Currently Reading: Barbate, Spain: Hash Coast

Spanish fishing town gets by on Moroccan hash importing, but a larger problem is revealed

“Many of my students drop out. The only way to keep them in school is to threaten their parents with losing their welfare. I would tell (the students) they are ruining their future. They would answer: ‘I can always go into hash.'”
José Cagigas, Barbate high school gym teacher

Like many distressed rural towns employment opportunities dried up in Barbate, Spain. Some collected pine cones, others caught squid and most joined the local hashish racket. Smuggling rings travel by boat north from Morocco.

“Several people are needed to safeguard the load,” a man named Antonio said in the news blog NRC (Netherlands). “The price is determined based on the risk someone takes. For every transport, five to ten ‘bushmen’ are needed. The informers on the look-out earn half a kilo, so 3,000 euros. The runners who bring the load to a safe place get three kilos. And there are the people who guard the stash, they get five kilos. That’s how it works.”

Small vessels avoid detection by moving during periods of busy sea traffic in the narrow Straits of Gibraltar. Unload the cargo used to be done right out in the open, earning foreboding nicknames like “Lawless City” and “City of Crime.” New radar systems being used by “Guardia Civil,” the Spanish national police, have dispersed the drop-off points around the southern tip of the country, mainly to the Cádiz region. Many resort towns on the coast have tourism revenue, so the drug trade isn’t the only growth sector. Barbate, and its 24,000 residents, don’t have that luxury.

The unemployment rate there is 36 percent.

“This is why drug trafficking is very popular amongst youngsters,” José Cagigas, a local high school gym teacher told NRC. “Many of my students drop out. The only way to keep them in school is to threaten their parents with losing their welfare. I would tell (the students) they are ruining their future. They would answer: ‘I can always go into hash.’ I would reply: ‘I don’t know anyone over 30 who has not been in jail because of trafficking.’ But they would start bragging in class how they had an uncle who was 45 and had never been caught.”

“It may seem like that, with the media attention and the quick money that is being flashed around,” reasons Elisa Cid, a defense attorney that works with many of the poorer clients in town. “But I believe no more than 20 percent of the population depends on drug money. Everyone with any potential should leave to work or study. No one is stopping them.”

We present this as just one example of the despair in equatorial countries, and smaller port cities the world over, that have no future. The vulnerability of the economy, the leaders of the next generation leaving for the urban centers, it leaves the door wide open to cartels. To heal these places is to fix the problem. It begins with legalization, as it has here, because the industrial revolution isn’t coming around a second time. If work is impossible to come by why not acknowledge the history of cannabis in the community and make it a legitimate industry?

Small shifts in consciousness can give rise to solutions for third-world poverty. Cannabis can be that great equalizer. We believe it at 4E, and we’re rooting for a better day for all the Barbates.

Excerpted from Merijn de Waal’s story in NRC (Netherlands) news archive
www.vorige.nrc.nl


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