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Granada’s Etcétera Puppet Theatre Company

They’ve become nationally and internationally acclaimed for their intricately detailed and human-like puppets made of carved wood and silicone and performances accompanied by live orchestral music. They have innovated and adapted their shows for huge audiences by using ultra-violet lights to make the puppets more visible in huge sold-out performances in auditoriums like Manuel de Fallas that traditionally were thought inadequate for puppet theatre.

The tale of success of Granada’s Etcétera Puppet Theatre Company began with a twelve year old boy discovering his grandfather’s hand-carved puppet in a room in his parents’ house in Granada. Enrique Lanz’s keen interest in the craftsmanship of the wooden puppet and in his grandfather’s profession and past inspired him to found Etcétera a few years later in 1981 with Fabiola Garrido. To this day the puppet company still exists and thrives as one of the great reference points in the world of puppetry in Spain.

To mark their 40 years of success, the Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones in Granada held a series of performances of Etcétera’s 'Soñando el festival de los animales’ from the 25th to the 28th of December 2021, a show coproduced in 2004 with the well-known Teatro de Liceo in Barcelona.

The puppet company has certainly moved around Granada. It started in the Casa de los Migueletes, in the lower Albaicín, later it moved to a large warehouse in the Vega of Granada and finally settled in Güéjar Sierra where it still remains to this day.

Their very first production, called ‘Sypnosis’, came about in 1985 and remained their star act for fourteen years. Interestingly enough, the name came about when a friend of Enrique’s, writer Antonio Muñoz Molina, suggested the title while enjoying an ice-cream together at Los Italianos, an adored ice-cream parlour and another age-old company that also continues to flourish today.

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Taxation Levels When Buying Property in Andalucia

Each time a property is transferred from one person (physical or legal) to another, the transaction attracts an Impuesto Sobre Transmisión de Patrimonio (I.T.P.). Or, in English, Tax on the Transfer of Wealth.

This tax is payable by the buyer and is levied by the Autonomous Region level of government. In the case of Andalucia it is the Junta de Andalucia who levies it. On 31st December 2011, when everyone was out celebrating the coming of the New Year, the Junta quietly raised the level of taxation, in particular for more expensive properties. Current rates are shown in the table below:


The tax is levied on the declared purchase price, i.e. the price set out in the escritura (title deed).
Here are two examples of the tax payable:

Example One: Cortijo sold at €159.000. Tax at 8% x €159.000 = €12.720.
Example Two: Finca sold at €880.000. Tax at 8% x €400.000 + 9% x €300.000 + 10% x €180.000 = €77.000 (an average of 8.75%).

There is a legitimate way to reduce at least some of this tax!

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Discover the province of Córdoba: Rute

Overlooking the Iznájar reservoir is the whitewashed town of Rute, dwarfed by the Sierra de Rute that looms above it. It is one of the gorgeous towns that forms part of the Subbética Region of Córdoba.

Rute, which comes from the word “Ruta" in Spanish or "Route" in English, came into existence as a result of Spanish soldiers passing through that area on their way to conquer Granada. However, it later become the site of the first "anis" factory and today it is best known for its manufacture of aguardiente de anís, an aniseed-flavoured liqueur, an industry that has been thriving here since the nineteenth century.

It is also known for its Spanish hams and its ever-increasing “oleoturismo”, olive oil tourism, allowing visitors to explore its oil presses, enjoy tastings of the liquid gold and visit thousand year old olive trees. Its mild climate in both summer and winter and its variation of landscapes, which allow a number of different types of olives such as Picuda, Hojiblanca y Picual to grow in the area, give identity to the region’s dishes and have earned it various international olive oil awards.

For nature lovers and those hoping to work up an appetite to later try the gastronomy of the area, the Sierra de Rute has peaks of over 1000m above sea level, a variety of flora and fauna and many beautiful routes to be enjoyed. It boasts waterfalls and streams at la Garganta del Río la Hoz, a spring and ruins of Rute El Viejo, a route to see thousand year old indigenous Encina trees, as well as being close to the the Vía Verde (the old olive railway that ran through the province). And if that’s not enough, Rute is found close to other exquisite towns such as Priego de Córdoba, Puente Genil and the stunning lake in Iznájar

If you’d like to learn more about this and other villages in the area of Córdoba, click here to visit our Exposure page:
https://anotherwayoflife.exposure.co/get-to-knownbsp-nbsp-nbsp-nbspla-subbetica-and-lake-iznajar

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Tango returns to Granada next week

 

The 34th edition of the annual International Tango Festival in Granada returns to Isabel la Católica Theatre next week. Fun fact: the festival has managed to run every year since the beginning of the pandemic. Not even Covid-19 has managed to silence tango it seems!

This year the festival kicks off with the opening event on Tuesday the 15th of March at Granada City Hall and continues with nightly shows at 21:00h in the above mentioned theatre from Wednesday the 16th through to Saturday the 19th and a final performance at 20:00h on Sunday the 20th of March. Tickets are on sale from 12 to 18 euros.

But Isabel la Católica Theatre is not the only place where you will find passion for tango this next week. There are a number of other events (some free and some paid) happening around the city.

 

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Spain's Economy Recovers 100% Of Jobs Lost Through Covid


According to statistics produced by Spain's INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas), by the end of 2021 more people were in employment than before the coronavirus pandemic started in March 2020.

During the year 2021 Spain created 841.000 jobs, the largest increase since 2005. At 20.184.900, there are now 4% more people actively employed than at the end of 2020. The good news is that this is not merely due to a reduction in the impact of Covid. At the end of last year Spain was in the grip of the sixth wave, which has been the worst in terms of infection rates, although not in the seriousness of symptoms. Evidence of the underlying strength of the economy is seen in that despite the continuing effect of Covid, the number of people employed is higher than at any time since 2008.

Running parallel to this increase in people actively employed is a structural change in employment contracts. Spain has two types of employment contract: indefinido or permanent and definido which are temporary, typically for six months. The use of definido contracts provides flexibility in the labour market but has traditionally been abused by employers to avoid employees accruing rights. The Spanish government has recently taken steps to limit this abuse and their action appears to be bearing fruit. In 2021 there was tremendous growth in indefinido contracts and a significant reduction in the number of definido contracts. This may also be a reflection of employers' confidence in the future of the economy.  

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Covid Update February 2022

Here in Andalucia we have gone through the 6th wave of Covid-19 and are now steadily making a recovery. The Covid passports (certification of full vaccination) that were introduced as compulsory for entry into bars, restaurants, hospitals, health centres and so on from the 9th of December 2021 have been done away with from today, the 15th of February 2022.

While they didn’t do much to stop the spread of Covid, what with the extremely contagious Omnicron variant, they were fantastically successful in persuading resisting citizens to be vaccinated. In Granada, for example, 14.000 people have been vaccinated in the past two months, meaning that now 95% of the population over 12 has been vaccinated. In Andalucia, the number of unvaccinated people has dropped from 450.000 a 290.000. As the World Health Organisation has recently predicted, it looks like we are in for a period of calm as spring approaches.

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The 22nd Andalusian Aerostation Festival and Championship

This past weekend the annual Andalusian Aerostation Festival took place in the province of Granada. Every year around this time sees the sky filled with hot air balloons over some exquisite Andalusian landscape. In recent years, the province of Granada has been a particular favourite for the festival, not only because of the breathtaking scenery that the Geopark of Granada offers, but also because it is considered to have some of the best weather conditions for ballooning in the world.

This year marked the 22nd edition of the Andalusian Aerostation Festival, in collaboration with the Andalusian Federation of Aerial Sports and Glovento Sur. However, it is not only a leisurely festival that is held each year! The festival also serves as the trials for the Hot Air Balloon Championship, with 14 Spanish teams competing this year.

The festival and championship took place from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th of January 2022. In total 4 events were planned. On Friday and Sunday, flights were scheduled to take place in the Geopark of Granada and Guadix, flying over dramatic landscapes like the desert of Los Coloraos in Gorafe (which we talk about in another article here). On Saturday, flights were leaving from the capital of Granada and La Vega of Granada, from San Miguel Alto.

Whether it is from above taking part in the flights or watching from below, be sure not to miss out on this hot air balloon event next year! To sign off, we leave you with a stunning picture of one of the hot air balloons flying over the Alhambra palace and fortress complex:

 

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One of the last natural hidden treasures of Granada? - Gorafe Desert

The city of Granada offers no shortage of options for adventures and enjoying nature. Anyone who has explored it even a little bit will know that Granada has a ski resort just behind it, cave houses in its very centre, the countryside a quick walk from almost anywhere in the city and beaches under an hour away.

However, did you know that the province of Granada is also home to its very own DESERT? Just over an hour away from the city of Granada and located between the regions of Guadix and Baza is an otherworldly landscape called el desierto de Gorafe.

Its breathtaking views, red earthy tones and spectacular rock formations have earned it nicknames such as the Grand Canyon of Spain and the Spanish Cappadocia, a reference to the magnificent region of Turkey where similar rock formations and cave houses have been the protagonists in many a dramatic landscape shot with hot air balloons dotting the sky above.

The exquisite landscape of Gorafe is divided into two different areas. Closest to the town of Gorafe is the Gorafe “Bad lands”, characterised by its ravines, large canyons and fairy chimneys, similar to those found in Turkey. The second area, Los Coloraos, with its reddish-coloured mountains and deep canyons, reminds the visitor of the Grand Canyon of Colorado.

As you can imagine, the immense silence of the place lends itself to reflection. Although its a desert, Gorafe is also home to a vast array of flora and fauna, with more than 100 species of birds known to soar through these parts. Nature lovers will be happy to know that it is possible to hike through the area. If you would like to do a walk, take a look at this easy route: https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/badland-de-gorafe-44269446

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New Contemporary Art Museum for Granada

Millenial art image Anastasia Bay

According to media reports a thirty-year-old contemporary art collector, Ana Martínez Frías, has acquired a 1.800 m2 historic building in Plaza Santa Ana, Granada, where she intends to create a mueseum of millenial art. Works from both new artists and established artists such as Avery Singer, Kelly Akashi and Anastasia Bay will be exhibited. The collector owns 250 works herself and these will be exhibited alongside works from fellow private collectors. She does not envisage this project as a commercial proposition but as a means to allow the public to view contemporary art, something which is lacking in the city despite the plethora of musuems the city already possesses.

Given the historic nature of the site and its protected status within the Alhambra Special Protection Area there are many bureaucratic hoops to leap through before the project can be realised, both at municipal and regional level. However, according to Ana Martínez her discussions with the various authorities have been entirely positive given that the authorities recognise the need for such a museum. The biggest difficulty, in planning terms, is that buildings within the zone of protection must be rebuilt in their former style and layout, which is unviable for an exhibition space. Fortunately, there is an exception for singular projects of this type. The fact that only the façade of the building remains standing after the interior was illegally demolished in 2007 will no doubt positively influence the opinion of the various bodies who must give their consent for the project to proceed. Currently the site has no viable use.

Rather than wait until 2023 when it is hoped that all necessary permits will have been obtained and work can start, Ana Martínez has acquired a second building, in the Gran Via de Colón, one of Granada's principal streets, where she will mount exhibitions of millenial art from Spring 2022, pending the construction of her main project.

The project will be entirely private and will not involve any public funding, at least initially. If it succeeds the city will owe Ana a great cultural debt. 

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Lower Purchase Costs - Good News for Property Buyers.

 

 

 

Good news for property buyers in Andalucia!

 

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Spain: Catholicism On The Wane

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According to research by the Pew Research Institute a significant proportion of Spaniards who grew up as Catholics have lost their faith in adulthood. The drop in adherents in Spain is one of the most pronounced in Western Europe. Only Belgium and Norway have seen a greater drop.

Of the respondents to their survey undertaken between April and August 2017, 92% stated thay had been raised Christinan (which in post-Inquisition Spain means Catholic) but only 66% remained Christian in adulthood as the graph below shows.

Of the 66% who consider themselves still to be Christian only 21% attend church at least once a month, slightly more than the U.K. but less than Austria, Germany or Switzerland.

Finally, the propertion of respondents who state that they are atheists, agnostics or have no religion is higher in Spain than all Western European countries surveyed apart from the Benelux countries and the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden.

This research depicts a country that perhaps few people outside of Spain would recognise. It is certainly one of the most tolerant and socially liberal Western societies with a less negative opinion of muslims and with gay marriage and same sex-adopition legalised since 2005.

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Spain: Truly A Lay State?

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Spain is in an anomalous position with regard to separating the state from the Catholic church

State schools are all lay institutions and religion is taught only as an option. In my daughter’s school the majority of students opt for Valores Éticos (Ethical Values) instead. This is an interesting choice encompassing debates about racism, citizens rights and obligations, discussion of news topics etc.

Following on from my article about the decline in those who regard themselves as Christians (a fall from 92% brought up as Christians to 66% who remain Christians in adulthood) it is interesting to note that only roughly half of that percentage (35%) elect to tick the box on their annual tax return (la casilla de la iglesia) that diverts taxes to the Catholic church.

However, this diversion of funds deprives the state of approximately €250 millions annually, a figure that has not declined despite the crises of the past ten years. So, where does this money go to? Much of it pays the salaries of 22.000 priests who receive €12.600 p.a tax free together with their accommodation and associated costs such as electricity, water etc. and the salaries of 113 bishops and archbishops who receive €17.500 p.a. plus accommodation, a car and chauffeur.

These salaries account for roughly 70% of the diverted taxes, the rest is paid over to the various dioceses for other expenses. Although there is a tacit understanding between church and state that services for followers are provided free there are a vast array of additional services that the clergy charge for, whether directly or as chaplains to prisons, hospitals, brotherhoods, teachers of religion in schools or colleges etc.

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Spanish Mortgages - Structural Change

Flag and Euros Structural Change in Spanish Mortgages

Partly caused by the banning of the minimum interest rate clause (la clausula suelo) in Spanish mortgages (see my earler article) there has been a dramatic shift from Base Rate Plus mortgages to Fixed Interest mortgages. At the end of 2015 Fixed Rate mortgages represented less than 10% of the total. By mid 2018 it was 40%.

This has been accompanied by a decrease in the average interest rate charged due, in part, to fiercer competition between financial institutions. Wheres in early 2009 the rate was 5.5% by Autumn 2018 it has dropped to 2.6%.

With the recovery in the economy and increasing property prices, there has been a commensurate increase in the number of mortgages granted which have grown steadily since late 2013. At around 30.000 per month they are a long way from the heights of the boom but the new law on mortgages whereby the costs are switched from the borrower to the lender is expected to boost the growth considerably. This is likely to accelerate the annual growth in property prices which stood at +7.2% for the thrird quarter of 2018.

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Spain: Mortgages Granted 1987 - 2018

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Recently published data on the number of mortgages conceded by financial institutions continues to show a modest but sustained upward trend as the graph from Idealist below shows.

Rock bottom was hit at the end of 2013 but by late 2018 the number of mortgages granted, although a long way from the giddy heights of the boom years had returned to the levels of mid-2011.

Whether this growth will be maintained is uncertain as, although the economy is growing well, recent changes in legislation affecting the costs that banks must bear when conceding mortgages may place a brake on the market until these institutions work out how best to make money in a new environment.

 

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Spain: Minimum Wage Hike

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From 1st January 2019 the socialist government of Pedro Sánchez increased the minimum wage by a whopping 22%, the largest ever increase since the minimum wage was introduced. The level is now set at €900 per month in a 14 month year (double payments were traditional in May and August) or €1.050 per month if paid on a 12 month basis. There is even a rumoured plan to increase it again in 2020 (if Sr. Sánchez manages to stay in office!) to €1.000 for a 14 month or €1.167 per month on a 12 month payment basis.

Most economists would applaud such an increase as the lowest paid tend not to have the chance to save but spend all of their income on daily living thereby pumping money into the economy. The likely effects of this move, according to some commentators were that it would drive more low paid jobs into the insecure black economy, lower the number of future hirings, raise the rate of inflation and cause the loss of existing jobs. It looks like this last fear may have come to pass.

In Spain there are thousands of people contracted and losing their jobs on a daily basis, partly because of the widespread use of fixed term contracts (usually of six months duration). On 1st January 2019 there were 274.000 losses a figure not seen for a decade. In 2018 there were 176.000 and in 2011 only 57.000. This may simply be a blip as the market adjusts and prices rise slightly to accommodate the rise in wages, which hits agriculture and the hotel industry hardest, both of which depend heavily on unskilled manual work such as harvesting and the cleaning of bedrooms.

So, what seems initially to be a boon to the lower paid may result only in workers being pressurised to increase productivity and/or a reduction in the hours worked. 

 

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Spanish Unemployment - Good News

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The unemployment rate in Spain dropped, at the end of 2018, to its lowest level in a decade. From the peak of over 25% on 2013, the official rate has now fallen to 14.4%.

Although still high compared to the EU average of 6.6% or the Eurozone 7.9% it is perhaps as well to bear in mind the prevalence of cash in the Spanish economy. Many people, although officially unemployed, are receiving funds for work done outside of the official economy. And this applies to all walks of life, both employed and unemployed. Even architects and lawyers as well as painters and decorators, gardeners etc. like to enjoy part of their fees outside of the system.

Why else are 35% of all the Bin Ladens (€500 notes) in circulation in the Eurozone reputedly in Spain?

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Spanish Used Property Sales Booming

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Although the overall level of property transactions are more than 30 % below their peak in the boom year of 2007, sales of existing houses, as opposed to new-builds, are fast approaching the levels seen in the boom. In 2018 422,500 used properties were sold compared to the height of 448.900 in 2007. More second-hand properties were sold in 2018 than in any year since 2007 and the trend is upwards.

Although this will definitely have an effect on prices, which are already on the increase as the graphs below show, in our particular niche of country properties, every one of them different, whether prices are rising, remaining stable or even falling depends more than anything else on the situation of the seller. My experience of prices over the past thirteen years is that we are still at a level very significantly lower than in the boom years and even now sellers will sometimes accept offers significantly lower than the price at which they are listed.

The following graphs and a table from two different sources provide a snapshot of how prices are moving in general and in Andalusia in particular.

TINSA - The largest firm of valuers in Spain

Movement of prices in Spain

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Spain - Healthiest Country In The World

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According to data just issued by the Bloomberg Global Health Index, Spain ranks as the healthiest country in the world, replacing Italy, the leader in the last survey. The index is based on various factors including longevity, infant mortality, rates of obesity and tobacco consumption, the health system and access to clean water etc. 

Currently second on the list is Italy followed by Iceland and Japan. Sweden is 6th, Norway 9th, France 12th, Netherlands 15th, the UK 19th, Portugal 22nd, Germany 23rd, Denmark 25th, Belgium 28th and the USA 35th.

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Spain: Unrecognisable From Forty Years Ago

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I read an article recently which highlighted just how much Spain has changed since the death of Franco in 1975 and the adoption of the new constitution in 1978. Whilst many countries have experienced significant change in this period, Spain's transition from a dictatorship, under which industries producing poor quality goods were protected, to a modern democracy with an open economy, has seen a seismic shift. Entry into the European Union in 1986 has undoubtedly been one of the motors behind this change. Spain is still a net beneficiary of EU funds, although to a lesser extent than in the past, and this, together with a desire for political stability, explains why the Spanish are such enthusiastic Europeans. The table below shows just how great the change has been in the past forty years.

 

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Cheaper Spanish Mortgages

Depositphotos_12781074_xl-2015 Cheaper Spanish Mortgages

Banks, not borrowers, must pay the costs

The Spanish government, under pressure from the EU, has clarified who must pay what in terms of costs when a borrower agrees a mortgage loan with a bank. Previously, all charges were paid by the borrower and they were onerous. Now all of the charges, except a valuation of the property, must be paid by the bank and the abusive minimum interest rate clause (la cláusula suelo) has been banned. The charges involved are:

  • Notary and Registry charges for the mortgage deed. Typically, for a loan of €200.000 these would be in the region of €700 - €900 added to which there is usually an administrative charge of, perhaps, €150.
  • Taxation. It has always seemed anomalous to me that a person who is in need of finance to purchase a property must deliver a proportion of the loan to the government in tax. And the way in which it is calculated is nothing short of outrageous. The rate is 1.5% of the loan. But not just the principal. All of the costs that might possibly be incurred in punitive interest, legal and court costs in the event that the loan was never repaid. This adds, typically, a further 50% to the principal so the true rate of taxation is around 2.25% of the loan. The borrower of our €200.000 loan has, in the past, had to pay around €4.500 in tax. This must now be paid by the lender.

So, the borrower will now save some €5.500 in costs when taking out a loan of €200.000.

How will the bank recover these costs?

Firstly by becoming much more efficient. Banks have been in a rush to merge since the crisisi of 2007-2008. And even some of the mergers, have merged again. Branches have been closed at an extraordinarily rapid rate. Internet banking has caught on and clients are no longer prepared to queue at branches whose practices had changed little in decades. 

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