Last night on my way to the soccer game I saw my first political protest, with about 200 people marching and police walking with them around the perimeter. I didn’t understand what they were chanting, but I know there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the current political and economic situation in Spain. Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union, with 40% unemployment among the 20-24 year old group, along with a ballooning budget deficit and a collapsing housing market. Recently, Mariano Roy of the conservative Popular Party gained a parliamentary majority after the government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of the Socialist Party lost favor (although Zapatero managed to institute a lot of progressive social policies before he left office). Roy’s proposed austerity program of tax hikes and spending cuts has met with criticism, with young people in particular taking to the streets. I wish my Spanish was better so I could have understood more! What did strike me was the relaxed attitude of the police, who seemed to be mostly interested in redirecting traffic, and the peacefulness of the protest.
On a completely different front, fans at the futbol game in Estadio Mestalla were also chanting, but less peacefully! Valencia CF was playing Levante UD, both teams from Valencia. The hometown rivalry is intense, naturally. The students were interpreting for me; I won’t sully the blog with the exact names that were being called, but suffice it to say it had say most had something to do with one’s mother and/or with one’s sexual behavior. It was fascinating that the fans spent most of the match engaging each other rather than yelling at the teams on the field. For those of you who know soccer, there were 11 yellow cards given, an indication of how aggressive the game was. We really enjoyed the whole experience (Valencia won 4-1). I wish my photos of both events had been better, but there you go.