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The flight attendants who accompanied Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ back from exile | Culture

Voice Of EU



Flight attendant Isabel Almazán was 38 years old on that day, and she insists that she noticed that there was some kind of fuss when she boarded the plane in New York. But perhaps it’s an invented memory, created once all the events of that day became known. The plane, a Boeing 747 belonging to the then-Spanish flag carrier Iberia, took off from New York’s JFK airport with a slight delay, at 8.20pm. In many respects, it was a normal flight – just another for the IB-952 route. But at around 8am Madrid time, when the plane was already on the tarmac and headed to its gate, Captain Juan López Durán broke the news.

Isabel Almazán and one of her colleagues on that flight, Beatriz Ganuza, quoted the captain’s words yesterday, speaking to EL PAÍS in a café in Madrid. They’ve never forgotten them. “Ladies and gentlemen, I inform you that today you have been traveling with a very special companion: Guernica, which has returned to Spain today and was also on the plane.” Neither of the flight attendants had a clue – nor did most of the passengers.

At that moment, the last exile from the Spanish Civil War had landed in Barajas Airport

After the initial shock, everyone, including the two women, broke into emotional applause. It was September 10, 1981. The Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had died six years before, and Picasso’s most famous painting – one that was loaded with the symbolism of Spain’s recent history – was returning to its home country in the hold of an airplane, rolled up and stuffed into a giant cylinder weighing hundreds of kilos.

For the previous 44 years, it had been on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), patiently waiting there until Spain met the conditions that Picasso had set for its return: public freedoms for Spaniards. For some time now, Spain’s new democracy had met this condition, but the reticence of the painter’s family and MoMA’s foot-dragging delayed its arrival.

That sunny, warm morning 40 years ago was destined to be historical, because at that moment, the last exile from the Spanish Civil War had landed in Barajas Airport.

Also on the flight were the people ultimately responsible for its return. The culture minister at the time, Íñigo Cavero; the then-director of Fine Arts, historian Javier Tusell; and the deputy director of Visual Arts, Álvaro Martínez-Novillo. As the latter explained in a feature article published in this newspaper in 2016, there were a number of plain-clothes policemen dotted around the plane. Conveniently dressed like spies from a movie, complete with long raincoats, they were in charge of safeguarding the painting and reacting should there be any unexpected events. There were none. Everything went smoothly. In fact, the flight attendants don’t even remember seeing them.

Isabel Almazán holds pictures of herself in the uniform she wore at the time the painting was brought back to Spain.
Isabel Almazán holds pictures of herself in the uniform she wore at the time the painting was brought back to Spain.Victor Sainz

“Maybe we served Coca-Cola to the police-spies, who knows,” one of them explains. “But the truth is I really don’t remember. Everything was completely normal until we landed.”

The minister and the top-ranking officials must have traveled in what was then called Grand Class, the flight attendants assume. This section was located on a second floor and was where the seats could turn into beds at nighttime, after passengers had changed into the “really cute” Burgundy-colored pyjamas that the airline offered these exclusive passengers.

After the announcement by the captain, Isabel Almazán could see from the window of the plane that a real commotion was taking place at the stand where the aircraft was due to come to a stop. There were high-ranking officials, law-enforcement officers, dozens of journalists, television crews and civil guards in shirtsleeves and wearing their distinctive tricornio hats. “That was when I became aware of the importance of what we were carrying,” she explains. “For a joke, I said to a colleague, ‘Not even Ava Gardner would be received like this!’”

It was no wonder there was such a welcoming committee. The government of then-prime minister Adolfo Suárez had treated the issue as a priority case, one that would be another step – by no means the last – to closing the chapter of Spain’s transition to democracy after decades of dictatorship. That was why, Martínez-Novillo explained five years ago, the Spanish government had even threatened the MoMA with legal action should they fail to return the painting before October 25, which was the date of Picasso’s centenary.

The painting – which was conceived by the most famous 20th-century Spanish artist after he found out about the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika by the German Condor Legion during the Civil War – would finally, as was its right, be hung in a museum in the new Spain.

The two flight attendants already knew the painting. They had seen it in New York on a previous trip there. Both began to fly in the middle of the 1960s and enjoyed a great era to work as cabin crew, with good salaries and paid-for accommodation – including expenses – for two or three days before taking the return trip.

An armed civil guard keeps watch over 'Guernica,' in September 1981.
An armed civil guard keeps watch over ‘Guernica,’ in September 1981.MUSEO PICASSO DE MÁLAGA / Europa Press

Initially, the painting was installed in the Casón del Buen Retiro, an annex of the Prado Museum complex in Madrid. There is an iconic photo of the painting where it appears behind bullet-proof glass, and is being protected by an armed civil guard. In 1992, it was moved to the Reina Sofía museum and finally it was put on display without its protective glass.

In order to be closer to her family, flight attendant Beatriz Ganuza retired at the age of 55, benefiting from a perk of her airline. Elena Almazán, who was more of a traveller and something of a non-conformist, continued to fly until Iberia forced her to retire. She still has the handbag and stylish uniform she used to wear in the 1960s in her house. Both of the women are now aged 78, and yesterday, they made an emotional visit to the painting that flew with them in the hold of that Boeing 747 four decades ago.

When she left the museum, and got on the elevator, Beatriz Ganuza calculated the days and the time difference between Spain and the east coast of the United States. Later, with a tone of surprise and incredulity in her voice, she said to herself out loud: “This time 40 years ago I was having breakfast in New York!”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

Voice Of EU



Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

Voice Of EU



Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.

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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

Voice Of EU



House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites and, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.


This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.


“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.


Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”

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