Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Politics Killed the Goose

Those of us who wanted, voted on Sunday in our local town. The local people voted with trepidation, since a vote for the wrong party-leader will mean four years without any projects, work or favours for them or their families. The non-locals - those who were on the voting-list - voted with enthusiasm or with hesitancy; they voted with conviction or they voted doubtfully and, from those who were sent home to get their passports, they voted with a dash of anger. Some thought they could vote, only to find they couldn't. Others, as usual, didn't bother to come along at all.
Our town is an exceptional and beautiful place ruined by thirty years of 'democratic' elections, where mayors and their teams have exploited the pueblo for their own ends, turning Mojácar from a moribund municipality in the 1950s with less than 600 inhabitants to the richest town per capita in the entire region of Andalucía only fifty years later.
Not that the wealth is very evenly spread.
The Town Hall, unlike any other I've ever visited, has no photographic memorial to past administrations. No oil paintings of previous mayors. In fact, I can understand their point - since Jacinto Alarcón, the old mayor who famously 'gave away' properties to outsiders in the early sixties, there's been no one in the Town Hall worth honouring. Here, it's all about greed. We may have the highest proportion of misers in Spain, I don't know: no one has made a study. Our wealthy local class certainly doesn't spread it around. You won't see any privately funded public buildings or even a park bench with a brass plaque on it, donations from the Rich and the Good. Here, the various multimillionaires (some of whom whimsically claim to be socialists) keep their money safe and unspent. Mojácar is to be sacked and despoiled. It's the rule.
In our town, there have been a long list of cynical projects designed to mine the public purse, from useless and ill-considered buildings to pointless stadia. Many having already fulfilled their purpose before the first brick was laid. Much of our town has been knocked flat, in exchange for poorly designed monstrosities which, in these straightened times, are hard to sell or rent. On the beach, vast numbers of small noddy houses and minuscule apartments lie empty: you make more money per metre on petite dwellings than larger homes, you make nothing on parking lots or wider roads.
During those fifty years of massive growth, Mojácar inevitably watered down its local population of lordlings. While many returned from their uncomfortable exiles in other lands, attracted by the new wealth flowing into their pueblo, and considering their bits of land and properties, inevitably a new type of settler was filling up the town, the 'forasteros': the outsiders.
These were divided into the not-from-around-here Spaniards (who knew the ropes), the rich foreigners with rights (the northern Europeans), the poor foreigners with rights (i.e. los rumanos) and the poor foreigners without rights (the sudamericanos).
Some of us having, since 1999, the vote. Although, Spain being Spain, we had to ask for it. In triplicate.
In our town, the forasteros knew that they were here because it was a great place to live, better than wherever it was we came from. We were dismayed by change, by poor planning and by being exploited by the locals, secure in their power. We were more than them, yet we remained without any say in the future of our community. We were divided, tricked and unloved. The rents were raised as the customers fell: and no local person would drink in our bars or buy from our shops.
So now, despite its wealth, Mojácar is once again dying. There's no enthusiasm or poetry left here anymore. Everything is for sale. There's little reason to try and keep the dream alive. The forasteros must leave. Without us, there will be no work, no income, no community. And thanks to our 'hosts', there won't even be much to remember us by. Like the Visigoths, we shall soon be forgotten.
In a few years from now, even the local people will have to board up their properties and move away, once again, to Hamburg and Lyons in search of work. We need another Jacinto, not a RosMari.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Plastic Bags

I was at the counter in the supermarket this afternoon, waiting to pay for my few and modest provisions, when I was reminded, yet again, that I had forgotten to bring a shopping bag with me. There was one in the car, but with my packets and cans and tins and bottles and vacuum-packed goods all waiting on the check-out tray, I had to bow to conformity and common sense and buy a plastic bag for a nominal couple of céntimos. They don't give them away for free any more, in solidarity with Mother Earth. How could I possibly complain about such a thing?
This whole plastic bag thing is an important gesture towards the environment. We must be true to our unborn future generations. We have been using plastic for years in ways which are an abomination and no doubt our land-fills are full of untold millions of tons of the stuff. I thank our leaders for showing us the way.
Of course, in the old days, we didn't have throw-away razors (with five or more blades for a really close shave: thanks Gillette), or disposable lighters. We washed and returned our beer bottles and left the milk bottles outside for the milkman. Alright, maybe it wasn't exactly milk here, but they used to wink gamely at you and call it 'leche'. Corks were made from an amusing thing called 'cork' which comes from a 'tree'. Goods came in a wrapper rather than lost in an unnecessarily large presentation box. A butcher chopped up your bits of meat, rather than the cooler-counters piled high with Styrofoam trays of sliced viands, vacuum-packed to last.
Fruit juice came in a fruit. Meat was wrapped in paper. Many items for baby were washable and re-usable and you could bring your own container to fill with oil. Water was just water and not a whole shelf of different brands all in their own uniquely-shaped bottles. I shan't go on since I'm sure you get my point, but consider this:
If the new rule on plastic bags are a small step back from the insanity of our throw-away culture - then why don't they give us our groceries in paper bags, like they do in America?

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Foreign Vote

It has taken a while to get as far as the title in last Sunday's Voz de Almería, which hardly needs translation. The story says that there are 7,500 Britons able to vote across Almería and elsewhere lists some of the candidates, giving honorary British status to Astrid Schröder and others. The picture is a presentation of Ciudadanos Europeos, which is fielding candidates in Arboleas and Mojácar.
The very Spanish Constitution itself had to be changed to allow Europeans to vote in local elections in Spain - to vote and to be voted for, or, as the Constitution puts it 'active and passive suffrage'.
Since 1999, Mojácar has been one of the leading towns for 'European' participation, with several candidates including myself floating around on various lists, and even - to date - two councillors: Matthew Shatford and Albert Schröter (no relation to Astrid). Neither managed a full term in government. In these elections of 2011, the town has two party leaders and a generous number of other candidates who were born in Northern Europe, in fact, with the exception of the PSOE, all the other parties have a foreign presence of greater or lesser extent. Even the PP has managed to cram a single Briton into their list safely near the tail at Nº 9 where they won't be any threat, but might make a difference.
Oddly, only two towns in Almería have taken the plunge: Mojácar with its aspirations to improve culturally and Arboleas, beset with terrible problems of what the Junta de Andalucía refers to with some satisfaction as 'viviendas ilegales' - illegal homes. Both towns have a lively interest in local politics and, in both these towns, the foreign vote will make a difference.
Not so elsewhere across the province, for with a few exceptions - Jim Simpson in Zurgena, Joanne Tissington in Albox and Lois Benson in Bédar - the majority of towns with a foreign element have managed to safely ignore the problem for another four years. Perhaps it's our fault.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Question of Trust

We've been looking at old newspaper stories about Barbara's work with the disabled here in Mojácar. She started an association called Animo which helped children with physical, mental and sensory problems, by animal assisted therapy: in short, by riding on horseback. She ran the association with around 40 volunteers - many with RDA experience - from around 1988 until the early 2000s, when her health got bad (from an accident related to the charity work). She has now started it up again and has a blogsite here. Besides the charity work (with no support from the Mojácar town hall), annual horse fairs and donkey baseball-games for around eight years, Barbara helped improve life for about fifty 'students'.
I have also worked in something pretty close to a charity - putting out a free weekly paper between 1985 and 1999. The Entertainer was meant to help inform Britons about life in Spain, and to try and support and protect them as possible. I have lived here for a long time and know a lot about this country. Over the years I have produced or edited in all over 2500 newspaper editions, including 200 in Spanish. Eventually I sold the paper - although I was never paid and am now being sued by the 'buyers' for placing some tart remarks about them on the Internet.
Were we both wrong to trust people?

Sunday, May 01, 2011


See the outfits! The shoes! These little girls are going onto the stage with their dance mistress to show us some 'sevillanas', a type of white-bread flamenco preferred by the Spanish, safe from the anarchy of the gypsies original, passionate and exciting music - a bit like The Archies playing the blues.