Madrid puts together immodesty and grace as few other capitals do. Everywhere are reminders that this was once an empire that vied with all others. These blend with the charm of a thousand little eateries and places to while away a spring or summer afternoon, some of them still sparkling with decorative tiles from the nineteenth century.
America does have culture and a great number of graceful architectural achievements in its Homeland. It saves its horrors for export, like tobacco and DDT. We shouldn’t do this to friends.
We were running our press shop at the U.S. Embassy, riding on cascades of resources finagled by Charles Wick of USIA, and Madrid’s good fortune of being rid of a dictatorship (1975) and well on its way to catching up with other Western European democracies. Washington pushed resources at us, and we knew better than to question these gifts.
Wick had spawned a clunky communication system, WORLDNET (always spelled out in caps, although they never explained why.) It allowed for one-way video on rented satellite time ($10,000 per hour) and gave live interviews for very select audiences overseas.