gins with the Christian Reconquista sponsoredrnby Juame I of Cataluiia and Aragonrnin 1235, long before NATO bombers gotrninto the business of preventing ethnicrncleansing. (A suggested bumper stickerrnfor folks opposed to NATO inten’entionism:rn”If NATO Had Got Here Sooner,rnYour Name Would Be Mohammed.”)rnOver the next 700 years, the islandrnprospered as a trading hub for Catalanrnmerchants and suffered during the variousrncontinental wars, h: the 1960’s, it attractedrnthe attention of Europe’s flowerpowerrnset, who discoered that free loernand drugs were even more enjoyable onrnsandy beaches beneath the Mediterraneanrnsun. Tourism boomed, becomingrnthe island’s major industr’. Its infamousrnall-night discos gave birth to thernrave sometime in the late 80’s. Besidesrnthe sandy beaches surrounded by sparklingrnblue waters, Eivissa’s nightiife is thernreason people come.rnThe drug of choice among the clubhoppersrnis ecstasy, a narcotic with thernmost marketable name imaginable. Reportedly,rnthe drug deliers a mildly goodrntime but doesn’t come close to living uprnto its name. Most users I’ve met seem disappointedrnwith the effects. I understandrnthat America’s drug-war industry is currentlvrnthrowing a hissy-fit about thernecstasy epidemic supposedly sweepingrnthrough America’s youth. No doubtrnsome of this is the usual foundationrngrant-seeking, fundraising, and job-maintenancernmania. Still, let me propose thisrnslogan for their abuse-prevention programs;rn”You’ll have more fun with rum.”rnThe young and reckless Europeans inrnEivissa hardly confine themselves to ecstasy.rnDuring my first da’ on the island,rnan attractive group of women passed hrnthe cafe where I was breakfasting. Irnsmiled at them and said, “Hola.” “Ciao,”rnthey replied, and kept walking. One suddenlyrnturned around and boldly strodernback to where I was sitting. She had thernbrightest smile, and her walnut eyesrngleamed in the morning light. “Ciao,” Irnsaid.rn”Ciao. Do you have any hashish orrnmarijuana to sell us?” she asked.rnThis was the first time I’ve ever beenrnmistaken for a drug dealer. I felt myselfrngrasping for the proper response. Myrnknowledge of Italian culture is limited: Irnpromessi sposi, Dante, Ezra Pound beingrnkept in a cage by the U.S. Army, andrnwhat I read about the Lega Nord inrnChronicles. No help there. Finally, Irngave her a conspiratorial grin. “Toornmany police,” I said. I nodded a bit to therngroup of men sitting in their bathingrntrunks at the far end of the cafe. “Talk tornme later.”rnSpain went through a brief period duringrnwhich most drugs were decriminalized.rnPressure from the “internationalrncommunity” put an end to that }’ears ago.rnOne substance banned in most Westernrncountries, however, remains legal inrnSpain: absinthe. The bane of Victorianrnsociety can be found on the shelves ofrnmany bars and cafes throughout Spain,rnbut the best is made near Barcelona or onrnEivissa. Sometimes called the “greenrnfaerie,” absinthe is translucent greenrnlicjuor distilled from wormwood. Mienrnmixed with water, it turns a milky,rnopaque shade of green. It’s meant to berndrunk slowly, as Jake Barnes discovers inrnThe Sun Also Rises. Van Cogh was reportedlyrnhigh on absinthe when he severedrnhis ear.rnMy attempt to get a glass of absinthernled to m}’ conversation with the Catalanrnwoman. The bartender was refusing tornserve me any because of an incident thernnight before. There had been a fire; Irnhad started it. Tonight, I could not bernsen’cd absinthe, the bartender told me.rnDrinking absinthe alwavs involves arnritual designed to dissolve sugar into thernotherwise bitter liquor. Among the variousrntechniques, the most dramatic requiresrndipping a sugar cube into the absinthernand lighting it on fire. As the sugarrncaramelizes, it drips into the glass, wherernit blends and produces the desired effect.rnWhen dripped too quickly, I discovered,rnthe sugar can fall into the glass wliile stillrnaflame, igniting the absinthe. My attemptrnto extinguish the fire succeededrnonly in knocking the glass over. Thernflaming green liquid streamed across thernbar, lapping o-er the edges, lighting myrnshoes on fire.rnStill, no one was hurt, and I tiiought Irndeserved another chance. I proposedrnmixing the sugar using one of the ritualsrnnot involving fire; but the bartenderrnwould not be reasoned with.rnAt that point, the woman beside mernspoke up. “Mav 1 suggest a mojito,” shernsaid in Catalan. It was close enough tornSpanish for me to understand. In English,rnshe said, “American boys like mojitosrnbecause they all want to be Hemingway.”rnI ordered mojitos for both of us beforerntelling her that I didn’t understand howrnHemingway and the rest of the InternationalrnBrigades had escaped with theirrnreputations intact after fighting for thernStalinist side during the Spanish CivilrnWar. She asked why I was more sympatheticrnto Franco’s Nationalists. I gavernthree reasons: First, in the governmentrnschools where I was educated, Franco’srnvictor)- was taught as a great tragedy and Irnregarded this as a prima facie case forrnFranco; second. Franco resisted the sickeningrnsecularism that infected Europeanrngovernments. East and West, in the 20thrncentury, upholding the role of faith inrnpublic life; and third, if you comparernpost-Franco Spain with post-Soviet Russia,rnit is easy to see why Franco is preferablernto Stalin.rnShe replied that to the Catalans, Francornwas first and foremost a relentless centralizer,rnsuppressing their identity andrnlanguage. His militar)- career had takenrnshape in the long, futile Moroccan campaign,rnan adventure in Spanish imperialismrnopposed from the start by both thernCatalan merchant class and Barcelona’srnradical anarchists. As Caudillo, Francorncontinued his army-bred prejudicesrnagainst regionalists and nationalists inrnCataluiia and the Basque territories. Nationalrnunity was at the heart of Franco’srnregime, she explained. The Catalan languagernwas banned from schools, Madridrnencouraged a million largely poor andrnunskilled Spaniards to immigrate intornCataluiia, and little self-government wasrntolerated. This argument was far better atrnwinning me over than she could have anticipated:rnThere’s no vvav she could havernknown that painting Franco as the SpanishrnLincoln would have a powerful effectrnon my thinking.rnSince 1979, Cataluna has enjoyed arnmeasure of independence from Madrid.rnThe regional government has more power,rnand Catalan is taught in the schools,rnbecoming the primary language of thernregion once again. The devolution ofrnpower, however, is far from complete.rnMadrid continues to control the region,rnand enriches itself through taxes takenrnfrom Catakma’s prosperity. To makernmatters worse, the devolution may stall asrnan alliance of socialists, communists, andrncentralizers have gained power in recentrnelections by appealing to the immigrantrnvote —the 40 percent of Catakma’s votersrnwho come from other regions and oftenrnresent the resurgence of Catalanism. Tornhave come so far only to turn back wouldrnbe a genuine tragedy, the Catalanrnbrunette told me.rnWhen we’d finished with Spain’s politics,rnwe turned to the United States. Shern38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn