SPAIN: AT BREAKING POINT? A political and economic analysis for 2013 IBERIANS OF THE YEAR: The most influential people and groups of 2012


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Choosing the Iberians of 2012

Iberosphere has drawn up its annual list of people of the year in Spain and Portugal. This is how we went about it…


Picking a person of the year is difficult enough in times of economic calm and social stability, but in times of crisis it’s arguably harder. When the economy is struggling and leaders are held in low esteem, it’s hard to find individuals whose achievements make them stand out, for better or worse.

So inevitably, the shortlist of Iberians of 2012 that managing editor Andrew Eatwell and I have drawn up has been dominated by the crisis that the peninsula – in particular the Spanish side of it – is suffering.

There’s always a risk that calling those nominated the “people of the year” glorifies them, or at least suggests they are being cast in a positive light. But our nominees are not necessarily heroes, or people who have achieved great things. They are, however, individuals who have either set the agenda or reflected the public mood over the last 12 months.

Several of them divide opinion deeply, such as our “winner”, Artur Mas. A whirlwind three months, which saw him put Catalan independence firmly on the Spanish political agenda before suffering in regional elections, make him the most obvious protagonist of 2012.

Likewise, the staunchly leftist mayor of Marinaleda, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, has as many critics as supporters, but his direct actions to draw attention to social and economic injustice have struck a chord with many Spaniards.

Some might argue that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would be an equally fitting choice as Mas as the “winner”, given that his first 12 months in government have been so turbulent. But Rajoy, despite his position, has often seemed to be a behind-the-scenes actor over the last year, waiting for events to develop rather than instigating them. He makes the shortlist almost by default, rather than through his own actions.

Meanwhile, King Juan Carlos makes the list not so much because of his own exploits (although his ill-timed hunting trip in April was significant), but because Spaniards’ declining support for the royal family reflects a more general loss of credibility when it comes to the country’s institutions.

But even in times of crisis there are achievements to celebrate. Spanish football coach Vicente del Bosque added another page to his extraordinary CV in 2012 by leading his team to victory in the European championships, while maintaining the kind of understated poise in public that his political counterparts could learn from.

Unfortunately, Spanish and Portuguese public life seems to have relatively few women, with almost all those running the big political and economic institutions and the major media being middle-aged men. Therefore, only one woman has made it onto the list: Lisbon-based artist Joana Vasconcelos. She had a year to remember, becoming the first woman to exhibit in the Palace of Versailles.

Read the full story on the Iberians of 2012, Artur Mas and the runners-up.

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Published: Dec 4 2012
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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