Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ah, youth

Spanish jovenes have long gotten around drinking laws, parental supervision, and the high cost of clubs with the “botellon,” an open air gathering where participants bring their own booze and mixers, and just, well, hang out. (The word translates literally as “big bottle,” in reference to the liter-sized containers of beer often consumed.) But the “macrobotellon” is a new invention, one that was supposed to bring the better part of Spain’s youth into the street last night to party.

It started last month, when students in Sevilla used text messaging to spread the word about an outdoor party held to celebrate the end of exams. About 5000 kids showed up, and the celebration made the national news. Unwilling to be outdone, students in rival city Granada, declared their own “macrobotellon” for this weekend, promised 30,000 attendees, and again spread word of it via text messaging (The same medium was put to more serious ends two years ago when, the night before national elections, it called thousands out into the street to protest the Aznar government’s handling of the March 11th investigation).

Word of Granada’s challenge quickly leaked out to kids elsewhere in Spain, however, and 22 cities ended up hosting their own “macrobotellones” Friday night. A couple got out of hand: 24 people were arrested in Barcelona, and there were barricades and riots in Salamanca when the police tried to kick the kids out of one square. But on the whole, there wasn't much of a political message, unless "let's get wasted" can be considered a political message. (In fact, the mayor of Granada went on TV saying that the city had to respect young people's right to enjoy themselves, so there you go. Only in Spain). But in Madrid, the whole thing was something of a bust--rain and a heavy police presence made sure of that. Instead, the city's drunken youth all hung out where they normally do: right outside our apartment.


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