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Spanish Rage and its Political Consequences

     Anthony Fernandes has forwarded to me a long report on the riots in a suburb of Almería, on the southern coast of Spain, known as El Ejido. It is an important producer of agricultural products, primarily tomatoes. "Ejido" is a cognate of the word "exit", meaning outside the city, and referred to commons used by the whole village. The word is now associated with a communal form of land tenure in Mexico, and I have never heard it is Spain.
     Tomatoes, an excellent and abundant food, should be a symbol of Mother Nature, but their abundance is the problem, since our system does not allow their shipment to hungry people. There is a fight for markets, and even in hungry Ecuador this fruit native to America has given rise to serious fights. In Spain one town in Valencia solves the problem by holding an annual and idiotic tomato battle it which a crowd happily pelts each other with them, producing a kind of blood bath.
     The weather is the villain. Since tomatoes mature early in southern Spain, French farmers stop trucks carrying loads of them to France and dump the cases on the highway. This leads to Spanish complaints to the European Union. Tomatoes mature earlier in Morocco than in Spain, so recently in Almería farmers did the same thing to trucks transporting tomatoes through Spain.
     Add to this the atavistic Spanish hatred and fear of the Moors, preserved in the warning "Moors on the coast!" The Spanish still refer unkindly to the North Africans as "Moros," rather than "Marroquíes." The phrase originally referred to Moorish invaders, but now the Moors who arrive are mostly desperate people looking for work and crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in frail boats known as "pateras." Spaniards refer to them as "mojaditos," a mocking translation of "wetbacks." Hitherto the policy had been to deport those captured, but the Spanish government has now been trying to regularize the situation of those already in Spain. Their willingness to work for low wages created resentment among Spanish workers, which recently led to riots in Catalonian industrial centers. Employers are happy to have them, and most of the farm workers in El Ejido were African.
     As in Northern Ireland, one incident can spark major riots. This happened in El Ejido. The spark was the killing of a Spanish woman by a mentally deranged Moroccan. There were violent riots against the "Moors," who went on strike. To pacify them, the government announced plans to remedy the miserable conditions in which the "Moors" live.
     Spain has boasted of its racial tolerance, but know a movement was arising similar to that of Le Pen in France and Haider in Austria. "Twenty-five years after the death of the nationalist military leader Francisco Franco, Spain is facing a resurgence in far-right fascist activity by youths seeking a return to the "racial purity" and "moral order" preached by the Generalissimo. Fascist groups, whose symbol is the old Franquista flag, featuring a black eagle in place of the shield on today's Spanish flag, propagate their hatred via rock music and the Internet. (In fact, authorities in El Ejido say the recent violence was organized through a neo-Nazi Internet campaign.)
     Neo-fascism in Spain is also gaining access to the political system. After the Ejido outbreak, Jesus Gil, football tycoon and ultra-conservative mayor of the southern city of Marbella, said his Grupo Independente Liberal (GIL) would challenge Prime Minister Aznar's center-right Popular Party in the upcoming March elections. "I have never been more convinced that we lived better under Franco," Gil told a rally of supporters in Madrid, vowing to clean up the Spanish political system and defend Ceuta and Melilla, Spain's colonies in northern Morocco.

Ronald Hilton - 2/17/00