BARRIO WELFARE

Spain is one of the countries in the European Union most affected by the economic crisis. The decline of the gross domestic product of 1.5% in 2012 (following IMF statistics), the 26% level of unemployment, and a fifth of the population at risk of poverty are nailing Spain to one of its toughest periods of recession. Nevertheless, in a time of increasing mistrust towards politicians and dramatic welfare cuts throughout all southern European countries, Spanish society is reacting in a very efficient and original way in order to overcome this dark age. The Associations of Neighbours are unions of citizens based on a simple bond: living in the same <em>barrio</em>. They were the only forms of social aggregations allowed during the dictatorship of Franco (1936-1975), when political parties and syndicates were banned. They provided a widespread network across Spanish territory to the undercover movement of resistance. With the end of the dictatorship and the coming of democracy they focused on reciprocal support amongst neighbours and they became a basic form of representation to bridge the gap between citizens and local governments. Nowadays they are performing a cushioning function against the effects of the crisis, providing social services that the state is no longer able to offer: from soup kitchens, barter markets and self-organised nurseries to donation-based libraries, sport facilities and urban vegetable gardens. In this way, without any kind of funding or support from other institutions, the associations of neighbours are spontaneously filling in the lack of welfare left by cuts on healthcare, housing, environmental care and culture.