On November 14th all across Spain labor unions united to hold a national work stoppage. Trains, buses, taxis, metro, garbage, cafes and on down the list people refused to work. when I got out of the house to meet up with some friends the streets were muted; the cloudy rumble of the buses diesel engines, the clatter of chipped plates and silverware, absent.
I don’t really work. I basically get paid to speak English with kids a few hours a week. I don’t have anything to complain about but I felt I should go to the rally to document the event. I was told that if I went to the strike I would not be paid, though many other people in my program were simply given the day off. After figuring that if they dock my pay I would lose 40 Euros the choice was clear; I didn’t care. This could be a pivotal point in Spanish history. It was the first time [in a while] that Spain has seen two general strikes in the same year.
Heading through my neighborhood I found a group of Trianeros singing and dancing or protesting by Spanish standards. They were rallying their group before heading into the main march as an organized group.
I got to Plaza Nueva early but found people anxiously had already started marching in circles around the Government building. from where one street feeds into the far side of the plaza I heard a huge explosion that rattled the glass windows of the surrounding buildings then saw police cars. I ran over to check it out only to find that the labor union CCOO was pulling a metal apparatus into which they were putting some massive firecrackers.
I was supposed to be meeting up with a Facebook friend Fran but had trouble finding her and by chance while waiting I ran into Sofi, The Austrian roommate of my friend Ali. Just after we all met up the march got underway and I ran into Cynthia and a friend of hers then i heard someone yell my name and turned to see two teachers that I work with. some of my students saw me they later said however I didn’t recognize them.
The crowds were generally well behaved and people, despite the occasion, were in an upbeat mood. Besides the normal chants there was a group of people playing drums and brass instruments getting people to dance.
I had to work so I left before the event concluded but basically it was just a bunch of speeches broadcast over loud speakers while people milled around in the shutdown streets waving party and union banners and flags. On the way back down the now desolate parade route we marched the destruction was more apparent. Every bank had been graffitied with things like “capitalist pigs” or “stop evictions” stickers saying “closed due to strike” were stuck to the doors and windows of almost every business. Pink paint balloons had been thrown at the PP [political party in Spain] office and a group of theater students had taken up shop there reciting some street performance with a small crowd gathered around while police assured no one attempt to enter the headquarters.
After work I headed to the Andalusian parliament building for a night protest. the atmosphere was still relatively calm and the crowd had dwindled substantially from earlier.
there was a white van parked in front of the parliament building on top of which a platform supporting huge speakers and a small area where a man was standing while giving a speech. When he finished and climbed down the ladder I asked a man who seemed to be guarding the ladder if I could climb up to take a few quick photos. before he responded I turned and grabbed hold of the ladder. Just as my hand clenched around the metal rung I heard him say “if you have a media pass”. But I pretended I didn’t hear, didn’t look back and just kept climbing to where this guy was to give you an idea.
It is nights like this one that have me wishing I had already bought a wide angle fixed focal length lens for my camera. since it was dark I was using my 50mm since it has the best low light capability.
I thought that a guy giving a speech would surely incite a riot but everyone stayed cool and as time went on the protest turned to what Spaniards call a “Botellon” basically drinking in public with friends. With no real excitement i headed home to see what the news had to say about the strike.