Studying the name of one of south Spain’s most high-profile Football ultra groups “El Frente Bokeron” gives a great insight into one aspect of Andalusian culture.
Whether on the Football terrace or in the tapas bar, just a short amount of time fraternising with and listening to Spaniards is needed to quickly see the extent to which Spain’s intense regionalism influences its cultural landscape. Your new-found buddies will find it far easier to describe the stereotypes of other regions than of specific cities. The Catalonians are cheap bastards…. the Basques are not big talkers…. the Estremadurans are bit too fond of their donkeys. The Spanish suss you out more readily from the region than from the city you grew up in.
A clear driving factor behind the Spaniard’s enthusiasm for regional identification is language. Spain has four that it officially recognises; Catalan, Euskadi, Galician and Castilian, the latter being the language conventionally referred to as “Spanish” and the former three having clear geographic assignations within the country. Membership to the strong Catalan, Basque and Galician cultural identities (or nationalities as some would argue) is largely defined by the geographical spread of each respective language. But deciding what is and what isn’t a language is more complex than is often understood by the layman. Depending on your criteria, there could be so many more candidates for languages spoken by Spanish natives, each one potentially serving as an apex around which regional identification can manifest.
A fantastic case in point is Andalusia, the country’s most populous and second-largest comunidad autonoma. Some linguists snort at the proposition that “andalú“ is little more than heavily accented Castilian with some odd words. While falling short of describing it as a separate language, many proud Andalusians would however refer to their vernacular as a dialect; a medium of communication that follows the grammatical patterns of Castilian but does so with an extensive collection of astonishingly specific vocabulary that is unfamiliar to outsiders irrespective of their fluency in Castilian. Citizens of Andalusia’s 8 provinces can indeed be quickly identified by other Spaniards by their speech, yet these southerners take self-identification through language one step further.
The official denonym of many towns and cities of Andalusia are Roman in origin. If you are from Huelva, you are “onubense“. If you are from Seville, you are “hispalense“. And if you are from Jaén, you are “jienense“, much as you would have been two millennia ago. However, in modern times Andalusians love to proscribe odd names to each other depending on their province of birth.
To the uninitiated, these names can appear entirely arbitrary and senseless. A quick run through a handful of examples will help illustrate this point. If you come from Cádiz, you will be referred to as “picha” (a penis – don’t ask). If Almeria was where you grew up, expect to be called a “choco” (a squid). And if Málaga is your home, get used to your fellow Andalusians referring to you as a “boqueron” (an anchovy).
Those of you who speak a good degree of Spanish will object at this point. A translating tool will inform you that the Spanish for anchovy is “anchoa“. That is true; both the species of fish and the salty things that you can pick off your pizza and drop on the side of my plate when I ask you kindly are anchoas. “Boqueron” is the name applied to the anchovies that are prepared for consumption in a very specific way. Boquerones are served chilled, in a bath of olive oil and sprinkled with parsley, vinegar and perhaps a dash of fresh lemon juice to counter any lingering saltiness. Match them with a glass of chilled Andalusian manzanilla and you’re onto a winner.
Given the meaning of the word, you might be excused for thinking that “boqueron” is a bit of a feminine nickname for somebody from Málaga. A word of caution; if you spend time in the Picasso city and particularly if you attend a match at La Rosaleda, you should be careful before you tell that to someone.
The dominant and most high-profile ultra and hooligan faction of Málaga CF historically has been “El Frente Bokeron” (spelt with a “K” rather than the correct “QU”). Now no longer officially active, El Frente Bokeron translates somewhat roughly as “The Anchovy Front”, a name that may sound comical and less than intimidating to a non-native Spanish speaker, given how small anchovies are in the sea life spectrum. But as previously mentioned, don’t walk around Málaga saying that.
As a general rule, Spanish ultra or fan groups known as “frente” align themselves with the right (we at FBTG are not currently aware of an existing Spanish group that defies this rule; please comment below if you know of one). This is certainly true in the case of El Frente Bokeron. Merchandise produced by the group has been known to sport the Falange symbol; the Spanish fascist party in the 30’s whose name has been recycled by the far right in Spain in the past 20 years. So high-profile is the group and so infamous is its reputation that it has now become officially sanctioned by Málaga CF; fans who try to enter the magnificent La Rosaleda stadium on match day wearing articles featuring the name of this banned ultra group are refused entry. In the past several years, a new Málaga ultra group without any former political sympathies has emerged to fill the void; “El Fondo Sur 1904“, though many members are former Bokerones.
What interests us here is not the political leanings of El Frente Bokeron’s members. The group’s name is in itself a curiosity that is worth a full 1,000 word blog post. Its adoption by fanatics of Málaga CF is symbolic simultaneously of the Spanish penchant for regional identification through language, and of the Andalusian tradition of regional nomenclature. Bokerones shout their name loud and proud to affirm their proud existence as both Andalusians and Malagueños. Their taste in seafood is entirely irrelevant.