Historic demonstration against mass tourism in the Canary Islands

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mass tourism

In the Canary Islands, almost 200,000 people took part in a historic demonstration on Saturday against mass tourism, poverty, water shortages, the destruction of natural landscapes and a lack of housing. The motto of the protests was: “We want to be hosts, not slaves.”

An hour before the start of the demonstrations, Canary Islands flags, banners and yellow clothing, symbolic of the islands, could already be seen on all the main islands. High poverty rates, water shortages, lack of housing and the destruction of natural spaces have rallied many against the current tourist fashion. “Canarias se agota (The Canary Islands are running out),” the demonstrators chanted unanimously.

Slogans and demands of demonstrators

The main slogan of the demonstration was strong and direct: “Canarias no se vende, se ama y se defiende (The Canary Islands are not sold, they are loved and defended).” This was chanted repeatedly, sometimes interrupted by applause. Other notable slogans were: “My island is not an amusement park”, “People live here”, and “All neighbours are tourists”. These slogans emphasise the frustration with tourism that affects the quality of life of the local population.

The impact of the protests

In Tenerife the demonstrations against mass tourism exceeded all expectations. Organisers recorded more than 80,000 participants, while the official figures were 32,000. The crowds were comparable to the large turnout during the annual Carnival. The biggest criticism was directed at the political party Coalición Canaria and the hotel industry. These are seen as the main beneficiaries of the current tourism model.

In Lanzarote, where almost 10,000 people took to the streets, the ghost of César Manrique, a symbol of the island’s environmental struggle, took centre stage. “Agua para las papas, no para las piscinas (water for potatoes, not for swimming pools),” was one of the slogans emphasising the need for water conservation.

La Gomera and El Hierro

On La Gomera, one of the last islands to join the protest, 300 people gathered. Residents also protested in El Hierro under the slogan ‘The Canary Islands have a limit’. Nearly 150 residents were present. A manifesto was read out on La Palma at 5.00 pm to express “unconditional support” for the other islands.

La Graciosa

In Caleta de Sebo, the capital of La Graciosa, residents showed their frustration with the management of protected natural areas. They suffer even more from mass tourism. “La Graciosa was declared a natural park in 1986. However, it was only in 2006 that the administrative plan for use and management was approved,” the criticism sounded. “We are one of the few places that have been living in a protected nature reserve without a management body for 38 years. We have now received almost half a million visitors,” he said.

Demonstrations against mass tourism are also taking place in other countries

Moreover, the demonstrations on April 20 were not just limited to the Canary Islands. They also took place in major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and even internationally in London and Paris. Locals and environmentalists are demanding changes that protect the quality of their lives and their natural environment from the adverse effects of mass tourism.

Also read: Problem on Spanish holiday islands: full hotels, no staff

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