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So long I am in Japan, I am forgetting European bridged holidays. Once I was in almeria in the beginning of September, there was indeed a festival with a religious backgorund.

In Japan, holidays are pretty civil, no saints.

Today I caught two articles on Spain. They are not related to the holiday's theme, but generated a deal of curiosity nevertheless.

Spanish children among the most obese

One in three Spanish children is overweight, one of the worst records in Europe, a conference in Madrid was told on Tuesday.

Spain was one of nine countries to take part in a European Commission-funded study into ways to tackle obesity and emerged with more fat youngsters than any other country in the group.

Only England came anywhere near Spain in the sample with about a quarter of youngsters overweight.

"The amount of obese children in Spain is high and rising rapidly," said professor Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex, who co-ordinated the survey across the countries.

Back in the 1980s, only around 15 percent of Spanish children were overweight.

Is this what many holidays does to you?

The other article is from the right-wing blogosphere. It is a piece of usual scare for immigrants, but I wonder how this is viewed in Spain itself.

Europe's Future

[Thus] far in 2006, 30,000 "boat people" have landed on Canary Island beaches--already six times last year's tally. The great majority come from Senegal. There are also Malians and Mauritanians, Gambians and Guineans, Congolese and Cameroonians, and others whom Spaniards don't usually think of as their neighbors, but who now consider Europe just a hop, skip, and a jump away. There are occasional boats full of Chinese and Bangladeshis, too. Spain isn't the only destination for boats pouring out of other continents. The Italian islands of Lampedusa and Pantelleria have received well over 10,000 boat people this year. Migrants from East Africa, Pakistan, and India are beaching boats launched in Libya on the shores of Malta and Greece. And boats are not the only way to bust into the E.U. - there are also land routes through Eastern Europe, and the majority of immigrants to Europe still get there by flying in as tourists or students and then overstaying their visas.

But Spaniards have started to note that, in contrast to previous waves, these migrants seem to be coming to, not through, their country. Spain, which a decade ago thought it had an emigration problem, now finds itself the top immigrant destination on the entire continent. Its population has jumped to 44 million people, thanks to almost 4 million new immigrants. Slowly, over decades, a lot of European countries have reached the point where about 10 percent of their population is of immigrant background. Spain is now about 10 percent first-generation immigrant, and this has happened overnight. Much of the present migration is to cities. Foreigners make up 19 percent of the population (and 28 percent of the workforce) in Madrid. The Valencia region is 14 percent foreign-born. The Raval area of central Barcelona, where immigrants were exotic up until the early 1990s, is now a "majority minority" neighborhood.

by das monde on Thu Dec 7th, 2006 at 10:45:04 PM EST

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