New Year is when we take a breath and pause to look back on the year gone by, and forward to the 12 months to come.
And this year it’s a time when, more than ever, we find ourselves poised on the verge of huge changes that will affect us in ways that we can only guess at. Those changes are local – the Canaries will have a whole new set of politicians by summer-; they are national – with Brexit occupying the thoughts of every British resident on the island; and they will be global, as the environment becomes an ever-more urgent issue and as much of the world takes refuge in nationalism and nostalgia.
Today, we can look back over 12 months and say that, on the whole, things haven’t changed much except for the fact that England now have a half-decent football team.
We’ve lost some famous faces as well as beloved members of our island community, but we’ve also had a successful and peaceful year. Lanzarote, as ever, has basked in beautiful sunshine, partied as only it knows how to do, and given hundreds of thousands of visitors good memories that will last a lifetime.
But looking forward to 1st January 2020 it’s much harder to say that we’ll be in much the same place. For a start, several thousand of us are likely to be “third country” members in Spain when, or if, Brexit occurs; while the EU itself is likely to have a different aspect following its elections. Climate change and plastic waste will continue to occupy headlines, and measures to combat these threats are likely to change our daily lives.
Changes are coming, and it’s always best to tackle them hand-on -hand. But at the same time, some things never change. One year from now, Lanzarote will still be beautiful, still sun-kissed, still full of life and an eternal source of hope, pleasure and the sheer joy of living, Bring it on!
On February 14th, Lanzarote said goodbye to Juan Brito, the 98-year old poet, songwriter, potter, historian, folklorist, archeologist, soldier, taxi-driver and Favoured Son of Lanzarote who was never happier than when tending to his camels and chickens in the countryside.
I can never forget you
I have eaten the fruit of your soil
Your soil will cover me over.
Among the celebrity deaths off island were huge names like Aretha Franklin and Burt Reynolds, while Stephen Hawking – who visited us just a couple of years ago – also passed on.Read more...
On Lanzarote, and further afield, the property rental market is changing fast, with online platforms such as Airbnb booming. Thousands of property owners have rushed to cash in, and tourists can now be found staying in towns such as Arrecife and Playa Honda, where they were rarely spotted a few years ago.
The results may be lucrative for owners, but they have also led to a drastic shortage in long-term rental accommodation and a corresponding increase in rents. Squatting has increased, and construction of new properties is still low.
In May, however, the Canarian Government showed that it was still completely out of touch with the changes in reality, as it proposed a draft holiday rental law that seemed to be dictated entirely by hotel owners, who have always wished to eliminate competition in the resort areas rather than tackle it.
Plastic waste became a pressing issue after David Attenborough’s Blue Planet programme focussed on the problem, and initiatives to limit single-use plastic have been seen all over the world. However, our investigation into the problem showed that, despite the efforts of supermarkets to show that they are tackling the problem, we are still very much addicted to plastic. An international conference on microplastics in Arrecife in November placed Lanzarote at the forefront of an issue that still requires more serious action.
All change in Madrid
The earlier part of the year was dominated by the Catalan crisis, with regional elections failing to elect a clear majority, and leaders of the unauthorised referendum of October 2017 jailed or on the run in Europe.
However, a nine-year corruption case which came to a head in May saw the Spanish government fall. Mariano Rajoy’s ruling PP received a devastating judgement, with courts confirming that the party had run a “real and effective system of institutional corruption” for years. Rajoy himself was judged as “not having been truthful” during his testimony.
Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez proposed a no-confidence vote, and managed to raise enough support to defeat the government. He was appointed as President of the Government by King Felipe VI on 2nd June.
The new government rapidly changed the political landscape in Spain, taking the wind out of the sails of the centre-right Ciudadanos party, and forcing the left-wing Unidos Podemos into a more moderate stance. The Socialists have been rejuvenated, for the time being at least, but next year’s regional elections will give a clearer picture of the Sánchez effect.
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May was the royal highlight of the year, and set the scene for a summer of patriotic fervour – among the English, at least. Just a month later, Gareth Southgate’s England team surpassed all expectations and had their best World Cup run for 28 years, reaching the semi-finals with a young team that promises much for the future. Germany, meanwhile, were struck down by the curse that has struck three out of four of the last title defenders, coming bottom of their group.
Crossing the water
2018 was only a couple of weeks old when tragedy struck as holidaymakers strolling along the Costa Teguise seafront saw a patera – a boat carrying immigrants from Morocco – approaching the rocky coastline near Playa Bastián. Lifeguards and emergency services did their best to help, but two of the immigrants drowned in their attempts to reach the shore, and another five bodies were found in the boat.
Immigration would occupy the headlines throughout the year, as the island saw a sharp rise in the amount of young men arriving on the island’s shores. In August and September, the island’s facilities for underage migrants were filled up and temporary camps were set up for them in Yaiza.
It is believed that the influx of migrants is related to the reintroduction of national service in Morocco. However, although the pateras filled headlines throughout the second half of the year, the numbers are small compared to the amount of immigrants who arrive via the airport.