9 Nov, 2013 @ 10:30
2 mins read

Beggars belief

poverty in andalucia up to a third

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.

Karl Smallman

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  1. Yep we have all of those people in Valencia too. You are a virgin in Spain, we residents are already used to these tactics and one you haven’t mentioned is where a woman wanders around Lidl/Aldi or any supermarket and eventually finds an unsuspecting person who then takes their purse.

    We realised that all these people sitting outside supermarkets have exactly the same notices, in exactly the same words and a mini van goes around collecting them up at the end of the day.

    It happens all the time, A man with only one arm, I can assure you, does get benefits. Sometimes Brits come over here to work in their younger days and think that they can get away without paying their Spanish NI only to find that when they retire they don’t have a pension or can’t claim benefits because they are not on the padron etc. etc. There are, I am afraid, a lot of stories over here.

    Forget about it and don’t let it pull at your heart strings. Go and enjoy your holiday and don’t come to Spain to live unless you are aware of everything and anything that might happen to you.

  2. Observe the Spanish when they are approached by beggars and people selling goods. Most do not even acknowledge their existence. A few cents is not going to break the bank, but persistently being asked for money can be annoying and intimidating, and I’ve never seen a policeman moving one on, in over a decade.

  3. First, I think you need to separate con artists from people in need. In most cases, you know ‘hungry’ when you see it.

    In Ronda, I’ve see many small acts of charity besides handing out
    Euros. Small acts of kindness. Try buying a stranger a sandwich or a coffee. Maybe a small bag of groceries, when you leave Aldi. Donate warm clothes and shoes to local churches or charities. Purchase school supplies or donate lightly used kids clothing. Let your neighbors know you need a handyman or a house cleaner. They will connect you to good people who happen to be ‘under-employed.’ And finally don’t forget abandoned pets at shelters like Adana. Small donations, pet food or your personal time to walk homeless animals.

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