“Es la crisis.”
Amongst young Spaniards, these three words have become a refrain almost as common as “¿Qué tal estás?”. They often use them jokingly, such as an excuse not to do a homework assignment or complete a household chore. However, when deciding not to shop, go out to a restaurant or club, or travel, the phrase comes up again, and the reason is darker: they simply do not have the money.
As these young people graduate, almost half of them have no way to earn that money, thanks to the lack of jobs available. If they are particularly smart and/or well-connected, they often leave and work in other countries, participating in the largest emigration wave to hit Spain since the 1960s. The others have little choice but to scrape together what they can, live with their parents, and wait for the economy to improve. They will need to wait a while. Spain’s rigid, service-based economy cannot shift to a new growth model overnight, or even in a few years.
It is one thing to examine a financial crisis as troubling as Europe’s using the news, the pundits, the data, and the precedents. It is another to be in Spain and observe its consequences. Although Spain remains an enchanting place in which to study and travel, the past two years have profoundly shaken the country’s psyche and identity. The new Spain that has emerged is the one that I will attempt to convey in this post.
What does a country with a 22.6% unemployment rate look like?
Spain hardly looks like a country experiencing hard times. Parts of it are run-down, to be sure, but Spanish cities are generally well kept and full of green spaces. The main thoroughfares of Madrid are even cleaned off with hoses every night; I found out about this when I nearly got sprayed by one walking home from the bars. Madrid’s metro and bus system are easy to use and efficient, with none of the filth and rudeness you might encounter on the NYC subway. (more…)