Spain’s Lost Generation (The New Republic)
“They say we’re a lost generation. But it’s more like we’re a paralyzed generation,” Mario tells me over a beer on a sweltering Monday afternoon in Toledo. He is a twenty-five year-old Spaniard, and already his future prospects look unsalvageable. He holds a degree in visual communications, but irregular work and a negligible income have forced him to move back in with his parents. At the moment, he scrapes by working as a temp at regional post-offices, hoping each day that some employee might call in sick.
“I’m basically tied to my cell phone,” he starts to say. And for a fleeting second, as the words hang there in the sun-drenched Plaza Horno de Magdalena, he might be in New York, London or Berlin, lamenting some high-intensity job with around-the-clock demands. But when he motions to his phone, it’s not a blackberry. “I need to take anything I can get,” he continues, “and so when they call me the morning of or the night before, I go; wherever it is.”
Mario’s desperation is a familiar feeling: Unemployment in Spain is 25 percent, and youth unemployment hovers at double that. Of all the jobs lost to the country’s protracted recession, about half have come from the construction sector alone. Spain’s Castille-La Mancha—Toledo is its capital—is especially hard hit. The country’s flourishing construction industry helped support this desert-streaked region during the boom years. Union workers tell me that the chief business then was the manufacture of doors. It was a nondescript fact of life that now creaks with a grimly literary suggestion: Once a portal to other places and ascendant prospects, Castille-La Mancha is a hull of its former self.