The Barcelona district of Nou Barris is downright beautiful in January. The weather is unseasonably warm, and at sunset the surrounding hills and valleys are mottled with soft light as the sky turns from purple to black. Up close, however, the streets reek of piss, shit, and garbage, and the residents exude palpable desperation, as if sweating misery.
Nou Barris’s man-made problems started in 2008, when the banks collapsed and ridiculous mortgage deals handed out to poor families began to destroy the people they were originally meant to help. Many residents worked in construction and lost their jobs when, overnight, the market for cheap housing fell apart.
Unlike in other markets around the world, defaulting on a mortgage in Spain doesn’t mean that your debt is forgiven. The result is homeless families who owe up to 200,000 euros. Nowhere in Barcelona have government-enforced evictions of families been more intense than Nou Barris.
Since social services are scant, it’s been left to an ever-growing group of anarchists, hippies and punk rockers to provide necessities to the swelling population of homeless working-class residents. A few times a week, these young people relocate families to buildings closed down by the banks and teach them to cook with food salvaged from garbage cans. Within the squats are piles of rotting vegetables and prawn shells taken from the dumpsters of downtown restaurants frequented by affluent tourists.
Last month, we met a 15-year-old named Tete Delgado, who seemed well-off, dressed in baggy tracksuit bottoms, white sneakers and a hoody. But Tete has been so inspired by the Barca anarchist punk scene that he now sports a gothic lip piercing and paints his nails black from the same bottle of cheap nail varnish used by his new friends Vero, a skinhead girl, and Pol, a long-haired hippie. The two 20-somethings are extremely active in seizing homes and rehousing families.
While atop a five-story squat, Pol and Vero showed us the kit they use to equip foreclosed buildings with lights, running water, and locks.
A collection of bolt cutters, chains, torches, saws and DIY electrical devices glinted in the sun. It was just another beautiful Barcelona day.
Remember last month when VICE on HBO received three Emmy nominations, and we were like, “Is it too early for a lifetime achievement award?” Well, guess what? We did it! We won an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.
Congrats to Shane Smith, Bill Maher, Eddy Moretti, BJ Levin, Fareed Zakaria, and the incredible correspondents and crew on their achievements. We can’t wait to watch seasons three and four!
Indigenous Canadian Women Are Suffering a Murder Epidemic
Last week’s discovery of the body of Loretta Saunders, an Inuit student who disappeared while working on a thesis about missing and murdered Native Canadian women, sparked calls across the country for action. NGOs say violence against Aboriginal women and girls is reaching epidemic levels — and around half of the murder cases remain unsolved.
VICE News host Thomas Morton swings from the trees with an international team of scientists in Panama that’s found a promising treatment for malaria, Chagas disease and breast cancer in the most unlikely place: The mossy fur of tree sloths. It’s yet another reason to not cut down rainforests. About half of all drugs brought to market from 1997-2006 came from plants, fungi and bacteria discovered by “bio-prospectors” in nature. And we see that sloths are just one of many new and unusual frontiers for this research.
While attention has been focused on Russia’s occupation of Crimea, pro-Russian Ukrainians and uninformed observers have raised alarm in recent weeks about a purported resurgence of fascism in Kiev. Reports have circulated about the interim Ukrainian government supposedly banning the Communist Party, lifting bans on Nazi propaganda, or committing a host of politically unconscionable acts. Setting aside the utter improbability that any such initiatives would become the law of the land, these claims have certainly scared the crap out of some people.
For the West (and a minority of Russians), the storyline has been that a pro-democracy movement—which strives for human rights, dignity, yoga pants, and all that jazz—overthrew a corrupt Ukrainian regime that was merely a puppet of Russia. For Russians (and a minority of Westerners), it’s been that an armed group illegally seized power in a right-wing coup with the support of neo-fascists.
The political arguments surrounding the events in Crimea are similar to what you’d expect from the average American online political discussion, even if most of the Hitler comparisons are written in Cyrillic.
As politicians in Washington wring their hands over the Veterans Affairs scandal, VICE News travels to Portland, Oregon, to see what it’s all really about. We meet Curtis Shanley, a former Marine Corps machine-gunner, who has spent the past five years wading through red tape to get medical attention for a crippling injury he suffered while serving his country in Iraq.