FILICUDI — The most-hated man right now on the Aeolian islands wasn't looking for trouble.
A die-hard lover of deep-sea fishing and diving, Dario Lopes, 53, has taken and posted various videos of jellyfish in recent years. But then one clip, shot off the coast of the island of Filicudi, went viral around Italy.
"It was on June 2, I had been fishing and I had my underwater camera with me," Lopes recalls. "I found myself in the middle of thousands of them. It was a breathtaking spectacle."
The images from the video are certainly impressive: Throngs of sea-creatures were lulled from sea currents to just a few meters from the island’s coastline. This bloom of jellyfish was in full reproductive mode too.
After Lopes’ video made the rounds on the Internet, La Stampa spoke to Ferdinando Boero, professor of Zoology at the University of Salento, who calmly explained what was happening, though certain media sources who transmitted the images certainly did not skimp on words like "dangerous," "invasion," and "emergency."
It is not surprising that tourists have abandoned the island, leaving the locals furious.
Lopes is bitter about the entire situation because, "the mayor was so angry. So was the President of the Hotel Association. But all I did was post the umpteenth video on my YouTube channel that documents my life in the sea."
Filicudi has 270 inhabitants, four restaurants (open for the summer season only), three pebble beaches, some caper plants, and one extinct volcano. The sea surrounds the island like a blue table, and it’s here that the supposed island invasion is taking place. However, diving into the waters of the Pecorini Sea — where Lopes’ video was filmed — you won’t find very many jellyfish at all.
Summer's Public Enemy No. 1 in these parts is called the Pelagia noctiluca: Violet-colored, its umbrella mass is around ten centimeters and has long transparent tentacles. If it stings you, it leaves a searing memory.
Biophysicist Monica Francesca Blasi has left her chaotic life in Rome to come to study the turtle and dolphin populations in the Aeolian islands. "Jellyfish? They have always been here," she says. "It is true that in that video there were a lot, but that happens every year between April and May. They come from the deep and for a day, they fill the sea. Then, just as fast as they appear, they disappear back into the Tyrrhenian Sea."
No emergency then, at least on the islands. This archipelago is one of the reproduction centers for the species, unable to avoid strong water currents that can subsequently send them drifting anywhere. Those jellyfish in that video may now be in Ostia, near Rome on the mainland, or as far up as the island of Elba off the Tuscan coast.
What about the tourists?
Granted, June's weather wasn't its usual sunny self — but could it really be that vacationers are also fleeing from jellyfish that aren’t even there? "Dozens of families have called and many decided to cancel their reservations," confirms the receptionist at Hotel Phenicusa in Filicudi.
A plumber in winter and taxi-driver in summer, Pietro is waiting on the pier for the ferry to arrive. Two people get off. His face is sun-burnt, and a bit dejected: "This year, nobody has come."
Nearby, a man with reddish hair and an epic Homeric beard who was born on the island 30 years ago, is gazing out at the sea. "When we were kids and we went swimming, we believed that being touched by a jellyfish was good luck. Back then, we were more than happy. Then, the rich people came and then, all of a sudden, we discovered we were poor."
He laughs out loud, then suddenly becomes serious again. "The most beautiful season here is the fall. The tourists leave, the colors change and Filicudi becomes wild again." A final goodbye, and the man goes back to watching the sea.
A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.
A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."
The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.
Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021
Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?
The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.
The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.
The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."
The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."
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