I’m holidaying here in Spain where the weather is abnormally bracing, blustery and cold for this time of year. I’m borrowing jumpers and clothes to keep warm and have had to keep my fancy, floaty summer dresses to one side. This weekend was devoted to a thorough exploration of Santiago de Compostela with my Spanish friends who acted as enthusiastic guides. This was the first time that I had ever been to Santiago de Compostela, a name that has long featured in my family’s history. My uncle did The (entire) Camino on foot eight years ago. Yesterday, my friends were ‘surprising me’ with the view of the cathedral, and wouldn’t tell me which direction it was. But when we reached the plaza, all I saw were tents, and so I quipped, ‘this can’t be true! They wouldn’t be set up camp in front of the cathedral.’ I turned to my right and saw the cathedral… Photos of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela can never match up to the real-life visual experience, which overwhelms with its majesty.
The protesters could be seen going from the tents to a roughly-made utility centre of boxes-of-crockery, pieces-of-wood-nailed-together to form shelves, a vegetable patch and rubbish bins. So far, they have resisted local authorities and businesses who have implored them to leave. But while their spectacle distracts from the beautiful sites where they camp, they elicit sympathy. Perhaps Spain has been the country most devastated by the economic storm. Spain's joblessness rate is the highest in the EU, at 21.3%. And for those under 25, it is at 44.6%. By camping in the plazas of Spain’s major cities, “los indignados” are protesting against the Zapatero Socialist government’s economic severity and (new) austerity.
Day by day, Zapatero’s rule is losing credibility. Talking with Spanish voters, they told me that Zapatero is impervious to how ordinary people are suffering under the economic conditions, and that he even mendaciously obfuscates that the financial crisis gripping Spain does not exist. The protesters called on people not to vote for Zapatero's left-wing party, and some say this strong youth-revolt helped voters to deliver a humiliating defeat to his Socialist party in the May 23rd local elections.
The protesters say they will remain camping-out, and are demanding jobs, democracy, and better living standards. ‘The tent city protesters’ have organised themselves into groups to ensure provisions of food, cleaning and publicity via social networks. It will be interesting to see how much stamina the protesters have, and whether they will stay into the start of winter... While the protesters certainly have spirit and spunk, there is something quite selfish, if not brazen about their style. Not to triumph a financial concern; but the protests risk turning off tourists from coming to the area, not exactly good for the pockets of the local businesses. It is almost as if they are completely impermeable to the fact that they camp before hallowed, sacred ground. They want a better future for Spain, but in this truly great Catholic country, they seem oblivious to its Catholic heritage.