Spain is a very particular country. Having lived here, in Mallorca, for close to 24 years I cannot but notice that everything and everyone everywhere is different from anywhere else in Europe. When Spain joined the Common Market and the European Community in 1986, people in Spain assumed that this was it. Parity, equality and prosperity at the level of the European neighbours would now only be a question of time. Visitors coming to Spain, or at least to Mallorca, always assumed since the new constitution had been passed in 1978, that this country was on the same level as the rest of Europe. Well, it wasn’t and it isn’t.
I think that Spain still suffers from the consequences of a 40-year long dictatorship under General Franco and the trauma of a Civil War which lasted for 1000 days but, has not really healed in the intervening 70 years. Yes, democracy has been implemented for just over one generation but, the structures of a civil society change ever so slowly. Faced with the problems of the recent economic meltdown, Spain tried to put their house in order by joining the university reform known as the Bologna Accords, raised the age of retirement and introduced budgetary measures of austerity, only to find that there is no sufficient GNP basis to maintain the prosperity gained in the years of the boom. The property bubble had burst, construction collapsed and only tourism still flourishes. That’s not enough.
It is the younger generation that suffers from this structural dilemma, a generation known in Spain or at least, in the Spanish media, as the Generación Ni-Ni. Translate that as the No-No Generation, as in no job and no education. Unemployment in Spain is at a modern all-time high of 21 % amongst the workforce but, amongst the younger than 35-year-old, amounts to 44 %. One in two younger Spanish nationals has no employment, no income, no vocational education and, forgive me, no future.
Some 500 youngsters make their protest known these days in a sleep-in demonstration at Palma’s Plaça d’Espanya, a figure that dwindles down to about 50 who camp out overnight. In Madrid and other Spanish cities, these figures are much higher. Still, I’m surprised that not everyone affected is out in the streets, revolting, demanding and making their desperation heard.
With municipal and regional elections coming up next weekend, the Junta Electoral Central (the Spanish Electoral Board) has banned these nationwide demonstrations. So far, the protesters do not seem to give a damn. Let’s see what happens over the next few days and, indeed, the next few months. There may be a political shake-up in the air as well as a some serious social unrest.
The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of diariodemallorca.es and the photographer, Guillem Bosch.