Sunday, April 23, 2006
Another Saturday, another protest
Actually there were six yesterday, and that's just in Madrid. The biggest was in the Plaza Mayor where thousands (5,000? 12,000? The process of counting demonstration participants is an art in Spain that, despite its clearly stated formulae, produces wildly divergent results) of Guardia Civil called on Zapatero to fulfill his campaign promise and de-militarize their organization.
A lot of ink has been spilled about this country's astonishly rapid social and political changes. Just the other day a friend and I were reminiscing about the fact that when we started coming to Spain in the 80's, the toilet paper had the consistency of crepe paper and was, for reasons I never discovered, usually mauve in color. And of course there are more serious changes as well, the things that long-time visitors say they never thought they'd see: gay marriage, domestic violence courts, trains that run on time, bare midriffs.
Yesterday's protest ranks right up there. Long before Franco came to power, the Guardia Civil, with their signature patent-leather hats, were a feared mechanism of state control; under Franco, they were nothing short of an instrument of state-sponsored terror. For however many thousands of them to be demanding that, effectively, they be stripped of certain kinds of power (admittedly in exchange for others: demilitarization means that they'll be able to form associations and join unions), well, that's an astonishing thing indeed.