Category Archives: News

A Modern Pilgrim

A Modern Pilgrim

With compliments from the people of Madrid–    Arrives by plane or high speed train as not to burden the feet too much

–          Is offered a full package of 6 night’s accommodation including breakfast and dinner and participation in all the fun stuff for a maximum of 210 Euros. To keep the price so low, the host city generously offers to take care of the bulk of the charges, despite the worst economic crisis since the start of democracy.

–          Receives a brightly colored back pack full of literature, city guides, hats, t-shirts, rosaries, crosses and alcohol free beer (…) so generously sponsored by national companies who get a 80% tax reduction in return from the same government (economic crisis anyone?). And if the pilgrim then wears that backpack and t-shirt day after day like the good and obeying lamb he/she is, they will not be made fun off by the locals, at least not in public.

–          Gets all kinds of goodies like exceptionally low rates for public transport (isn’t it great to be generous with money that you do not own, city of Madrid?) and heavily discounted menus in restaurants local people can only dream of but have no access to because they do not happen to share the pilgrim’s beliefs.

–          Does not even need to use that discounted subway card, since the entire city centre is closed for traffic anyway during more than a week, a phenomenon not seen since the civil war. However, if the need for subway still exists, the locals will be more than patient to keep giving directions despite the specially designed metro plan for pilgrims and will promise not to laugh when despite all the help the wrong train is still taken by the pilgrim.

–          Arrives in great numbers, as in 500.000 or more, in order to have safety in numbers, overwhelm the local fauna completely and to get away with everything their clean and innocent minds can possibly think of since it will be impossible to sweep Sol clean with such a number of people on it.

Now, my Dear Pilgrim: can you please have the decency to

–          Not sing and scream in the street after midnight, especially not songs that contain the words ‘pope’, ‘benedict’ or ‘christ’ because some locals still need to work the next day and strangely enough cannot live on the faith of others alone. It is clear that you want to share your joy with the world but please do so during the day. In short, do not do here what you would not do at home.

–          Not go into the neighborhoods full of immigrants trying to convert them to your religion. That is just rude.

–          Not try to enter subway carriages with groups of 50 or more people in one go: it scares and annoys the locals. Also, keep the singing down to a minimum and do not sit on the floor; other people would like to move around as well and not have the feeling they have their underwear examined.

–          Not, never ever, block a protest that was approved of by the host city, even if the protesters aim to object to all the privileges you are given with money that the host city does not really have and that the locals are actually paying. This is called freedom of speech: everybody can express his opinions, just like you can sing yours. Also, please do not stay and watch how the square is cleaned of protesters shortly after by riot control police, not because the protesters were actually doing  something wrong, but only because the police grew tired of waiting for the protest to run its course (because the road was blocked by…yes,pilgrims) and decided to end it.

–          Not tell the locals how they should live their lives. Remember, you are a guest and basically live of your host’s pockets. Let them live however they see fit.

Lastly, I kindly request the host country to become a real lay state as soon as possible. It is time: this whole pilgrim thing is not what it used to be.


Madrid Primaries: Tomás or Trini?

and now for May 2011Half a dozen people stand outside the PSOE office in Chueca when it is starting to rain lightly. Would they all be standing in line to cast their vote for the primaries? THAT would be news. But no, they just stand outside chatting because inside the chairman of the voting committee has made it very clear that silence needs to be observed during the primaries of the PSOE in preparation of the local elections in 2011. This is serious business.

When I arrive the narrow street is being blocked by a small car. An elderly couple gets out, assisted by some party members. If you have trouble getting to the polling station on your own account, you can call in assistance and you will be picked up by a (red – of course) car. The ritual repeats itself a few times in the hours I am there. Every vote counts in preparation for the important elections for next year and for the attempt to change the current and traditional PP rule for both mayor and president of the Comunidad.

My friend – a fanatic volunteer and passionate PSOE member, monitoring the primaries on behalf of candidate Tómas Gómez – takes me to the bar next door and presents me to some of his colleagues. Why Tomás? Because he is a guy who actively consults neighborhoods and people (he was the highly successful mayor of Parla in the past), acts upon those outcomes and is not afraid not to follow official party lines. Trinidad Gómes –now the minister for health- on the other hand, IS the party. She says what PSOE says. Oh, and did we mention that Tomás was born in The Netherlands? I am not sure if this makes the man particularly suitable for the job, but it is nice to know anyway.

It becomes clear that the political part of these primaries takes place in the bar next door and on the street, not in the actual polling station. Slowly the bar becomes packed with older socialist party legends, middle aged members with wild hair and need of a gin tonic at 17:00, a whole array of gay supporters and us. There is only one topic: Tomás or Trini? It will be a very close call, listening to these people.

Madrid only has 18.000 registered members, but this seemingly internal party matter is broadly represented in the national press. This is not just the decision on a candidate for local elections, but also a reflection of party organization – so far the PSOE has managed to handle this in a very clean way-, on the overall strategy that will be taken for the future –Tomás’ insurgence in barrios or Trinidad’s more traditional style- on a possible end to a long PP reign: with just a bit of luck, the omnipresent Esperanza Aguirre will have to apply for a different job. The voters are in the spotlight on this grey and rainy Sunday, despite being so few. With the help of the socialist taxi, 75% of members will eventually make the trip to the ballot box.

A few hours later everything is over: the polling station I visited has chosen for Tomás but it was a close finish: 52,15% against 47,84% for Trini. Overall results are similar: 51,66% against 47%. Next appointment: May 2011.

In May 2011 elections will be held for the city and the Comunidad de Madrid. How can you cast your vote next May? If you are a citizen of the EU and you live in Madrid, make sure you are correctly registered in the central register (Padron Municipal de Habitantes). It is not difficult, but do it as soon as you can. Around the end of October or during November you will then receive a notification by mail that will inform you of the upcoming elections and asks if you want to participate. Sign the piece of paper and return it by mail. In the beginning of May, you will then receive your ballot, again by mail. On the day of the elections, go to your corresponding polling station and cast your vote.