Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Protests in Teruel

Yesterday in Spain there were widespread strikes and protests against the recent cuts in education funding, which have been quite significant. So I was stuck with the director of the primary school I work at in Albarracín and one other teacher as a result of the rest of the teachers striking. We took fifty or so kids hiking in the countryside around Albarracín because we couldn't follow the regular schedule and classes, which require several more teachers at minimum.

As we were leaving the school to go hiking, we saw the students and teachers of the high school joining up with parents from the village, wearing green shirts in solidarity. I don't really know they chose green outside of having some color for everyone to wear and because they wanted to avoid other colors with potentially negative connotations (red, for example). The little preschoolers also marched, all tied together by a rope so they wouldn't run off all willy nilly. I wasn't sure how to feel about the little children being a part of it all because they obviously weren't conscious of what was going on with the protest, much less the political and economic atmosphere of Spain. But it is something that is going to affect them and is currently affecting their quality of education, so I guess they may eventually appreciate the opportunity to be there, if only retroactively.

I was able to leave Albarracín a bit early and make it to a much larger protest in Teruel later in the afternoon. All of the teachers and many of the students from Albarracín were there, along with many of the students and teachers I have met over the course of my stay here. Though I am definitely in support of their cause, I won't lie in saying that I showed up in part just to see what it would be like to protest in Spain. That novelty quickly faded and I was sort of immersed in the protest for a while.

There were people of all sorts there, from babies to old folks, students, teachers, parents, and even dogs (one of the Yorkies was apparently a veteran revolutionary, according to his owner, having been to several protests over the past year). It was quite impressive to see the "Green Tide" pouring through the streets of Teruel, stopping traffic all over the city. And though I'm sure it wasn't nearly as magnificent as Barcelona or Madrid, it was certainly intense and magical in its own right.

The march ended outside of the language school where I work, where one of the teachers from the high school in Albarracín gave a speech about the education cuts. I was concerned because we had thousands of people standing in front of the entrance to the emergency room of the hospital, but I assume they planned for that or something.

I felt somewhat accomplished for having attended a real protest in support of a cause that I believe in. It's something I haven't really done before, at least not one of this sort of magnitude. And though I'm fairly cynical about the effect this type of demonstration will have, it was nice to be socially active about something for once instead of just complaining about it. I think the general attitude of the Spanish people and the atmosphere here helped to push me over the edge and get me off the couch. And I'm glad I did it. I hope these demonstrations will make some positive impact on lawmakers or at least make them scared of losing their jobs.

1 comment:

  1. its a shame these sorts of things dont happen more often in America.