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Notes from abroad: ‘Occupy’ Abroad

In every country I have visited thus far, I have always experienced a moment of disillusionment, when I realize that my wondrous destination is also affected by hardships and inequality. In Spain, I was sure that this moment would come while watching the 5 million-strong protests on unemployment. To put those into perspective, Spain’s population is only slightly larger than California’s. It has the highest unemployment rate of any industrialized country.

 

I imagined that I would see a small sect of protesters working against the government and a larger number of citizens who would disagree with their claims.

 

Then, on Oct. 15, I walked out my door to Gran Via, the largest street in Madrid, planning to go on a peaceful run. Instead, I ran into a seemingly endless stream of protesters who had closed down the road and migrated toward the Plaza del Sol. Signs were held high, people played instruments and danced among the discontent. Yet it wasn’t angry. It was about positive sentimientos, to show what was wanted, but not to dwell on the wrong.

 

In Spain, the protests are not new. They have gone on here since May 15. For months, thousands of protestors camped out in Plaza del Sol, crowding the streets to such a degree that they became impossible to traverse.

 

In addition to this particular movement, protests have been conducted against cuts to public education. Whole families, including babies in strollers, wore green T-shirts reading “Escuela publica: de todas para todas” (“Public school: of all for all”).

 

These protests are not considered fringe movements and are embraced by the majority of Spaniards.

 

Like everywhere else, there are things that must be fixed. But my love of this country has not wavered, and I can’t imagine a better educational experience.

 

— Kara Murray

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