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.

Watch Your Step

Por: | 08 de septiembre de 2014

 

Dog poster
All images courtesy of Aileen Hamilton

When you live in a city for four years, you get to notice some changes that are sometimes so subtle that they´re almost imperceptible. Back in 2010 I was new in Seville and as I meandered through the cobbled streets that were so beguiling and mysterious, I found that I could never wholly relax. Not for fear of falling victim to some opportunistic street crime, but more to avoid the very distinct possibility that my foot might unwittingly stray onto the soft, squidgy mass of a freshly laid dog turd.

There were some places that appeared to be high risk zones, including the very street on which I lived, which after being converted into a pedestrianized zone, found itself perfectly suited to owners escorting their beloved pets for their early morning business trip. So effectively I was living in a dog public toilet.

3º

I mean it isn’t any surprise that Seville’s streets are poo havens. Dog ownership has increased generally in Spain over the last few years, with studies estimating that there are currently up to 5.5 million dogs in Spain and with a population of 47 million, you do the maths. So at a guess there’s probably around 70,000 pooches defecating the streets of the Andalucían capital. And compared to the UK where even in urbanised areas many houses have small gardens for that late night/ early morning toilet visit, in Seville parks and gardens are comparatively few and far between, most people live in apartments, and when nature calls, it’s a quick dash down a few flights of stairs, a few strides along the street and what a dog’s gotta do, a dog’s gotta do.

None of this would be a problem (unless you ponder as I often do about whether a dog might really prefer a grassy knoll to relieve itself), if it weren’t for the fact that the whole poo picking up idea has been much slower to gain popularity than the exponential growth of dog ownership.

So, a visit to the historic centre can be a combination of staring up at the glory of the Giralda Tower while at the same time, picking your way through excrement lined pavements.

8 bienvenidas

Such was the experience of Irish Artist and Seville resident Aileen Hamilton. After eavesdropping on a group of American tourists bemoaning the fact that Seville’s beauty is spoilt somehow by the extraordinary levels of dog faeces, she decided to undertake an unusual photography assignment entitled ‘8 Bienvenidas a Sevilla’ in which she catalogues eight specimens of uncollected dog excrement found while walking around Seville’s cobbled back streets.

Says Hamilton ‘I wanted to highlight the contradiction between the beauty of the historical centre and the poo that smears it. And I wanted the piece to be a little ambiguous. Instead of explaining the problem or complaining, I presented it in a playful way, hoping to engage the viewer’.

And this ‘playful’ element is executed by the tiny, numbered flags carefully positioned in the excrement, emblazened with the official symbol used by the Spanish tourism to symbol ‘to add irony to the fact that the poo welcomes the visitors to the city’.

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But thankfully the potential damage to the city’s image, plus the health consequences of coming into contact with canine faeces has led to some affirmative action headed up by the Local Police and the Andalucian government’s cleaning firm Lipasam, who amongst other measures have installed 65,000 bag dispensers throughout the city. Earlier in the year they proudly announced that there had been a reduction of 45% in uncollected dog mess and 104 police reports filed against dog owners failing to compile with regulations.

And the truth is, now I come to think of it, Seville’s streets are a lesser shade of dog dirt brown, maybe because that civil duty, so close to my British heart, appears to be finally filtering down to the canine owning masses. I just hope the person whose dog’s welcome home present I nearly stepped in as I got out of my taxi on arriving back after a summer in bucolic exile, remembers to pick up after their pet in future.

http://8bienvenidas.blogspot.com/

 

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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.

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