I HAVE been coming to Spain now for many years, and lived in Valencia between 2003 and 2010.
On this my latest visit, I have travelled from Madrid to Sevilla, Sevilla to Jerez and from there to Estepona, where l have now been for two weeks.
No doubt street begging is on the increase in all the places I have been. It should come as no surprise, given that so many people are struggling to survive.
I thought I would share my observations, (which may be more acute as I am travelling alone) and I would like to point out here that I don’t wish to offend anyone, and that it is my first time in Estepona and I find it very pleasant, with its winding back streets, jovial Spanish and the long stretch of beach.
I also need to say that I have a modest house in the UK which I have rented out to fund my travels for six months, and that I am staying in cheap hostels on a tight budget, but I realise by many standards I am ‘well off’. I am merely commenting on the various methods I have seen used by the ‘beggars’ they go about trying to relieve people of their euros.
Or to put it another way, which of the following are genuinely ‘in need’, and which are, to put it politely ‘scamming’ a gullible public?;
The man who places a lighter on the table you are sitting at with a photocopied note saying how he has three children, no work and his wife is ill. When you don’t respond he takes the note and the lighter away. I have seen this man over the last fortnight riding round on his pushbike stopping at every bar, cafe and restaurant.
The woman who simply walks from table to table with her hand out, mumbling something about having three children, and ‘comida’. She could not in any way be described as emaciated.
The stumbling, unkempt man who actually tries to take the tip you have left on the table, often accompanied by a poke of his finger on ones’ shoulder.
The woman sitting outside the supermarket with a plastic cup.
The man who plays accordion with great skill, then walks round asking for money (this is different I think, as he is actually adding to the ambiance, so it is busking rather than begging so perhaps shouldn’t be included in this list?).
Maybe all of the above are only doing these things because circumstances have forced them to. And it begs (!) the question, is the tourist morally fair game? Here I am/we are. Enjoying our cafe con leche, our vino or our lunch, and what is a euro to us here or there? Am I the only one who feels uneasy when l wave them away? I must say here that I have given to all of the above, but the third or fourth time that I have seen them I have decided that I can’t do it every time.
Last night I was sitting engrossed in a book when another man came by with his hand out, I gestured that I was not interested, without even looking up It was only after he had passed me by that I saw that he had only one leg, and was probably really in need and then I felt pretty awful, and selfish. I wonder what other people think? In any case, I believe this will become more and more common, especially in the tourist areas of this beautiful country.