No, I wasn’t in Pamplona. But I was in Madrid, Spain. And when the whistles started blowing, the pans started banging and thousands of Spaniards with FU EU signs came marching my way recently I had a feeling I should run or be run over.
Given my desire to be a journalist in my next life (or a not so good blogger) I figure this event was unique and worth sharing with my followers most of whom I am sure, like myself, have no idea what’s going on in Spain right now. I won’t get into any political diatribe or even try to explain why this matters but I will give you my views on what I saw.
If you look at the picture above that I took of that little blonde haired girl banging on her pan with a spoon my first thought when I saw her was I bet she loves banging on that thing. Next thought was, I wish I had a pan and a spoon too; looks like fun. Last thought was that I’ll bet she knows about as much of why they are all up in arms and blowing whistles and banging pans and shouting as I do. She had no clue. I had no clue. So let’s just bang on a pan and be happy people. She’s got the right attitude.
I had just arrived in Madrid from London on a Saturday afternoon. I had that day and night to myself so I figured I would just walk on up to see the sights. It is a fantastic city with big architecture and lots of parks and fountains. I made my way to the Plaza Mayor and then to the various Tapas places up and down San Miguel area. You go in, buy a drink, get a small plate of food. Then you go to the next place. Then you repeat. After a couple of hours of this I was beat from traveling and just sat my butt down in the Plaza del Sol to people watch. I bet it wasn’t more than 15 minutes later at about 8:00 p.m. that I start to hear the sound of whistles and the pans. Next thing you know, the massive crowd is literally on top of me in this plaza as that was their central hub for the protests. This was by far their largest protest to date and from what I can tell is a normal and planned occurrence for them. I have to believe this was a planned deal as both the SWAT teams and the media were all there from the very beginning. I counted twenty SWAT vans and the machine gun-toting tough guys lined the streets but let the crowd just march along.
I could have run. And normally I would have (just ask my wife about Paris) but for some reason I figured this was such a unique opportunity to be right smack dab in the middle of one of the most serious protests for a country that is quickly going down the tubes that I had to just take it all in. What I saw was a mix of the every day Joe (or Jose in this case) and the extremists. There were the pot smoking hippie types (literally) who looked all too excited about this event high fiving and running around like crazies. There were the young chant leaders who climbed the highest poles or the bus stop to lead the crowd in their cheers or wave their Spanish flags. There were the guys who thought this might be a good money-making opportunity and ran around with plastic bags full of six packs of beer selling them in individual servings. (Si amigo, I’ll take one of those por favor.) There were the foreign tourists in shock and wondering what had just happened taking pictures of it all and/or making their way to the nearest side street to get the heck out of dodge. I saw media vans, camera people and reporters all around. There were old and young. One older gentleman took his pan and spoon and went running up to this suit wearing guy walking by and just banged as hard as he could over and over in this guy’s face. He must not have realized there was an American (me) standing right nearby to give the same treatment. Thankfully. There was the little girl (pictured above) who was smiling and laughing and drumming. And there were the sign people. Everything from the FU EU type signs to the “We don’t owe. We won’t pay.” (in Spanish of course). That was their main chant and from what I can gather is their biggest complaint. Spain is sucking wind and mainly because of all of the major loans given out by the government and now almost bankrupt. 25% unemployment. One out of every four people out of work. I’d protest too. Or sell beer.
Running Update: So. Savannah is coming up in three weeks. I put the brakes on about two weeks ago after a recurrence of an injury and plan on just doing the half marathon. My wife is joining me and doing the same. It is a bummer but between the injury and the amount of travel that has impacted the training plans it was the right call. I’m now all about Chicago Marathon on 10/13/13 as the next one. Hasta próximo año baby.
Only 30 months and 26.2 miles to go…