Locals ‘living like rats’ in Canary Islands shanty town yards from tourists’ hotels | World | News

Gran Canaria has been a tourist hotspot for Brits for decades. The sun-soaked island off the coast of West Africa offers spectacular views and great weather all year round at a variety of price points.

The island may be around 800 miles from the mainland, but Gran Canaria is every bit as Spanish as the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca or Costa Brava. Brits hankering for traditional Spanish culture, cuisine and the country’s characterful architecture are well-advised to visit Gran Canaria; it has all three in spades.

However, despite appearing to be heaven on earth, the island has a dark side – one that its lucrative tourist industry does well to hide.

Income inequality and relative poverty in Gran Canaria is an emergent concern. Following the erection of a ‘shanty town’ in El Pajar, in the shadow of luxury tourist accommodation, the chasm between the lives of some locals and holidaymakers is brought into sharp focus.

According to Canarian Weekly, residents of the pop-up community said they feel like “rats”.

Reda, who landed in Gran Canaria a few years ago via boat, was unambiguous in his assessment of life in El Pajar. He said: “Here, we’re nobody. Life is underground, not above. And who lives underground? Rats.”

His view was shared by 53 -year-old Juan. Referencing the 80 luxury holiday homes of the Cordial Santa Águeda Resort, which sits besides the shanty town, he said: “Everything they take from us Canarians is to give it to them.”

The lifeguard, who takes home a meagre 1,000 euros a month, added: “Money moves mountains”.

The sense that the Canary Islands’ tourist industry is thriving but at the expense of the needs of local people, is gaining momentum.

On April 20, protesters from across the archipelago will take to the streets to demand greater regulation of tourism.

The slogan under which protesters will march is “the Canary Islands have a limit”. Last year, messages such as “tourists go home” were sprayed in public places, as the islands caught its breath after another heaving holiday season.

In 2022, more than 12 million tourists descended on the Canary Islands. For context, the local population across the archipelago is around two million.

Claudio Milano, PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Barcelona, suggested to Canarian Weekly that the booming tourist scene is detrimental to the lives of local residents.

He explained that income inequality off the back of a tourist-dominated economy is a “constant”.

“Tourist economy uses common goods for private purposes. Airbnb, Uber… and all those applications that have fostered the touristification of daily life need them. The industry inevitably demands this [message of] ‘live like a local.’ And this is not found in other sectors. Tourism lives off of us more than we live off tourism.”

He added: “Tourist capitalism needs the ‘four cheaps’ which are: food, labour, energy, and raw materials. Many of these processes have been developed through foreign capital through dispossession and deprivation.”

According to the Gini Index, which measures income inequality, the Canary Islands is the third most unequal region in all of Spain.

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