In ever more harsh austerity measures, the Spanish government is reducing pensions, cutting labor benefits, making it easier for employers to fire employees, degrading the social security and health systems.
With 23% of the country out of work, nearly 50% of the youth unable to find jobs and shops and businesses closing down left, right and center, times are becoming increasingly hard for the Spanish people.
The building boom is over and the entire country has become one big unfinished construction site, as the construction industry falters and cannot complete their projects.
And yet, despite all this the mayoress of Fuengirola, Esperanza Oña, who is the local leader of the Partido Popular (PP), insists on spending millions of euros on brand new construction work, fancy signs and signposts in the seaside town.
It all started when she got re-elected last June, and increased the salaries of her minions by up to 50% and even added brand new jobs to the mix along with excellent salaries. "Fuengirolaleaks", as part of the 15m movement in the town downloaded the salaries from the internet, and made a point of giving copies to as many residents as possible. See the salaries and percentages of increases here
Next step was that pesky old Town Hall, which fell into disuse when the brand new Town Hall (see top left) was built a few years ago, at enormous expense.
It has been debated for years what should be done with the building, which was a beautiful, traditionally Spanish patrimonial construction from the 1800's. The Mayoress decided in her "infinite wisdom" that it should now become a "charming hotel".
Now bear in mind that the only hotels that really thrive in Fuengirola are those on the beachfront - where there is a choice of either budget, medium range or luxury hotels to suit everyone.
There are several hotels in the center of town which have shut down and are boarded up. To build yet another luxury hotel in the center of town is just not feasible, but it is being done anyway. With the author working in the travel industry online, she knows these things!
What upsets residents even more is that they almost totally demolished the old building, only retaining the facade.
Residents would have preferred that they just "pretty up" the old building and make it into a citizen's center of some kind, maybe offering courses like flower arranging, languages, etc. at reasonable prices, but alas, this is not to be.
The new "charming hotel" will be ready by spring 2013 and here is what it looks like at present:
OK, let's spend a couple more millions, and revamp the Plaza de Toros (or bull fighting ring). Admittedly the building was a bit ancient and shabby, but no, not just a minor revamp to fix it up. Let's really go to town and build in some brand new offices and shops to let.
At this stage it is important to note that in the town of Fuengirola there are quite literally thousands of empty shops and offices. Almost every building has at least one "se alquila" (to let) or "se vende" (for sale) sign on it. Every time you walk around town, you see yet another restaurant or shop closed.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the bull fighting ring is outside of the main town center, and probably not the best place for anyone to set up shop.
So here we have the Plaza de Toros in the initial stages of reconstruction, again at enormous expense:
In between, on the Fuengirola River (Rio de Fuengirola) just below the Sohail Castle, she built a "Water Park" with bicycles and pedalos for rent. This little project was completely flooded out with the first heavy rains of the year. A "water folly" is more like it.
The most recent fit of spending came with the sudden appearance of fancy, and obviously expensive, new signs and sign posts all around the center of town. This is to guide tourists around what's left of the historic center. The original signposts are still there, which worked very well, but no, let's spend some more money. There are also new signs on all the churches and other buildings of interest in the town.
When hearing about the hotel and the bull fighting ring, the author sent a joke tweet to the mayoress saying "How about making the castle into a bowling alley?" Probably shouldn't have done that, as she might just take her up on the idea.
The situation is probably the same in a lot of Spanish towns and cities throughout the country. It seems to be very much a case of "Do what I say, NOT what I do".
Below is a video created before the hotel and bull fighting ring debacle started: