• When I was a child, I remember my father jokingly asking me: “Can you list the Twelve Gothic Kings of Spain?” Of course, I couldn’t, as I’d never had to learn them in school. However, he could still recall their names.

    This list of Gothic Kings has come to encapsulate how Spaniards view their education system. Many believe that the traditional methods of education, based around the teacher and focusing on memory and content, is better than the modern system, centred on students and creativity, with an emphasis on processes rather than results.

    Of course, our idiosyncrasies and our history don’t help. We look at the Spanish PISA results, and at those of Nordic countries and think, ‘Why can’t we be like them?’ But we have a different education system in every region, as well as different regional languages, and regulatory changes occur almost as often as changes of government.

    But while I may have been educated in a system that no longer prioritises memory as much as my father’s, we tend to ignore the broader picture. The past is no better, and we have made a huge leap forward: before, education was mandatory only until the age of 14, and only 6% reached university level. Now, it is compulsory to stay in school until the age of 16 and the number of university students continues to grow.

    In fact, the two models shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, as each has its benefits. Contrary to the narrative that the younger generations are reading less, data show that the reading rate among Spaniards has increased by 5.7 points in the last ten years, with a particular increase among adolescents.

    Despite the narrative that teachers are now too lenient with students, allowing them to pass courses with ease, Spain’s dropout and grade repetition rates are still among the highest in Europe. This is the biggest problem the country has to solve in education.

    Another issue is that more teenagers want to go to university and study in their home country, but then leave to work abroad. Maybe the education system is functioning well, but there are few opportunities afterwards.

    Should Spain consider a degrowth in tourism? This is the view of many people who are angry about drunken holidaymakers taking over cities and their attractions, as this bitter tweet from a Barcelonian shows.

    Spain, once a country where tourism meant money and development, is reaching a tipping point. It’s not that it doesn’t want tourists any more, but some places have reached a limit.

    In certain locations the government is now calling for ‘quality tourism’ instead of ‘drunken tourism’, which activists say is a euphemism for ‘rich people tourism’ and won’t solve the problems that the tourism industry causes to nature, cities and rising house prices.

    The blame lies not with the tourists (according to one report, even the tourists in Barcelona think there are too many of themselves), but with the local administrations: they opt for ever-increasing numbers of tourists, instead of the less popular measures of restricting business.

    What can they do? Control the time visitors can spend at monuments and sights, refuse to grant new licences for rental accommodation and, in extreme cases, limit the number of tourists.

    In the general elections on 23 July the Spanish right party won the most seats in the Parliament, but without a majority to form a government. This leads to a deadlock or the re-launch of a left-wing-led government with the support of a myriad of regional parties. Jaime Coulbois, Spanish political analyst, explains why.

    So the results in the Spanish elections surprised many, including the pollsters. What happened?

    Before I start, a parenthesis: on Sunday, I was positive about an absolute majority for the [right-wing] People’s Party (PP) and [far-right] Vox. But it seems that the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) government has been able to resist: the PSOE’s management has borne fruit, and the fear of political pacts with the far-right Vox helped the PSOE to get the “tactical vote”.

    If the nationalists parties like Bildu (País Vasco independence supporters, far left) or the Catalan nationalists had made strong statements during the campaign, it would have made things more difficult for PM Pedro Sánchez. Without that, and with the nationalists seeming more rational than Vox, it’s more complicated for the right to get its narrative about the nationalists across.

    When Pedro Sánchez won in 2019, he heralded a ‘red wave’ in Spain and in Europe. But after his defeat in the local elections in May, analysts talked of a ‘change of cycle’ to the right that didn’t materialise.

    There is no contradiction in the fact that there is a social tendency towards the right, even the far right, but it’s still not enough to win a majority to form a government, especially in a polarised society like Spain. We are seeing attitudes that we would never have seen a few years ago: from Spanish nationalism to Francoist remembrance.

    How was this avoided in Spain, when we see it all around Europe?

    This discourse that previously was hidden has increased in public. But that’s not incompatible with the general public opinion. Spain is an exceptionally tolerant country regarding LGBT rights, and the immigration problem is very different from the rest of Europe: our migration does not have the strong cultural, linguistic and religious barriers that are in other European countries, and tensions with immigration may not have surfaced yet.

    In understanding police violence and its psychology, the United States has more expertise than its European counterparts. Paul Hirschfield is a Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, who has studied police accountability.

    Is there a psychological aspect of being part of a police force that explains police violence?

    Police violence can often be explained by group psychology. Violence is also a procedural reaction: it is coerced, encouraged or enabled in different situations.

    Many aspects of police activity evoke an “us and them” mentality. First, the police are an isolated, paramilitary organisation. Its performance is often judged by adherence to procedures and incentives of which the public has little knowledge. The police often feel that the public, especially their critics, do not understand their work.

    The everyday reality of unrealistic or ambiguous policies that inevitably lead to police misconduct, combined with external scrutiny, fosters a culture of teamwork and solidarity but also makes officers more prone to cover up for each other’s mistakes.

    Is it possible to avoid this mentality?

    When it comes to policing disadvantaged or oppressed communities, eroding the boundaries between the police and the public can help. The isolated paramilitary structure may be useful for some purposes (like reducing corruption and increasing internal accountability) but it does little to foster empathy across cultural barriers and promote trust from the public.

    What would you suggest to tackle the phenomenon?

    This would require time and significant changes in centralised police forces. The preferred approach is the Scandinavian. The long training (three years in Finland, for example, as opposed to the short training in the US) at highly selective national police academies provides an opportunity to fully instill a spirit of national service and equality in police officers (not to mention ample training in tactical alternatives to violence). I don’t think it is a coincidence that in France, where issues of police and inter-community hostility are so prominent, police officers receive relatively short training, averaging nine months.

    “This country is a great tomb. When you hear political leaders saying that our great national poet was Federico García Lorca, they forget to say that he is a forced disappeared. This is significant. If the wounds are not cauterised, it is impossible to heal them. Generating truth, justice and reparation are basic elements for the country to move forward.

    One of the great causes of the extreme polarisation we are experiencing in Spain is that these wounds have never been closed. And the problem is not only silence, but the lack of memory, or the false memory of what happened. Because to generate transparency is not to generate revenge.”

    Miguel Martínez del Arco is the son of the woman who spent the longest time in jail during Franco’s dictatorship, a sentence of almost two decades. Against the voices that say the war is a ‘closed chapter’ of Spanish history and the country should ‘move on’, the victims claim that this is not possible without memory.

    Is it possible to “kidnap” an entire organisation? The Spanish government accuses the opposition of seizing control of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ).

    The body, which oversees the judiciary in the country, has been operating on an interim basis for more than 4.5 years, or 1,643 days, as parliament cannot agree on the election of its new members.

    The mandatory reelection needs a 3/5 majority in both houses of the Spanish parliament, meaning the two main parties, the governing Socialists and the Conservatives, must agree on the 20 members. Until then, members appointed from nine years ago are (mostly) staying in their posts. Such a decision might not happen before the snap elections this July.

    If you are not from Spain, you probably don’t know that one prevailing Spanish characteristic is that we hate ourselves. While the French have their ‘chauvinism’ and the UK is still nostalgic for the spoils of its Empire, the Spanish keep flogging themselves.

    But there is a revisionist trend of trying to stir this spiritual self-sabotage. Into this scenario arrives the racist abuse against Real Madrid winger Vinicius Jr.

    A quick recap: On 21 May, during a La Liga match against Valencia, Vinícius Jr. was subjected to racial slurs from Valencia supporters. This incident incited a broader conversation on racism within La Liga.

    In Spain, there have been many — although sporadic — racist attacks against black football players. But the Vinicius Jr. case, given his and Real Madrid’s popularity, reached the foreign press. That is when the problems started.

    Spain must reflect on its racist attitudes. That’s a fact. Maybe not necessarily against black people (2.4% of the Spanish population), but mainly against other minorities, such as Arab, Roma or indigenous Latin Americans. The Spanish do not consider themselves racist, but evidence proves otherwise.

    But when we heard from the British press that the Spanish bid for the World Cup (with Portugal and Ukraine) may be in danger because of this incident, the reaction was uproar. We have been held us up against the mirror, and we didn’t like it. The British, the ones who exterminated the North American indigenous people, the ones that killed thousands in India… telling us that we’re racist?

    We were focusing on ‘how’ Spain was being scolded, and not examining the ‘why’. I understand that we don’t want to be told from outside, but the question is still real: is there place for racism in Spanish society? We should listen to our Spanish black, Roma or Arab communities, and maybe we’ll be surprised.

    The largest Spanish cities are choosing divergent paths to follow in the future. Madrid and Barcelona face similar challenges, especially in terms of access to housing, rising rents and the explosion of tourist apartments.

    This phenomenon is mainly caused by Airbnb, but not only. Even though the diagnosis is similar, the cure for tackling the problem is widely different in the two cities.

    Barcelona, in the hands of a former housing activist Ada Colau, has been trying for years to achieve what her supporters call ‘a more liveable city’, with a series of measures limiting the numbers of tourist apartments. Since 2015, the city has imposed a moratorium on the construction of new tourist apartments. Since 2017, the city has established quotas for tourist apartments in the most at-risk areas, limiting the issuing of new licences.

    Madrid, which has been in the hands of the conservative PP since 2019, has taken a different path: no regulation of tourist rentals.

    The restrictions in Barcelona and the “laissez-faire” attitude in Madrid have had an effect: last February, Madrid registered an increase of 9.3% in tourist apartments compared to the same month in 2022, while Barcelona registered a 25.1% decrease, according to the National Statistics Institute.

    But for Barcelona, the problem remains: apart from being one of the most visited cities in Spain, just a month ago a real-estate company found a legal loophole, backed by the Judicial Court, that allowed the firm to transform 140 apartments in the same building into accommodation for tourists. The case caused an uproar and showed one of the biggest problems still facing Barcelona: the limitation of what a city can do without a national strategy.

    Meanwhile, the ‘turismofobia’ (hate for tourists) is growing. This is a paradox in the second-most-visited country in the world, where tourism accounts for 12% of the GDP. What the residents are seeing, however, is that neighbourhoods are less occupied by longtime residents… and instead with tourists.

    Since this March, it only takes four months to legally change your gender in Spain. Parliament has passed a LGTBQ protection law that keeps Spain on track to be one of the most progressive countries in LGTBQ issues, at least on paper.

    In the past, a trans person needed a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and two years of hormone therapy. Now, all you have to do is inform the civil registry that you want to change your gender, come back three months later and wait another month. This avoids the “pathologisation” of trans people.

    “Grandparents helping their children become independent or paying for their grandkids’ school is proof the system doesn’t work. This year, my pension will grow by 8.5%, but you will probably not get a pay rise, and if you do, it will be 3% at most.

    It is unfair that we still get better and better pensions: just for starters, I have bought my house, while my son loses 40% of his salary on rent.”

    Mariano Guindal, 72, is a pensioner from Barcelona who feels privileged. He receives the maximum pension (which is more than 3,000 euros per month), and it keeps increasing.

    But he feels this is unfair: in his opinion, the pensioners are a ‘protected’ social group, spoilt by successive Governments for electoral purposes. In Spain, there are ten million seniors, which means ten million voters out of a total of 36 million.