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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Guillermo Fesser: “Spain is still a country, the US is a casino”

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Guillermo Fesser joins the EL PAÍS editorial team at the hottest hour of one of the hottest days in the history of Madrid. Birds can almost be seen swooping on the asphalt of the heat. Journalist with many years of radio work and now alternative correspondent in the United States for programs such as The intermediateFesser wrote little or nothing in newspapers, he turned directly to literature. He came back in May to present his book marceloShe had no intention of being in Spain in this heat, but the sad and unexpected death journey of her 60-year-old sister Marta days ago and her desire to accompany her elderly mother, 99, in a trance made this conversation possible. I’ll start by offering my condolences.

What’s it like burying a younger sister?

A huge hole that I don’t know if it will close. We are nine siblings, I am the eldest of the four little ones. We grew together. It was one of the gang. It’s the affection of people that won’t let you fall down that hole until you’re able to come out of the grief and let the joy of enjoying it take precedence over the pain of losing it. American funerals are unique in that they celebrate the life of the deceased. I could write a book with the phrases I’ve heard in all the ones I’ve witnessed.

Do you like bars so much that you will write a book about a bartender?

Marcelo would scold us for calling him a waiter. As one he is more than that: a barman. He’s seen four generations pass by his bar. He works as a psychologist, diplomat, entertainer, he is the soul of the place. When I met him, it seemed to me that he had been waiting for me all my life. You feel important, at home. I love it.

What’s your favorite cocktail?

Let’s assume I’m a Manhattan because it reflects the mix I am now. It has vermouth, which reminds me of Madrid and the Sunday aperitif. And one of the best American inventions that bourbonand orange, which fascinates me.

Is it more vermouth or bourbon?

Let’s say Spain is my roots and the United States is my branches. I’ve spent years integrating the American dream and the Spanish siesta. Spain is Don Quixote and the United States is Sancho. We have the brilliant idea, and the United States is bringing it to the ground. The mixture, if present, is explosive.

Marcelo, his protagonist, emigrated to New York from Ecuador decades ago. Did he tell you if he felt discriminated against at this point?

Marcelo is 78 years old and a very elegant gentleman. His dream was to be a bartender in New York and now he is the king of the bar. He is very thankful for living the American dream, but he also worries a lot about his children and grandchildren because he also lived Make America Great Again and he heard him say in the street, “Go to your shitty country.” Even I wasn’t spared, who sometimes, when they heard me speak Spanish, asked me to speak English. I tell them to say “San Diego” in English. They stand still.

How do Americans really see us Spaniards?

We love her. As soon as you say you’re Spanish, they hug you. Everyone there wants to buy Spain even if they don’t know it, but when they find out, it turns out that Spain doesn’t have a box office, it doesn’t business plans. We don’t know how to sell ourselves as a whole, only in parts: we don’t believe it, we don’t dare. When he was doing radio, the summer announcer used the worst possible substitute so he wouldn’t be overshadowed. Unnecessary. The Sagrada Familia will not draw the public away from the Alhambra. There is something for everyone, gentlemen. We are all worth it.

Even Biden freaked out with the royal palace. How does an American from Madrid see the President?

Like a relief. He’s an older man, like an American Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo: he doesn’t upset, but he doesn’t bother. She defends things that used to be normal, like democracy, women’s reproductive rights, equal marriage, which are now in jeopardy. Compared to Trump, Biden is the baby Jesus. He does what he can, but they won’t let him. America needs renewal, and it will come when the young people who don’t vote now because they don’t trust the election will come. Now Putin is also very good for the populists, they have an excuse. Their days are numbered, but they will die.

Is there more inequality in Times Square or Puerta del Sol?

Nothing to see. Spain is still a country. America is a casino. A country is the community, not a private association. The United States is the first power, but from the third world. You go to Penn Station in New York and there’s more homeless which travelers Or to Seattle, where there are such powerful companies as Amazon and Starbucks and it’s full of tents with people who have work and nowhere to live. There is no social support. In Spain you have access to education, health, decent food and public transport. There, or the opposite of poverty, there is no wealth, just dignity. And they don’t lower their faces in shame.

What connects her mother, María, a woman of her whole life Candidahis famous assistant and muse?

That at a very specific time in Spain they were women and mothers who worked a lot to advance the family, but they were always in the background, they were a zero on the left, machines to have children. Women have suffered much in this country, and between my mother and her there is a precious complicity, without interest, from woman to woman. Cándida, who has a very difficult life, taught me above all the value of emotions. Happiness is not in the money, not in the opera, not in the networks. Happiness is analog and lies in the embrace of those you love.

Juan Luis Cano comes from Carabanchel. you, out of retirement. Were you the Nobel man? foam?

I never think of myself as neat. In the 1960s, the Salamanca neighborhood was quite bourgeois. We were playing football in the street and there were only two cars. Then it got fancier, there are people with money, but normal people also work, and that means there are normal bars, like in Carabanchel, and that’s cool.

How are you now?

There is one thing of value that Juan Luis and I speak the same language, and it’s not Spanish. We haven’t seen each other for three years, we talk and rattlesparks fly and we follow the role as if we were on the radio 20 years ago.

Thank you Juan Luis, I mean Guillermo. sorry for the oversight.

Not at all, that’s cool. That means Gomaespuma still exists 20 years later. Many Thanks.


One day, years ago, Guillermo Fesser (Madrid, 62 years old) was standing in the Oyster Bar of Grand Central Terminal Station in New York and ordering his famous fried oyster sandwich. There he met Marcelo, the barman, and was intrigued. “It was like coming home.” From this meeting and the many that followed, Fesser, a journalist and co-founder of Gomaespuma, produced the book Marcelo, in which he pays homage to the adventures of Hispanic emigrants in the United States. The writer, who has lived in the United States for 20 years with his wife and their “tourist” children, works as a correspondent for some Spanish media, for which he interprets the backstage of American politics and society from his double prism of Spanish and Spanish, almost local In spite of everything, he continues to ‘flirt’ with his host country. “Bilingual? Let’s say I understand 80% of the speakers and imagine the other 20%,” he admits.

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