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In Spain Chorizo Is Not Only A Sausage, It's Also A Thief

posted 31 Jul 2013, 13:01 by Mpelembe   [ updated 31 Jul 2013, 13:02 ]

It is described as Spain's most famous sausage. But the chorizo also has another, more negative meaning - thief. Now the chorizo has become a potent symbol, regularly seen at rallies across the country as people demonstrate against the country's corruption and economic hardship.

MADRIDSPAIN  (REUTERS) -  It comes in different shapes and sizes, it can be cured or sold raw. The Iberian chorizo spiced with Spanish smoked paprika is one of the stars of Spain's charcuterie selection, waking the taste buds of tourists and locals alike.

So how do chorizo enthusiasts describe Spain's most famous sausage?

Christopher Ebner, a tourist from Minnesota, puts it succinctly, it's "the Spanish sausage, which is made with Spanish paprika and it is extremely delicious."

For Victoria Steinburch from Brazil, the definition is much simpler, "Chorizo is like a pork sausage," and for Dan Smith from Texas, it's perfect at the breakfast table, "It is a kind of a spicy breakfast sausage easily grounded up, really good. I like chorizo."

But if a chorizo is a strong-tasting, spicy Spanish sausage why are mock chorizos now paraded around anti-austerity demonstrations in Spain? And why do Spaniards yell "chorizo" outside courthouses upon the arrival of politicians or bankers being investigated over corruption allegations?

As Victoria from Brazil explains, it's because in Spain, a thief is also called a chorizo.

Ebner learned the second meaning of chorizo the hard way.

"The word chorizo I learnt in Seville by eating chorizo and the way I learnt about a real chorizo, when they steal something from you, was when I was pickpocketed on the Metro," he said.

Being called a chorizo is nothing to be proud of in Spain as anger escalates over high profile corruption scandals allegedly involving members of the ruling party and even a royal.

The former treasurer of the ruling People's Party Luis Barcenas is currently at the receiving end of "chorizo" name-calling as a judge investigates his management of an alleged slush fund that dished out illegal payments to party leaders including Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, allegations the prime minister and his party deny.

Rodrigo Rato, a former IMF boss and former head of bailed-out bank Bankia also was called a "chorizo" when he appeared in court last December.

Rato is one of 33 former Bankia executives accused of fraud, price-fixing and falsifying accounts leading to the fall of Bankia. All 33 in the Bankia investigation deny wrongdoing.

Despite the widespread use of the term chorizo to describe a thief or a swindler in Spain, this definition of the notorious Spanish sausage never made it across to South America and the only 'chorizo' that manages to raise an eye-brow there is the sausage.

"In the vegetarian culture that is developing nowadays, it is regarded with more suspicion," says Liliana from Puerto Rico.

But in Spain even the royal family has fallen under suspicion and one of its members, King Juan Carlos' son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, has frequently been greeted by protesters yelling "chorizo" at him.

Urdangarin has been charged with fraud, tax evasion, falsifying documents and embezzlement of six million euros ($8 million) in public funds when he headed a charitable foundation.

His alleged wrongdoings have served as an inspiration for the owner of a restaurant in centralMadrid.

"Our star sandwich is the Urdangarin sandwich. Urdangarin, as you know, is the so- in-law of our King, the King of Spain, and he has allegedly had some bad habits, like taking money that doesn't seem to be his. So obviously, our Urdangarin sandwich is made with Iberian chorizo," says Raquel, owner of Los Tres Cerditos Ibericos.

The use of the term 'chorizo' to refer to a thief or swindler in Spain, has its roots in a series of words used in Calo, the Spanish Romani language, to refer to thieves and the act of stealing.

"It comes from Calo. In Calo there are words like 'chori' which is in the dictionary and means thief, 'chorar' which means to steal, to pilfer and there are some variants like 'choro' or 'choribar' etcetera that aren't in the dictionary but have been documented," explains Leonardo Gomez Torrego, a consultant at FUNDEU, BBVA (The Foundation For Urgent Spanish), a foundation that promotes the correct use of the Spanish language.

This, however, has not stopped more wild interpretations of the term evolving over time.

"In medieval times thieves were executed by hanging in the public squares like chorizos are hung to be cured, the thieves were hung until they died and were stiff," Jose Maria, a manager at a butcher shop confidently, but inaccurately, states.

Aware of the connotations of the term chorizo, Liliana from Puerto Rico says she will be careful how she uses the word while she is in Spain.

"I didn't know that it was an insult and thank you because now I'm not going to use it here in Spain," she said.

Dan from Texas however is unconcerned about the possible insult.

"I'm a pretty easy going guy. I don't think it would offend me," he said.

Others like Urdangarin, Barcenas and Rato, may have more to worry about, with Spain's slow-moving legal system likely provide ample time for protesters to continue chanting "there is not enough bread for so much chorizo."