"People got stuck in that time," said Javier Díaz-Giménez, an economist. "Eventually, the clocks took over."
In the early decades of his rule, Franco ordered radio stations to broadcast reports of news and propaganda twice a day to coincide with mealtimes at about 2:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.Television arrived in the 1950s and followed the same mandate, with daily programming on the lone government channel ending at midnight with the national anthem and a portrait of Franco.
"Then everyone would go to bed and procreate," said Ricardo Vaca, chief executive of Barlovento Communications, a media consultancy in Madrid.
By the 1990s, with Spain's post-Franco transition to democracy underway, television also began evolving. Mr. Vaca said new private networks, eager for profits on popular shows, made programs longer and pushed prime time into the early morning hours. Now, he added, surveys show that 12 million people are still watching television at 1a.m. in Spain.
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Changing the prime-time schedule is one of the recommendations bundled together by Mr. Buqueras, president of the Association for the Rationalization of Spanish Working Hours. At his office in Madrid, Mr. Buqueras burst into a conference room and immediately checked his watch.
"Thank you for being on time!" he declared.
Mr. Buqueras argues that changing the Spanish schedule would be a boon to working mothers, allow families more free time together and help Spain's economic recovery. "If Spain had a rational timetable, the country would be more productive," he said.
Whether an earlier, more regimented schedule will translate into higher productivity is a matter of dispute. Mr. Buqueras's group says Spanish workers are on the job longer than German workers but complete only 59 percent of their daily tasks. Measuring productivity is an imprecise science, and while many experts say Spanish productivity is too low, Spain actually outperforms many European countries in some calculations, according to Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency.
"These three-hour siestas don't exist," said Carlos Angulo Martín, who oversees social analysis at the National Statistics Institute in Madrid. Nor are habits uniform across the country, he said, noting that in the Catalonia region, mealtimes and work schedules are aligned more with those of other European countries.
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María Ángeles Durán, a leading sociologist with the Spanish National Research Council, is skeptical that changing the time zone will reverse low productivity, which she attributes more to the structure of the service-oriented economy and a lag in technology. But she agreed that normalizing the work schedule would help women: She cited a survey she conducted of female lawmakers in Europe, who complained that men deliberately scheduled important meetings in the early evening when women were under pressure to return home.
"For men, this is perfect,"Ms. Durán said. "They arrive home and the children have already had their baths! Timetables can be used as a sort of weapon."
At the Mesón Viña bar, Mr.Rodríguez and his friends contemplated the Spanish clock. One friend, Miguel Carbayo, 26, was appalled at the notion of a nap-free lunch. He had worked as an intern in the Netherlands, where his co-workers arrived at 8 and left at 5, with a half-hour to munch on a sandwich for lunch, a regimen he found shocking.
"Reduce lunchtime?" he said. "No, I'm completely against that. It is one thing to eat. It is another thing to nourish oneself. Our culture and customs are our way of living."
But, he admitted, a shorter nap might be acceptable. "They say 20 minutes is enough to boost productivity,"he said.
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