More Fragile than a Bubble

JOSEP CASANOVAS, 32, ROCÍO GUERRERO, 29, AND THEIR SON HUGO. Spanish, living in Barcelona. Josep works as a welder. Rocío is currently unemployed. Since they have been together, Josep and Rocío have been living with Josep’s parents. In 2006, Josep bought a flat with his ex-partner. He started paying € 1,200 per month. In the last two years he has been paying € 1,900 per month and since then the flat has been rented. Josep agreed to refinance his bank debt. At present, he pays €800 a month but next year he will go up to an amount that he won’t be able to afford. Rocío is pregnant with her second child. At the time of writing, the family was about to hand the flat over to the bank in exchange for three years of social housing accommodation. They still had not negotiated the amount of the debt they will have to pay anyway.
DAMIÁN SORRIBAS, 33, YESI PÉREZ, 30, AND THEIR TWO SONS DANIEL AND BRIAN. Spanish, living in Barcelona. Damian is a construction worker. He lost his job in 2012. Yesi is also unemployed. Their eldest son has been undergoing chemotherapy for years. In 2004, after their first son was born, they bought the flat they are currently living in. When Damian lost his job he was offered alternative financing arrangements which he did not accept. Although their flat has been auctioned they still have €114,000 of debt. «What good is ‘bread today and hunger tomorrow’? They give you money today, but what happens next year? You’re in the same position... the same position, but thousands more in debt...».
JOSÉ ÁNGEL DEL RÍO, 30, ROSA MARÍA NAVARRETE, 27, AND THEIR DAUGHTER NAYARA. Spanish, living in Sabadell. Since he was 15, José Ángel has had all kinds of jobs. He has been unable to find work for the last three years. Rosa has been unemployed since 2011. She used to work as cashier in a shop. To get by, José Ángel collects scrap in the street. Every two weeks they receive food from the social services. They bought their flat in 2007. In 2011 they decided to give it up, signing a nonrecourse debt agreement. In 2012, finding it impossible to obtain a council flat, they returned as squatters. Rosa and José Ángel have since separated. Rosa still lives in the flat with their daughter and the baby, who was born in January. The birth of the baby prevented the scheduled eviction taking place. Rosa expects a new attempt to evict them at the end of July. She hopes to have been allocated a council flat by then. «The Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage Crisis (PAH in its Spanish acronym) is the only place that
GLENDA SARANGO AND HER SON ISAAC 34 years old, Ecuadorian. She has lived in Madrid since 1997 Glenda is a waitress. When she got pregnant, in 2011, she lost her job and never regained it. In 2006, due to continuous rent increases, she decided to buy the flat where she lives in Madrid. At that moment, she had a stable job. She hasn’t paid the mortgage for 11 months. Since then, she has asked for the non-recourse loan and applied for social housing. Glenda is a single mother with a six-month-old baby. The father never took responsibility for him. «It’s terrible... Don’t they realize how many children are involved? How many families they’re putting in the street? They treat us like scum... While you’ve got a job and can afford the mortgage payments, they respect you... Now we can’t pay any more, they treat us like rubbish».
PAQUI RONCERO, 42, CARLOS DELGADO, 47, AND THEIR DAUGHTERS JENNIFER, LUCIA AND CAROLINA. Spanish, living in Getafe, Madrid. Paqui’s job is to assist abused women, but she’s been unemployed since 2009. She suffers from a severe form of Crohn’s disease. Carlos is a programmer and has been looking for work since 2010. He has a disability rating of 33% and receives a disability pension. Paqui and Carlos live with their three daughters: the youngest in common, and one each from their previous marriages. Paqui bought the flat with her ex-husband in 2000. After the divorce, they remained co-owners, but Paqui and their daughter lived there. Paqui’s ex-husband stopped paying his part of the mortgage three years ago, and Paqui now risks losing the flat. To avoid loosing the flat, Paqui and Carlos are willing to meet future payment, but they cannot pay the debts of Paqui’s ex-husband. They hope to stop the trial until they find work. Paqui and Carlos are convinced that there are unfair terms in the mortgage contract.
MAREK DRAPALA, 34, MAGDALENA TYBURSKA, 36, AND THEIR TWO SONS DAWID AND DAMIAN. Polish. They have lived in Madrid since 2001. Marek is a carpenter. The financial crisis caused his company’s bankruptcy and he hasn’t worked since 2012. Magdalena was a shop assistant. At the moment, she can’t find a job she can combine with looking after the children. In 2005, the couple bought the flat where they live to make a home for their family. They stopped paying the mortgage three months ago to be able to feed the children. Marek and Magdalena applied for a non-recourse loan. After months of negotiations, at the time of writing, the bank offered to write off the debt at the end of 2013, as it expects to sell the flat during this period. The family is waiting for the proposal to be formalized. They are planning to start a new life back in Poland and want to leave Spain without debts. «Because of the bubble and the crisis, we’re trapped here. If they don’t cancel the debt, we are condemned to take it with us to Poland".
ABDESSAMAD CAABOUW, 42, KARIMA BELHAJ, 38 AND THEIR TWO SONS AYMAN AND AYOUB. Moroccan. They immigrated to Catalonia in 2001. Abdessamad came to Spain hoping to continue his studies in Economics. He ended up working as a painter. During the crisis he lost his job and has been unemployed for two years with no benefits. Karima is an auxiliary nurse. Since arriving in Spain, she has worked as a waitress but is currently unemployed. The social benefit she receives is the family’s only source of income. In 2006, they bought a €300,000 flat in La Torreta, Barcelona, thinking it was a safe investment. Even in 2008, before crisis hit the labour market, they couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage. For a few years they tried to save the flat by renegotiating the debt. Now they are resigned to losing their home and since the end of 2011 they have been waiting for approval of a non- recourse loan. «The fact is that we’re lost. We don’t know what we’re going to do, go back to our country, move somewhere else... We’ve worke
ADRIANA VIATELA AND HER SON RYAN. 40 years old, Colombian, living in Madrid since 1994. Adriana is an administrative assistant and has been unemployed since 2010. Since then, she has only worked occasionally. In 2001, Adriana went to work in England, where she met the father of her child. In 2004, they bought the flat, intending to go back to live in Madrid. During the crisis, the couple found it increasingly hard to meet the mortgage payments. In 2010, Adriana’s partner lost his job and decided to return to England, leaving Adriana alone and responsible for everything. When she became unemployed, Adriana was able to pay less and less to the bank, which started legal proceedings. In February 2013, she stopped paying the mortgage altogether. Adriana is applying for a non-recourse loan. At present, all attempts at negotiation are paralysed, since her ex-partner, who is jointly responsible for the mortgage, cannot be located. «At first, you can’t believe it. Then you get desperate: I was on medication, I coul
ANA BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ AND HER SON ABRAHAM. 35 years old, Spanish, living in Ciempozuelos, Madrid. Ana Belén has been unemployed since 2012. She used to work as a shop assistant. She receives a state benefit and food from Caritas. In 2005, Ana Belén and her husband bought the flat where she now lives. At that moment, both had steady jobs. In 2011, her husband became unemployed due to the crisis in his sector, home maintenance. They ran out of money to keep up with mortgage payments and finally they separated. Ana Belén has been trying unsuccessfully to negotiate with the bank for two years. She is trying to get her debt cancelled and is applying for social housing. In April 2013 the auction of the flat was postponed. She and her son could end up homeless, with a debt of €160,000 euros. «It’s really tough, living on charity... but what else can you do, especially with a small child? Often I open the fridge and say: ‘What can I give him?’ All I want is to work, I’m 35 years old and I’m prepared to go wherever
LUIS ENRIQUE FUENTES. 53 years old, Spanish, living in Madrid. Employed by Madrid City Council. In 2005, he and his ex-wife bought a detached house where she currently lives with their two children. At that time, Luis Enrique inherited a flat from his parents, which the bank accepted as mortgage security. Due to salary cuts and the rise of Euribor rates, the family got into debt. In 2011, Luis Enrique agreed to buy a financial product to reduce these fluctuations, but he ended up paying additional costs of €600 a month. As a result, the family economy failed, the couple divorced, and Luis Enrique moved back to his parents’ home. Six months ago, he and his ex-wife stopped paying the mortgage. Luis Enrique is resigned to losing everything, and hopes to be allocated social housing. «Some politicians say that everyone was spending money they didn’t have. That’s not true: my ex-wife earned €1500, with overtime I was taking home almost 2000, the mortgage was 1500, which left us with €2000 to live on... We really
MARI LUZ OLIVER. 45 years old, Spanish, living in Barcelona. A gardener, in the last few years she has seen a drastic fall in the turnover of her business. In 2005, due to continuous rent increases, she decided to buy her flat with her then partner, who has been unemployed for three years. They separated a year ago, and Mari Luz ended up living alone in the flat. To date, the two of them have shared the mortgage payments. At present, Mari Luz cannot pay off the debt on her own and has stopped paying the mortgage. The flat has already depreciated in value. She feels she is a victim of property speculation and the financial system. She wants to leave the flat and make a new start. «Applying for the nonrecourse loan is also a political statement at the moment. Rental policies never received proper backing, speculation was rampant and rents came to represent half or more of the tenant’s salary».
PACO CORTÉS LÓPEZ Y NÚRIA FARRÉ OLIVERAS. Both 54, they are from Barcelona and are photographed here in front of their old home in Corbera de Llobregat. Until 2012, Paco had his own home maintenance company. He has been suffering for some time from physical problems that prevent him from working. The company folded as a result of the financial crisis. Núria is a geriatric auxiliary. She suffers from fibromyalgia, which prevents her from working. Paco and Núria used their life savings to buy the house where they lived until two months ago, and they applied for a mortgage to complete construction. Due to their illnesses, there came a point when they couldn’t afford the mortgage. They still had half the debt to pay. To pay off the debt, they finally sold their house, accepting a price far below the market value. At present, they live in a rented home and get by on Paco’s disability pension and the help of family and friends. After working all their lives, they have lost everything. «It’s hard to leave the hou
JAVIER VIZOSO, 41, AND DINO RODRIGUES, 36. Spanish and Brazilian. They are married and live in Madrid. Javier is a security guard, Dino is a floral decorator. Due to the crisis, they’ve had a major drop in income. In 2006, they bought a 60mq flat in the Madrid suburbs. Since then, they’ve paid an average mortgage payment of €1300 a month. The presence of a “floor clause” prevented them benefitting from the fall in Euribor rates. The couple has been trying to negotiate a non-recourse loan for two years. In 2012, they stopped paying the mortgage. Javier and Dino have decided that once they solve their mortgage problem, they’ll try to make a new life in Brazil. «It’s very sad... For me, a Spaniard, from Madrid... It’s a real shame… I have to flee my country because of the Banks and the government... It’s mortifying now to say that I’m Spanish... What a country to have been born in!».
LUIS BENIGNO BARRAGÁN, 55, MARÍA CLARA MOGOLLÓN, 60. Ecuadorians, living in Madrid for 15 years. Luis is a truck driver. He lost his job in 2009 and became depressed, and finally fell ill with prostate cancer. As a result, he took early retirement. María Clara is a dressmaker. Since 2011, she has suffered a serious spinal disorder that prevents from her working. They bought their apartment in 2003, when they both had steady jobs. Since their health problems started, they can’t keep up with the mortgage payments. They stopped paying in 2012.They are asking for a non-recourse loan and applying for social housing. «The worldwide economic situation offers no way out. All we want is to give up the flat, be discharged of all debts and live in peace».
JAVIER MARCHAN, 30, AND HIS PARENTS MANUEL MARCHAN AND MAGDA HERNÁNDEZ. Spanish, living in Esplugues de Llobregat. Javier is an electrician. His employment situation started to get worse at the beginning of the crisis, and he has been unemployed since 2011. His mother does not work and his father is a baker on sick leave for cancer treatment. In 2006, he and his ex-partner bought the flat, with Javier’s parents as mortgage guarantors. After three years, to be able to continue paying the mortgage, he decided to move back in with his parents and rent out the flat. The rent covers only half of the mortgage. Javier can no longer pay the rest. He is willing to lose the flat and to take on part of the debt to save his parents from the risk of losing their home. «They made you believe that you could live beyond your means. On the one hand, this crisis has been good for us, because we’ve learnt from it and it’s told us: ‘Look, this isn’t possible; if you’re a worker and you’re earning a thousand euros a month, you ca
MARÍA FERNANDA PEREIRA, 59, CARLOS DANIEL BAPTISTA, 61, THEIR DAUGHTER ANA SOFÍA AND THEIR GRANDCHILD GUILLERMO. Portuguese, living In Collaldo-Villalba (Madrid) since 1991. María Fernanda is a cleaner who lost her job ten years ago due to health problems and has not been able to get it back. Carlos is a caretaker in a residential area. Ana is 34 years old and unemployed. In the past, she has worked as a shop assistant and a telephone operator. The couple bought the flat in 2000. Now, the family’s only wage, that of Carlos, is not enough to cover the mortgage, which they stopped paying two years ago. Since then, Carlos has suffered from an anxiety disorder that has caused him to lose his hearing. The flat have been auctioned. Until the date of eviction, the family continues to wait for the debt to be cancelled and to be allocated a social dwelling. «You see cases of people being thrown out of their homes from one day to the next... They go in with the police and everything, we’re all scared. I don’t know wha
PEDRO PÉREZ, 53, AND HIS MOTHER ENCARNACIÓN QUESADA, 87. Spanish and divorced with two adolescent children. He lives with his mother. Pedro is a cabinetmaker. He has been unemployed for three years. At present, he scrapes a living by collecting and selling cardboard and scrap metal. In 2008 he bought his flat in Sabadell, Barcelona, for €227,000, accepting a mortgage of €1,450 a month. His basic salary at the time was €1,050. Despite having renegotiated the debt, in the last six months he was not able to keep up his payments. At the end of 2012 his flat was auctioned. Since his problems with the mortgage began, Pedro has suffered from severe depression. «I tried to commit suicide. There are times when I wander around, searching for scrap, looking at the sky and seeing no answers anywhere. I just want them to take the flat and be free of debt».
ALICIA ESCRIBANO, 49, Spanish, living in Sabadell. She is divorced and has three grown-up children. Alicia and her ex-husband have always been self-employed. She worked in the textile industry, and he worked in the haulage business. In 1995, the bought the flat where she currently lives. Later, they asked to have their mortgage extended to buy a truck. With the crisis, her husband went bankrupt and ended up with no job. At the same time, they separated. In 2012, the flat was auctioned and is now in possession of the bank, but they still have a debt of almost €200,000. Right now, Alicia’s income is less then a fifth of what she was earning four years ago. She has asked for her debt to be cancelled and applied for social housing. «I’m scared, really scared... I feel a bit better because I’ve got the support of the ‘Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage Crisis, otherwise I’d probably have ended it all because I have no hope for the future, none at all. If at least I felt there was a chance of work, but I s



In Spain, the lives of thousands of people have been seriously impacted since the real-estate bubble burst. In 2012 alone, over 65,000 properties were repossessed at an average of 115 evictions a day.  More Fragile than a Bubble tells the stories of 15 families living in the metropolitan areas of Madrid and Barcelona who have been affected by the mortgage crisis. These stories take different paths but all end in the street, outside the door of a former home. They are stories of people who live with the threat of finding themselves alone with the debris of their broken homes.  This series of portraits is the first step in a personal photographic project about the miseries, conflicts and transformations of present-day Spain. This exhibition is the result of an anthropological approach to the reality of these families. For almost a year, the photographer followed them, both in the privacy of their homes and as members of the PAH, the Spanish multilocal movement lobbying for the right to housing.  Their stories paint a dramatic picture of contemporary Spanish society, marked by broken relationships, bankrupt businesses, illness and financial frauds. All this is crystallized in the faces of children with uncertain futures, young adults forced to regress to an adolescent stage of life and older people who suddenly find themselves regarded as unproductive members of their society.  These are stories of social vulnerability that share the leading thread of desperation caused by fruitless attempts to find work and a lifetime of debt to banks that continue to press these people despite the loss of their homes. Yet it is a desperation that refuses to give in to helplessness or to abandon the difficult path of collective awareness that leads to hope and a different concept of social justice.  The stories of these people ultimately mirror a contemporary Spain that is deeply marked by economic and social contradictions.  Dignity and the hope of a second chance are what remain of an unfortunate promise of plenty that was not kept.


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