Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

Barcelona in the General Strike

Por: | 30 de marzo de 2012

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In Barcelona the General Strike was two parts civilised calm to one part chaotic unease.

As a Briton, the idea of a general strike is - for better or for worse - something from the history books: the last one in the UK was in 1926 and strikes, when they do happen, tend to be localised and short. They’re also pretty bad-tempered affairs:  underground drivers threatening to strike on New Year’s Eve, for example, where disruption to party goers will be at its maximum.

That is the whole point, of course, and I’m certainly not criticising their right to do it. Nevertheless, it was strangely refreshing to see unions sitting down with the Catalonian Generalitat to work out minimum levels of service in the days before the strike. This may be a legal condition of the Strike rather than any sign of largesse but to British eyes it seemed eminently civilised.

Equally, when a friend of mine needed to visit the emergency dentist yesterday on the day of the General Strike he was seen quickly, efficiently and with none of creeping shame of crossing a picket line.

This, however, is not to say that the Strike was a failure: where I live, in the centre of Barcelona, it looked as if around 50% or more of shops were shut and if anyone disagreed with the Strike they kept their views to themselves.

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The main demonstration march in Barcelona also took place in an atmosphere of civilised calm. One peculiarity that has always struck me about demonstrations here is how they can encompass thousands of different viewpoints. So, while the target of the demonstration might be budget cuts and labour reform, individual attendees will use the occasion to call for anything from an independent Catalonia to animal rights. The contrast with Britain, where protest marches tend to be about one specific issue (such as the massive anti-Iraq war marches of 2003) is marked.

And such was the march yesterday: thousands of protestors walked from the Placa de Catalunya in good humour, children alongside parents, with banners aloft and voices aloud. The banners in themselves were a lesson in Catalan humour: frequently scatological, full of plays on words and ready to take the piss out of all and sundry. (Rajoy as Marty McFly in a Back To the Future take off was a particular favourite).

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But of course, when the public thinks of the General Strike in Barcelona it won’t be these images that come to mind: rather it will be the pictures of agitators burning bins, breaking glass and setting fire to a Starbucks.

I was around Urquinaona, trying to get to the Placa de Catalunya, when the first incidents of the evening took place. Perversely, being so close to the events it was hard to understand what was happening. What seems like a straight narrative from the media reports and YouTube videos unfurled in mini waves of chaos for those on the ground: shots were fired, protestors started to run in all direction and the acrid mix of smoke and gas drifted in the air.

If you strained, you could see fires in the distance and lines of helmeted police, while rumours swept the crowd of shops burned and people arrested. Police vans came and went with the same nervous urgency and fire engines rushed from burning bin to burning bin, adding to the general chaos. Things would then calm down momentarily only for the cycle to repeat itself minutes later, with the disruption coming from a different area this time.

The Catalans are generally a fairly phlegmatic lot, however, and while there was fear among those caught up in the disturbances (particularly from those with children) the general atmosphere was closer to that of unease and disappointment. The march, it appeared, was breaking down into chaos and people didn’t want to lose the chance to make their voices heard.

But, in the end, Catalan pragmatism ruled: after an hour stuck in the Placa de Catalunya organisers struck another route and the march went ahead as planned, banners, drums and all.

One day later and - bar some paint blots and a very closed branch of Starbucks - Urquinaona was back to normal. People were reading papers in the sun and chatting to their neighbours, as if nothing had happened. Civilised calm has returned.

But the question is for how long? With Rajoy today set to announce the most austere Budget in the history of democratic Spain there is a feeling that more unrest is inevitable. The General Strike of Barcelona, then, may be just a taste of what lies ahead.

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Photographs Copyright All rights reserved by Teresa Forn.

 

Serving the city we live in

Por: | 29 de marzo de 2012

Serve the city El Pais


A brand new organisation is hoping to encourage Madrileños and expats alike to give a little of their time all in aid of an excellent cause. 

Serve the City, a movement of volunteers founded in Brussels in 2005, aims to show kindness in practical ways, making volunteering a little bit more personal. It is now active in over 70 cities worldwide, with Madrid being the latest addition to their numerous projects. 

Many people would volunteer if they just had more information about how to go about it and what projects in their city were in need of help. Serve the City works with existing NGOs and non profit organisations, supporting the often excellent work already being done in Madrid by putting potential volunteers in touch with projects in need of help. Simply log onto their website and you are met with a list of different NGOs in Madrid that are looking for volunteers. You can find something that you like the sound of and sign up then and there. 

For expats in Spain interested in volunteering, the whole business of finding projects can be daunting, especially if your Spanish is not yet up to scratch. Serve the City Madrid, which was set up by British couple Karen and Warren Batt, has a website in both Spanish and English, making it much easier for Madrid’s residents, both old and new, native and foreign, to get involved. 

“The whole purpose of Serve the City is to get people involved in volunteering, regardless of nationality, background or age”, says Janelle Norman, communications officer for Serve the City Madrid. 

“One of the things you receive when you give your time and effort is a greater understanding of your community, its needs and how you can make a difference. It’s a great way for people to get to know each other and meet people that they might never otherwise have met”. 

Spain lags behind in the European volunteering stakes, with 23% currently volunteering, compared to the European average of 30%. (The Netherlands leads the pack, with over 50% of the population doing some kind of volunteer work). 

In the climate of recession and unemployment currently ravaging Spain, volunteering is needed more than ever, and can be extremely beneficial to the volunteers themselves as well as the recipients of their aid. 

Work experience to add to your CV and a renewed sense of purpose can help those who are unemployed or seeking work. Take a look at the demographics of those who are currently volunteering in Spain, and it becomes clear that unemployed people figure extremely low among them. Those who are most likely to volunteer are female students and workers under the age of 35. They are most likely to volunteer within the area of social services. 

This Saturday, 31st March, is Serve the City Madrid’s first big volunteering day and they are encouraging people to get out into their communities and give something back. They have set up various volunteering events of their own to publicise their work and get as many Madrileños as possible involved. The projects are varied, so there should be something to suit all tastes. From taking part in a variety show for the elderly in a local nursing home to helping restore a community garden in Malasaña or using your film-making skills to document the projects taking place across the city on Saturday, there are ample opportunities to get involved. 

Look out on the metro this week for Serve the City’s unique marketing strategy, “reverse busking”. Rather than asking for money, they will be giving it out in the form of 10 cents attached to the back of flyers publicising the volunteering day. They hope their new form of busking will get people talking about their projects and eager to find out more about how to get involved. 

“There are so many people in need who seem to be separated from the many many people who are in a position to help”, says Janelle Norman, of Serve the City. “We want to see people crossing that line and not only knowing another person by their needs, but knowing them by their name”.

Madrid is so often hailed as a city that feels more like a small town thanks to the warmth of its inhabitants and its community spirit. Volunteering gets you out into that local community, giving something back and meeting a wide range of people; the people who make Madrid the wonderful city it is. 

For more information info@servethecity.es 

Will cannabis be the saviour or scourge of Rasquera?

Por: | 20 de marzo de 2012

Cannabis for el pais

Its usual crops consist of olives and almonds, but the tiny Catalonian town of Rasquera could soon be cultivating a crop of a very different kind, becoming Europe´s biggest cannabis supplier. The local council has recently approved plans for seven hectares of land to be sold to the Barcelona Personal Use Cannabis Organization (ABCDA), who plan to grow cannabis crops for use by its members. 

The ABCDA is one of hundreds of ‘cannabis clubs’ that have sprung up around Spain over the last few years; private members clubs that aim to evade the country´s ambiguous drugs laws, under which the buying, selling and transporting of cannabis is illegal but smoking it in private is not.  

While the town's left-leaning mayor, Bernat Pellisa, is in favour of the plan, approved by the town council on 29 February, it has provoked widespread debate and opposition, with Barcelona's special anti-drugs prosecutor already examining the legality of the  development before the first seed has even been planted. 

In the latest twist in the tale, Pellisa announced last week that the issue would be put to a referendum. The 900 inhabitants of Rasquera will decide their own fate and that of their town, but which fate would benefit the town most and what are the main issues being debated? 

With so much opposition before the crops have even been planted, cannabis plantations are unlikely to provide a long term solution to Rasquera's economic problems. While the project will provide the cash strapped town with a 1.3 million lump sum and up to 40 jobs, residents might question how long the town would be allowed to play host to the ABCDA's cannabis crops. The government representative for the National Drugs Plan (Plan Nacional sobre Drogas), Francisco de Asís Babín, has accused council members of perverting language to justify something which, any way you look at it, ¨constitutes a crime¨. If the cannabis crops were planted, boosting the town’s economy, it would be a cruel economic blow for them to be swiftly taken away if those opposing the project get their way and outlaw the project. 

While no doubt providing a ¨get rich quick¨ solution to Rasquera's debt crisis, could the project have dire, long term consequences for the small town? Being catapulted into the position Europe's premier drugs supplier, it is almost inevitable that some of the drugs would find their way into the town and local area. Would the money saved now only be wasted later on addressing the drugs and social problems that critics claim will befall the town if it goes ahead with the project? 

Will an economy that is principally dependent on drugs money benefit Rasquera? Some Californian counties have now reached the stage where cannabis cultivation accounts for up to two thirds of the local economy, with local producers taking advantage of lax California state drugs laws. When Spanish law is so ambiguous on the matter of drugs, relying on a crop that at any moment could be judged illegal could result in economic disaster for Rasquera. 

While under Spanish law, growing cannabis for personal use is legal, the term ‘personal use’ brings to mind having a couple of plants in your apartment that you and your friends can enjoy smoking, not planting and cultivating seven hectares worth of the drug. Many critics believe the project is stretching the law to its limits in producing such a large quantity of drugs. 

Despite mounting opposition, residents might find it hard to ignore the immediate benefits the project will bring to the town; 1.3 million euros and up to 40 jobs. The contract will last for 30 months, until September 2014, and will be renewed if the town council complies with the terms of the contract. In a town where many young people are leaving for bigger towns and cities to find work, job creation might blind residents to any other possible problems. With Spain suffering the highest unemployment figures in Europe and a bleak future of labour reforms and cuts, what, residents may wonder, is the alternative solution to their tiny town's debt crisis? 

According to the town council, the crops will be used exclusively by ABCDA and for medicinal purposes; for therapeutic treatments for cancer sufferers. Even if a small percentage of the drugs did find their way out into the local market, perhaps it would be better to smoke home grown and regulated cannabis than taking a chance on imported marijuana, that quite possibly might not be as pure, and potentially contaminated. 

With some critics citing the fact that four of the ABCDA´s founder members were arrested in January 2011 for drugs trafficking as a reason to oppose the project, it should be remembered that they were quickly freed by a judge who, indeed, showed some admiration for their organisation. The cannabis grown in Rasquera will be, it is claimed, used responsibly by the 5,000 vetted members of the cannabis club and not, as it is feared, by anyone and everyone who might flock to the town once it has become one of Europe's biggest drugs suppliers. But with even the faintest scent of drugs trafficking lingering around the ABCDA, will residents be able to have complete trust in the association? 

Only time will tell the outcome for the residents of Rasquera, but with the debate continuing to rage, residents are set to vote on the project on April 10, with a two thirds majority needed for the project to get the green light. Perhaps, despite the moral misgivings some of them may have, residents and council alike cannot afford, at this time of economic crisis, to look a gift horse in the mouth. 

 

Photograph - Sara Houlison 

The taxman cometh; five warnings

Por: | 18 de marzo de 2012

Montoro

Item 1. 35 billion euros is a public spending cut from hell. The government has to raise taxes, and the rest - the speculation, the flip-flopping, the hints followed by denials - is pure circus. But then, no one really likes the fiscal element of those two oft-cited certainties of life.

Item 2. Taxes feel like punishment, and in Spain something more akin to humiliation when we read of how some public officials lead frothy, lavish lives thanks to the sweat of our brow. A government's task is to make the stick somehow resemble a carrot, rewarding certain behavior while condemning those who make wasteful choices to cough up more. The result of what tastes like a carrot should then strike a blow for the economy as a whole, or this is the theory. Tax breaks on insulation measures save energy and free up consumers' money to be spent in Spain's dominant services sector. An across-the-board VAT hike, however, stilts consumption, as was seen in Spain in the second half of 2010.

Item 3. Rajoy's PP government has already raised income tax, with the prime minister showing a Machiavellian streak in doubling back on his own words just days after closing the door of La Moncloa behind him in the middle of the Christmas vacation. He was clever enough to know that if you have to use the stick, it hurts less if the victim doesn't see it coming.

Item 4. The taxman can also enjoy a few fripperies and bits on the side. Of the more recent proposals and impositions, the euro placed by Catalonia on virtually all medical prescriptions will raise little money and a great many hackles. It gives the opposition Socialists something to campaign over and may even help keep the PP shy of an absolute majority in Andalusia, the great pre-budget contest, at the end of this month. That the government has hinted that it will tax diesel-powered vehicles more heavily is to be welcomed as a spoke in the right wheels but, on the other hand, the Madrid region's idea of charging stores and malls a levy for being situated near a Metro station had me reaching for the calendar: it can't be Holy Innocents' Day again already! A store owner knows there is a Metro station nearby. That fact is already factored into its economy, how high the rent is set, what goods will sell well, and so on. Sales and moneys from rent or real-estate values are already taxable. What activity is being levied in what we should call the Retroactive Infrastructural Benefits tax?

Item 5. One fifth of homes in Spain lie empty. Who does not know of someone who has been unable to remove an uncooperative tenant from their property, or is unwilling to even risk renting out their flat because of the horror stories doing the rounds? Such issues are far from simple to legislate but I see potential carrots and sticks on the horizon. Empty houses should be subject to a special tax, something that the Catalan and Basque authorities have looked into to prevent speculation and put housing stock to a social use. Proof is clearly a tricky beast in such cases. So the carrot better be a good one: a rental scheme, with (fair) rates guaranteed by the government and eviction easy to effect. Good jobs for the young are scarce and salaries scanty - so cheap and plentiful rental accommodation is a must in a country where the obsession with buying straitjackets so many families' economic options. When better than a crisis to bring about a change in culture?

Photograph of Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro, by Uly Martín.

Teaching English in the Time of Crisis

Por: | 11 de marzo de 2012

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Most teachers of English as a foreign language (TEFLers) are trained to teach this lingua franca using the communicative approach. Essentially interactive and student-centred, the approach stemmed from an early 20th century shift in educational paradigms that put students’ needs and the “learning is fun” principle at the forefront of teaching. As a result, traditional board-and-chalk endeavours have been replaced with games, role-plays, interactive boards and blended learning, while coursebook contents switched from the pervasive grammar exercises to a variety of tasks developed around topics such as travelling, celebrities, sports or pets.

And yet, is today’s English teaching really up to the 21st century? Let us have a look not so much at recent textbooks or in-class e-Beam technology, as at the context in which we are teaching English as a foreign language these days. It may well be that, before the outbreak of the “Crisis,” English was mostly needed for travelling, socialising, and studying or doing business abroad. Since then, however, the Arab Spring has been going on, the “Iceland Revolution” toured the EU to eventually cross the Atlantic as the Occupy Movement, and in major European TEFL markets like Spain, Greece or Italy significant social changes are in full swing.

To put it differently, news from conflict zones have been posted on Twitter in English, reports on killings and rebellions have snuck their way to the free media in English, information on cross-national civil mobilisation and good practice exchanges have reached, in English, a “Facebookful” of advocacy groups. So I think we can hardly deny that English has acquired a slightly different role in the lives of present day learners. Whether they are engineers, undergraduates, lawyers, entrepreneurs, local council advisers, social activists or unemployed, today they need English to face effectively a myriad of socio-economic challenges, from job hunting to grassroots policy-making.

With that, English teaching might just be getting out of its “leisure stage” and moving towards a social responsibility one. And I wonder: are TEFLers prepared to go beyond the correct use of Present Perfect or the correct pronunciation of “chocolate,” to meet these new demands? Are they skilled at enabling their students’ participation in English-based resources relevant to the reform processes going on in their countries? Are they trained to have the right mindset for teaching the English needed in times of crisis?

If I were to update my own job description, I would include these requirements:

  • think of yourself as a teacher trainer of English
  • think of your students as learners users of English
  • think of your classes as activities think tanks in English

To end on a practical note, I would like to suggest an excellent resource for English language trainers: the TED talks available online for free, which TED actually encourages educators to use in the classroom. Not only do they demonstrate how English is put to innovative use by (non-)native speakers that our students can emulate, but they also inspire relevant listening and speaking English classes: classes rooted in today’s social, political and moral reshaping.

Unmasking the PP's abortion lies

Por: | 08 de marzo de 2012

Anti-abortion protest in Seville.

Let's just recap for a second, please, brand-new Mr Justice Minister. The right to have an abortion is "pressuring" Spanish women who get pregnant into getting rid of their baby, and your proposed reform will strengthen the "right to maternity." It is, one has to admit, a novel argument.

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón has never been afraid to buck political tends. As the Popular Party mayor of Madrid he merrily married gay couples even as his party was disputing the constitutionality of the same-sex-union law that allowed for such events. Now he is attempting, to use his own word, to draft more "progressive" abortion legislation than the one Zapatero's Socialist government had passed, which did away with the need for pretexts (including the mother's mental health, which was the loophole whereby almost all terminations were justified whether the left or right was in power) and gives pregnant women free choice up to the 14th week. The minister has tried to be original. He seems to have calculated that the rights of the unborn child do not weigh more heavily in the mind of most people than those of women, so let's argue that criminalizing abortion gives women greater rights.

Gallardón cites a "systemic gender violence" forcing people to abort, adding: “No woman should be forced to renounce motherhood because of family, work or social conflict.” I couldn't agree more with that last comment, but how will restricting the right to abortion help that? It is as if Gallardón is preparing to install Scandinavian-style maternity leave and free crèches in every workplace in Spain. But he can't: first because he is minister for justice; and second because his master Rajoy has made it pretty plain that there is no money in the kitty for anyone to be airing the possibility of expansive new social welfare programs. No. It is either a disingenuous or entirely foolish rhetorical gambit to suggest that one right (that of abortion) is impinging on another (maternity). It is like arguing that the right to remain silent is an attack on freedom of expression.

But even accepting the argument that the availability of abortion is somehow feeding into societal pressure on women not to go ahead with births, again the new law comes out unscathed. The number of abortions did not rise after the Socialists' reform. The only important changes have been that fewer late terminations have taken place due to the removal of the mother's-health loophole (now there has to be a serious physical reason to abort beyond the 14th week), and that public health authorities were obliged to face their responsibilities in this area, economic excuses notwithstanding.

Gallardón may be trying to create a central ground between Spain's devout anti-abortionists and more moderate conservatives who are as concerned with women's place in society as with Catholic morality. But this choice between abortion on demand and women balancing work and motherhood simply does not exist.

The Catholics who demonstrated against Zapatero's law showed their strength, but put the Popular Party under pressure to act once back in power. Rajoy has expressed his preference for the old law (the old lie), under which abortion was illegal but any middle-class girl could short-circuit an inconvenient pregnancy. Isn't it time for the right to espouse a more honest anti-abortion policy? At least when making a defense of the fetus against women's freedom to choose, you can sincerely argue that one right has to come before the other.

 

Barcelona bursts the MWC bubble

Por: | 02 de marzo de 2012

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As I was cycling to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last Wednesday, I started to contemplate how the annual mobile phone get together is so incredibly detached from the city that hosts it.

It was at this point that I ran into what looked like a pitched battle between police and student protestors. Catalan mossos clad in helmets and battle gear swarmed into Carrer Diputacio while a masked protestor set fire to a bin; overhead police helicopters patrolled while the air was a mess of sirens, cries and the foul smell of burning plastic.

I was already late, so I re-doubled my pace, imagining that this would be the last I would see of the disturbances that day.

At MWC, the difference was surreal. While violence erupted in central Barcelona, up at the Fira De Barcelona there were men padding around in robot suits, free ice-cream sandwiches and enough new gadgets to feed a small city.

The disparity made me think again about MWC and its links to Barcelona. It was a subject that had been troubling me ever since I first stepped foot in the Congress last Monday: MWC may be a massively important event for the Barcelona economy but there is little to distinguish it from a conference taking place in Paris, London or Montreal. The Catalan Generalitat has a stall, sure and there are places selling Estrella beer and paella. But you could go for hours without seeing or hearing a word in Spanish, while Catalan is nowhere.

As for your Barcelona inhabitant, how do they benefit from a conference that is far out of their average price range and does little to reach out to those outside the mobile phone industry? (Samsung, on this point, should be congratulated for setting up a stall in the Placa de Catalunya that was open to all.)

MWC and Barcelona, I concluded, would most likely continue to exist in parallel worlds, where inhabitants might glimpse each other or even pass by, but would remain eternally separated by market forces.

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On Wednesday afternoon, however, Barcelona came to MWC in force: protestors gathered outside the Congress, causing police to close down the Espanya metro station and surrounding streets. MWC attendees were forced to leave by a different exit and the line for taxis stretched 100 metres down the road.

If the protestors wanted to make attendees pay attention, they succeeded. The move created a nervousness among conference goers that was partly down to fear of missing their flights and partly due to the massed ranks of riot police just outside the Fira.

Of course, MWC attendees had nothing to fear from the students. But conference goers are bombarded with warnings about pickpockets and thieves in Barcelona who target attendees and their gadget-laden bags. These may well be justified but they contribute to a certain wariness among the MWC crowd about the Catalan capital.

Mobile World Congress was clearly not the main object of the protestors’ ire last Wednesday. Instead, it appears to have got caught in the crossfire – a convenient capitalist target for protestors to make noise. There was some anti-MWC graffiti in the Placa de Catalunya but it looked lost among a world of painted grievances, insults and demands.

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Nevertheless, you have to wonder how Barcelona residents must feel about this event, which invades their city every year and doesn’t appear to give a lot back (hoteliers, taxi drivers and restaurant owners excepted). Do they pay any attention? Do they even care?

Clearly, MWC organisers have no obligation to reach out to Barcelona residents: the event is important for the city’s prestige and there would be little to stop it upping sticks to, say, Madrid if organisers felt the need.

All the same, the current situation, where attendees remain ensconced in their MWC bubble, while Barcelona residents are largely ignored is healthy for no one.

Catalonia and Spain have bigger problems to deal with, of course, and last Wednesday was a reminder of that.

But does anyone really want international attendees to leave Mobile World Congress thinking of Barcelona not as a place of art, culture and history but as the city where they got their wallet stolen and a demonstration made them miss their flight?

Photographs Copyright All rights reserved by Teresa Forn.

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