Posted May 8th, 2012 by Colin in Granada, Spain
Although I am writing about this day more than a month after it happened, the interruption of spring break and subsequent distractions did not allow me to address it in a timely manner. However March 29th was a momentous day in Spain, so much so that we students had no choice but to participate and incident deserves to be retold.
The world is in economic crisis. In the United States we are undeniably aware of our bleak financial situation, yet sometimes at home it is hard to remember that there are dozens of other countries in the world suffering the same (or worse) fate that we are. Spain is one of said countries. Not only are its educated, highly specialized students (such as doctors, engineers, architects, i.e. los preparados) fleeing at an alarming rate, but the unemployment rate in Spain has hit record highs. The actual statistic is that, of the so-called “active” working class, 5.7 million people are unemployed.
1 of every 4 Spaniards is without a job.
Frankly, that is alarming. Spain thinks so too, which is why when legislation was passed that would in essence make it easier for businesses to fire their employees, Spain was up in arms. Hence, on 29 March 2012, la huelga general ground Spain to a screeching halt. When they say that it was a “general” strike, they were going for the definition that says of or pertaining to all persons or things belonging to a groupor category, because everything in Granada was closed. From the post office and the giant Walmart-esque Corte Inglés to the restaurants, clothes shops, phone stores, banks, cafés, day cares, schools, down to the ATMs and public transportation; every single business was closed in protest. I have included a few pictures that will hopefully convey the destitution in Granada that day, although it was a Spain-wide phenomenon.
One of the most poignant pictures I have included portrays a man holding the Spanish flag, waving it on the steps of the iconic statue of Isabel La Católica in the city center. This wouldn’t be regarded as abnormal, except that the Spanish flag that he was brandishing was that of the Republic, instead of the flag of the constitutional monarchy that currently reigns in Spain. The flag is a big debate over here, and especially in light of the Spanish King’s recent expensive escapade to Africa, more and more Spaniards are becoming disenchanted with the current model of government.
Although that day it was impossible to ignore the protests in the streets, the news on the television or the appalling lack of service, a handful of Central students marched through the Gran Vía of Granada with thousands of protestors (securely accompanied by teachers and our program director) in order to really get a feel of the Spanish mentality. Everywhere we looked, there was exclamatory graffiti on the walls or posters petitioning change or protesters shouting clever chants. In that moment, we felt as if we were more than exchange students, but Granadinos, protesting for betterment of our city. When I heard in class the next day that similar strikes were to subsequently take place in Italy, France and Portugal, I could not help but feel the weight of history pressing down upon us. Much like the Arab Spring in which one good idea caught fire to change history, so too could we have been at the center of shaping history.