Topic – Society: Protests in Spain

Banners draped over a billboard advert during the May protest in the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, May 2011

A few links to English language media coverage of the May protests in Spain:

BBC News:  Spain protesters defy ban to remain in Madrid square  (includes video), Youths defiant at ‘Spanish revolution’ camp (more in-depth coverage), How the story developed:  18th May:  Spanish youth rally in Madrid echoes Eygpt protests, 19th May:  Spain sit-in over unemployment (includes video) , 20th May:  Call for protest ban in Spain for elections (includes video)

Guardian:  Spanish protestors head for standoff with police in Madrid square (Fri 20th May)

Channel 4:  Spain’s protestors vow to continue demonstrating (Fri 20th May)

Boston globe:  Tens of thousands of protesters defy ban in Spain  (Fri 20th May)

Entrance to the train station covered in protest messages, Puerta del Sol, Madrid, 20th May 2011


Some ideas for things to do with this topic:

1)  Speaking:  Talk to yourself!  (probably best to do this when you are home alone or find a friend to help).  (i)  visit a photo gallery with images from the protests (BBC page:, El País:, choose one image which you think best captures / is most symbolic of this week’s events to use on the front page of newspaper supplement about the protests.  Talk to yourself, describing the photo and saying why you think it would make a good cover image for the supplement.

(ii)  The two pictures below both show occasions when large groups of people gathered in the Puerta del Sol, Madrid.  Compare the photos and comment on:  (a)  Why the people have chosen to be at the square, (b)  how their feelings might be similar or different in the two pictures.

Football fans celebrate the Spanish national team's success at the World Cup in the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, June 2010

Protesters and curious onlookers at the Puerta del Sol Protest, Madrid, Spain, 20th May 2011

When you have finished, you could write up your comments and post them on the blog.

2)  Writing:  (i)  Find an image from the photo galleries above which show people.  Put yourself in their shoes for a momment and a write a short diary entry for them.  How are they feeling?  What have they done today?  What are their hopes?  Fears?  Why are they there?  Your character could be inside or outside the protest:  a demonstrator, a politician, a police officer, a “compra oro!’ worker.  (ii)  Imagine it’s the year 2021.  Ten year’s ago you went to a protest in Madrid and camped outside in the main square for a week.  How did your experience change you?  Has anything changed in your country since those long May nights in 2011?  How do you feel looking back on that time now?  (iii)  Cambridge exam-like essay:  Politicians should do more to actively listen to public opinion.  To what extent do you think this statement is true?  Include arguments both in favour and against the statement.  Pre-writing reading:  “We don’t want to remove the politicians, we want them to come down to street level.”  (El País in English interview with organisers of 15-M)  (iv)  Four thoughts:  This link should take you to a picture of 4 people in a cafe overlooking the square:  Imagine what the 4 people are thinking – write a few lines for each person (Link here:

Summarising:  (i)  Compare the coverage in two articles / editorial comments in two different Spanish newspapers.  Summarise, in English, any differences in tone about how the information is presented (e.g. critical / neutral).  Try to keep your summary brief – 70 words max.

Translation:  Find some slogans from the protest, translate them into English / Spanish.  Here are some to get you started:

(i)  “Si Ana Botella se deja de rastas ahoramos una pasta.”  (Flikr photo)  (ii)  “Apaga la TV, enciende tu mente.”  (iii)  “En este país se puede acampar para un concierto de Justin Bieber y ver la última de Crepúsculo…pero no para defender tus derechos.”

Edit:  18th August 2011.  Just came across this podcast from The Economist on ‘The Indignados’:

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<a href=’javascript:void(0)’ onclick=’““, “feedroom”, “width=402, height=336, scrollbars=0, resizable=1, status=no, toolbar=no, location=no”);return false;’>Los indignados</a> (audio, search “By subject”, “Europe”)



Filed under B2.2 - Reading, C2.2 - Topics, Topic - Society

3 responses to “Topic – Society: Protests in Spain

  1. Further reading from May 22nd 2011: The Observer, How corruption, cuts and despair drove Spain’s protesters on to the streets:

  2. Further reading:

    Link to a report about a peace camp located just meters away from the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey in London: What parallels can you draw between the protest in London and the ones in Spain? What about the reactions of the authorities?

    Two opinions about the peace camp being dismantled were published in Letters and emails to the editor in The Guardian newspaper, Monday 11th April 2011. They argued that the peace camp should not be removed from the square as it represented an opportunity to show the world that the country has real freedom of speech – something that might not be the case in some countries where the royal wedding was televised. What messages to the world are the protests across Spain sending out?

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