I would categorize yesterday among the oddest of days. Why now? Yesterday, I witnessed my first riot. I kid you not, I was photographing daisies in Belvis Park fifteen minutes before I was photographing burning trash cans. (And, speaking of photographs, what even is the protocol for posting pictures of riots to Facebook? I legitimately googled “wrong to post riot pictures to Facebook” and there doesn’t seem to be a strong precedent.) I followed a cloud of smoke up a street bordering Santiago’s parliament buildings, and found myself in a scene of heavily armed police, smoldering plastic, and wayward flying glass bottles.
So what was the issue here? From what I’ve gathered, it was a protest of marineros (sailors). The European Union has imposed certain quotas on how many of each species of fish sailors can catch. They left it up to Spain to divvy that quota up between the different regions. Galician marineros are unhappy with that allocation. It’s politics, people. The sailors say the Spanish government screwed them over and gave a much bigger cut to regions like País Vasco, which doesn’t have nearly the amount of shoreline as Galicia. If the amount you can fish is cut, so is your salary, and so is your ability to live. Spain in crisis.
It’s sad. People are desperate.
Tonight in one of my English conversation classes, we discussed the riots. Hearing the opinions of the students, who are Ph.D. and Master’s students, I am starting to come to terms with how shattering this economic crisis has been for Spain. Though the majority of them are against violence in general, several of them also expressed that there was no other alternative. The democracy, they explained, was not working for the people.
I came away startled. I’ve always, always accepted that violence is never the answer, and I assumed every other rational person was on board with me. It’s times like these when I realize how both insulated and blessed I’ve been. It’s one thing to see riots in the paper and on TV and judge violence from a distance. It’s another thing entirely to listen to your students grapple with and hesitantly accept violence as the last course of action for a very real situation.
Anyway, just so no one is worrying, I am fine, and Santiago is perfectly safe. Tuesday was an anomaly, but a weighty one at that.