James Skinner on Spains' 24/7 drinking
'The kids wanted
drinks and music all night long. We live in a consumer society so we
give it to them
On the 29th of
June, six Spanish Civil Guards (the government police force) were beaten
up, two seriously, by a drunken mob of youngsters who had turned on them
when they tried to stop an early morning teenage brawl. This did not occur
in Madrid nor Barcelona, or any of the other major Spanish cities. I happened
in a small village called Ponte do Porto near Ferrol, birthplace of the
late General Franco. Early in the month, no further than a hundred miles
away, six youngsters were convicted with jail sentences for similar offences
against the police in the city of Pontevedra, northwest Spain. In both
cases, the under twenties had been on an all night drinking session, no
different from those that now take place on weekends throughout the whole
It all started around the mid eighties says Irene, a 30 plus
single mother. I remember how we used to go dancing and drinking
till dawn, especially on Saturday nights but only in the big towns. Things
have changed. Every little village now has a twenty-four hour drinking
come disco establishment. The new customers are younger and more aggressive,
Spanish university campuses were the first to invent what is commonly
known today as the Movement. Not, one would suspect,
an anti-government organisation but a yuppie trend that consisted
of visiting a series of bars on a Saturday evening, before retiring
to bed around mid morning on the Sunday, never to surface again
until Monday morning. A relief from the pressure of their studies,
they would argue. Innocent enough until it began to spread in
all directions. The first to catch on were the businessmen. The
kids wanted drinks and music all night long. We live in a consumer
society so we give it to them commented Paco, the owner
of a disco that opens at four in the morning. My particular
establishment takes over, when the others close. Hence the so-called
Next came the amphetamines. In order to keep going twenty-four hours non-stop,
the movers needed to stay awake. An illicit trade emerged.
Pushers of all sorts roamed the areas of nightly activity edging the youngsters
on by selling them uppers. Bars and disco owners soon caught
on and began to extend their licensing tentacles to include Friday as
well as Thursday night openings. Finally the disease spread to the suburbs
and on to the peripheral towns. Suddenly, every conceivable small neighbourhood
in Spain now has a building with a menacing pair of steel barred doors
overlooking the sidewalk, ready to explode outwardly at 5 oclock
on a Thursday morning. No need to hang up a WE OPEN AT 5 sign.
Everyone knows what it is.
The immediate consequences of this switching on and off over
a seven day period by todays Spanish youngsters, is apparent in
many different ways. Drunken violence is the most obvious as swarms of
tribal youths, emerging from an all night spree will either start a brawl,
or destroy public property. Drunken driving is also a problem although
the police have now increased their vigilance and many partygoers use
public transport. I have to put up with the odd vomit session, when
I take the little bastards home complained a night taxi driver.
But the most common problem is they have no money to pay the fare.
is the next culprit as more and more neighbours complain to the
authorities of deprived rest periods. There seems to be no
limit to the number of licenses handed out for this kind of business
activity complained the President of a Community of Owners,
that have a disco on their doorstep. First, its
the noise from the music, then, we have to put up with the shouting
and fighting outside our bedroom windows when they finally leave.
Its a never ending problem.
Parents are also affected, as they have no control on their childrens
outings. Most are hopeful that they will come back alive the next
morning. Some have given the kids a mobile phone so that they can
call in case of emergency. Others go to bed and set the alarm clock
for just before dawn, to go and collect their all night
partying teenager at whatever turns out to be the last stop.
Health is another of societies worries regarding the Movement.
The frightening thought is the long term effect, says
Dr. Albo, a paediatrician. The original movers
of the mid eighties are now in their mid to late thirties. Its
when they reach their fifties that the signs of a misspent youth
will start to emerge. Whatever the outcome, most doctors agree
that a continued weekly intake of alcohol, amphetamines and unbalanced
rest periods is bound to inflict damage on todays young Spaniards.
They have also predicted, as a lesser evil, an increase in premature
deafness due to the high level of musical decibels blasted out in
most of the all night discos.
So what about Britain? Hasnt the British government recently given
the green light to twenty-four hour pub licensing under the pretext that
drunkenness and its effects will be reduced? It will depend entirely on
how the legislation is controlled once the go ahead is given for publicans
to serve alcohol all day and night.
In the Spanish case, the law literally got out of hand. Far too many licenses
were issued without due consideration for the rest of society. Spanish
kids are now hooked on the Movement. Nevertheless,
what happened in Spain should serve as an example for the future of Britains
licensing laws but also for the possible effect on the drinking habits
of the whole population. The young in particular.
© James Skinner. 2001 (Who lives and writes in Vigo, Spain
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