SANTANDER: CLOSER INTERACTIONS WITH LOCALS
After our Asturian adventure, it was time we moved upper north, to Santander. We woke up early in the morning, had a quick breakfast and rushed with our luggage outside the hotel, where our ever-punctual driver was already waiting. One of the challenges we faced during the whole trip was the fast pace in which everything was happening and the necessity to always be ready for two things: dynamic activities (street actions, debates) or moving on to the next city. When the bus began moving, the clock indicated 7.30 in the morning: just in time for our 3-hour trip which would bring us to Santander’s university campus before lunch, for the beginning of our street actions.
No sooner had we arrived, then we started our campaign. Our goal? Besides the elections, promoting 2 workshops organised for students, in the framework of the project: one on the European Parliament, held by a renowned law professor, and another one on the importance of voting, to be delivered by the Y Vote team members, in the afternoon.
Building on our positive experience in A Coruña, we decided to have at least one table with promotional materials in the campus, for more visibility. Such logistical details seem easy to arrange, but in fact, the different contexts in which we operated (e.g. different university rules, available stands/tables), made it somewhat more challenging than one would think. Fortunately, Santander didn’t pose any problems from this point of view, so we did manage to have our table, located strategically, right outside the university.
Again, promoting the elections among sceptical youth was every bit discouraging as it was rewarding, when we managed to make our point heard and understood. As we often discussed, knowing exactly the proportions of our impact would be very difficult to achieve. However we had no doubt that this but tour was both necessary and useful, as we witnessed how people change their minds once faced with good arguments on the importance of active citizenship.
An hour later, we entered the university for the first workshop of the day. Due to the exams being held on the same day, not many students could attend it. The presentation held by professor Oginoga however, was interesting and useful for us too, as we got the chance to ask questions we were often asked by Spaniards themselves, during our street actions. Time passed quickly, and the afternoon ended with the second workshop on the importance of voting. This was an opportunity for Spaniards to ask precisely those questions that fed their scepticism and discouraged them to vote: why would they care about a Parliament which seems to be so far away from the citizens? Why should they care about the EU when Spain itself is going through such a crisis? Why would they vote when in fact they can only do so for lists and not specific EP candidates? All these questions were answered – we hope – in a manner that showed people that we should not “dessert” as citizens in lack of a perfect society, but work with what we have and contribute to its improvement. Choosing the lesser evil is sometimes better than not choosing at all.
Finally, the day ended with a debate among politicians, Spanish citizens and us. The agenda was filled with the usual subjects: economic crisis, democratic gap and – during the open space – specific concerns regarding Spanish politics. As usual, there was a mixture of disillusionment and hope in the questions posed and the comments made. Difficult to point determinately towards one direction or the other. From this point of view, all our interactions with citizens – be they during street actions, workshops or debates – constantly showed that we were swimming in murky waters: with no particular reasons to become too pessimistic but not many reasons for optimism either. Just with the certainty that we have to go on and do our best, no matter what.
Lavinia Manea, AEGEE Bucuresti – EU Affairs Trainer/Content Responsible