Republishing my notes from 10 years ago.

Michael Schmidt
Jun 30 · 4 min read

This is a blog post I wrote in 2009 on my personal website, reflecting on a visit to the south of Spain seven years earlier.

I’ve been to Almería in 2002, not knowing what I saw. Today, Erwin Wagenhofer’s documentaries take me back to my memories of the region.

In Wagenhofer’s film We Feed The World, I saw the same images of the Andalusia region between Malaga and Almería that I took with my camera in 2002 – fields of food plants just next to the highway:

Participating in the European Union’s Comenius project, I spent a whole week in the south-east of Spain (here are our project results – actually one of the first HTML pages I’ve ever built, with frames and all the good stuff…).

The visit even made it into a local newspaper:

I was excited, and everything I saw was fine and good and beautiful and nice, like I thought my photos were.

Of course, we visited one of the plantations:

At that time, I only started to grasp that this was a globalized industry that may bring wealth to any other country but the people in the region.

Now I know, that 80% of Spain’s coast line is obstructed with uninhabited properties, just for one reason: provide value for global investments.

Many of those properties were gold clubs and the corresponding villas. In theory, a Golf Club on the Spanish coast is of high value, right? That’s why it was built – not because there was demand from local people who would be able to afford it.

Almería is not only the setting for many Hollywood classics but also for the ongoing financial crisis thriller, whose victims are the ones that can only watch and pay for it.

Looking back today, in 2019, the visit did little to shape my understanding of international economic context. Back then, the program by the EU presented all sites we visited with a glorified view on globalization. Sure, there was enough on the historical value of buildings and places we visited – but the modern parts of the country were food plants, sea-view apartments in gated communities, and coastline golf clubs.

What stuck were basic confirmations of central-European lifestyle (where fruits and vegetables come from). This was what the EU was after.

From our bus, though, we saw plenty of evidence that the local people weren’t the ones who benefit. The luxury apartments were uninhabited, and like in the golf clubs the only locals were security guards and other staff.

Austrian film director Erwin Wagenhofer shed the light on the pressure global food & finance put on the local economy, and on the fact that they sell it as a big success story (»We Feed the World« used to be Nestlé’s slogan). This situation hasn’t changed.

Since 2002, banks were rescued with taxpayer money, and Spain was on the forefront of the crisis:

But before that happened, people visiting the region were walked through what then many believed was the way things should be. It was a Western myth that was built like a house of cards.

The vibe came across in a guy I saw at one of the plantations, who guided people and looked to shy them away from any contact to local staff. Both I couldn’t photograph, because taking pictures was forbidden on the site, but he was dressed like a cowboy from a long gone time, certainly out of fashion but also out of his own world, not in touch with what was happening in front of his eyes.

Throughout the first two weeks of July, I will republish one photo of my Almería series each day on Instagram.

Michael Schmidt

Written by

Director Consulting at Virtual Identity. I spent a decade on automotive brands in digital, and blog about brand strategy, #ubx and #AppleCar / #ProjectTitan.

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