Our transatlantic cruise on the Carnival Breeze began in Barcelona, and made several stops in other Spanish ports before beginning the trek across the ocean. Unemployment is quite high in Spain right now, so in some areas we saw quite a number of beggars. They need to make a living somehow, and look to tourists as a means of acquiring money.
BEGGARS OF SPAIN
I’ve got to give the beggars of Spain credit for their creativity. In the US we often see people standing by the roadside with cardboard signs proclaiming things like “Need Help,” “Will Work For Food,” “Homeless and Hungry,” or “Down on My Luck.”
In Canada I once saw a beggar with two separate coin collecting boxes sitting in front of him and a sign that said “Who’s More Generous?” One box had a label saying men and the other women (the women box had more money in it.) At the time I thought he was pretty creative compared to the rest, but that was long before I ever went to Spain.
Walking along the beachside boardwalk in the Barceloneta area of Barcelona, we saw many intricate sand castles. Soon we noticed a collecting box with a few coins in it on the edge of the boardwalk by each castle.
In Palma de Mallorca we did not go to any beaches, but the beggars in the old part of town all had their own style. Some sold art or trinkets, but that’s nothing new. Others though, they dressed up in costumes that got weirder and weirder as we worked our way through town.
Initially we saw people near the La Seu cathedral dressed in some sort of costumes that looked like they belonged more in the Aztec area of Mexico. John took some pictures of the first one we saw. Most of the beggars we came across stayed fairly quiet, but that particular one quite aggressively panned for customers, and after John put a donation in his collecting tin for the photos the man loudly complained that it was not enough, keeping it up until he guilted John into giving him a bit more.
Then we saw a lady in a fancy old-fashioned dress. Walking through the touristy area of the old part of town we saw several “headless” people, one of which had a head for his collecting tin.
Above all other costumes, one very unique one stood out. A girl dressed all in gold sat in mid-air, her hand on a pole which provided her only contact with the ground. While she appeared to sit in mid-air, she had a long sleeve covering the arm of the hand holding the pole. She had a square of carpet under her, covering a support base to hold her pole.
On a closer look, it appeared that something went through her sleeve, an ingenious framework holding a seat which her clothes covered.
Other beggars perform as street musicians in hopes people toss coins their way in appreciation of the entertainment.
Pickpockets of Spain
Spain is notorious for having pickpockets. We did not lose anything there, but also did not wander the streets after dark, use public transportation, or go to the tourist areas they are most known for frequenting.
One scam that the pickpockets use is to hand unsuspecting tourists a sprig of rosemary and then either demand payment for it, or while they are in contact with you as you take it they pick your pocket.
We visited Malaga on a rainy day and did not see the beggars in their elaborate costumes there as we had in other places. That’s not to say Malaga does not have any, more likely begging in pouring rain is probably very miserable and not too profitable. We also did not go to any of the major tourist attractions where they would likely hang out in Malaga either.
Walking down the sidewalk in a rare non-raining moment on our day in Malaga, we did meet up with a couple women who tried to get us to take a sprig of rosemary. Having heard of this scam before we went there, we refused the rosemary and did not allow them to get close enough to touch us. They did follow us for a bit and try to insist we take it, but keeping a tight grip on our belongings and our distance from them we just as insistently said no until they finally left us to look for easier prey.