Sunday, April 12, 2009

La Crisis

So, although Thursday and Friday were official holidays (and Madrid was deserted, making me doubly glad that I didn't push myself to go to Bilbao), Spain did get a new government this week. On Tuesday, accompanied by the usual fanfare and gobbledygook, Prime Minister Zapatero announced a major reshuffle of his cabinet. The main change appears to be that the new cabinet is composed of more hardline socialists, and that - for the first time in the country's history - a woman will head up the Ministry of Economics. Specifically, this woman, Elena Salgado:

(picture found here )

As an article in today's "El País" points out, she will have her work cut out for her. Unemployment here in Spain is creeping up inexorably towards the 4 million mark, assorted banks have failed and had to be bailed out within the past six months -- it's the same, sad, familiar story as everywhere else.

When we were in Andalucia last week, the signs of "la crisis" were obvious. Other than one other couple, we appeared to be the only guests in the hotel. Cafés and bars were relatively deserted. It was a marked contrast to two years ago, when I was in Seville at pretty much the same time of the year and the place was bustling with tourists. Here in Madrid, signs of the crisis are not as immediately evident, but are fairly obvious once you keep your eyes peeled. One example that comes to mind is that both churches that I pass on the way to my 7pm class have long lines of folks waiting for the soup kitchens to open at 7 o'clock. Something that, if it was happening two years ago, I have no recollection of seeing.

Nonetheless, there are still crowds of shoppers at El Corte Inglés, and pretty much everyone managed to get out of town this weekend, so whatever the true dimensions of "la crisis", it doesn't yet appear to have hit the madrileño middle classes very hard.

No comments: