Something funky has been brewing in Madrid the past year or so. With the total crash of the Spanish economy — regardless of the denials of the government — I have noticed a remarkable increase in homelessness and vagrancy, especially where I live in Chamberi. Now the benches in the Plaza de Olavide and along the streets of Chamberi are frequently crowded with winos from Eastern Europe. With the fall of the construction industry which brought in hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, similar scenes will most likely increase.
My neighborhood has been safe and peaceful since I moved there eight years ago. But just a few months ago a man was shot a few blocks from my house, and then early this morning a stray bullet hit two pedestrians (in front of Iurgi, Juan Pablo and Jacobo’s place). Spain (like the rest of Europe) is not home to a firearms culture and simply does not have the huge gun violence that we get in the U.S., so these types of trends are definitely disturbing. The extemists will blame the insecurity on immigration, but have surely forgotten how the streets were more dangerous in the 80s and early 90s when there were no immigrants but plenty of Spanish petty thieves. Nevertheless, the destruction of employment we’re now witnessing, especially in the construction sector, will most likely continue to prove negative not just economically but also socially.