The latest spectacles to replace an everlasting stream chat shows on Spanish television are protests. These protests are taking place in one of Europe’s richest neighbourhoods. The Salamanca district in the centre of Madrid.
Throughout the week various numbers of Spaniards have taken to the neighbourhood’s streets during the allotted exercise time, but they have not respected social distancing measures. The Ralph Lauren clad, golf stick wielding protesters are angry at Spain’s government for being oppressive and dictatorial. Yet, they are not fighting against public cuts or war, but against the quarantine which is protecting our country’s citizens against a worldwide pandemic.
In what has become like the country’s own Eurovision song contest, every week the Ministry of Health looks at various statistics of the regions and decides if that area can move to the next phase of Spain’s plan to ease out of the quarantine. There are four phrases with each one giving just a little bit more freedom. Most of Spain has moved to phase one. However, Madrid along with Barcelona and several other densely populated cities in Spain remain in phase zero.
Last Sunday was the first night of the protests that has peaked with its own twitter account and daily national press coverage. Apparently, it started with a group of youths partying in the street whilst a young DJ played music. The police arrived and fined them, then residents started hurling abuse at the police. Throughout the week, what started out as something to laugh at on TV has spread to the north of the city. Similar protests were held over Europe, notably in the UK and Germany. Yet it is safe to say they probably were not wearing Louis Vuitton like in this neighbourhood.
Núñez de Balboa is the neighbourhood that the protests started off in. With residents that have on average 20,000 euros more in yearly income compared to the rest of Spain, and the richest 1% of the country living there, this neighbourhood isn’t just a little bit posh, it is the epitome of wealth. 80% of who voted for right-wing parties.
Salamanca was the first area to be built when the city took down its defensive walls. Build by the Marquis of the same name, the area has been a place for Madrid’s bourgeois to live since its inception. It hosts the Golden mile which flaunts shops such as Dior, Prada and the nicest Zara in Spain. The buildings sparkle a perfect white in the sun with beams of red and yellow hitting the surroundings as the nationalistic area has hung flags since the Catalan independence drive back in 2017. In fact, apart from the flags damaging the aesthetics, the neighbourhood has aged well because of its wealthy residents. Franco even ordered his army not to bomb it during the siege of Madrid, at the end of the civil war, as he knew his supporters lived there.
At the same time these protests happen, the Mayor of Madrid and President of the Comunidad both encourage this dangerous behaviour. This is for political reasons as tensions between the regional government and the central government reached peak this week when Madrid was refused to move to the next phase. No doubt Pablo Casado will use this against the government in next week’s debate over the month long extension of the state of alarm.