Expats in Spain getting unclear messages from Saturday’s protests

Published:  2 Jun at 6 PM
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Right wing protests breaking out against the Spanish government’s handling of the pandemic are worrying expat residents.

Last Saturday, Madrid, Sevilla, Malaga, Valencia and Palma were all hit by between tens of thousands and hundreds of protestors driving vehicles and flying Spanish flags in protest against the government and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. All were calling for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s resignation and the installation of a ‘government of national unity’.

Crucially, the pandemic and the following lockdowns seem to be key reasons behind the discontent, which seems to have developed from the evening ritual of citizens and expats applauding healthcare support staff from their balconies. In contrast, those living in rural areas had far more freedom and spent more time in the open air, tending their gardens, feeding their livestock and watching TV in amazement at the antics of their townie brethren.

The evening balcony ritual became a nightly concert, with residents singing, playing instruments and generally making noise, with some in opposition to the government taking to bashing saucepans as a noisy political protest. It seems the priority wasn’t the protection of the economy but rather the establishment of lockdowns aimed at ending the emergency, thus bringing back Spain’s traditional left/right wing divide.

British expats caught up in the change were at a loss to understand its immediate relevance as regards the government, the pandemic and its death toll, but many soon realised you had to be Spanish to get this somewhat confusing message during a worldwide healthcare emergency. One meme made some sense by declaring ‘why bang an empty saucepan when you can fill it with food and give it to your neighbour’, but most of those protesting on Saturday were doing so from the safety of their cars, vehicles which are too expensive for the average Spanish worker.

Spain isn’t the only country where the strain and stress accompanying the pandemic has led to street violence, with the USA at present the imperfect example of a lack of overall control and common sense.
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