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The Pain in Spain


By Borja Bergareche

MADRID—Antonio de la Calle, a 46-year-old priest who runs the church of the Patrocinio del Señor in the Vallecas neighborhood, has been playing God to avoid his neighbors’ descent into hell. In this working-class neighborhood of more than 300,000 people, the most extreme consequences of the economic crisis roiling Spain are transforming day-to-day life. The door of the church is never locked.

Last Easter, a man came in, heated and nervous. “Antonio, I can’t stand it any more. You have to help me. For two months I have heard my kid complaining that he is hungry. I’ve been unemployed for a year and a half. I’m no longer entitled to unemployment payments and my wife isn’t eligible for the emergency subsidy. Either you help me or I will start selling drugs at the corner. I cannot take it any longer.”

For weeks, Father Antonio used his own cash to keep this father of a hungry child away from crime. A few months ago, the man found a temporary job.

“It’s been a tough winter,” the priest explains. “People can’t get enough to eat. The worst is seeing kids evicted because their parents can no longer pay their rent.”

In Spain, 4.69 million people—20.3 percent of the workforce—were unemployed in 2010, according to figures published by the National Statistics Institute. The December 2010 average for the European Union was 9.6 percent, just above the 9.4 percent posted in the United States. Spain, with a population of 46 million, has lost more than 2 million jobs in the last two years— 623,000 in 2008, 1.21 million in 2009, and 238,000 in 2010, according to government statistics. 

[To read the rest of this article, click here.]


Borja Bergareche is the digital editor of ABC, one of Spain’s three main national newspapers.

[Image courtesy of flickr user cesarastudillo]


Anonymous's picture
The act of father Antonio

The act of father Antonio reminds us our duty towards mankind. Such article really invigorates our soul and inspires us to perform such selfless service. I believe, the person who gets such help will become a kind and responsible person for the rest of his life.

Anonymous's picture
The article shows the real

The article shows the real picture of our society. But the act of the father is beyond words of praise. Such act of humanity is very rare in this materialistic world. Hope this article inspires all of us to do such things and make this world more peaceful.

Anonymous's picture
Great article

This is, so far, the best English article written about the situation in Spain! Thank you! Wish you could add/elaborate on the effects of the recent elections after the public manifestation, and why the PP obtained more votes nationally. I would have expected to see, after the great mobilizations of the 15-M asking for political change, more similar results as those in the Basque Country, where minority political groups actually gained more seats.
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