Miguel Ángel Gallardo and José Luis Quintana Álvarez, mayors of Villanueva de la Serena and Don Benito.

Julio Carmona (Don Benito, 62 years old) was the man who announced on Tuesday to the 66,000 residents of Villanueva and Don Benito the two possible names of their city after more than 100 days of meetings. Don Benito and Villanueva are already history. The proposal was either Concordia del Guadiana or Mestas del Guadiana. The councilors of the two municipal corporations were going to vote in a few weeks on what the definitive name would be. But this Thursday, at 11:00, Carmona received a call from the mayors: “It’s urgent.” The 14 members of the commission were summoned to a room halfway between Don Benito and Villanueva. There, the aldermen thanked them for their work, but told them that they were not going to accept those names due to lack of consensus. With a degree in Hispanic Philology and a professor at the University of Extremadura, Carmona believes that they have simply done what they were asked.

Ask. Wow…

Response. I found out this morning. The two mayors called me. They asked me for an urgent meeting with all the members. There they told us that, given the repercussion of the names, which was mostly negative, they had made the decision to look for other formulas, without further details. That fusion process is linked to the consensus of all the forces, and now it was not maintained [el PP de Don Benito rechazó la propuesta el mismo martes].

P. What does this mean for you?

R. All members have expressed our views at the meeting. We had been asked for the names to have a historical weight. And so it has been. The mayors have told us that they are satisfied with the work we have carried out, but they have considered that the repercussion has been negative and now they want to find that path of consensus.

P. Have they told you how they have measured that rejection?

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R. From what they have seen and read in the media and the messages that they received from representatives of social entities and neighbors. They have found that majority negative perception that we, of course, fully respect.

P. How many WhatsApp messages had you received in the last 24 hours?

R. [Ríe] Well, the truth is that many. Of very different and varied content. I don’t visit social networks much either, but people who more or less know me have sent me their messages.

P. What they say?

R. I find everything. Today, for example, I went to do the shopping and fill up with gas. I have come across neighbors who have liked the proposal and others who have not. Logically, the names surprise them because of how innovative they are. The new always attracts attention. They have been two toponyms that had never been considered or I, at least, had not heard them in the popular pools.

P. There was a lot of commotion. A hundred Dombenites protested when the names were known.

R. Yes, those attitudes of violence and verbal aggressiveness seem to me that they cannot be allowed. Insults are not allowed. It is appropriate to disagree from reason and from feelings. But that was not acceptable. We left escorted by the police. They had to prevent that verbal aggression from going further. There were insults of all kinds, fundamentally to the mayors, not to me personally. Or at least I didn’t hear them.

P. Do you feel let down by politicians?

R. Everything new usually provokes a certain strangeness and rejection. In that sense, we expected some diversity of opinion. We accept that there is disagreement, but our work has responded to that framework that was proposed to us. We have been honest. We have not received a penny. On the contrary, some have paid for their own travel. We have been exemplary and, in that sense, we are satisfied.

P. How have the meetings of the 14 members of the commission been during these three months? Did they meet for lunch? Did they talk by Zoom? Where did they meet?

R. On this matter, a very strict privacy was agreed for the proper development of the work. I have to maintain that privacy and not comment on it. Obviously, meetings can be face-to-face or virtual, or even a combination of both.

P. They would have a WhatsApp group…

R. [Ríe] I can not say anything.

P. How was it possible to achieve this communicative bunker between the 14 members?

R. Because the 14 of us were very honest and very consistent with what we agreed.

P. How has your family experienced it?

R. The truth is that it has been the same as with the media. You have all been very respectful. I like rigor and seriousness.

P. Did you present many names to the commission?

R. I have to keep quiet. What is there are the proposals of the commission and I feel they are mine. They are all heartfelt and specific to the commission.

P. When was the final decision of Mestas del Guadiana and Concordia del Guadiana made?

R. A few weeks ago we had to extend the deadline to give ourselves some time. We needed to consult the registry of local entities to check the chosen names. Later, this Tuesday, we presented the proposal to the two city councils.

P. Was there unanimity in the commission?

R. It was a majority agreement.

P. Why has Guadiana been so present from the first moment?

R. We consider that it is the element that structures the area. Don Benito and Villanueva are not only the two municipalities, but also the smaller entities that surround them. The entire territory is backbone for the Guadiana river. Not just now. We have traces from pre-Roman times. All stages. The Guadiana has been the factor that has allowed the settlement of both municipalities. It is present in all perspectives: economic, cultural, gastronomic. It is the axis.

P. And Mestas?

R. We use it in the plural because it has its importance. There is a meaning in the dictionary, which I think is number six, which speaks of the confluence of different streams. Here, physically, that fact occurs. There are many tributaries. From a metaphorical point of view, Mestas speaks to us about the wishes expressed at the polls. That is why we have valued this word. In addition, it refers to the past. The first documents we have speak of ranchers who moved from Don Benito and Villanueva to Valencia to sell cattle. We find many connecting links between the two territories. All this, let’s not forget, comes from the plenary agreement that they sent us from the city councils. We have had to adjust to that. Neither Don Benito nor Villanueva could be used. We have made a justified argument with these names.

P. Why Concord?

R. We understand it from the point of view of the tradition of Rome. When Rome named her cities, it also indicated a desire. In this line, we have started from a reality. The agreement between both municipalities through popular vote has been a pact of harmony. That is why we want that harmony to always be maintained. May it be a city always in harmony. In addition, we have considered other aspects, such as the euphemism of the word, which sounds very good. It lends itself to marking that desire and that will of citizens and neighbors at the polls to work together.

P. Was Concordia and Mestas thought of first and then added Guadiana?

R. That’s oversimplifying it. When the proposals have been analyzed, we have considered that the names seek common elements for the two municipal terms. It seemed to the commission that the most deeply rooted element in the two cities is the Guadiana.

P. Don Benito’s PP said he didn’t like the name and that’s where the fuse was lit…

R. I was surprised because there was a unanimous plenary agreement of the two corporations. That’s where I get. I am not going to comment on political issues.

P. Did the name change affect the identity of both municipalities?

R. This is a very controversial topic. When we are emotional we tend not to be rational. I must respect and understand those people. But they are past identities, because the new city will have a new reality. With absolute respect for everyone.

Miguel Ángel Gallardo and José Luis Quintana Álvarez, mayors of Villanueva de la Serena and Don Benito.
Miguel Ángel Gallardo and José Luis Quintana Álvarez, mayors of Villanueva de la Serena and Don Benito.Robert Palomo

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