Background

Southern Spain provides a very clear illustration of the effects of the economic crisis.  Five years ago, people had work.  The bars and cafes were full.  People got paid on time, and the standard of living, although lower than in the United States, was quite comfortable and considerably higher than that of the previous generation.  Unfortunately, as in the United States, a great deal of this comfortable standard of living depended on credit.

Then came the crisis.  Credit sources dried up.  People lost their ability to borrow and the very high housing prices of the time led to a huge decline in the housing market. Construction firms, one of the mainstays of the economy in the 1980s and 1990s, closed down, throwing thousands of people out of work.  The foreigners who had been encouraged to come to Spain to work in the building trades were the first to go, but native Spaniards soon followed in their wake.

Spain’s city governments, which had invested heavily in housing construction, found their sources of revenue drying up.  Corruption in many local governments, combined with bloated civil service salaries and laws that made it difficult to trim civil service rolls, led to delayed paychecks.  The number of tourists—a major industry—dropped off dramatically. Southern Spain was hardest hit.

  Production stills; enjoy.