Moors, Christians, and no Atheists (2005-04-26 to 2005-05-09)
Then followed a quick speaking tour through Galicia, a part of Spain where I had never been before. There seems to be intense support for free software in Spain. In Ourense I saw the Roman bridge, alongside a railroad bridge constructed in a style that recalls Roman architecture. All around the area I encountered interesting modern bridges. From Vigo we drove south to the border with Portugal, a river surrounded by impressive mountains. In Santiago, next to the cathedral, I met a bagpipe player who was playing Galician folk music.
Back in Madrid, the Free Knowledge Foundation gave awards to several politicians for giving support to free software. Esteban Gonzalez Pons, a conservative, gave a very strong speech in favor of free software. He said: the public administration which doesn't use free software is not democratic.
I then learned he was from Valencia--the region to which I headed that afternoon by train. After the ceremony it came out that he was going to speak that evening in a free software conference in Castellon, the city where live the friends I was going to stay with. Nobody had previously thought to invite me to this event, or tell me about it. He decided to fly me out, so I could give a speech that evening.
The next day I spoke in the Politecnica of Valencia. The discussion there was about law lecturer Jorge Cortell, who had given a speech at another university there, stating that it is legal to download music, and demonstrating the activity. In doing so, he defied the dictates of the university's vice-rector, who is on a crazed campaign against sharing. The vice-rector, who speaks of "intellectual property" as if it stood for something meaningful and coherent which deserves our utmost respect, forbade Cortell to use the room originally planned, so he gave the speech in the cafeteria. Then the vice-rector forced Cortell out of his part-time teaching job, but he doesn't mind. Hooray for Jorge Cortell!
Then we headed for Muro, to see the annual festival of Moros i Cristians (Moors and Christians). In this festival, many groups parade in medieval or fanciful costumes, each followed by a marching band.
After I saw the festival last year, I had an idea for a hack: to add a third group, the Atheists. We could make it the festival of Moros, Cristians i Ateos.
My friends seemed enthusiastic at first. They know lots of local musicians--surely they could arrange for a band and appropriate music. (I suggested Also Sprach Zarathustra.) I also began imagining costumes; my idea was that we would dress as various kinds of scientists. The family also connected with the town government, and they said this would be approved as an official part of the festival. However, my other friends said this was too good to be true.
Six months later I found they were right. My Muro friends told me that they didn't dare proceed with this, neither officially nor as a private surprise. They expected too much disapproval at such joking with tradition. So we did not have a real parade of the Atheists. I can only share the idea with you here.