Monday, 9 February 2009

Let me take you by the hand ..... again

So, back on the streets of Vigo, as Urzaiz is about to become Principe the pavement narrows to allow for an exit from an underground carpark. There, at the point where people will have to pass close by him, you will often see "Nadie da". Never moving, this young man kneels on the pavement holding up his begging bowl. He keeps up a whining singsong, explaining that he is hungry and that nobody gives any money: nadie da! In December he reminded us that Christmas was coming but still nobody gave. Despite this apparently miserable aspect of his existence, however, he is not always miserable. I have seen him at around lunchtime on a Sunday on the way to the Casco Vello - the old quarter of Vigo - comparing takings with a friend, a perfectly ordinary, cheerful young man.

"Nadie da" is one of a number of beggars to be seen on the streets. One fine day I counted five in the space of about two hundred yards. But even in the rain there are still a good number around. Often they are men in their fifties, sitting quietly with a notice telling passers-by that they are out of work, without resources and have a family to maintain. Spanish friends of mine give regularly to these people, explaining that the benefits system here makes it hard for the unemployed to keep going. And now that la crisis has struck everywhere it can only get worse.

Sometimes you see South American Indian women in long skirts selling packets of tissues to motorists who stop
at the traffic lights. Recently I saw a lady deep in conversation with one of these women, asking her what she needed: clothes? food? things for her children? and giving her information about a centre where she can go for help. Some of the women who go to the Club de Lectura I attend at the library help out at such centres and give extra classes to children of immigrants.

Most of the people begging money one way or another on the streets appear non-threatening. However, rather frightening is the wild-eyed girl who approaches people directly, staring straight into their face and asking for money. She must be in her late teens or early twenties and is dirty, thin and ill-looking, possibly having drug problems. Flitting suddenly from one side of the street to the other, she rarely approaches individual women but will address the man of a couple or individual men, usually choosing men over fifty or so. Maybe experience has shown her that older men might be more likely to give her money, thinking that they would like someone to help their daughter if she were in such a plight. The wild girl does not approach the young. She seems to have learnt who are the most likely sources of income.

And then, just beyond Puerta del Sol with its statue of the swimmer, across the road is the place where the local winos seem to gather. Sometimes there are only two of them but often there are half a dozen quietly sitting on the window ledges, shooting the breeze, not causing a nuisance to anyone. If the weather is fine they appear to enjoy the sunshine in their chosen sheltered spot. Lately though, it has been colder and on one cold late Saturday afternoon I saw that they had managed to get into the doorway of one of the banks, probably when someone went in to use the hole-in-the-wall cash machine, and looked as though they were settled for the evening in a relatively warm place.


  1. The well-dressed men can be seen in Pontevedra on other days. They can apparently afford the train or bus . . .

  2. And the thin girl sounds similar to the one that opeartes in Ponters and whom I often meet as she crosses the bridge into the drug retail facility on my side of the river, in O Vao.