Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Boutique Hotel for the Playa de Los Genoveses

The news of permission for a small hotel to be allowed in the Cabo de Gata, facing the famous Beach of the Genoveses, came as a shock last week, and a petition calling for its summary removal is going strong.
In fact, there is already a building there, some distance away from the beach and partially hidden by a decaying prickly pear plantation (the ecologists are generally against chumbos as they are an ‘invasive plant’). The construction is an old vegetable-rope factory, of all things, and has been used recently as a modest tapa-bar with space available for rent for weddings and other events. It's called el Cortijo de las Chiqueras ('The Pig-farm' in colloquial Spanish).
The Cabo de Gata is important because, although 73% of Almería is ‘protected’ one way or another, much of the province is inhospitable desert and this, without doubt, is the first bit that developers would be pleased to get their hands on. The Cabo de Gata – Nijar Natural Park is 45,663ha (176 sq miles) in size and we are told, ‘…is Andalucía's largest coastal protected area, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe's most original geological features’.  
 It’s certainly very pretty (once you have successfully passed the distressing belt of plastic farms that guards it).
The plan is to turn the building into a small four-star hotel with, we are told, thirty rooms and a pool.
The nearby resort of San José (here) would normally be enough for any visitor’s needs, with several hotels and innumerable restaurants, and there are many campsites and hotels stretching towards the nearby provincial capital which is less than 40 kilometres away.
Oddly, just one family owns much of the park surrounding the superb beaches of Las Genoveses and Mónsul, a family that successfully stopped the coastal motorway from passing through the park many years ago. Doña Pakyta (as the old matriarch was known) famously left her home in the city to become an art museum. The future hotelito belongs to her heirs.
But now, with local people clamouring for jobs in the tourist sector, and the lesson of the Hotel Algarrobico gently rotting in the hot sun some 60kms to the north-west apparently forgotten, the prospect of a new hotel is being well received locally. Permission, that hardest of all indulgences, has now been granted by the Junta de Andalucía (the Junta, now under the control of the PP, looks favourably on investment, it says, ‘to offset the huge losses caused by the pandemic’) and all systems are ‘go’.
Many years ago, there were people living in what is now the park, and today, there are a number of abandoned and ruined cortijos. Will these all be available for conversion into summer homes, or boutique restaurants, or perhaps a camp-site or two in the years to come?
The PSOE-A talks of the threat of ‘cementing the natural park’ and calls for the Junta to reverse its ruling. As we know, the party has always been ferociously against urbanising anything outside the cities, but maybe it has a point here. The party has made a complaint to the European Commission saying that the Andalusian Government is putting the Cabo de Gata ‘at serious risk’. An article in another local newspaper says that the PSOE was once in favour of the project and that it was the PP who nobly pared it back to the current 30 rooms. So, in politics, you pays your money and you takes your choice, as usual. El Mundo ingeniously says that the Junta ‘…has not authorized a hotel establishment, but merely "a rehabilitation of the Las Chiqueras farmhouse"’. Really? I’ll take vanilla.
From the evidently back-to-nature Ruralidades we read, ‘…It is clear that tourism or rather, tourism entrepreneurs, pay no attention to anything nor to anyone; for them the environment is nothing more than something one either puts in the safe or in the bank. We have seen it in all the municipalities of the coast. Everything is designed for the opportunities of tourism, that tireless and insatiable predator of the territory, as if the entire coastline were its property…’.
The location of the proposed hotel, plus a blistering attack against the plan, can be seen at a page run by Los Amigos del Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata - Níjar here and has the petition to sign here.  

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Working in Spain

(Following on from last week...)

Many people dream of coming to live in Spain, and who can blame them? It’s a great place. However, one has to cost ones’ dreams, and while life is cheaper here than in Northern Europe, it still bites.
So then, we need income. This preferably comes from ‘home’, either as a pension or some other form of funding – a healthy portfolio for example.
The second way is to find a job in Spain. A brief check on Google finds this and this.
Know that it is not easy to find a job as unemployment here is high (and post-Covid, higher). Also, Spaniards don’t often offer jobs to foreigners and, well, they do things differently here. For a start, your certificates and diplomas and letters of introduction may not carry much weight. Contacts and family rule in Spain, and we foreigners likely won’t have that essential network. 
In Mojácar, where half of the inhabitants are foreigners, there is not a single one of us working for the town hall, or as a policeman, or patrolling the beaches or manning the (non-existent) Foreigners' Department. No, not even the foreign-kids who went through the local school system and are bilingual. They must be content with jobs in the private sector. 
There may be some jobs available in Madrid and Barcelona with foreign banks or accountants and so on, but there won’t be many available in any normal Spanish-controlled industry.
Maybe start your own business, or open a (oh no, not another) bar or restaurant, or teach your native language as an au pair or at some academia (presumably you’ll have the correct paperwork).
Remember that Spaniards don’t particularly drink in Brit bars or eat in foreign restaurants (Italian places excluded), so – apart from the eager expats living locally – the catchment area of potential customers is smaller than the population would suggest, and the rents (and other costs) are often higher than one would like.
Which is why many of us cater for the tourists; but the Spanish are looking for them as well, and they can always undercut and overreach our efforts.  
But there are many foreigners here who do work successfully. It certainly can be done.
An interesting new wrinkle on foreigners keeping busy here is the new phenomenon of tele-working which, says Yahoo Finance, ‘could bring many foreigners to live in Spain’.
Other businesses we foreigners get into – like builders, house-painters, carpenters and pool-cleaners and plumbers but once again, no Spaniard is going to hire a British house-painter. 
One thing they know, a foreigner can (and will) do ‘a runner’ when things go bad, leaving behind debt and ill-will. A family-connected Spaniard will tend to stay where he is, and the law will have to grind its way through the agonisingly-long process.
Some of the foreign handymen will be un-licenced, or working for cash, or they may even take the next step, and, knowing that the judicial system here is little short of hopeless, they will simply live from diddling their fellow-foreigners.
How many of us, newly arrived in Spain, were met with the question (probably in a bar) ‘are you going to live here? It’s all a bit strange, you know. I speak the language, let me help you get started…’. In short, how many of us have been taken for a ride by our fellow nationals?
Spain is a great place, but it can find your weaknesses – whether it is drink, drugs, destroying relationships, theft or swindling people. There’s no nearby Auntie Maud or Uncle Eustace to keep you on the straight and narrow. We Brits don't police ourselves.
There are different rules, customs and systems here, and the newly-arrived well-meaning immigrant won’t know them. Sometimes, it will be a steep learning curve.
And finally, consider this, things will get worse for the Brits if/when we will need a work-permit as non-EU citizens.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

See You in Spain

Spain is a great place to live. Those from other countries who decide to live here are of course offered a wealth of choices. What do you want? To live in the country or the town or the city or are you looking for beach-front or off-plan. Would you like a farm-house or an apartment? Do you prefer the warm south, the dry central or the occasionally damp north-west? Do you want fellow-foreign neighbours and the ex-pat life, or to live in a Spanish barrio or village? Can you afford a house for 100,000€ in the middle of nowhere, or an apartment in Marbella for 300,000€? Some Spanish web-pages of use for home-buyers include Idealista, FotoCasa and the venerable Mil Anuncios.
There are places for sale for small change (how about this one with 420m2 in the province of León at 54,000€?), homes that cost a fortune (a villa in Ibiza going for 3,000,000€), and many more in the middle (Mil Anuncios has no less than 36,500 properties listed at present). El Comercio says that prices are falling – new builds by up to 10% and private homes by anything up to 30% down. Sales have also fallen, thanks to the pandemic, with XinjuaNet saying ‘…the sale of houses and apartments fell by 39.2 percent in April year on year…’.
Good news for buyers, not so good for vendors.
Spanish Property Insight, a useful site to subscribe to, has an article saying that there is a surge in property-searches coming from the UK (we are not entirely surprised to read this) and – as the frontiers are opened - an expected upswing in sales.
Most of us living here in Spain are happy enough, although there are often links to one’s home-country – family, investments, friends and nostalgia. There are around five million foreigners living in Spain (of which 300,000 are Brits): many of them are home-owners. As to why, well, there are so many good reasons to live here.
International Living makes a case for Spain here. It says: ‘There are dozens of reasons why expats are attracted by the prospect of moving
to Spain — a rich and ancient history, romantic castles, fabulous cities, beaches, mountains, fiestas beyond number, succulent cuisine… Spain has it all. Yes, some beach resorts are overbuilt with concrete high-rises, but you can still find pretty seaside villages…and Spain off the beaten track is a revelation: a gracious, fulfilling, and traditional way of life that survives despite modern inroads…’.
To be comfortable living ‘off the beaten track’, you’ll need to speak Spanish, which is a hard task for many of us. However, more important than learning the language is to learn (or know) the culture. After all, who will listen to you if you have nothing to say?

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Eight Minutes and Forty Six Seconds

What an earth is going on in America? How can the racism there be so endemic, so institutionalised?
A man strangled slowly by three policemen in front of people and cameras both.
We hear of the story of the black man who must always take his walk with his daughter in the nice neighbourhood where he lives, not so he can protect her, but so that she can protect him. We see the black child who carries the sign that asks ‘When will you stop thinking of me as ‘cute’ and start thinking of me as ‘a threat’?’ I hear this week of a black man who wanted to buy a car off my friend in Texas but was frightened to drive it without having the car-papers in his name. We’ve all heard the quote of ‘driving while black’.
Minorities: blacks, coloureds, homosexuals, Jews, Muslims and women (together, that’s way over half the population), walking much of the time in fear. Fear of the white-man, the black-man, the predator, the rapist, the knife-man.  The police-man.
To paraphrase Chris Rock, there are certain professions where you can’t have bad apples. Airplane pilots for one. The police for another.
Here’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in a brief 2017 video called ‘Let’s terminate hate’ (it was made following the the Charlottsville riots wiki) . He says ‘the only way to beat the loud angry voices of hate is to meet them with louder, more reasonable voices’.
Where there's strife, there's often hope
Now Mr Trump wants martial law, terrorist charges against all and sundry: a ‘you loot, we shoot’ mentality that only widens still further the divide. How on earth can such a modern country be so archaic in its race-relations? Is it right to blame Trump for this situation? Forbes says that ‘Most Americans Think Trump Is Racist, Poll Finds’. El Periodico reports that ‘Trump entrenches himself impassively in the White House as the US burns’. Now the president has declared the mythical ‘Antifa’ (here) to be a domestic terrorist organisation.
Well, maybe that’s what you get when you chose populists over politicians. 
Manuel Castells, the University Minister, said on Canal Sur that ‘It is a human drama, because the murder was carried out in the sight of everyone’. 
And in Spain, as we look aghast at the casual American racism, there are those who watch what Trump does and find it good. From the official Twitter account of Vox here: ‘Our support for Trump and the Americans who are seeing their Nation attacked by street terrorists sheltered by progressive millionaires. #SpainSupportsTrump’.
It’s a trifle odd that Vox supports law and order in the USA, yet believes in promoting anti-government demonstrations in Spain (here).
‘Vox stokes racism’ says El Nacional here, concerned about the new ‘minimum basic income’. ‘Podemos supports the Antifa’, says Vox’s spokesperson Iván Espinosa de los Monteros in his daily idiocy. ‘We have terrorists here too’, says Santiago Abascal, echoing his lieutenant, ‘they’re in the government’. Iglesias is ‘the son of a terrorist’ says the spokesperson for the PP Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo in parliament with no basis beyond a discredited story from a Vox MEP which cost him 17,000€ in a fine for libel in 2017.
As Rodney King once asked, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’