang on, it was you that called me a journalist.


Was it? Maybe you’re right. I utter so many truths that I can hardly keep up with them sometimes.


I would be delighted if you could continue uttering a few more, for the benefit of the readers of my blog.


Sure. No problem. What would you like me to tell you about?


Well, the first question I was going to ask you is why you call yourself Pope Wayne II.


Obvious, isn’t it? There was already a Pope Wayne I, so I became the second.


I think I have to ask two questions at the same time here: Who was Pope Wayne I, and are you really a Pope in the way we usually understand the word “Pope”?


I shall answer your questions in the reverse order. That means, I will answer the second question first, which will entail leaving your first question until the end. No, I’m not really a Pope. And Pope Wayne I was the spiritual leader of the Hot Galaxians, a weird sect based in Delaware in the 80’s.


I see. So, I have to ask you the original question in a different way. Why do you call yourself a Pope, if you aren’t really a Pope?


If I were to call myself a lavatory cleaning product, would you be asking me that question?


Excuse me?


I mean, you seem to take umbrage at my calling myself a Pope, so I wondered if calling myself a lavatory cleaning product would make any difference to you. Or a glass of milk. Or a ton of coal. Or a fur coat. Or a kidney. Or a basketball court.


Yes, I mean, no, I just wanted to know why you have taken the title “Pope”.


It’s not a title. It’s just a name. I could call myself Dolores Yellowstone, if that would make you feel better.


So there’s nothing papal about you, is that right?


Well, yes and no. And notice I say Yes before I say No.


So there is a bigger something than a smaller nothing?


I see you are beginning to follow me. The thing is, I am a god.


I beg your pardon? You say you’re God?


No, not “God”, I’m saying I’m a god.


You are a god. Right. So that explains why you have a certain, shall we say, empathy stroke affinity with the papal ring to your name. I see.


You could say so, yes. The thing is, being a god, I felt that the name Fermín didn’t have the right sort of gravitas. I toyed with the idea of Vishnu for a while, Amida maybe, but I settled for Pope Wayne II and here we are.


And, er, when you say you’re a god…


Do you doubt?


Well, no, I didn’t want to suggest…


Your faith is still weak, I perceive.


Let’s just say I like to leave my options open.


Sitting on the fence, right? Like those “God PROBABLY doesn’t exist” losers who have hijacked the London buses. Yeah, yeah, I know your sort. Covering your back just in case the Archangel Gabriel unsheathes his scimitar, isn’t that right?


That hardly describes my own stance, Wayne. Anyway, what I wanted to ask you is, when you say you’re a god, does that mean you are one of several? Are there other gods? Not just one?


Well of course there are other gods. What kind of question is that! And you call yourself a journalist!


I’ve told you already, I’m not a journalist!


You’re telling me!


OK, OK, there are other gods. And are they the gods that people commonly refer to as gods?


Come again?


I mean, are you referring to Jehovah, Allah, gods like that?


Jehovah? Allah? Never heard of them. I know a god called Manolo, and then there’s Charlie, and Fritz of course. You could include Sylvie, too, I suppose.


I see. So there’s a god called Manolo. Right.


Are you being flippant?


Let’s just say the sceptical me is in the ascendant. Tell me about your church, your faith, whatever.


Do you genuinely want to know about my flock?




Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but we have a confidentiality clause.




My flock have told me they don’t want me to blab to journalists.


But I’m not a …


You just don’t get it, do you? Look, I’ll make a deal with you. I perform a miracle and we call it a day, OK? I’m getting tired.


You can perform miracles?


No sweat. A fine god I’d be if I couldn’t do miracles! Ha!


OK, so what sort of miracles can you perform? Can you bring people back from the dead?


Never tried that one but it shouldn’t be too hard. Let’s try something more basic. I see you’re drinking a glass of water. I shall now turn it into a glass of wine.


I’d be very very very impressed, your Holiness.


Let me see… Concentration…. OK, there you go.




I’ve turned your glass of water into wine.


No you haven’t. It’s a glass of water!


Try it.


It tastes of water to me.


It may taste of water, but in fact it’s wine.


No it isn’t. It’s water.


You have NO FAITH WHATSOEVER,  have you.


Look, Fermín, if it looks like water and tastes like water, I reckon it’s water.


I agree it’s not a very good vintage.


It’s not wine, and you can’t perform miracles. Ergo, you aren’t a god.


So that’s your definition of the ontological proof, is it?


No, it’s my definition of a phoney.


My son, I shall overlook your weaknesses if you see the light.


And I shall overlook your bullshit and publish this in my blog.


That’s very kind of you.


Not at all.





Xin Hu Lapetra




Many Zaragozans have expressed their indignation that Carlos Lapetra has not figured yet in this section of “Famous Sons of Zaragoza”. Lapetra was a football player, now largely forgotten beyond the banks of the Ebro. Anybody interested in his life and soccer prowess should go to Wikipedia, where no doubt they can find dozens of fascinating statistics about this sportsman who retired in 1969 after a notable career.


However, we at Zaragoza Twins are more attracted to the life of his sister, Pilar. She was born here in our glorious city in 1948, and very little is known of her early life. At the age of 16, she emigrated to China, infused with Maoist ideas thanks to a penfriend known only as “Wang”. Obviously gifted for languages, she soon mastered both Mandarin and Cantonese and got a job at the Peking chamber of commerce in the summer of 1965. The Cultural Revolution was a time of turmoil and chaos for most foreigners in China, but Pilar thrived thanks to her denouncement of western imperialism, becoming one of the mainstays of the Great Leap Forward among foreigners in Peking, alongside such legendary figures as Larry Parker (who went on to manage the Chinese national volleyball team) and Boris McSoares, the astronaut.


Lapetra took a keen interest in Chinese opera, and performed in many works before being spotted by Jiang Qing, who was later to be better known as “Madame Mao”. Thanks to Jiang’s influence, Lapetra soon became one of the leading figures in the Revolutionary Peking Opera Company, where she changed her name to Xin Hu (“Small Green Vegetable”.) Her Spanish looks added a note of exoticism to the revolutionary opera, and her ability to sing in the fang qi style as well as wei chu zie, and dance in a style reminiscent of the great Zheng Liu, soon ensured her a reputation and a lifestyle that she could never have dreamt of at home in Zaragoza.


Tragically, and inevitably perhaps, Xin Hu Lapetra fell victim to infighting within the Opera Company and the Communist Party itself in 1968. A dazibao appeared on the wall of the theatre where the company was due to perform on June 6 of that year, accusing Lapetra of bourgeois thinking, probably because of her insistence to use Spanish toothpaste, rather than the local-made Thousand Tigers brand. She was expelled from the Company in 1969 and forced to do reeducation work in the distant northern garlic fields of Huizhi. Living conditions were dire, and Pilar Xin Hu Lapetra died in the winter of 1970. Her family’s attempts to bring the body back to Zaragoza were in vain. She was officially rehabilitated in 1991, and recordings of her opera performances were shown once again on Chinese TV.


Revolutionary Peking Opera productions which she appeared in include Red Detachment of Women, Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Shachiapang and Boulder Bay, all of which are now available on DVD.       


Nicolás Sánchez Palazuela

Nicolás Sánchez Palazuela 

Born 1946. Completed his secondary education in Madrid, and dropped out of university after one year. After working for two years in the kitchen of a restaurant in Madrid, returned to Zaragoza to open his own restaurant, “El Cazurro”, specialising in a fusion of “cocina aragonesa / japonesa”. Won his first Michelin star in 1975. Three years later, opened a new restaurant, “Zensaciones”, in Calatayud, awarded two Michelin stars in 1981. Credited as the guru of the “nueva cocina zaragozana”. Frequently appears on TV, author of several books and “doctor honoris causa” from universities in Spain, France, USA and Japan.   

Liborio Alcázar Montes

Liborio Alcázar Montes

Born 1876. Studied with the Jesuits. Started work as a candlestick maker and joined a travelling circus at the age of 19. Soon realized his talents were wasted and took up voyeurism around the age of 24. Spied on females around Spain and published “Observaciones salaces” in 1931, a detailed account of his activities. His work took him to Paris, where he joined the Communist Party and founded a newspaper which sank without trace. Disappeared in mysterious   circumstances at the outbreak of World War Two. To this day, the word “liborio” is used to describe a “peeping Tom” in some rural areas of northern Aragón.