Author Archives: Dylan Lewis

Spanish bullfights: the tradition and its uncertain future

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Spain’s housing crisis: evictions rise, as developments remain vacant

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Lucrative branding deal of historic landmark has angered many in the capital city

Story by Nicole Esan

MADRID- On his way to work every morning, Davide Ibáñez Cocho passes at least one or two vandalized Vodafone logos at the Sol metro station and rolls his eyes. Since its name change from Sol to Vodafone Sol last April, Cocho, 28, has been disappointed to see one of his fondest childhood places in Madrid commercialized.

“[An unbranded Sol] is something I grew up with,” said Cocho,” a finance controller at LTK, a technology development company in Madrid. “I don’t want to see it change.”

Vodafone is a phone and internet service provider – one of the five most popular in Spain. The company is paying Metro de Madrid 3 million euro, or about $4.1 million, over the span of three years to be placed along with Sol on all references to the Metro stop including official Metro maps, inside all the trains and on all the platforms underground.

The lucrative deal marks the kind of commercialization that has become standard throughout the world, most predominantly in the United States, where everything from sports arenas to art galleries bear the name of corporate entities. Critics of the practice believe that some things, particularly public spaces, should not be used for what is effectively an advertisement. But the math is hard to deny. A town, city, non-profit agency or private entity scores easy money by selling naming rights. The corporate brander gets a high-profile slot in an area frequented by tens of thousands of people each day.

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Renewable energy subsidy cuts rattle Spain’s wind energy businesses

Story by Ian Debevoise

Until now, wind power has been a success story like few others in this country.

Turbines meander over hilltops and through fields. They can be seen in the same frame as a crumbling castle on the southeast coast of Valencia. They’ve even been proposed as part of a large wind farm off the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, on the site of the famous 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.

But advocates and industry leaders fear that political decisions brought on by the country’s struggling economy could slow progress considerably only a year after wind power was rated Spain’s top energy source.

The Spanish government announced it would be cutting subsidies for renewable energy from 8.77 billion euros or $11.9 billion in 2010 to 7.63 billion euros, or $10.4 billion. This, as the country tries to meet goals set for 2020 as part of the Climate and Energy Package, which the EU approved in 2007. The package aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the amount of energy from renewable resources.

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Infographic: the Spanish economy at a glance

Reported and designed by Julia Moss

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Spain’s declining birth rate equals “a demographic winter,” say experts

Story by Olivia Sears

MADRID- A temporary security guard at a tire company, María del Valle Soto waited years to achieve the financial stability she felt she needed before starting a family. She put off having children to earn her degree in sociology from the University of Basque Country. Then, she wanted to find a stable job and eventually buy a house before she settled down.

Now 41, Valle Soto and her boyfriend, José Miguel Solas, 28, have no kids, are renting an apartment and work odd jobs to pay their bills. She feels she waited too long and that the chance to be a mother has slipped away.

“I was waiting for stability, and I never got to that point,” she said through a translator. “Now I am too old and realize I will never have children.”

Following the trend across the European Union, Valle Soto and an increasing number of women in Spain have decided against starting families, or, they are having fewer children. As a result, it is the only country in Europe projected to see a decline in population in upcoming years, which means its already-struggling economy will get worse, experts say, because there won’t be enough people to fill critical jobs.

Alejandro Macarrón, the general director and economic consultant for Demographic Renaissance, calls it a “demographic winter.” “In this type of society, democracy will be dominated by the elderly,” he said. His nonprofit organization, based in Madrid, seeks to raise awareness about the consequences of low birth rates and aging populations.

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Young Gypsies feel empowered, poised to break age-old stereotypes

Story by Amanda Hoover

MADRID – Taking shelter from the hot, empty, streets of his graffiti-scarred neighborhood, Cristian Motos Heredia sat in his living room, surrounded by family and photos of faraway places. The Eiffel Tower on a table cloth, the Brooklyn Bridge aglow against the Manhattan skyline on the wall, bright red double-decker buses in gray London streets behind him. He’s never been to any of these place, but he would love to see them all.

“I want to achieve something with my life, step by step. I want to have new experiences,” Motos Heredia, 16, said through a translator. “Usually, Gypsies are set to be venders. I want to be something beyond that.”

Inside Motos Heredia's apartment, he spends a lot of time with his close-knit family. Here, he sits with his father, mother and grandmother. Photo by Amanda Hoover.

Inside his apartment, Cristian Motos Heredia spends a lot of time with his close-knit family. Here, he sits with his father, mother and grandmother. Photo by Amanda Hoover.

The teen lives with his parents, grandmother and three younger siblings in an apartment in Orcastias, a primarily Gypsy neighborhood in southern Madrid. In one of the poorest areas of the city, there are few opportunities to pursue an education or save money for travel, but Motos Heredia has found a way.

This October, he will participate in Miss Gypsy, a beauty competition for women and men that seeks to empower young Gypsies, known as Gitanos in Spain. Making up one of the most oppressed minority groups in the country, many Gitanos live in concentrated, lower-socioeconomic communities and have struggled for centuries to integrate themselves into mainstream Spanish culture. Discrimination and a history of exile has plagued many of these Spaniards who remain without a voice, misunderstood and encumbered by stereotypes.

“They tend to be of a very particular status. There’s no question that there is historical deprivation in access to education,” said Yaron Matras, author of the 2014 book, I Met Lucky People: The Story of the Romani Gypsies. “There’s a very distinct sense of identity. They don’t even use the term Roma to refer to themselves and there’s many issues of culture that have changed.”

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Despite efforts, anti-Semitism is practiced openly in Madrid

Story by Emily Pollak

MADRID – On a wild Saturday night in late May, thousands of chanting, screaming soccer fans fill the streets to support their local team, Real Madrid, as it plays for the championship in neighboring Portugal. But in the midst of the revelry, a disturbing symbol emerges. The swastika. Hundreds cheer around a man waving a flag bearing this universal symbol of anti-Semitism and hate. Nobody does a thing, or seems to care.

A Nazi flag is displayed as Real Madrid fans celebrate near the Bernabéu Stadium before the start of the UEFA Championship finals, on May 24 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid's now-disbanded hooligan group Ultras Sur has a long history of strong anti-semitism and violence.

A Nazi flag is displayed as Real Madrid fans celebrate near the Bernabéu Stadium before the start of the UEFA Championship finals on May 24 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid’s now-disbanded hooligan group Ultras Sur has a long history of strong anti-Semitism and violence. Photo by Maria Amasanti.

It has become an increasingly familiar sight in the capital city of Spain, a country with a history of showing hostility toward Jews. And not surprisingly, as a result, the rise of white power groups has unnerved human rights advocates, business owners and members of the region’s Jewish community, a minority that represents less than 1 percent of the population.

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Madrid’s aging LGBT population will soon have a safe, accepting home

Story by Jessica Mendoza

Though still energetic at 60, Elianne Garcia Ruiz can already foresee the struggles of growing old as a transsexual woman.

A former night shift attendant at a home for the aged, Garcia Ruiz has witnessed firsthand the kinds of abuses that elderly lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals receive from workers and other residents: Sexist slurs, she said, are only the most common. She recalled a lesbian married couple leaving the residence because they had been forced to live separately. Garcia Ruiz later learned that their relationship had made an employee, who saw them kissing in their room, uncomfortable.

“In normal residences, they label you,” Garcia Ruiz said through an interpreter. She declined to name the institution, located fewer than 30 miles from the capital, where she had worked for five years.

The alternative to living in a group home, however, is a lonely one. Garcia Ruiz has neither a partner nor family and is by herself in an apartment in the small city of Robledo de Chavela in greater Madrid.

Her situation is not unusual. About 42,000 LGBT people above the age of 65 reside in Madrid, based on calculations using a 2011 study by UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute. Many of those people have little support.

Federico Armenteros, president of the December 26 Foundation, at the organization's headquarters in Madrid. Photo by Maria Amasanti.

Federico Armenteros, president of the December 26 Foundation, at the organization’s headquarters in Madrid. Photo by Maria Amasanti. 

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Match is a tale of two teams, one city, for fans in Madrid

Story by Danny Mortimer, with Bryan King and Julia Moss

MADRID – Outside City Hall late Saturday night, a man is on his knees, hands over his face, head pointed toward the sky as if in prayer. The screaming fans running past barely notice. They’ve got enough to think about. Real Madrid has won the championship in one of the most unexpected and anticipated contests ever between this city’s greatest rivals.

The party, which began hours earlier, shows no sign of stopping. “My family, my family,” the man on his knees repeats. “Congratulations, my family.”

Amid the celebration following Real Madrid's EUFA Championship celebration in the streets of Madrid, Eugiano Maloto was so overcome with emotion he dropped to his knees and prayed. Photo by Danny Mortimer.

Amid the celebration following Real Madrid’s UEFA Championship celebration in the streets of Madrid, Eugiano Maloto was so overcome with emotion he dropped to his knees and prayed. Photo by Danny Mortimer.

For more scenes from Madrid during the UEFA Final, click here.

For a commentary on covering the UEFA Final, click here.

Hours earlier, the battle lines were drawn. On every street and in every bar near the Plaza Mayor, the solid white of powerhouse Real Madrid can be seen alongside the striped uniforms of their scrappy, underdog neighbors Atlético Madrid.

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Famed font brings tradition to modern city

Story by Mackenzie Nichols

SALAMANCA – Look up. Look to the left, to the right. Look under awnings, on store signs, on the ropes that corral people in museums, even on people’s flesh.

Just about everywhere in Salamanca, it’s easy to spot the pervasive red lettering that brands this city, tying its past to its present with a unique and unmistakable red gothic font.

This victor symbol and corresponding text was written in 2005. The victor symbol is more horizontal with the ‘c’ and ‘r’ on either side of the ‘v’ and the ‘s’ of the font is much more slanted.

This Victor symbol and corresponding text was written in 2005. The Victor symbol is more horizontal with the ‘c’ and ‘r’ on either side of the ‘v’ and the ‘s’ of the font is much more slanted.

Known now as simply “Salamanca,” the lettering originated inside the ancient University of Salamanca, where rights of passage were fiercely honored among Spain’s male intellectual elite. Here, inside the stone walls that formed the country’s oldest university, boys who arrived to study subjects such as law, theology, economics and medicine left as men only when they earned the Vitor, a symbol designed around a large “V” for “victory” that would be written onto a wall along with the student’s name and date of graduation.

If that’s not intriguing enough, consider this: The writing was painted on with bull’s blood – both because a bull, then and now, represents power and dominance in Spain, and also because the dark red liquid stained the porous sandstone walls enough so that the symbols endured. Students and teachers would use blood from the corridas, or bullfights, and local meat shops – plentiful here because Salamanca has more bull farms than any other region in Spain.

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