Today there was a country-wide strike in Spain. I also experienced the last one in September 2010, but considering I had just arrived in Spain a month prior, I was paying little attention to politics. That strike did not affect me really because I lived so close to the NYU campus–it was about fifteen minutes walking distance. However, this year I take the metro every day to the school I work at and the Madrid metro made it abundantly clear it would be operating at reduced service (to about 30% of normal service).
I debated on what time to leave my apartment and decided to leave about 25 minutes earlier than I usually do. It takes me around 45 minutes to get to school–including the one transfer (there are a couple of different ways I can get to school but they all involve transferring to a different metro line, there is no direct route from Arguelles which is where I live). I was lucky to catch my first metro right as it arrived in the station. However at the transfer, the trains were running about 12 minutes apart, when they are usually about 3 to 5 minutes. However, I arrived so early at the transfer that I decided to let one train go by before I got on. I didn’t see the need to get to school ridiculously early.
I have to say, today was kind of a useless day. Half of the kids didn’t show up at school because of the strike and because it was the last day before Semana Santa (Holy Week) vacation. Some of the kids didn’t even bother coming back to school after lunch (in Spain, children are allowed to go home for lunch because they get about a 2 hour break).
If you would like more information about the strikes, here is a CNN article: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/29/world/europe/spain-strike/index.html?hpt=ieu_c1
And another article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/world/europe/spanish-trade-unions-start-general-strike.html?_r=1&ref=europe
Basically the Spanish are angry at the new labor reforms the new president Mariano Rajoy’s administration has put into place and the new “austerity measures” (I’m unclear as to what that means). Rajoy even expected the strike when his government revealed the plans regarding employment. The Spanish are pretty frustrated since unemployment is at an all time high–23% which is one of the worst statistics in Europe if I’m not mistaken. Every night on the news, all you hear about is “la crisis.” Tomorrow, Rajoy’s administration is going to unveil the plans for the budget and I’m assuming they’re going to make a lot of people unhappy.
The marches in Madrid went on as planned and I’m sure many businesses closed in favor of the strikes. There didn’t seem to be any rioting or violence in Madrid from what I’ve seen. It seems like protesters got a little fanatical in Barcelona and rioted and burned some things (including a Starbucks from what I’ve read). Overall, only about 58 people were arrested nation wide and only 9 people injured which isn’t so bad.
I don’t have much of an opinion on the economic crisis or on planned strikes since I’m not Spanish. We just don’t really do strikes in the USA very often so these kinds of things are eye-opening for me.
Also an aside: I get the next week off from school and I will be traveling to Heidelberg and Munich in Germany and Salzburg and Vienna in Austria. I am very excited to be traveling again so expect lots of pictures and posts when I get back!