This holiday season, I journeyed back to a country that has sustained a strong hold on me for more than 20 years: that rich, earthy, boisterous torchbearer of the Iberian Peninsula — Spain.
My father always said that in travel, the way to truly know a place is to visit its market, school, church, and hospital. It’s a mindset that goes beyond good restaurants and iconic landmarks; it takes you beneath the surface and gives your journey an authentic deep dive into a destination. I’d add an important addendum that seems intrinsic but bears stating forthrightly: talk to the people.
While in Spain this season, I spoke with locals from several regions of the country. In Barcelona, an incredibly popular tourist destination, Catalonians are frustrated that tax dollars raised in their region travel to the country’s capital and aren’t spent to support their community. The Basque struggle with government school requirements that students be taught in Euskera, when there aren’t enough teachers who speak the language. In general, housing is being bought up by Europeans from other countries, because prices in Spain are significantly lower than elsewhere in Europe.
One stark revelation I hadn’t anticipated came from a recent U.S. expatriate. He and his wife, who is half-Spanish, just bought a home in Madrid. The topic of unemployment came up, which I’ve followed as Spain has hovered between 15 percent and 25 percent unemployed for decades. I asked him what the jobless do. He said that those of the GenX age and above generally were able to find work, yet many in the next generation have yet to find careers. Caught in a sticky point of history, they’ve become somewhat of a “Lost Generation,” he said.
While these concerns are all uniquely Spanish, they reflect many challenges we face here: the struggle to maintain local control over tax dollars, to sustain quality services for the community, and to preserve a diverse, vibrant populace. See how Moonshine is dedicated to covering all these aspects, here. We are also looking down the barrel of a potential Lost Generation, not from a lack of jobs, but instead, housing.
Our region has become a landing place for people from the tech centers of the Bay Area and beyond, drawn by the lifestyle and housing that seems relatively inexpensive to them. There are advantages to this emigration but there is a real and imminent danger of it becoming extremely lopsided, of losing our community diversity. Keeping offices staffed was a real challenge this holiday season, according to conversations I’ve had with business owners or leaders across various industries — real estate, restaurants, hotels, retail, home services, and more.
As we embark on this new year, I encourage you to engage in genuine conversations with the people of your community. Ask your barista how he is doing, instead of treating him like a machine that makes coffee. Find out from the cable gal what challenges face her family. Inquire with your loan officer about where his staff lives and where they would prefer to live. Take a deep dive into your home community, as if you’ve dreamed of journeying to it, because it’s an unparalleled place and it’ll only stay that way with a united effort.