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A Spanish Tale of Two Cities

July 10, 2012

The Spanish city of La Linea is located next to British governed Gibraltar. As Spain’s economy slips into depression–unemployment is at 23 percent and 50 percent among youth–this border region is quickly becoming an experiment in comparative governance.

This frightening article from Der Spiegel offers a window into the diverging fortunes of these two adjacent cities:

The residents of La Línea de la Concepción are leaving, like rats deserting a sinking ship.

They’ve been crossing the border by the thousands since early morning, first the cleaning women, nannies and construction workers, and then the smugglers. They all want to get out of Spain, if only for a few hours. There is work across the border, in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, and work spells hope for a better life.

By around 11 a.m. on what promises to be a hot early summer’s day, the traffic jam on the Spanish side already stretches from the border, across the coastal road and back to the town hall, where Mayor Gemma Araujo is holding down the fort in her office on the second floor, which has a view of the caravan of commuters. Araujo is 33, a Socialist and the first woman in her position. It’s not exactly the most rewarding job in Spain. A “crisis tsunami” has reached La Línea, says Araujo, and the situation is more serious than ever before. “Our city isn’t bankrupt, but it’s close.”

The city hasn’t been able to pay its employees eight of their last nine monthly salaries. On this morning, the mayor found a sign posted opposite her office door with an unmistakable demand: “Pay or resign.” Her house was pelted with eggs and besieged by protesters, and the mob set fire to her secretary’s car.

  1. Carlos René permalink
    July 18, 2012 4:30 pm

    This goes to show that Geographic location and resources aren´t as important as the goverment administration.

  2. July 13, 2012 2:43 pm

    As far as I know, people from La Linea have always gone to work in Gibraltar – it isn’t specifically related to the current problems with the Spanish economy, although it is economic. That part of Spain was pretty poorly linked to the rest of the country and Gibraltar, with its economy supported by Britain was more prosperous and offered greater opportunities.

  3. Matt permalink
    July 11, 2012 3:03 pm

    Does this mayor have difficulty understanding what “bankrupt” _means_? Because clearly they are not “close” to being bankrupt…they’re there. And they’ve been there for at least 8 months.

    It really says something about the incompetence of Spanish government that the _British_ (at least, the British of 2012…as opposed to the sort of previous-generation Brits who made Hong Kong and Singapore the jewels of the Pacific Rim) look so good by comparison.

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