After grabbing a coffee next to Retiro Park yesterday I decided to wander on down towards the center, was about to bypass Sol to catch the bus back home, but decided to do a little more walking towards the heart of Madrid, site of the famous (and adorable) Madrid bear statue.
I wasn´t really surprised to see a mass of people gathered with big signs and some guy on a microphone heating up the crowd. Manifestations like this are quite common in this part of town, and I usually never know what they are for. This time I decided to stop and look carefully; people seemed more indignant than usual, there were hordes of photographers and journalists, and the big glass hub covering the entrance to the metro station was covered with handwritten signs: “Spanish Revolution,” “Real democracy now”, “It´s not a crisis, it´s fraud”, “A roof and a job, without being a slave!” “There´s no lack of money, only too many thieves.”
On the other side of the plaza was something I’d never seen before in Sol: an entire camping ground of tents, cardboard, battered sofas, make-shift rooves. Wow…somebody has really started something. This Sunday are the elections for the City Councils and the Spanish Autonomous Communities. Huge overblown posters for candidates of both the PP and the PSOE have plagued the walls of the Metro and have lined the streets. This is the first time I’ve seen such a large and angry gathering to protest the shit politics and economy which have been the cause of the highest unemployment rate in Europe. And never a better time than now.
The manifestation started with only 20 young people who began camping out on Sunday. It snowballed, began attracting a huge crowd and even triggered similar protests in Valencia, Bilbao, Barcelona, and other European cities. A big sign read: “In this country, you can camp out for a Justin Bieber concert and the last of the Twilight series, but not to defend your rights??” And I thought YES. Thank god somebody has realized something because for a while I’ve been tired of the way things are done in this country, the lack of seriousness and responsibility, the discrepancy between the salaries that big bosses take home plus the benefits they reap on top of that vs. the measly 700 euros that immigrants can make after working hours that some people haven´t worked in an entire lifetime.
There´s a reason why I have to bat the Corte Inglés employees off me like flies everytime I want to buy a chapstick (when they are not engaged in an intense debate about where the Bardem family should settle) whereas I almost have an aneurism each time I try getting serviced at a bank or when I try getting through for the 11th time in a row to any government office – maybe because it´s 1:50 and they all actually close at 2:00 so that these hard workers can savour a long lunch with some Ribera wine, and take a well-deserved long nap before calling it a day.
Generalizations are always generalizations, but people here want to live well without working hard and without aspiring to bigger things, especially these ridiculous politicians who only have their own agenda in mind, and whose promises run more freely from their mouths than the government money used to finance their idiosyncracies.