Documentary series takes a look at impact of the country’s economic crisis on its citizens.

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Miguel Macías Documents Cultural Shifts in His Native Spain

July 9, 2014

It was important for Television and Radio Assistant Professor Miguel Macías to understand the Spanish economic crisis from the perspective of the average, everyday citizen.

In 2008, Spain faced an economic crisis unlike any it had ever seen, which, like in the United States, had its roots in the housing market. Spanish native Miguel Macías '04 M.F.A., an assistant professor and deputy chair for graduate studies in the Department of Television and Radio, has spent another summer on the ground in Spain exploring these issues. His documentary series, The Crisis of My Friends, takes a look at how some Spanish citizens have responded to this crisis, on a very personal level.

"I found that people in Spain were speaking to each other relentlessly about the crisis, from both historical and contemporary points of view," he said. "My friends, all in their late thirties, find themselves in a very precarious situation, where they have come to view work as a privilege and not a right. And having a job in their preferred field has become practically an unattainable goal." Spain is second only to Greece as the nation with the highest rate of unemployment in the Western world.

Macías adds that the current generation of workers was the first to stray away from the traditional Spanish concept of ‘colocar'—literally, ‘to be put in one place and remain there'—and have looked toward their careers for personal fulfillment rather than solely as a means of financial survival. However, Macías has found that the economic crisis has caused this generation to revert to the ways of the past.

"Because the businesses are more interested in saving money, they don't care that the workforce is unqualified," he said. "People have stopped thinking about work as a way to feel good about themselves and they are passing this idea on to their children."

Nevertheless, Spanish citizens have safety nets on which they can rely during these times: All Spanish citizens have health care; even under austerity, they are offered unemployment for up to two years; and families play a significant role in financial stability as the unemployed move back home and family members combine any income—whether from work or from retirement benefits—to pick up the slack.

"You hear that there's 27–34 percent unemployment, depending on the region, in Spain, so you expect to see cities in pretty bad shape. But you don't," Macías says. "And most say that's because of the familial safety net. I heard one story of a student whose entire family lives off the pension of her grandmother."

Analysts examining the crisis believe that Spain's relief will come in the form of the country's investment in other industries such as green energy, technology, and tourism. Macías agrees, but tempers optimism with pragmatism.

"While some government officials are pointing at signs of improvement, the effects of this crisis are still negatively impacting the general population," he said.

Macías, who had a Peabody Award-winning production run on Radio Rookies at WNYC, came to the United States as an exchange student in the 1990s. After graduating from the Universidad de Seville in Spain with a degree in communications, he moved to the United States to pursue his passion for television and radio production. He joined the Brooklyn College faculty in 2009.

To learn more about Macías and his work, and to view current and past episodes of The Crisis of My Friends, visit his website.

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