The expedition landed in Miami last Wednesday. In front, the mayor, and behind him his chief of staff, the head of a regional development group and more than a dozen businessmen, including several chefs. Your mission? Promote the most typical of the dishes from Lalín (Pontevedra), the Galician stew, invited by an association of entrepreneurs with origins in Galicia and residents of the United States. The program, which took place between March 17 and 19, included the presence of Chayanne, El Puma and Paulina Rubio in a feast for 350 people and the inauguration of a stone cross sponsored by the Xunta de Galicia in the Bay Front city park.
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In Lalín, a town in the interior of the community with 20,000 inhabitants, the heart of a powerful livestock region, O Deza, and with a certain weight of the industry, nothing else has been talked about for days. “I feel outrage. And even more so in these times of war, with transportation problems and the truckers’ strike, organizing such a landing… It is what we call here a kinky”, explains a neighbor to elDiario.es. kinky it comes from Crespo, the surname of Xosé, councilor of the Popular Party that governs with an absolute majority. His team defends the trip in an email sent from Miami. “This government has managed to manage the declaration of the Feira do Cocido [popular fiesta gastronómica que se celebra cada febrero desde 1968] as a Festival of International Tourist Interest and needs to accredit and promote its international dissemination”, he points out.
With that objective, he adds, they have headed to Florida. But not on his own initiative, he says, but in response to the invitation of the Association of Galician Entrepreneurs in the USA (Aegusa). at the head of this lobby, whose activity is difficult to track on the Internet – its website, Galegos Forever, has been out of date since 2016; also their social networks–, is José Manuel Brandariz, a film producer with roots in Alvedro (Culleredo, A Coruña) lately specialized in religious films. Last February he appeared in Lalín at a press conference with the mayor and the president of the Deza Business Association, Antonio Lamas. It was picked up by the local editions of the newspapers Lighthouse of Vigo and The voice of Galicia. But the agenda of acts to promote Galician stew in Miami does not appear on the Lalín City Council website. Yes, in the Association of Galician Entrepreneurs of… Uruguay.
The highest stone cross in Galicia, in Miami
It all started on Thursday with an exhibition by the painters José María Barreiro and Raúl Velloso at the American Museum of the Diaspora in Cuba. The next day, the businessmen who arrived from Lalín received instructions on the US regulations for importing Spanish products. It was, perhaps, a little late. The restaurateurs integrated in the entourage, in charge of preparing Friday’s stew, encountered this problem when transporting the ingredients from Galicia: it was not allowed to introduce pork. In Lalín it is said that they even tried it across the Mexican border, without success. The day continued with meetings between businessmen and a reception by the Miami authorities.
For March 19, Saint Joseph’s Day, they reserved the main dishes of the activities. The Galician chefs would cook a meal for 350 people for which the writer Álvaro Cunqueiro prescribed a certain calm and know how to distribute the substances: sweet and salty meats, turnip tops, sausages, chickpeas, potatoes. The banquet will be at the Biltmore Hotel, almost a century old, with rooms at a minimum of 390 euros per night and famous for offering the Al Capone Suite among its services. During the agape, Julio Sabala, a Dominican comedian famous in Spain for his imitations of Julio Iglesias, will introduce the new “commendators” of Lalín’s Cocido: the singers Chayanne and Paulina Rubio, fashionable a decade and a half ago, and a classic, Jose Luis Rodriguez, El Puma. At least that is how they announced it at the February press conference, although such an extreme does not appear in the written program. What does appear is the inauguration of a stone cross in Bayfront Park.
It won’t be just any cruiser. It is almost nine meters high – Brandariz described it in February as the tallest in Galicia – and it is paid for by the Xunta with the excuse of promoting the Xacobeo. It does so through an agreement signed in November of last year with the Association of Galician Entrepreneurs of the USA headed by the film producer and for an amount of 19,500 euros. They commissioned the sculptor Santiago Besada and, as justified by the Galician Government in the Galician Official Gazette that published the agreement, its objective is “to help maintain and strengthen ties with Galicia and to value our community, its culture and traditions among the Galician community in Florida and the rest of the US population.” There are currently 23,175 Galicians living in the United States, 8,325 of whom were born in Galicia. The rest are descendants.
The Socialist Party took the Cruceiro case to the Galician Parliament. His deputy Pablo Arangüena defined it as “a paradigmatic example of the lack of criteria and transparency” of the foreign action of Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s cabinet. Lalín’s socialists have also harshly criticized the cocido propagandist expedition to Miami. “It’s a return to the delusions of self-aggrandizement of a mayor who, from his ivory tower, lives completely removed from reality.” The BNG charges against the opacity of the city council in its management of it and describes it as “error, nonsense, irresponsibility and, above all, frivolity.” The local government says, however, that it is “a different promotion strategy” and that it responds to “an invitation” from Aegusa businessmen on the occasion of the Xunta acts to promote the Holy Year in Miami. That is, the inauguration of the nine-meter stone cross.
The theory of return: “It will affect the bars of Lalín”
Xosé Crespo’s cabinet details to elDiario.es the financing of the expedition. As far as you can. He has covered the tickets for the alderman and his chief of staff. “What was done by the City Council to try to ensure that this promotional initiative costs practically nothing for Lalinenses is to manage funds from both the GDR and the Xunta (funds linked to Xacobeo for the Feira do Cocido”, he assures. The GDR is the rural development group Terras de Pontevedra Norte, a non-profit entity formed by public and private partners and financed by the European Union through the regional government. Among its functions, the promotion of tourism in the region. Its manager is Ramiro Ruibal, former mayor of the PP who is also in Miami.The businessmen embarked on the expedition bear their expenses, he adds, and the city council affirms that it does not know if they have aid from the Xunta for “this type of trade mission”. elDiario.es the corresponding department –Second Vice Presidency of Economy and Innovation– on whether there was any type of subsidy, this has not responded.The municipal expense amounts to 18,000 euros.
Faced with political – and local – skepticism about the results of the Galician stew mission in Miami, the local government maintains a singular theory. “It is not a stew that Xosé Crespo invents to go on vacation, as Paco Vilariño tortically considers [concejal del BNG, en la oposición], is a stew that is organized in response to an invitation”, he insists. Which will bring benefits to the village. The first, she argues, is that the Galician businessmen in the United States who have extended the invitation “often travel to Galicia and usually go through Lalín to eat a stew with friends and family.” And that, she says, has an impact on restaurants and the agri-food sector that “provides the raw materials for cooking.” Afterwards, “the exploration of business opportunities in Miami” for the entrepreneurs of O Deza. There are voices in Lalín that also question it. “What is the owner of a dealership or a masonry company going to do in Miami?” asks a neighbor who knows the details. Who prefers, for the moment, not to enter into the controversy that shakes the small groups in Lalín is the former mayor Rafael Cuíña, of the nationalist group Compromiso por Galicia. In the previous mandate he governed a tripartite with PSOE and BNG. “People have to value the type of stew promotion that this government does and the one that the previous one did. Nothing else,” he explains.