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Top Of The Shops: World Retail Therapy Capitals In Focus

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WHO doesn’t enjoy a mammoth shopping session? 

Well, no doubt about half of you reading this will be grinning widely and nodding furiously at this sweeping assumption, and the other half will be pointing vigorously at yourselves and saying, “me. That’s who.”

Shopping and smiling tend to go together. Admit it, you love a bit of retail therapy, even if it’s for drill-bits, golf balls, a new phone or the latest bestseller rather than designer clothes and handbags (photo by Spain’s tourism board, TurEspaña)

But ‘shopping’ does not just have to cover designer clothes, shoes, handbags and other basic essentials without which the human race simply cannot survive (at least, according to the first half of you mentioned above). We bet among those of you who shook your heads violently or pulled grim faces at the merest suggestion would be in your element with an open purse or wallet in, say, a hardware store, record store, sports emporium, bookshop, or even supermarket. There’s little as uplifting as going out to buy something for yourself, or as a gift for someone else, that neither you nor they need but will absolutely adore.

Some people plan their entire holidays around shopping – after all, it’s not exactly a seasonal activity, like the beach or the ski slopes. And there’s nothing worse than having budgeted for an Olympic retail therapy break than getting there and finding absolutely zero to buy, and not a single decent shop to part with your cash in.

Luckily for us, the US-based platform dedicated to helping you save money when you shop – unnecessary money, that is. As in, not shelling out on parking or public transport and depleting your in-store budget – has researched where in the world people think the best shopping is to be found, and why.

Focusing solely on cities, the results show that the number one European shopping destination is also considered number one in the world.

Would you like to hazard a guess as to which country it’s in?

How ‘shoppable’ are the world’s top cities?

Let’s start with the big blue ball in the Milky Way that we all share. If an inter-galactic tourist turned up and wanted to know which parts of Planet Earth offered the best retail therapy experience, what would you tell them?

Madrid, that’s what you’d tell them. It’s officially the top shopping city in the world. Here, the C/ Preciados, just off the central Puerta del Sol square, is a key shopping zone and has a Corte Inglés department store on it along with numerous boutiques and chains (photo: Tiia Monto/Wikimedia Commons)

WeThrift found that the overwhelming majority would say Madrid. And if said extra-terrestrial tourist didn’t want to travel too far after ‘doing’ Madrid, you could direct them to world number six, which is Barcelona.

Out of a possible total score of 100, Spain’s capital got 76.5, and Barcelona, 64.7. 

Much of the research was objective – WeThrift examined how many shopping centres, or malls, a city had (24 in Madrid and 13 in Barcelona), how many flea markets or, as we say in Spain, rastros, you would find there (18 in Madrid and 15 in Barcelona), how many designer stores (250 for Madrid and 228 in Barcelona), how many antiques shops (14 for Madrid, 21 for Barcelona), how many charity shops (47 in both), and how many furniture shops (114 in Madrid and 179 in Barcelona).

Cost of transport, weather, and other ‘comfort features’ that count

WeThrift also analysed non-shopping-related features which, nevertheless, do contribute heavily towards how comfortable, pleasant and convenient a retail experience is.

Annual rainfall might surprise you for its inclusion in the evaluation. But let’s face it – unless you’re reading this midway through a Spanish summer, when the thought of it would seem like sheer bliss – being caught in a downpour when you’re intending to enjoy yourself isn’t going to improve your day for you.

Madrid has the lowest rainfall of all the European shopping destinations analysed – meaning this picture of a soggy street in the capital is quite rare. And a rainy day can spoil your retail therapy experience – even if you’re only out buying toilet rolls, like the man in the photo

Barcelona, being in the Mediterranean basin, has a much higher annual rainfall, at 61.4 centimetres (about two feet) than Madrid, in the central high plains, with 41.5 centimetres (around 1’4”), but mainland Spain’s east coast gets most of its yearly wet weather concentrated into short periods in spring and autumn, when near-monsoon-like conditions can suddenly strike, and persistent showers are more likely to happen at the beginning and end of winter.

If you want to stay dry in Barcelona or anywhere else on the Mediterranean, it’s best to visit when the seasons are not about to change, since this is where warm air and cold sea, or cold air and warm sea, collide, and the pre-coastal mountains ‘lock’ it all in, causing torrential deluges.

This said, deluges normally only last for a few days before the sun comes out brightly as though it’d never happened – and, given that Barcelona has 13 shopping centres, which are indoors, what better excuse than to make a beeline for one of them and refuse to leave?

Public transport costs are also taken into account, and although, in general, southern and eastern Europe does better than northern Europe, modern and built-up metropolitan areas in Asia, and the USA, Madrid turns out to be far more economical than Spain’s second city. WeThrift uses US dollars for the comparison – and based upon mid-market rates at the time of publication, US$1.00 was €0.93, or €1.00 was US$1.07.

Madrid, for a single journey on public transport, was calculated at €1.53, or US$1.64, and Barcelona at €2.45 (US$2.63).

But don’t forget that, as in most cities worldwide, unless you only intend to make one return trip to a specific destination on a single day, it is always far better value to buy a travel card that covers either one type or all modes of metropolitan transport, if possible for a full day, week, month or however long you are staying rather than for a set number of journeys. Doing so in either Madrid or Barcelona will have you spending considerably less than €1.53 or €2.45 per journey.

Madrid’s public transport (shown here) is cheaper than in Barcelona, according to the WeThrift study – but you’ll save a lot of money in either city by buying a blanket travel card for the length of your stay

Perhaps the ‘Safety Index Score’ aspect will surprise you, but it’s an element that makes a huge difference: You’re not going to have fun plundering all the designer boutiques – and furniture and antiques shops – if you’re worried about being robbed in the process…or worse.

This score deals with perception of safety, as well as actual safety, and as Spain is statistically one of the countries with the lowest rates of violent crime in the world, the fact its capital earns 70.08 out of 100 (and nowhere breaks the 80 barrier) is probably par for the course.

Barcelona only scores 51.43, although anecdotal evidence says it is not really any less safe than Madrid, or not significantly so; and it’s still higher than many other cities on the list, with rankings in the 40s – including London, with 46.75 out of 100.

Finally, one of the more subjective point-scoring elements is how many times a city has featured on social media posts with the hashtag #shopping.

This automatically produces an advantage for English-speaking cities, or those which attract tourists from Anglophone countries, despite the multi-lingual nature of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

So the fact London gets a whopping 199,638 #shopping hashtags may not shock anyone, but Madrid still manages 38,544 and Barcelona, 36,035.

How do Spanish cities compare with the rest of the world?

Aside from the UK and USA, with two entries each, Spain is the only other country with more than one entry, and impressive ones, too, at number one and number six.

With Madrid earning 76.5 out of 100 and number 15, the Polish capital of Warsaw, getting 55.2, the whole of the top 11 has at least 60 points, but only the top four have over 70.

These, after Madrid, are the Czech capital of Prague (75.1), which scores better on cost of public transport at €1.24 (US$1.33) and safety (75.89), has a proliferation of charity shops (218), but higher annual rainfall – 68.7 centimetres (2’3”).

London (pictured) loses points for its expensive public transport and comparatively lower safety score, but is still third in the world, with an abundance of flea markets and antiques shops

London, in third place, with 74.2, has slightly more shopping centres (34), hugely more flea markets (75), a similar number of designer shops (257), significantly more antiques shops (40), and a few more charity shops than Madrid or Barcelona (74), although numbers may not be a reliable guide, given that the UK capital’s population and area size is larger than either, meaning perhaps a similar ratio of all of these per head or per square metre.

London’s furniture shops are practically the same in number as Madrid, at 117, and its annual rainfall very slightly more than that of Prague, but it falls down on the safety score and also on the cost of public transport, at €3.31 (US$3.55).

The Japanese capital of Tokyo, with an eye-watering 246 shopping centres, a safety score of 76.68, plus 441 designer shops, 240 furniture shops, 45 antiques stores, 29 furniture stores – but only 11 flea markets – is joint third with London, albeit with cheaper public transport at €1.60 (US$1.72); but its wet weather lets it down. Tokyo gets a soggy 148.2 centimetres (4’10”) of rain per year – although not as much as Singapore, in fifth place on 65.8 points and with cheaper public transport (€1.31, or US$1.40), which gets an annual drenching of 236.6 centimetres (7’9”) of rain.

Japan’s capital, Tokyo, joint third with London, ranks very highly for safety and for its massive amount of designer shops, but with nearly a metre and a half, or 4’10” of rain every year, it loses points

As for which ones Madrid and Barcelona beat, these include some of the most famous shopaholics’ paradises and normally the first names that spring to mind when you think about the ultimate retail indulgence: New York City and the French capital of Paris, at seven and eight, followed by Hong Kong, the huge Turkish city of İstanbul – the cheapest for transport, at just €0.36 (US$0.38), slightly ahead of Barcelona and London on safety with 52.45, but only one charity shop for its 15 million inhabitants – the Irish capital of Dublin, scoring a total of 60, with a whole 175 furniture shops, 83 charity shops and 253 designer boutiques, but only 48.45 for safety, fairly expensive for public transport at €2.89 (US$3.10), and with 91.9 centimetres (slightly over three feet) of rain per year, but still ranking just above Los Angeles.

İstanbul, the biggest city in Türkiye – and in Europe – is by far the cheapest for public transport, via its tram system, scores reasonably well for safety, but only has one charity shop for 15 million inhabitants

The star-studded California city has less rain than Madrid, 340 designer boutiques, seven charity shops, 75 furniture shops, 20 shopping malls, is fairly cheap for public transport with a similar price to that of Tokyo, a higher safety score than that of London but lower than Barcelona, and comes 12th overall with 58.8 out of 100.

Just below it is the Scottish city of Edinburgh, with slightly less rain than Dublin, marginally cheaper public transport than Barcelona, only six shopping centres and seven flea markets, but does better on safety, just below Madrid at 69.79.

Germany’s capital, Berlin, just about breaks the €3 mark for transport costs and is wetter than Barcelona, but very slightly drier than London, scores 57.97 for safety, has 26 shopping centres, but only two charity shops.

Poland’s capital, Warsaw, is another cheap city for transport, coming in at just under €1, with similar rainfall to Berlin and London, 24 shopping centres, but a very high safety score, at 73.71.

One-fifth of Europe’s best shopping cities are in Spain

Two-thirds of the world’s top 15 shopping cities are in Europe – and among the top 15 European retail destinations, Spain has more entries than any other country.

The UK has two, with London third again and Edinburgh eighth, as does France, with Paris coming sixth and the south-western city of Bordeaux 15th, scoring 49 out of 100 and fairly average in terms of rainfall, public transport, safety and shop numbers.

Spain features three times in Europe’s top 15, and twice in the top five, given that Barcelona now moves up to fourth, behind Prague and London.

In fact, WeThrift points out that Barcelona has more furniture shops than any other city in Europe analysed by the portal.

Of all the European cities ranked, Barcelona had the most furniture shops (photo: ShBarcelona)

Madrid, top in its home continent as well as worldwide, has the lowest annual rainfall of all cities examined in the Europe ranking and second-lowest worldwide, giving it ‘the perfect conditions for a sunny shopping spree’, according to WeThrift.

It can be chilly in winter, though, given its altitude – the second highest-up capital city in Europe after Andorra la Vella – so if you want to guarantee a ‘sunny shopping spree’, spring and autumn might suit you better.

That said, compared with northern Europe as a whole, temperatures even in winter tend to be slightly higher, so if you’re happy enough buying your Christmas presents in London, Paris or Berlin, Madrid is normally a little warmer in the coldest season.

Paris, İstanbul and Dublin come fifth, sixth and seventh respectively, followed by Edinburgh, Berlin and Warsaw, then the Portuguese capital of Lisbon makes an entry at number 11 – with a safety score and public transport cost similar to those of Madrid, although slightly fewer shops and shopping centres across the board, besides furniture (162).

Barcelona has 228 designer shops, like this one photographed by the Passeig de Gràcia retailers’ association (Barcelonapaseodegracia.com)

Amsterdam is 12th, with higher rainfall than the two Spanish cities and a safety rating somewhere in the middle – 66.78 – plus a similar amount of shops, but the Dutch capital falls down on public transport prices, which are only a couple of cents lower than those of London.

Spain’s third entry is also its third city, in terms of size and population – and although it’s on the Mediterranean, its annual rainfall is not much greater than Madrid’s, albeit concentrated into the times of year when seasons change.

Valencia, with its iconic and beautiful Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (‘City of Arts and Sciences’, or CAC), its elaborate and aristocratic-looking architecture, vast sandy beach, its nine kilometres of urban garden in what used to be the river Turia cutting through the main hub, and its very compact, mostly-walkable city centre is easy to reach from its airport by public transport – the metro, or underground rail network, runs straight into the terminal and takes you to the heart of the metropolis and right outside its main train station – and is also the 13th best shopping destination in Europe.

Valencia’s C/ Colón is a good place to find shops. In fact, in almost any Spanish town or city,  if it has a C/ Colón, you’ll probably find shops on it (photo: Neus Navarro for La Vanguardia)

Transport costs about the same as in Madrid, and on top of its six shopping centres, four flea markets (as well as the permanent indoor ones – the Colón, the Central and the Lonja or silk exchange), 211 designer boutiques, 36 charity shops, 136 furniture shops and three antiques shops, Valencia also has the second-best safety score in Europe.

Prague is the safest shopping destination, WeThrift found, at 75.89 out of 100, but Valencia beats the high-ranking Lisbon, Warsaw and Madrid with an impressive 74.43. In fact, visitors and residents, even lone women, say they feel perfectly safe pottering around Valencia’s streets in the dead of night.

Marginally drier than London, with an average number of designer boutiques but only eight shopping centres and a safety score of 53.82, Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, comes just below Valencia at 14 – but its public transport costs are its weakest point. London and Amsterdam will seem cheap in comparison with the Scandinavian city’s scary €3.80 (US$4.07) per journey, nearly three times the price of transport in Madrid.

Best worldwide cities for ‘thrift shopping’

WeThrift also looked at the top cities for grabbing a bargain – charity shops selling good-quality fare, second-hand stores with wares that you wouldn’t realise weren’t brand-new, and flea markets full of treasures – and Spain’s two largest cities also appear.

Most cities in Spain have an El Corte Inglés department store. This one on the corner of Valencia’s C/ Colón and C/ Pintor Sorolla is getting ready for Christmas, a time of year when its trade multiplies (photo by El Corte Inglés)

Again, other than the UK and Italy, which each have two, it’s the only other country with more than one entry.

Scoring out of 20, London is hard to beat with its exceptional 19.2, putting it firmly in first place, but after Paris (16.7), Madrid comes joint third with Prague at 14.2, and Barcelona slots in at number six with 13.3, beaten by Rome with 14.1.

After Barcelona, in descending order, are Dublin (12.9), New York City, Singapore, Taipei in Taiwan, Milan in Italy, Edinburgh – the last to score 10 or above – İstanbul and Hong Kong jointly at 13 with 9.6 out of 20, and Tokyo bringing up the rear with 9.2.

It’s not all about the capital

Naturally, the WeThrift analysis looked at the biggest cities in their countries, so plenty of other, much smaller cities, large towns, or even small market towns and villages probably have excellent shopping undiscovered by international visitors. 

Given that Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia have all been singled out for their splendid retail experiences, Spain would seem a great place to start if you’re looking to spend – particularly as Spanish municipalities, whatever their size, are frequently very self-contained and self-sufficient, with even villages home to just a few hundred residents having almost everything you need on hand locally, right down to bars, restaurants and sports centres.

Zaragoza’s Puerto de Venecia shopping centre, so-called because it’s designed to look like Venice, is the sixth-most Instagrammed mall in Europe, according to WeThrift (photo: University of Aragón)

Here’s a tip, though. If you’ve made a beeline for a city or large town in Spain you’ve never been to before, with a view to shopping until you’re dropping, and after wandering around aimlessly for ages, find yourself thinking, “well, this is boring. There aren’t even any shops!”, check out a map and see if it has a street named C/ Colón, or C/ Mayor. 

For some reason, these seem to be the names of the streets with the best buying options, the most clothing stores, and the most designer boutiques. We’re not entirely sure why, but it rarely fails.

And just to prove the most fabulous stores are not always limited to the largest cities, WeThrift includes a ‘bonus section’ – the ‘most Instagrammed shopping centres’ in Europe.

Based upon the number of hashtags, top of the list is Paris’ famous Galeries Lafayette, followed by Milan’s trademark Vittorio Emanuele precinct – both of which are just as likely to make it to social media for their stunning design as well as their actual retail facilities.

And one of them is only a small town – fourth, after Manchester’s Trafford Centre, another UK venue that’s regularly Instagrammed is Bicester Village in Oxfordshire. As well as picturesque, Bicester is famous across Britain for its concentration of designer boutiques, and reputed to be a favourite shopping venue for Princess Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

La Roca Village shopping mall in the small town of La Roca del Vallès, Barcelona province – the fifth-most Instagrammed retail centre in Europe (photo: Jorge Franganillo under Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0)

Spain comes in at number five, with La Roca, near Barcelona – a quaint, sunny and beautiful outdoor mall, pedestrianised, cobbled and tree-lined, and again at six with the sophisticated, ultra-modern-looking riverside complex, Puerto Venecia, in Zaragoza, the country’s fourth-biggest city and the capital of the otherwise very rural, remote and charmingly-rustic inland region of Aragón.

These two come ahead of La Vallée Village in the outskirts of Paris, Magna Plaza in Amsterdam, the Zlote Tarasy in Warsaw, and the Paradise Centre in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.

Anyway, if you feel a bit affronted that your town in Spain doesn’t feature in any of the rankings and fully believe that’s an oversight you can’t quite forgive, don’t forget to snap it up on camera and Instagram it – or mention it on any of your social media pages with the hashtag #shopping. 

At the very least, you’ll help put it on the map, and show everyone else out there in cyberspace what they’re missing.

Balearic Islands

Aguilera Tops The Bill: It’s Party Season On Mallorca And This Week It Was The Turn Of Music Stars To Descend On The Island – Olive Press News Spain

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MALLORCA has been treated to a musical extravaganza.

Christina Aguilera brought a sprinkling of stardust to the Baleares, with the Staten Island, New York, born superstar playing her first Spanish gig since 2003 when she played Barcelona.

The singer began her performance with the song hit Dirrty, which was followed by Can’t Hold Us Down and Bionic.

Las Vegas, Nv June 10, 2021: ***house Coverage*** Christina Aguilera Pictured Performing At The Theater At Virgin Hote
Christina Aguilera. File photo. Copyright: xErikxKabikxPhotography/xMediaPunchx via Cordon Press

Her performance was eagerly awaited, with some fans queuing from Friday morning to get a good spot for her show.

Headlining the Sunday night, British rockers Muse unleashed their rock anthems to the crowd in what was their first ever Mallorca performance.

The UK was well represented throughout the festival, with Editors and Supergrass both playing before Scottish indie-rockers Franz Ferdinand took to the stage with their trademark agitated garage rock to swarms of fans.

Some assistants to the event were waiting in queues since Friday morning to get the best place at the concert. Christina said to their fans that she was really happy to be in Mallorca and see all the beautiful faces of her fans.

The festival took place in Magaluf, a fitting location for a festival blending British and Spanish music.

Castillian was well represented too, with pop star Guitarricadelafuente performing his unique Latin-inspired guitar hits to an adoring Spanish following.

Elsewhere the grungy guitar riffs of Spaniards Repion and Cupido proved that today’s stadium rockers are not confined to the Anglospehre while there was a dash of throwback flamenco from Cecilia Zango acting as a much needed mellower to the cut and thrust of screeching guitars.

It all came together in a well balanced ensemble of fun, reiterating that live music is back and better than ever.

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Hollywood Stars You Didn't Know Were (Partly, At Least) Spanish 

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INTERNATIONAL celebrities from Spain or with Spanish relatives are not exactly rare, but are few enough in number that their names are well known – if a quiz show on a non-Spanish TV channel asked contestants to list them, chances are almost everyone would come up with the same stars instantly, but be completely stuck beyond a certain number.

She won an Oscar and a Concha de Plata for her lead part in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, but we bet you had no idea about this actress’ blood relatives from the Basque Country and Navarra (photo: IMDb)

Everybody’s heard of Málaga‘s greatest silver-screen export, Antonio Banderas, and although she was a complete unknown quantity until 21 years ago beyond her native country, Penélope Cruz is a Hollywood household name; her husband, Javier Bardem, less so, and still mainly because of his ‘baddie’ rôle in the Bond film Skyfall and because of his world-famous wife.

From the music world, Shakira is a global legend now, although she already had been in Latin America for nearly a decade before her first English-language hit took her to the top of the charts in numerous countries 20 years ago.

Yes, she’s Colombian – from Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast – but her dad was born in New York to Lebanese parents, and one set of grandparents on her mother’s side is from Catalunya, hence her surname of Mebarak Ripoll; this means she is actually only one-quarter Colombian, or the same quantity of DNA from her nation of birth as from Spain.

Penélope Cruz (left) and Antonio Banderas (right) might be huge names in Hollywood – and director Pedro Almodóvar (centre) is pretty famous internationally, too, but Spanish and part-Spanish celebrities are actually all over Tinseltown (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Spice Girl Geri Halliwell – who now goes by her married name of Geri Horner – started out her career in the spotlight as 20% of one of the most iconic British pop bands of the 1990s and early Noughties, and her most recognisable outfit of all time has to be her Union Jack mini-dress, but she is in fact half-Spanish on her mum’s side. 

This actress, shown here in a photo by Robert Coburn in a 1946 edition of Screenland , had a father from the province of Sevilla

Ana María Hidalgo was born and grew up in Aragón, in the Pyrénéen province of Huesca, and Geri’s great-granddad – Ana María’s grandfather – was mayor of the beautiful land-locked Andalucía city of Córdoba. As a result, Spanish, along with English, is Geri’s second native language, and she has always been fluent in it.

Fans of classic film might remember Sara Montiel, who made her career in Hollywood, and of course, crooner Julio Iglesias and, later, his son Enrique Iglesias, both of whom live in Miami, are huge names worldwide; the late opera diva Montserrat Caballé became globally famous among pop and rock fans through her duet with Queen frontman Freddy Mercury, which she performed – as did the latter, posthumously, on screen – at the Barcelona Olympic opening ceremony in 1992.

But it turns out Hollywood alone, never mind any other field in the planet’s art industry, is full of Spanish stars.

At least, stars who have recent Spanish DNA, through their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

And quite a few of them will surprise you.

Martin Sheen

Recently, the Apocalypse Now actor born Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez admitted his regret at having anglicised his name in order to triumph in Tinseltown.

Nowadays, this is less likely to be required of a celebrity and greater resistance to doing so is being seen – half-Ecuadorian pop diva Christina Aguilera reportedly refused to make her surname sound ‘more English’ when launching her career in the year 2000, and British actress Thandie Newton, whose mother is from Zimbabwe and who grew up between the UK and Zambia, has recently ‘reclaimed’ her birth name publicly and is now known as ‘Thandiwe’, after declaring in 2020: “I’m taking back what’s mine.”

Martin Sheen regrets having become Martin Sheen for his career, rather than remaining as Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez. But three of the actor’s four children have kept their surname inherited from their Galicia-born grandfather (photo: El País/Andrew H Walker/Getty)

In fact, although Martin Sheen’s son Charlie Sheen – born Carlos Irwin Estévez – opted to take his dad’s English-language ‘stage name’ ahead of his Hollywood début in Red Dawn in 1984, Martin’s other famous ‘brat pack’ son and star of Mission: Impossible and Young Guns has kept his name of Emilio Estévez from the start.

Doing so means Emilio is also paying tribute to his paternal grandfather, Francisco Estévez Martínez, who comes from the Pontevedra-province town of Salceda de Caselas in Spain’s far north-western region of Galicia.

Perhaps less-known outside the USA, Martin Sheen has two other screen-star children who have also kept their father’s birth surname – Ramón Estévez and Renée Estévez.

Rita Hayworth

If the star of the 1939 critically-acclaimed Only Angels Have Wings, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, were still alive today, she would be celebrating her 104th birthday this coming October – but sadly, the prolific Tinseltown legend behind the iconic and highly-controversial character of Gilda passed away from early-onset Alzheimer’s aged 68.

Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in the explosive 1946 film Gilda (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Her career in the arts did not start off with acting, but with classical dance – she moved to Hollywood as part of the Spanish Ballet in 1933, aged 15, before making the move into film the following year thanks to composer José Iturbi and a Spanish diplomat based in the USA.

Ballet was far from Rita’s first choice of career. Her father, Eduardo Cansino Reina, was a famous dancer from the Sevilla-province towns of Paradas and Castilleja de la Cuesta, a direct descendant from the Sephardic Jewish community who had been able to remain in Spain following the Inquisition in the 15th century.

Fans of cinema history will know that Rita Hayworth’s decision to take her US-born ballerina mother, Volga’s maiden name as her surname would not be something she wound up regretting, unlike Martin Sheen. Her relationship with her father was dark and heartbreaking, his abusive treatment of her well-documented in the world’s media.

But she did give a nod to her Spanish roots in 1961 when, along with Rex Harrison, Rita played one half of a pair of robbers breaking into Madrid’s El Prado Museum to steal Francisco de Goya’s painting El 2 de Mayo, in The Happy Thieves.


Jessica Chastain

Winner of the 2022 Best Actress Oscar, and the Concha de la Plata or ‘Silver Shell’ at San Sebastián Film Festival, for her rôle as the eponymous ‘televangelist’ in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Jessica, now 45, uses her birth name for her acting – Chastain is her mother Jerri Renée’s maiden name, and she was brought up by her mum and stepdad, Michael Hastey.

The star of award-winning productions such as Take Shelter, Coriolanus and The Tree of Life is a quarter Spanish – her father, Michael Monasterio’s grandfather was from Lekeitio in the Basque province of Vizcaya, the capital of which is Bilbao, and the latter’s wife was from the neighbouring region of Navarra.

Jessica Chastain, whose paternal great-grandparents were from the Basque Country and Navarra (photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

Their surnames, Astoreka and Egurrola, have not ‘survived’ into the fourth generation across the pond, since Jessica has had no real relationship with her father from earliest childhood. Her parents were in their teens when she was born, and Jessica says she was brought up by ‘a single mother who worked hard to put food on the table’ – although she is very close to her maternal grandmother, Marilyn, whom she says ‘has always believed in’ her.

Jessica’s long string of rôles that resulted in numerous award nominations include that of Celia Foote, the innocent ‘rags-to-riches’ character in the screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help.

Her first part as a professional actress was in the TV series Dark Shadows, in 2004, a year after finishing her fine arts degree at New York’s Juilliard School, which she attended thanks to a scholarship funded by the late Robin Williams.

Helena Bonham-Carter

If you had to pull a name out of thin air for the ‘most British actress ever’, this English-rose face of period drama, with her very classical looks, would be high up the list. But Helena is in fact part Spanish.

You can’t get much more British than starring as a Royal in The Crown, but Helena Bonham-Carter is part-Spanish (photo: IMDb)

The twice-Oscar nominated actress, 56, who has starred in numerous literary adaptations – the Harry Potter series, Frankenstein, A Room With a View, Howard’s End, Great Expectations and The Wings of the Dove, among others – and played British Royalty (Princess Margaret in The Crown, Jane Grey in Lady Jane, Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII) as well as key female figures in re-enactments of major episodes in UK history (children’s author Enid Blyton in Enid, Edith New in Suffragette, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in The King’s Speech) is the daughter of counsellor-psychologist Elena Propper de Callejón, whose father was from Madrid.

Helena Bonham-Carter in 2012 (photo: IMDb)

Helena’s maternal grandfather, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, was a high-ranking Spanish diplomat who is credited with having helped thousands of Jews flee occupied France during World War II.

Eduardo’s incredible actions over the middle four years of the War led to his being granted the distinction of Justo Entre las Naciones, or ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ – chasidey umot ha-olam in Hebrew – used to refer to ‘non-Jews who have been particularly righteous and/or follow the seven Noahide Laws’, according to the dictionary definition.

In practice, Eduardo’s father was a Jewish banker from what used to be called Bohemia, although Eduardo himself is said to have been Roman Catholic.

Banker Max Propper married Spanish diplomat’s daughter Juana Callejón, their son went to university in his birth city of Madrid, and after his heroic, dangerous and profoundly humane actions in the 1940s, Eduardo would go on to become ambassador for Spain in the USA, Canada, and Norway.

Helena was six when her maternal grandfather passed away, in London, aged 77.

The actress’ maternal grandmother was the artist and socialite Hélène Fould-Springer, who was born in France to Jewish parents – a French mum, sister to the Baroness of Rothschild, and Austrian banker dad – so Helena’s British genes are very diluted.

Helena Bonham-Carter and Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, in 2010 (photo: IMDb)

Of course, even Brits whose ancestors have been UK-born for centuries will be genetically mixed, given how the country has been a melting pot of nationalities throughout history, but Helena’s European roots are much closer in time than her fans would have expected.

Helena Bonham-Carter, OBE, is great-granddaughter of British prime minister H. H. Asquith, and her religion is listed as Jewish.

Anya Taylor-Joy

Despite her joint British-US nationality, the Miami-born star of The Queen’s Gambit, 26, also holds permanent legal residence status in Argentina, where her family moved when she was still a baby, and her first language is Spanish.

After moving to London with her parents at age six, Anya admits she refused to learn English until she was eight, as she ‘only wanted to go home’ and held onto the hope that they would move back to Buenos Aires.

Anya Taylor-Joy in Peaky Blinders in 2022 (photo: IMDb)

Her Scottish dad, former international banker Dennis Alan Taylor, is a quarter Argentinian on his mother’s side, and her mum, Jennifer Marina Joy, was born in Zambia to a British father and Barcelona mother, Montserrat Morancho Saumench.

Anya’s maternal grandmother moved to Zaragoza during the Spanish Civil War, where she spent the rest of her working life running a shop, and Jennifer Joy grew up in the Aragón city.

Millie Bobby Brown

She only turned 18 in February, but this up-and-coming young star already has a string of major film and TV rôles under her belt, including playing Madison Russell in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, producing and well as starring in The Adventures of Enola Holmes, fleshing out the characters of Once in Stranger Things, Lizzie in Modern Family, and Ruby in Grey’s Anatomy.

Millie Bobby Brown in Enola Holmes in 2020 (photo: IMDb)

At age 14, she made her début as a model, becoming the face of the Calvin Klein By Appointment campaign.

And she doesn’t have Spanish roots, but she and her three siblings were born in Marbella, Málaga province.

Millie’s parents, Kelly and Robert Brown, ran an estate agency in the Costa del Sol holiday capital, but moved back to the UK when their actress daughter, the third-born of their four children, was four years old.

The family’s spell in the south-coast seaside town of Bournemouth was short-lived – when Millie was eight, they relocated to Orlando, Florida.

Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things in 2022 (photo: IMDb)

It was here that her parents enrolled her in a weekend acting, singing and dancing workshop, where she was spotted by a talent scout – still only midway through primary school, she was already showing potential Hollywood prowess, and by age nine she was signed up to play the lead part in the ABC television series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

According to Spanish media reports, as Millie did not live in her birth town of Marbella long enough to start school, she never learned the language – her Spanish is said to be currently limited to, Hola, ¿Cómo estás? Mi nombre es Millie Bobby Brown.

Charisma Carpenter

Fans of the cult series Buffy the Vampire Slayer will remember the character of Cordelia Chase – the actress who played her, born in Las Vegas, owes her career to her studies at a Spanish-language drama school, and her grandfather on her mother’s side was Spanish.

Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in 1997 (photo: IMDb)

The family moved to San Diego, California, when Charisma was 15, and she made the hour-long journey over the Mexican border to attend her acting classes, leading to her being fluent in the language.

Charisma’s maternal grandfather had emigrated to the USA from an unconfirmed location in Spain, but her parents reportedly lost all contact with the Mediterranean side of the family, so little else is known.

But something stayed in the genes, given that Charisma, now 51, had always been interested in learning the Spanish language, applying herself to it diligently in high school, and it is thought this influenced her decision to pursue her drama training south of the border.

Jean Reno

Always thought of as a veteran French actor, the star of Luc Besson epics such as Le Grand Bleu, Nikita and Leon, 73, born in Casablanca, Morocco and moving to Paris aged 17, is in fact Spanish – although he has never lived in Spain.

Jean Reno’s birth name is Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez, and his mum and dad were both from the province of Cádiz on Spain’s southern coast.

His mother, who died when Jean was a teenager, came from Jerez de la Frontera, and his father from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, but they fled to the French protectorate in Morocco together to escape Franco’s dictatorship before Jean/Juan was born.

Jean Reno in Luc Besson’s Le Grand Bleu, in 1988 (photo: IMDb)

The actor holds French nationality, and has lived in Casablanca, Paris, Montpellier (southern France), Los Angeles (California) and the German city of Wittlich, where he did his military service.

Starring in The Matrix, Mission: Impossible, The Da Vinci Code, Godzilla alongside Matthew Broderick and French Kiss alongside Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, married to British-Polish actress and model Zofia Borucka, has homes in Paris, Los Angeles and Malaysia.

He is bilingual, having grown up speaking both Spanish and French.

Noomi Rapace

The Swedish star of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and actress behind the character of Lisbeth Salander in the screen adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy was brought up by her mother, Nina Norén, in her stepfather’s native Iceland, and did not know her father until she was 15 years old – mainly because he did not even know she existed.

Noomi Rapace in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus in 2012 (photo: IMDb)

Born Hilda Noomi Norén in Hudiksvall, Sweden, moving to Iceland aged four and then returning to her home country aged nine, the actress owes her career to her mum’s husband, who ran a stud and was involved in filming.

She had a cameo in a Hrafn Gunnlaugsson production aged seven, and decided from that moment on that she wanted to act professionally for a living.

Noomi, 42, did not meet her biological father until 1995, and then only knew him for 11 years until his death in late 2006, just days before his 53rd birthday.

He was Rogelio Durán (pictured left, from Wikimedia Commons), flamenco singer and actor from the western-Spanish province of Badajoz, who went by the stage name of Rogelio Dabargos – and also Rogelio de Badajoz – and was of Spanish gypsy origin, briefly married to actor José Vivó’s daughter Silvia after studying music and theatre in Madrid, where he moved aged 18.

Rogelio went on to become a speech and drama tutor in Stockholm’s Centre for Dramatic Arts, after touring Europe with a flamenco company, then formed his own flamenco troupe in Sweden, going off on tour around South America, acting in Swedish films in the year or two before his death from cancer, and recording flamenco-fusion records with Swedish artists, such as Erik Steen.

Noomi in 2009 as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first part of the Millennium trilogy based on the book series by the late Stieg Larsson (photo: IMDb)

He was living in Gustavsberg, Sweden, when he died, and although it is not known whether Noomi speaks Spanish – given that her father was not in her life when she was growing up – she told reporters during a 2009 interview that her ‘roots and talent’ were ‘Spanish’.

Alfred Molina

The name of this London-born star of Spider-Man: No Way Home is a strong clue as to his Spanish origin – Italian, too, in fact.

Born Alfredo Molina, known for his 2004 rôle of Dr Octopus in Spider-Man 2 and for major parts in The Da Vinci Code, The Pink Panther 2, Chocolat, and Frida, the actor is the son of working-class Mediterranean migrants and grew up in Notting Hill – a cosmopolitan neighbourhood which, at the time, was largely home to families who had emigrated to Britain from all over the world.

Alfred Molina in the 2021 Spider-Man: No Way Home (photo: IMDb)

Alfred’s father, Esteban Molina, was born in Murcia, and made his living in the UK capital dovetailing waiting tables with driving taxis, and his mum, Giovanna Bonelli, had moved there from Italy, working at first as a cleaner and a cook in an Italian hotel and later becoming full-time housewife and mother.

Alfred decided he wanted to be an actor after watching Spartacus and, aged nine, enrolled at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama – exactly 60 years ago.

He married British actress Jill Gascoine in 1986, and they were together until her death in a California care home two years ago from Alzheimer’s, aged 83.

Last year, Alfred Molina announced he had married Frozen director and producer Jennifer Lee, 51, and the couple lives in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles.

Alfred has held joint British-US nationality since 2004, and has one daughter, Rachel Molina, now 42.

Oona Chaplin

She’s the granddaughter of the legendary actor Charlie Chaplin and his fourth wife Oona O’Neill – making her the great-granddaughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill – and her mother Geraldine earned a Golden Globe nomination for her part as Tonya in Dr Zhivago in 1965.

Oona Chaplin is Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter, was born in Madrid to Dr Zhivago actress Geraldine Chaplin and a Chilean photographic director. She has no Spanish DNA, but has lived in Spain for most of her life and has starred in numerous Spanish TV and cinema productions. She is shown here in Proyecto Lázaro (‘Project Lazarus’) in 2016 (IMDb)

Geraldine Chaplin’s meeting with Spanish film director Carlos Saura, with whom she was professionally- and romantically-linked until 1979, led to her settling in Spain and starring in numerous Spanish films – as well as British, US, French and Swiss productions.

Following in dad Charlie’s footsteps, Geraldine, 78, has become a household name in her own right, working alongside the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Michelle Pfeiffer, Angela Lansbury, Elizabeth Taylor and Martin Scorsese – and even playing the part of her own grandmother, Hannah Chaplin, in the biographical film produced by Richard Attenborough.

Geraldine Chaplin in El Orfanato in 2007 (photo: IMDb)

US-born but growing up in Switzerland, Geraldine won a Goya Award for her part in Antonio Hernández’s En la Ciudad Sin Límites (‘In the City Without Limits’), a Goya nomination for her rôle in Juan Antonio Bayona’s psychological thriller El Orfanato (‘The Orphanage’), and she starred in Pedro Almodóvar‘s 2002 blockbuster Hable Con Ella (‘Talk to Her’). 

After her 14-year relationship with Carlos Saura ended, Geraldine opted to stay in Spain and married Chilean photographic director Patricio Castilla.

Their daughter Oona, named after her maternal grandmother, was born in Madrid in 1986, and is already proving to be a chip off the old block – having studied drama in Scotland, thanks to a scholarship won when she was 15, travelling the UK with a theatre company in Romeo and Juliet and as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, earning a place at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), from which she graduated aged 21, Oona Castilla Chaplin has appeared in multiple Spanish TV and cinema productions, and also key international ones.

Oona Chaplin in Game of Thrones as Talisa Maegyr, in 2011 (photo: IMDb)

Game of Thrones fans will recognise her as the face of Talisa Maegyr, and UK television viewers will remember her from the series The Hour (2012) and alongside Tom Hardy in Taboo.

Oona, 36, is a Spanish national and mostly lives in Spain – although she has spent many years in the UK, Cuba, and Switzerland, too – but is actually British-Chilean in genetic terms. In fact, her grandmother Hilda, on her dad’s side, is Mapuche, coming from the South American country’s original ethnic population who were in residence long before the colonisers got there.

Daniel Brühl

Best Supporting Actor winner in the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards for his part in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, starring in the 2003 Goodbye, Lenin!, the 2018 The Alienist, and as Helmut Zemo in the Marvel production Captain America: Civil War, the Berlin-based star, 44, is as well-known in Tinseltown as he is in Germany, where he grew up.

Born Daniel César Martín Brühl González in Barcelona’s Gràcia district, he is the son of German theatre and TV director Hanno Brühl, of Brazilian origin, and teacher Marisa González Domingo, whom Hanno met and fell in love with whilst travelling in Spain’s second-largest city.

Daniel Brühl with Dakota Fanning in The Alienist, in 2020 (photo: IMDb)

The family moved to Cologne, Germany when Daniel was just a few weeks old, but they spent all their summers in Spain, mostly in Pratdip, Tarragona province.

Daniel holds joint German and Spanish citizenship, and is a self-proclaimed fan of FC Barcelona.

As well as mainstream Hollywood films, Daniel has starred in numerous German productions and a handful of Spanish ones.

His most recent work was the Matthew Vaughn film The King’s Man, alongside British veterans Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes, Alison Steadman and Liam Neeson, among others.

He stars in and directs the critically-acclaimed German film Nebenan (‘Next Door’), released in late 2021.

Ricardo Montalbán

Late Mexican legend Ricardo, whose face in any western was practically de rigueur, worked in an average of a film a year since moving to the USA in 1945, although his career had started about five years earlier in his native country.

More recently, Montalbán was seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Naked Gun, in the 1980s.

Ricardo Montalbán in 1982 in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (photo: IMDb)

In the 21st century, he has starred in Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, and The Ant Bully, his last-ever full-length film, in 2006.

He had just turned 88 when he died in January 2009 from heart failure – if he was still alive today, he would have been celebrating his 102nd birthday this coming November, and his three surviving children, Víctor, Mark and Anita are all in their 70s (the eldest, Laura, died five years ago from cancer aged 72).

Ricardo Montalbán in Fiesta Brava in 1947. He was proud of being Mexican and kept his citizenship despite living most of his adult life in the USA…but in reality, Ricardo was 100% Spanish (photo: IMDb)

Ricardo, despite living in the Los Angeles area for 64 years, chose to stay Mexican and did not wish to become a nationalised US citizen. 

But in genetic terms, he was actually 100% Spanish.

His parents, Genaro Montalbán and Ricarda Merino, moved to the Latin American country from their native Spain before his birth in México DF. 

Ricardo, his sister Carmen, and brothers Pedro and Carlos grew up in the city of Torreón, in the north-eastern Mexican State of Coahuila, and he never lived in Spain – nor is it known where in Spain his parents originated from – but even though he identified as Mexican and lived his whole life in North America, Ricardo Montalbán was, in reality, as Spanish as paella and Don Quijote.

Eva Longoria

You could probably have guessed the star behind the Desperate Housewives stalwart Gabrielle Solís had Spanish blood in her somewhere, given that her parents, Enrique Longoria and Eva Mireles, are Mexican – but what might surprise you is that she did not speak their native language until she was 34, and only found out about her Asturias roots when she was 42.

Eva Longoria, 47, played Gabrielle Solís in the long-running cult series Desperate Housewives alongside fellow mainstays Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, Nicollette Sheridan and Felicity Huffman. This picture shows her in her first year on the show, 2004. And Eva was as surprised as you are to find out her great-granddad was originally from Asturias, northern Spain (photo: IMDb)

Eva was born and grew up in Texas, but only spoke English at home with her parents, who gave her a ‘proper US upbringing’, according to an interview in 2008, and was raised as North American Catholic.

She earned a BSc degree in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, won the Miss Corpus Christi contest in 1998, and ended up in Los Angeles through a talent competition, where she was discovered by a theatre agent.

Describing herself as ‘an ugly duckling’ in childhood and adolescence – claiming she was much plainer than her three sisters Elizabeth, Emily and Esmeralda – Eva grew up on a family farm, where she said her parents worked hard and were relatively poor.

Eva Longoria took a tour of Asturias in 2017 after discovering her roots…and paid an obligatory visit to her great-grandfather’s home town of Llongoria. It’s not every day you get to travel to a village you were named after, and locals went all out to give her a hero’s welcome for her ‘homegoing’ (photo from Asturias regional newspaper El Comercio on Twitter – @elcomerciodigit)

She started learning Spanish in 2009, and eventually decided to trace her family tree – which led her to Spain’s northern coastal region of Asturias.

It turned out her dad’s grandfather – her great-granddad – was originally from there, and in fact, her surname came from the town he was born in.

Five years ago, armed with this new and fascinating knowledge, Eva travelled across the pond to visit Asturias, spending some time exploring the municipality of Llongoria.

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Andalucia

WATCH: Flamenco-Inspired Dior Show Takes Over Iconic Plaza De España In Sevilla, Southern Spain    – Olive Press News Spain

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THE Plaza de España in Sevilla became the dramatic setting for a spectacular catwalk show by Dior inspired by flamenco.

The live show took place on Thursday June 16 as the city was in the grip of an early heatwave and temperatures soared above 40ºC.

The event showcased the ‘Cruise 2023’ collection by Christian Dior luxury fashion house and it clearly drew on the historical and cultural traditions of Andalucia.

Creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri unveiled a collection that took inspiration from costumes associated with flamenco, bullfighting and equestrian arts.

The work of local craftsmen and artisans were apparent in the rich embroidery and lace work adorning some of the most spectacular outfits.

The fashion show began with a procession from the city’s cathedral and incorporated a candle-lit flamenco performance in the colonnaded Plaza de España itself.

City authorities said it had brought a huge economic boost to the city, raising its profile in the world of fashionistas and as a luxury destination.

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