Sevillanos love to express their outrage and enjoy a bit of fun at the same time. The typical protest is leisurely and sociable. Participants usually gather “very early,” around 9:00 in the morning, parade the streets for an hour or so, stop for coffee at 10:30, resume 11-ish, break for lunch at 1:30, and after that they call it a day. When sterner measures are deemed necessary, they put up tents in front of City Hall and camp out for days, sitting around on folding chairs drinking beer and chatting with likeminded friends for hours on end.
Every Spaniard I talked to agreed the general strike would change absolutely nothing; mainly it was a way to vent the national frustration with the economic crisis. Many feared inflammatory images in the media would discourage tourists, devastating the economy still further. A friend in the travel industry told me, “If there is even one article in the international press about a street riot in Seville, I am out of business.”
It’s easy to become alarmed at reports about other parts of the world, especially when you can’t balance them against the full social context. No one wants to take foolish chances wandering into danger zones, but we also don’t want to overreact to the situation or fall victim to an overzealous reporter putting an alarming spin on the facts. When in doubt, I check the US State Department travel website, which is, if anything, overly quick to issue warnings and alerts.
If you’re planning to visit Seville any time soon, you’ll be glad to hear that the State Department can’t find a single worrying thing to say about Spain, beyond the usual warnings about pickpockets, etc. The bad news is, you’ve already missed the firefighters disrobing in the main plaza to Chupa la Gamba. But don’t worry, I’m sure plans are already underway for even more creative protests. And who knows, maybe next time, they’ll go the Full Monty.