January 5, 2013

"In the mountains of the Pyrenees/There's an independent state/Its population five thousand souls/And I think they're simply great..."

"One hundred and seventy square miles big/And it's awf'lly dear to me/Spends less than five dollars on armaments/And this I've got to see."

So wrote Malvina Reynolds, with that kooky, lefty patronizing attitude you probably know better from her greatest hit, "Little Boxes." Remember that one, criticizing people for going to school, then getting jobs, forming families, and living in suburban developments where the houses are "all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same"? Really, what was that lady complaining about? The song quoted in the title is about a country that she read in the newspaper — back in the 60s — had a defense budget of $4.90. She took off on a lyrical flight of fancy that had no inkling of what was really going on with this country. She just used that $4.90 business as a jumping off point for hating on the United States:
I wandered down by the Pentagon
This newspaper clipping in hand
I said, "I want to see everyone
In McNamara’s band."
I said, "Look what they did in Andorra,
They put us all to shame.
The least is first, the biggest is last,
Let’s get there just the same."
What did she know of Andorra? What do you know?

Andorra is today's "History of" country, as we proceed through the list of the 206 countries in the world. It's very tiny, 181 square miles. But look where it is:


View Larger Map

How did that happen?
Andorra is the last independent survivor of the Marca Hispanica, the buffer states created by Charlemagne to keep the Islamic Moors from advancing into Christian France.
This isn't Malvina's cute little child of a place that doesn't know war.  It owes its existence to a French strategic defense.
Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors. In the 9th century, Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, named the Count of Urgell as overlord of Andorra. A descendant of the count later gave the lands to the Diocese of Urgell, headed by Bishop of Urgell.

In the 11th century, fearing military action by neighboring lords, the bishop placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Catalan nobleman. Later, the Count of Foix became heir to the Lord of Caboet through marriage, and a dispute arose between the French Count and the Catalan bishop over Andorra..

In 1278, the conflict was resolved by the signing of a pareage (pariatges).... The pareage, a feudal institution recognizing the principle of equality of rights shared by two rulers.... In return, Andorra pays an annual tribute or questia to the co-rulers consisting of four hams, forty loaves of bread, and some wine.
4 hams!
In 1793, the French revolutionary government refused the traditional Andorran tribute as smacking of feudalism and renounced its suzerainty, despite the wish of the Andorrans to enjoy French protection and avoid being under exclusively Spanish influence....

During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route from Spain into France. The French Resistance used Andorra as part of their route to get downed airmen out of France....

In 1958, Andorra declared peace with Germany, having been forgotten on the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I and, the conflict being extended by the lack of a peace treaty, remaining legally at war.

80 comments:

Lincolntf said...

Mr. Powers, a great 6th grade teacher, made us learn about all sorts of places like Andorra, Borneo, etc., telling us it'd help us later in life. He had foreseen Trivial Pursuit.

Bob said...

If I ever save enough money to walk the Camino de Santiago, I'll stop off in Andorra and take pictures.

By the way, you'd probably enjoy the movie that Emilio Estevez made about the Camino de Santiago, Ann and Meade; it's called The Way.

Chef Mojo said...

Been there.

Astro said...

Years ago I visited Galay, Ireland and thought at the time that it was a lovely medium-sized city. Then I went back about 10 years later and found that the town had been surrounded by complexes of mind-dumbingly identical townhouses, so that 'Little Boxes' song came to my mind. I drove on past the town to the west side, along Galway Bay, and saw the same sad sight. The glorious bay was hidden from view by row after row of ugly boxes of condominiums.

EDH said...

More proof that the aging boomer political class is locked in the past, embracing what they mocked about that past updated in today's "everyone gets a cup-cake" fashion?

(Glenn) Reynolds Law

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people.

But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.


Malvina Reynolds, Little Boxes

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family

Shouting Thomas said...

That town that Reynolds mocked was Daly City, the first suburb south of SF on the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula.

Daly City is a beautiful town, and those tract houses comprise some of the most prized real estate in America. Only blocks from one of the great Pacific beaches, Daly City is a middle class paradise.

From your "ticky tacky" tract house in Daly City, you can go horse riding in the mountains, get to the beach in minutes and commute into San Francisco in half an hour.

It is now a highly prized destination for Filipinos.

Reynolds wasn't only a snob... she was wrong.

Sam L. said...

I met a woman from there. Sweet old lady.

chrisnavin.com said...

"I hate the big, bad Pentagon
which I criticize
peace and love and freedom are next
right in front of your eyes

Throw off your parent's plans
and religion too
toss overboard the patriarchy
and join this little commune

This little red commune
This little red commune

One day we'll own this Pentagon
and much of the media too
we'll build a big EPA
and fit you into our worldview

This little red commune
This little red commune
Sing songs, right the wrongs
on this little red commune"


rhhardin said...

With only four hams, it's no wonder I could never work the place as a kid.

bagoh20 said...

"Reynolds wasn't only a snob... she was wrong."

And there's a box for that too. Lots of them, and nobody wishes there were more.

Michael said...

Andorra. Tax haven. Cigarette sales. Whiskey. Some apartment blocks. No one actually there for the tax benefits.

YoungHegelian said...
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Michael said...

Andorra. Tax haven. Cigarette sales. Whiskey. Some apartment blocks. No one actually there for the tax benefits.

YoungHegelian said...

You notice how three tiny European countries/principalities (Andorra, Luxembourg, and Monaco) are buffer states between France and its neighbors?

I'm sure there are some good geopolitical reasons for this state of affairs, but they would require more investigation than I've got time for right now.

Surfed said...

I'm a Geography teacher. It's like I'm back at work with these posts.

chrisnavin.com said...

We had a few friends in La Coruna, Spain, and we visited Santiago de Compostela. It's still a major pilgrimage site. Great seafood in Galicia.

Andorra was partially a route to flee Franco, for some on the shit list.

Fun fact-While visiting the Escorial outside of Madrid (more like a huge hunting cabin, stoic and spartan and a key to the Spanish character), we kept seeing these grid like structures. Turns out patron saint St. Lawrence was roasted on the grill back in the 3rd century and they were in his honor.

Nothing like that old Mediterranean, visceral, bloody, body of Christ type iconography to rouse one from the slumber of our tour.

edutcher said...

When I was a kid, I always wondered why the called countries like this principalities.

Is a principal a small prince?

Rabel said...

According to Wiki, they're all gun nuts:

"This is why all Andorrans, and especially the head of each house (usually the eldest able-bodied man of a house), should by law, keep a rifle, even though the law also states that the police will offer a fire-arm in case of need."

Michael K said...

When I was driving from Venice to Pisa a few years ago, we decided to visit San Marino, a tiny city state in the mountains of Italy. It's ancient, dating back to 301 AD if you believe the story, and wealthy like its namesake in California. Well, it's way up in the mountains and a long drive out of the way to Pisa. When we got there, we found the entire city was on strike !

Bummer. Never did see anything.

Paul said...

Wow... I like that defense budget. Now do they have gun control? Or does every one of their residents have guns?

What kind of goverment do they use. Democratic, Republican, King, dictator?

Hagar said...

Any relation to Mal Reynolds?

Paul Zrimsek said...

If I were Darrin Stevens, every time Andorra called me "Derwood" I'd call her "Angola". That'd show her.

Rusty said...

Paul said...
Wow... I like that defense budget. Now do they have gun control? Or does every one of their residents have guns?

What kind of government do they use. Democratic, Republican, King, dictator?


If it was anything other than a Republic the citizens wouldn't have guns.

Lem said...

Ok...

Those of you here because you are ham handed please sit on these chairs we have provided for you.

Those of you diagnosed as two-fisted, please come back tomorrow.

There has been a scheduling mishap.

Paco Wové said...

Driving from Carcassonne to Toulouse, we passed the turnoff for Andorra and I was sorely tempted, but did not give in.

wyo sis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wyo sis said...

edutcher
In some of the schools I've taught in the principal is a small prince. In others the principal is a small person. Mostly they're small dictators.

Lem said...

Mostly they're small dictators.

For some reason I believe the small dictator category should be subset of the benign dictator category.

Perhaps in the interest of fairness to dictators.

Lou Banyon said...

If she was from Andora, she no lady!

wyo sis said...

Benign dictator is an oxymoron, but IM OK with small dictators being a subset. It sounds about right.

Titus said...

I dont care what lives in those boxes but houses that all look the same are kind of depressing.

I never heard of her but I definitely hate her too.

I went through the Bronx last weekend and all those huge box housing projects are depressing too.

Go Pack!

tits.

DaveO said...

Amusing/irritating note - Andorra is outside the Schengen zone. So if you come from a country whose citizens need a visa to enter Europe, you need a multiple-entry visa to visit Andorra.

Chip Ahoy said...

Malvina sound like bad wine, vinegar, and that clouds my perception. I must recuse myself.

It's positional by diminutive. The naming of to-be-bad girl babies goes like this: Malva, Malvita, Malvina, Malvinita, Malvinalita, Malvinalatitta, and so on down the generations, a very long line of predictably sour women.

edutcher said...

wyo sis said...

Benign dictator is an oxymoron, but IM OK with small dictators being a subset. It sounds about right.

When the principal dictator grows up, he acts his age.

When he's a dictator, he benign.

Cedarford said...

Just another jewish communist. The folkie movement was full of such fellow travellers.
Lovely sneerer - middle class goy works his tail off and saves to move out of a cruddy third floor in a walkup in a city and members of the CPUSA like Malvina and her communist organizer husband had nothing but contempt for white middle class people.

Par for the course.
Can't really be laughed off because the subversive damage the left has done to US institutions, morals, social norms has been considerable.

sean said...

Oooh, we took my daughter to college (Wake Forest) for her freshman year, and my wife and I drove Winston-Salem singing "Little Boxes" the whole time, because we knew we were putting our daughter in one. But we are unreconstructed (albeit accommodated) hippies. For example, we sang "Bow Tie Daddy" whenever we saw pictures of Bill Clinton riding around in a golf cart smoking a cigar, whereas most of Prof. Althouse's colleagues suddenly discovered that golf and cigars are cool.

When we die, no one will remember the Movement.

chickelit said...

Why is it that many lefties conform to a stereotype these days? Some even check little boxes on applications to advance.

chickelit said...

San Marino, Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco...what else do they have in common? They all issued (or used to issue) beautiful postage stamps which were quite collectable.

Ambrose said...

While I know that Austria and Austraila are yet to come, the A's have been pretty much sad places. And we haven't even gotten to the saddest of all - Argentina. Sad because of what it could have been.

sydney said...

San Marino, Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco...what else do they have in common?

They all could have been models for the Mouse that Roared?

Carol said...

houses that all look the same are kind of depressing.

I felt the same way but was amazed to see one of the Levittowns 40 years later, with additions to a lot of the houses and mature trees all over the place. It took a lot of faith and hope to start out in one of those boxes and turn it into something. While the rest of us scorned.

Balfegor said...

What kind of goverment do they use. Democratic, Republican, King, dictator?

As implied by the excerpts in the post, they are governed by two princes, the Bishop of Urgell, from Spain, and the President of France (as post-regicidal successors to the French sovereigns). But in practice, they're a tiny self-governing democracy.

David said...

My father hated that song.

Does she have any idea how people lived before we had these houses, he asked?

That's how I learned about tenements.

Ben Calvin said...

Daly City is filled with cool post war Eichler houses. I live near by on a SF hill in a post war little 2 bedroom house. And with the current housing boom here I'm happy I bought it a number of years ago.

yashu said...

And we haven't even gotten to the saddest of all - Argentina. Sad because of what it could have been.

God, yes. The land of Borges and Cortazar. And tango! How I love Buenos Aires. And Patagonia, etc. (Though I haven't been there in many years.)

Argentina and Chile both have political horrors in their past. But a current comparison between them is stark indeed.

Chip Ahoy said...

Then I went back about 10 years later and found that the town had been surrounded by complexes of mind-dumbingly identical townhouses

And I went back five minutes ago and saw what you mean.

Google Earth [hawthorne drive, galay, ireland]




Clyde said...

@ Chip Ahoy

I have it on good authority that Malvina's real name was actually Falkland.

Tim said...

Shouting Thomas said...

"That town that Reynolds mocked was Daly City, the first suburb south of SF on the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula."

There's a whole lotta 'Niner fans in Daly City.

We'll be eating at Westlake Joe's next Saturday night, after the 'Niners retire the Packer's 2012 football season.

Good times!

traditionalguy said...
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traditionalguy said...

Any friend of the Franks is a friend of mine.

That wiki article reminded me about Pepin The Short(a truly interesting Frank who was the son of Charles Martel and the father of Charles the Great). He made the Donations of Pepin once called the Papal States and now called the Vatican.

The Muslim Jihadists still refer to all white Europeans as "The Franks" in bitter memory of Charles Martel, Pepin and Charlemagne.

Tim said...

chickelit said...

"Why is it that many lefties conform to a stereotype these days? Some even check little boxes on applications to advance."

They all conform to stereotype.

Closed minds, no imagination, desperate to serve power so as to have power; can't think of doing anything by themselves, you know, as an individual.

betamax3000 said...

I'm reasonably sure that Andorra is a place where all the blankets are itchy.

Some places just scream "itchy blankets".

betamax3000 said...

In the case of Andorra itchy blankets may serve as a subconscious coping mechanism. The minor daily irritation that comes with waking from a night spent beneath itchy blankets might make it easier to live next to the French.

Spain: itchy blankets.

mtrobertsattorney said...

If good old Malvina were still around, I wonder if she would pen an ode to Loughner, Holmes and Lanza. None of them would fit into one of those "Little Boxes" she so despised.

betamax3000 said...

Often the countries with itchy blankets also seem to have short beds. Can't stretch out, can't stop itching.

betamax3000 said...

There is a difference between itchy blankets and scratchy blankets. Romania would be a scratchy blanket country, for example.

betamax3000 said...

Scratchy blankets are hard on the soul. In the Soviet Union you were considered lucky to buy a new blanket, and all the new blankets were one kind: scratchy.

betamax3000 said...

Nights cumulatively spent beneath a scratchy blanket would usually lead to a numbing despair: even in sleep I am oppressed, my body rubbed as raw as my spirit.

betamax3000 said...

And after you wake from a night with scratchy blankets you inevitably take a cold shower and dry off with under-sized scratchy towels. It is as if you are to be denied any comfort in this world.

betamax3000 said...

And the scratchy under-sized towels never seem to completely dry: you get out of the shower and the towel is still limp and damp from the day before.

DaveO said...

So how will Ms Althouse be handling territories where sovereignty is disputed? I think we skipped "History of Abkhazia",and well probably not hear from Northern Cyprus or Somaliland, but I wonder if we'll have histories of Taiwan and Kosovo.

DaveO said...

Silly me! Abkhazia was out in all its glory on New Years Day.

betamax3000 said...

In summer the nights could be broiling with hot, dead air and one would still sleep with their winter pajamas to protect oneself from the scratchy blankets -- scratchy blankets are still better than waking with an exposed body covered with bug bites.

Then: back to the cold shower and the scratchy under-sized towel, still damp from the day before.

betamax3000 said...

In the countries to come I would like to know more about their blankets.

DaveO said...

Seems she is planning on 206 countries. For this project. That would be 193 un members and 13 more.

We've already had Abkhazia. The other 12?

Vatican
Taiwan
Kosovo
South Ossetia
Transnistra
Nagorno-karabakh
Northern Cyprus
Somaliland
Western Sahara
Palestine
?
?

betamax3000 said...

The Vatican has itchy blankets.

betamax3000 said...

The Vatican also has a large supply of baby powder. I am not sure about Andorra.

Erika said...

Traditional guy, you might be interested in looking up the words faranji, farang, and feringhi--they're apparently [according to my favorite and oft-referred-to travel writer Paul Theroux] cognates of Frank--originally the Arabs used a form of the word during the crusades, and it travelled in modified forms to Africa and across Asia all the way to Thailand and Malaysia where it is used to refer to a Westerner.

Interesting, if true.

Lyle said...

The closest I've been to Andorra is Carcaconne and Spanish/French border along the coast where you have to switch trains because of the different train gauges.

Andorra sounds lovely. Most affluent of the A places so far covered.

Portia said...

I love the song, not so much the woman. It reminds me of Santa Clarita, California, a made up city of four or so small towns: Saugus, Newhall, Valencia and Castaic. Bonded together to give them some clout, and a prettier name.

Michael McNeil said...

Beyond its other merits and demerits, Daly City is also located essentially right on the San Andreas Fault. (Where it departs land and zags out to sea — basically never actually entering San Francisco City and County except underwater.)

Thus, the great damage that downtown San Francisco suffered in 1906 took place a number of miles away from the earthquake fault. Daly City lies 0 miles away from the fault — and no doubt would be hit hard in a future earthquake centered on that section.

By hit hard, I mean potentially thousands of casualties. Rows of those tract homes, no doubt with terrific ocean views, curve along adjacent to high cliffs — which are crumbling even now without any earthquake.

jimbino said...

I remember Andorra of 1974, where I bought a couple big bottles of Grand Marnier Red Label for $2.50. It would have cost 6x that in Germany and 8x that in France, where it was made. A shot of it when we camped along the Spanish coast never failed to gain us the protection of the Guardia Civil.

Mick Havoc said...

Padania. You forgot Padania.
That stupid song was a big hit with the leftists in my home town who all lived in little boxes built by FDR.

He used cinder block instead of ticky tacky.

Mitch H. said...

You notice how three tiny European countries/principalities (Andorra, Luxembourg, and Monaco) are buffer states between France and its neighbors?

I'm sure there are some good geopolitical reasons for this state of affairs, but they would require more investigation than I've got time for right now.


Western Europe used to be composed almost entirely of these strange little feudal fragments. The various national conglomerations dissolved the others into the nation-states we now know as Germany, France, Austria, Spain, and Italy. The nation-forming process wasn't uniform, and there are remnants here and there, usually just to the side of a strike-spot between two rival nation-states. Little hobbit-principalities who escaped the notice of History's Lidless Eye by standing in just the right spot, mostly. Although I haven't looked into it, I suspect Liechtenstein only exists as a separate entity because their rulers historically resisted the lures of generations of long-jawed Hapsburg heiresses, for instance.

Andorra is a strange little place, basically a smuggler's paradise turned into a tourist trap. I've never quite understood how its status as a co-dominium survived centuries of war-to-the-hilt between the two great principalities that share ownership of it. Most of these feudal fragments aren't outright owned by their hulking neighbors like that.

sabeth.chu said...

perhaps andorra survived as a state because the real bone of contention was to the west in navarra.
anyways - if you have not seen the pyrenees, then make sure to go there at least once before you die.
god was smiling when he made those mountains.

DCS said...

She died in 1978, a decade before her beloved socialist paradise in the east imploded. Useful idiots like her never seem to understand they wouldn't last five minutes in the places they profess to adore, even as they harmonize romantically for the benefit of murderous dictators. It's sick and wrong.

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ken in sc said...

The title Prince was started by Caesar Augustus. He called himself Princeps, meaning first citizen. He also called himself Patria Patrios, meaning father of the fatherland. BTW, he never called himself Emperor(Imperator), which means Commander in Chief. He was given that title posthumously.

vnjagvet said...

Until I looked her up on Wiki, I had no idea Malvina was born in 1900, just nine years after my grandmother. She was 62 when she wrote Little Boxes, and wrote it for her red buddy, Pete Seeger who was nearly 20 years younger than she was.

Sam L. said...

Way back in the early-mid '70s, there was a band at FE Warren AFB called The Groobers. They rewrote Little Boxes into a song about Minuteman missiles and missileers. A line: There are green ones, and green ones, and green ones, and green ones, and they're all made of ticky-tacky and they all look the same.

Well, you had to be there, so be glad you weren't, and for those who were.