Spanish News November 2016

Boozy British Student 'Saloufest' Package Tours Scrapped

A Famous student festival on the Costa Dorada which attracts revellers from over 100 British universities every Easter will cease – ostensibly because of insufficient public service capacity, but thought to be more likely to be because 'drunken tourism' is becoming increasingly frowned upon in Spain.

The Saloufest, based in the seaside town of the same name, Salou, in the province of Tarragona, has been running for 16 years and has brought in around 100,000 visitors and €5 million.

"Pressure from Salou town council and the regional government of Catalunya in the last few years has made it practically impossible to carry on offering packages for youth tourism in the area," a travel company said.

A number of British students have already booked for next year, so up to 10,000 of them will be offered a place at the Sportsfest in Lloret de Mar (Girona province) instead.

Sorolla Sketch Breaks World Record

A colour sketch by 19th-century Valencian artist Joaquín Sorolla has broken the world record for the sale price of a picture of this size after fetching €218,000 at auction in London.

The painter, famous for his local and real life scenes which often show ladies in white on the beach, or farm workers in the countryside in and around his native city, was born in 1863 and lived to just 60, but was one of the icons of the so-called 'Generation of '98' in Spain – a time when art, music and literature reached a new peak of splendour despite the country's grim socio-economic situation provoked by the loss of several of its colonies which had started with Chile, Colombia and Venezuela around 40 years before Sorolla's birth.

The sketch-pad-sized water colour has only recently been discovered and was painted during Sorolla's short stay in the Basque Country in 1906. Titled Bajo los toldos. San Sebastián, the picture was created in a matter of days in the city of the same name from which Sorolla and his family had travelled directly from Biarritz, SW France, where the then 43-year-old painter had been carrying out a series of landscape studies on the coast featuring awnings, boats and elegantly-dressed men and women.

The painting had an initial estimate of between €46,500 and €70,000 as part of the series of lots titled 19th century, Victorian and British Impressionists and is one of several Sorolla created after heading to San Sebastián for his eldest daughter María to see a doctor based there.

Catalunya Votes To Hold Independence Referendum

Catalunya's regional Parliament has voted to hold a referendum on independence by September 2017 'at the very latest', with or without the blessing of the Spanish government.

The debate is part of a plan for a unilateral declaration on independence, which the regional government expects to become reality by around 2019 if the majority of residents and natives of Catalunya agree.

Spain's Investment In Mental Health Assistance

Spanish authorities spend less than the European average on mental health diagnosis, assistance and care, leading to a lack of resources for everything from depression and anxiety through to more serious pathologies such as schizophrenia.

Although the average spending in this area for the EU is 7% of the health budget, or €7 in every €100, Spain's own investment comes to just 5.5%, or €5.50 per €100.

One in four people in Spain will suffer mental health problems at some point in their lives. These tend to be the less serious but equally debilitating conditions such as panic attacks, phobias, depression and OCD, or personality disorders. The one in four also covers very life-limiting conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder and autism spectrum disorders.

Insufficient mental healthcare resources include long waiting lists, lack of day centres and other physical facilities and an absence of any 'active' therapy. Spanish people believe that, either a person can work like anyone else, or they can't work at all – there's no middle ground. The number of people with severe mental disorders in Spain who are actually working is vastly lower than in other countries and this erodes patients' self-esteem.

Grandson Of The 6th Earl Of Cawdor Facing Jail In Kenya

A descendant of the original MacBeth, Jack Marrian, 31, was held in custody in Nairobi before an initial court hearing which granted him bail, but which has since been overturned by a higher tribunal.

He is accused of smuggling 100 kilos of cocaine with a street value of around €225 million into the East African country from Brazil in a consignment of sugar in the back of a lorry. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) alerted its Spanish counterpart, the UDYCO, based in Madrid, which in turn called for its branch in Valencia to inspect the contents of 20 lorry containers.

Legionnaire's Outbreak In Salou

One tourist has died and six others have been treated following an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease at a hotel in Salou (Tarragona Province). The patients are all said to be aged between 50 and 82 and come from various parts of Spain and other EU countries.

They were all staying at the Hotel Jaime I in the Catalunya seaside town in September, but the case has only just come to light due to its having been reported, in accordance with standard procedure, to the relevant authorities in the region and in Europe. The hotel has been closed since October 2, when the diagnoses were reported.

Legionnaire's is a bacterial infection of the lungs and the virus is usually traced to air-conditioning and refrigeration systems.
Health authorities are carrying out a full investigation in the hotel to work out where the bacteria source is coming from.

'Trafficked' Birds Of Prey Finally Set Free

Falcons destined to be smuggled illegally from Spain to the United Arab Emirates are finally free from their 'traffickers' after five years.

A total of 101 live falcons and 11 dead ones were seized in 2011 and 16 people arrested in nine different provinces in Spain, all of whom belonged to a criminal gang which stole birds of prey and their nests in the wild.

Sheikhs in the UAE are prepared to pay €50,000 a bird, rising to as much as €200,000 for unique examples of their species. They bred Peregrine Falcon and Gyrfalcon crosses, aiming to produce birds with the endurance and stamina of the former and the sharp instincts of the latter, but if they had escaped or been set free in the wild, they would have become predators of Spain's own native species of falcons.

Seprona Seizes Monkeys

A racket breeding monkeys and selling them in pet shops has been busted in several parts of Spain and seven people arrested, with a further 25 facing charges.

Most of the animals seized were suffering from physical and psychological problems and other species confiscated included tortoises, coral, macaws, parrots, a boa constrictor and even a starling.

The 'environmental police', SEPRONA, part of the Guardia Civil, took away 25 monkeys, of which five were already dead and arrested one individual in Sevilla, two in Murcia and one each in Elche, Torrellano, Agost and Algueña. Raids were carried out in all these areas, as well as the provinces of Almería and Albacete.

The monkeys were bred in the homes of people connected to pet shops they were sold at, although some went to private buyers and they fetched between €1,800 and €2,000 each. At least 67 monkeys are known to have been sold at profits in excess of €130,000. Of these, 25 have been recovered and the rest are still being searched for.