Spanish Youth and their Values

Cecilia Alonso Vigil

For many years, Spanish families have brought up their children on values of absolute respect and hard work, in total contrast to the way that adolescents’ behaviour nowadays, which is characterised by their challenging attitude, constant disrespect and dominating laziness. Obviously, not all the children from previous generations were saints, but lots of things have changed in recent years, and I believe that as a society what we should be asking ourselves is: are we making a mistake?

Relationships within families and society, in general, have developed throughout history. In order to get to know this evolution, the best we can do is read books from different ages. Nevertheless, the development which has taken place in the past few years is both recent and significant enough that we can easily start to understand the issue which we as societal observers are witnessing. There is no need to look a long way back in history to be aware of the obvious changes which our parents and grandparents have seen throughout their lives. 

Until the 1950s, in Spain, children between eight and nine years old, sometimes even younger, had to work in order to help their families. Their limited education was based on a deep respect towards the people around them, and even though physical punishment was frequent, it didn´t prevent children from loving and admiring their parents. Moreover, not all of them were lucky enough to be able to afford to attend school. By the year 1960, there were only 8,648 university students. In less than 20 years, that number had increased more than a 1000%; in 1977 there were 108,722 university students. That way, many were for ages being kept from the great gift of receiving an education, which is something not as valued as it should, both for the cultural wealth and for the future possibilities it provides. 

If we move forward a few years, a comparison can be made with the current situation. Spain has undergone years of economic and social development, and Spanish citizens´ rights and living conditions have improved significantly. Throughout the changes, all that the Spanish population wished was to obtain a better quality of life for themselves and their families. This feeling continues to develop today, and yet there is a stark contrast to the aforementioned past.

Today, eight-year-old-children cannot even be alone, as they have to be taken care of by a babysitter, let alone go to help a family’s economic situation. Their tantrums over any whim are incessant, and they seemingly get to insult anyone, adult or kid, with little or no reprimand. Nonetheless, physical punishment is considered heinous and reportable, and as other forms of punishment seem to be ineffective, parents prefer to give their children what they want or to keep them entertained playing with a mobile phone. This has even turned the tables, and kids are the ones hitting their parents now; more than 4300 parents report their kids´ violence in Spain, being these barely the 15% of the violence cases that are taken place.

School is now available for everyone; however, most kids, when reaching a certain age, learn only how to waste completely their educative experience, to which, nevertheless, once their obligatory education is ended at the age of sixteen, they refuse to give up on, in order to apply to university. That way, Spain is 7th in Europe for having the most students in secondary school, and  6th for students in universities. However, in 2017, 18.3% of those students between the ages of 18 and 24 gave up on their studies, which is a high percentage if compared with the EU’s average, which only registers a percentage of 10.6%. This shows that too many people get to go to university but lack the level needed to accomplish the results that are asked, and as they cannot depend on the teachers help as they did in middle and high school, they finally decide to give up on their studies. That way, kids grow to be careless about their studies, hoping that their teachers or their parents will solve their issues, and when their own effort is needed, they prove to be incompetent.

Therefore, if we analyse the Spanish youth nowadays, we can observe the wonderful evolution of the human being: a creature that adores wasting their opportunities and ruining the effort of their ancestors. If something is clear, it is that comfort weakens us: we respond to our parents´ reliance and affection with disrespect; to the minor work pressure and the growing facilities in schools with little effort and loss of ambition. We human beings are truly capable of destroying everything good we have and transforming it into something bad; we are experts in ignoring our good luck and closing our eyes, hoping every bad thing goes away or someone else fixes it for us. The problem will arise when, in a few years, we all think in the same way, and nobody will be able to do things for themselves. Then, we will all fail and will have to start all over again.

Should we be worried about Catalan independence?

Alba Fuertes Pérez

Catalonia is an important part of the Spanish economy, and the prospect of its seceding would cause a negative shock for Spain and could have huge impacts on the local and global economy. Spain, as well as the new Catalan state that emerges from a split, could be viable countries on their own but there would be economic consequences for both.

Catalonia would have to request the entry to the EU and meet the criteria, a process which could take years. This would be a major consequence since they would not have any access to a market where people and goods can move freely without the need for visas or customs tariffs. In terms of the euro, the Generalitat, which is the institutional system in which Catalonia is politically organised, says that there is no reason for Catalonia to stop using the euro, even if it is no longer a member of the EU. Using an international currency means they will not be able to have control of the exchange or interest rates. In addition, the new country almost certainly would suffer a boycott, this is known because there is a precedent. In 2004, the leader of ERC, a pro-independent party, made statements against the candidature of Madrid to host the Olympic Games in 2012. This unleashed a boycott against the Cava industry, and it took the sector years to recover. 80% of Catalan companies are multinationals, if the region is no longer in the EU the multinationals could decide to relocate back into the EU in order to avoid paying custom tariffs.

On the other hand, Spain would lose its most successful and wealthy region which produces 19% of Spain’s GDP, moreover, it is the region which contributes the most to the state coffers. It has invested a lot in projects of development and generated many pioneer industries throughout Spain. Spain would also lose many facilities such as Barcelona Harbour, the most important in the Mediterranean, and two nuclear power plants which produce more than 40% of the nuclear energy in the country. Whilst Catalonia would have to assume the debt on its behalf, it should be noted that about 22.5% of tourists who travel to Spain visit Catalonia, which has a great richness in cultural heritage like the majority of the works of the architect Antonio Gaudí. Furthermore, the Generalitat could demand the devolution of the cultural heritage referring to Catalonia or whose author was Catalan, for example, the works by Salvador Dalí which are currently housed in Madrid.

Independence would also have consequences in the EU. With such a powerful economy, if Catalonia were not to remain a member of the EU, it could become a threat to Catalonia’s economic viability, and that of the Spanish state, which in turn impacts the economy of the EU, especially if it secures competing trade agreements. A divisive exit could cause a Spanish commercial war, which could impact consumers behaviour throughout the EU. One this which is certain is that economic effect on the EU, of an independent Catalonian Republic, is totally unpredictable. If Catalonia becomes independent much of its economic future would be determined based on its relationships with Spain and other European countries.

Gender Equality

Aitana Álvarez Freile

Gender equality is a human right, but our world faces a persistent gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power between women and men.  The world that most people hope for is one that has an equal balance of such roles and is rid of the stereotypes placed on genders today.

Although there’s gender inequality in many branches of society, I am going to focus on the existing inequality at home and how women are considered as the weaker sex.

Spanish women take on the majority of the household chores and spend much more time on unpaid tasks such as childcare or caring for elderly relatives, even when they are also holding down a job. Working men spend on average two hours per day on household activities, while working women spend double than that – over 4 hours every day on household tasks, according to data collected by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE). We have also to take into consideration the economic gap that Spanish women suffer from. Men and women who perform similar tasks in the workplace do not earn the same. Women’s hourly earnings are 12.7% lower than men’s, according to a study using statistically adjusted EU data from 2018.

Whilst these economic factors are concerning, it is the idea of women being killed by the hands of their partners and ex-partners which makes me lose sleep. The danger facing women cannot be understated as during the first two months of 2017, 17 women were murdered by the men in their lives. 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since they were aged 15 or over. That corresponds to 62 million women. But the most horrifying data is that 67% did not report the most serious incident of partner violence to the police or any other organisation. 

During this year, in the first 5 months of 2019, 19 women were killed by their partners. This makes a total of 993 murders since official figures began in 2003.  Huge efforts have been made to make sure woman know where to get the help they need, know how to report violence against them and how to keep safe but, as the figures show, more needs to be done. However, I think that this issue comes from structural violence.  Structural violence is the result of many decades of women submission but we have reached the limits, 55.000.000 women who are the result of mothers and grandmothers who have broken with social convention, raised up their voices in Spain to stop the mistreatments and abuses that they suffer from and it seems that it is having repercussion. 

However, I don’t believe that the answer lies in teaching girls thought how to defend themselves or where to call in case of danger, instead, I believe that it lies firmly in teaching children from an early age to know that we are all equal and that woman shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their sex. 

As a conclusion, I believe that education is the answer. If we teach our sons or daughters to respect both, women and men, all these stereotypes that denigrate women and make them feel inferior to men will disappear. The perceptions, interests and priorities of both genders have to be taken into consideration because all these are necessary to enrich development processes. Everything is not “only male” and “only female” because people of both genders have equal potential to be valuable. Now, we have balanced up our mind, generations and judgements as to compare to the olden days. We believe that more gender diversity would help to promote innovation and fairer growth in the future both in the social and economic aspects. 

Should Spain be doing more to Promote Gender Equality?

Gonzalo LLorens Fernández

To start, we need to know what the meaning of gender equality is. According to the United Nations, it is the equality of rights, responsibilities and opportunities between women and men, as well as between children; what that means is that gender equality is a universal principle of law.

Nowadays, gender equality has become one of the most common topics to talk about, especially here in Spain, especially as it was not until a few years ago when we realised that women were being underestimated in most areas of life. That is why millions and millions of women and men worldwide take the streets to fight for gender equality every year. Then, the answer to the question “should Spain be doing more to promote gender equality?” is: yes, it is never enough.

According to sources as Foro Económico Mundial (FEM), the existing rift between both genders will not be made up in less than one hundred years minimum, which is a very long time at first sight, but short considering all the years that women have been subdued by the patriarchy.

Having said that, there are still a lot of disadvantages that being a woman brings, and it is in almost every area where it is more than clear that men are above women, at least in Spain. For example:

Considering pensions, according to a Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) report, women pensions are about 450€ lower than men’s- an average pension of 740€; while it is about 1190€ in the case of men. This could have been caused by the historical limits that women have always had when it comes to education and getting high positions.

When it comes to household tasks, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) report, women spend over four and a half hours a day taking care of their children and other domestic chores, which is double the time that men spend on these actions. This remains a fact which has always been related to women and, as we can see, is yet to have been solved.

When considering business leadership, according to “Women in business”, it is known that just twenty-seven per cent of executive positions are not men. What this translates into is less visibility for women and fewer opportunities for them to demonstrate that they are equally able to execute top roles.

These factors are just some of many and fortunately, the Spanish government has already created laws to counteract these tendencies, but as there is still a lot of progress to make, it is necessary to never cease and continue defending everyone’s rights.

One of the most important laws created by the government may be the one that is contained in the Spanish Constitution of 1978, article 14, which proclaims equality under the law, establishing the prohibition of any gender discrimination; besides, there is already support destined to those brands which try to implement equality plans.

But it does not just depend on the government, it is our responsibility to try to change these kinds of things by ourselves, whether it be through little actions or even by making those connections and being the person who introduces the right women to an important job. It is not about putting the blame on others; we all must be involved.

Why isn’t Spain Embracing Solar Power?

Maria Gracia Galvez

The EU Solar Market Grew 36% in 2018, so why isn’t Spain a leading country in solar energy with its known reputation for numerous sunny days? The answer lies in the economic situation of the country in the past two decades.

According to The Telegraph, Madrid is accepted to be the European city with the fourth highest number of hours of sunshine. While considering the fact that Spain is one of the sunniest places on the continent, some might question the reason why the country is not taking advantage of it by investing heavily solar power. An economic crisis and the implementation of a targeted tax are the two main reasons for this to happen. Yet, recent legal action aims to slowly start to reinvigorate the use of Spanish solar energy.

Despite the fact that in 2010, Spain rose to become the leader in concentrated solar power worldwide, it was soon surpassed by other countries. In order to understand this, it is important to analyse the background of solar energy in the nation. Before 2008, Spain was one of the best places in the world to build photovoltaic energy infrastructure, however, the significant economic crisis forced the country to stop major investments in that field and further delay the construction of solar farms and private arrays. Years later, after the financial situation improved, solar power slowly started to regain financing and importance in the energy sector: between 2006 and 2012, the production and consumption of renewable energy doubled. Nevertheless, this was soon countered by regulations introduced in 2012 and 2015 by the Spanish government known as the “Sun Tax”, which consisted of a 7% tax implemented in every source of energy. This meant that investing in sustainable methods was the same price or even more expensive than in traditional power sources.

Regardless, nowadays there is still hope for the future implementation of more solar panels in Spain. Although until the beginning of 2018 the Spanish administration’s work in promoting solar energy was considered a failure, in October of the same year Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) removed the Sun Tax. Furthermore, the government has now set the goal of reaching a growth rate of 3,000 megawatts in solar power in the upcoming 10 years. Even though oil is still the main provider of energy consumption in the country, followed by natural gas and nuclear energy, sustainable methods account for around 14.3% of the total energy use.

In conclusion, Spain is currently looking forward to the promotion of solar power in the future but there is still room for improvement. Obstacles such as the economic crisis and the “sun tax” have delayed the participation and the expansion of this type of energy, thus Spain is still behind many other European countries in the field. On the other hand, recent legal action has been taken in order to change this. Nonetheless, only time will prove if the nation is, in fact, embracing solar power.

The Independence of Catalonia

Alejandro de la Fuente García

Catalonia is an autonomous community in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula, whose capital city is Barcelona. It sits upon Spain´s border with France and Andorra, and its coast is on the Mediterranean Sea. With an approximate population of 7 million, it´s the second largest autonomous region in the country. Catalonia is considered by many to be a historic nation with its origins in the 10th century. 

This fact, added to its unique traditions, language and gastronomy, not to mention its successful economy, has led to a widespread desire for independence within some groups of the region´s inhabitants. Nowadays there is a problem with the rising movement of independentism in the region and it has created several polemics, of which the biggest one is known as 1-O. On October the 1st of 2017, the former President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, called a referendum in the community, with the outcome of proclaiming the independent Republic of Catalonia although he had previously been warned that the referendum was illegal according to the Spanish Constitution. It was a fateful day for Spain´s history: the central government sent the national police to quell riots and other civil disruptions but there was a large backlash resulting in huge fights and hundreds of people and officers being hurt. 

As I´ve pointed before, the referendum was illegal and therefore not legally binding. And if that was not enough, only 43% of the Catalans voted (97% yes to independence, 3% no to independence). Puigdemont and his accomplices in the party were sentenced for the crime of rebellion (but he escaped to Belgium), and since then they have been considered political prisoners by the independence movement. As a result of the dissidence, the autonomous government of Catalonia was dissolved according to the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, but followed shortly by its reinstatement when President Joaquim Torra was elected on 17th May 2018. Similarly to Puigdemont, Torra also wants Catalonia to be an independent republic but it seems that he wants it through a more diplomatic way with dialogue.

Carles Puigdemont is still a reference for the movement, but I think by the time he comes back to Spain (if he does) he will go to jail due to the fact that the law and judges are very strict in regard to the crimes he´s been accused of.

There are various interests from both sides, and some are even contradictory:

In relation to the Government of Catalonia, the supporters of independence allege that the Republic could be better governed as they would only have to look out for Catalonian interests.

As far as the economy is concerned, those who support independence say that an independent Catalonia could manage taxes more successfully, which they say would benefit the region as they say that currently, Catalonia pays more in national taxation than it should pay. But detractors declare they would have lots of problems as establishing a central government would be very expensive. Furthermore, the Republic of Catalonia wouldn’t be in the EU, so they would have to create a new currency as they couldn’t use the euro. It would also create problems for the region’s international business due to losing EU’s trade agreements.

In respect of culture, Republicans want the Catalonian culture to be a national symbol as they think it has been historically underestimated. The Spanish language would also be discriminated against according to those who support national unity

Referring to society, Spanish society is already fractured, but independence would also fracture Catalan society as there are also people living there who want to stay Spanish. Also according to the Constitution, every place of the region of Spain belongs to each of its inhabitants, so the vote should be for every Spanish.

It seems that the problem will remain unsolved for a long time, and regardless anyone´s feelings the solution should be pacific and democratic, as well legal, even if it´s necessary to update the Spanish Constitution to achieve all of this.

Why Should People Visit the North of Spain Rather than the Traditional Holiday Destinations of Malaga and Mallorca?

Paula Álvarez

Southern Spain, including the Balearic islands, is more popular as a holiday destination than the North of Spain. There, there are numerous famous destinations due to the good weather, the heat, the beaches and the recreational activities they offer. However, people do not realise what they are missing by ignoring northern Spain.

One of the reasons that make these southern destinations more popular is transport. These communities have better connexions with other countries. Another is marketing, these places spend a lot of money on publicity and advertisement all over the world.

In the North of Spain are located the autonomous regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja and País Vasco. Northern Spain is still an underrated destination, even though it offers the perfect combination of magical villages, wide green landscapes, and dreamy beaches. Many people say that they cannot be good destinations because of the worse weather including cold and rain, but this is not true. The weather in northern Spain is perfect for a holiday in late spring, summer or early autumn. Usually, the temperatures by day are 18-22 °C (64-71 °F) in May and June, and 22-26 °C (71-79 °F) in July and August. It might get a bit rainy sometimes, but overall it is excellent weather for a vacation during this time of the year. 

Another reason is the incredible landscapes. The North is in essence one giant green carpet loaded with nature reserves and national parks. The landscape is made up of mountain, hills, valleys, lakes and rivers. Examples of this can be found in the Picos de Europa National Park, which was Spain´s first national park. The park’s high mountains and deep ravines appeal to hikers due to the fact that this biosphere reserve also boasts forests, oak groves and four rivers. Non-hikers may want to ride the Fuentede cable car that reaches more than a mile above sea level, providing breath-taking views. Located in the national park of Picos De Europa are the beautiful lakes of Covadonga.

In addition, there are delightful and wild beaches in the North in addition to the well-known ones there are other less popular where you can escape the crowd such as España beach located in a village in Asturias. Moreover, in northern Spain, you can find charming fishing villages and towns like Cudillero and Luarca which have picturesque hamlets of 10-15 rustic stone houses, adorned by sprawling gardens of Hortensia, corn, and grapevines.

But it is not all about the countryside when you visit northern Spain. If you are looking for city views as well, then this area has a lot of fantastic options on offer, each with its own characteristics and vibes. For foodie experiences go to San Sebastian which to many people is considered the food capital of the world. Appreciate modern art at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, or visit Oviedo if old town streets are more up your alley. Furthermore, the North is full of historically and culturally important sites like churches and monasteries, festivals or prehistoric cave paintings in Asturias or cities such as Santiago de Compostela. 

Also, the food in Northern Spain has to be a point to take into account. You can indulge yourself with fresh seafood, local cheeses, quality fruits and vegetables, and of course, Pintxos. Pintxos are northern Spain’s version of tapas, consisting of a mixture of ingredients placed on a piece of bread. As well as the drinks, like the wine in La Rioja and Galicia or the cider in Asturias where you get a small thin glass, and the waiter pours a gulp of cider from a great height, producing air bubbles in the cider. If you don’t consume it all and the bubbles disappear, the waiter will spill the rest on the floor, and the pouring ritual will begin once more.

If after all this you still do not believe me, you should book a holiday trip to check it out for yourself.