He illustrated several of the methods utilised to snatch tourist's valuables: "...distracting your attention while an accomplice lightens your pocket. Perhaps you will be splashed with a soft drink or worse and the "concerned" stranger helps you clean up; or maybe someone will stop suddenly in front of you in a crowded street; or you may be surrounded by young kids shouting at you and brandishing newspapers to hide the hands in your pocket."
He also cited a widely reported railway scam where you place your bags in the carriage and as you sit someone beckons you urgently to the window. As you are distracted, an accomplice makes off with your belongings. (www.smh.com.au/travel/traveller-tips/many-hands-light-fingers-20120504-1y336.html)
Nick Galvin makes the point that strangers in a strange land are always liable to attract the wrong kind of attention. Tourists are out of their comfort zone, probably don't speak the local language and may even be lost or at least nor sure of the way. He added a Biblical reference, the 40 year wilderness excursion travel, explaining that these things have been happening since "Moses conducted tour groups around the Middle East".
He adds that there must be balance between avoiding rip-offs (offering some suggestions) and being so paranoid you miss out on experiences. The best advice is, be aware some people may try to take advantage and be cautious while not letting it ruin your trip.
But all this begs the question, that for Australian tourists at least, why is Spain such a dangerous place in relation to such rip-offs, particularly passports.
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson, like all missionaries, has travelled widely in his 35 years of Christian ministry offers these comments:
Spain like Australia is a very diverse country. There are well trod tourist treks packed with tourists from around the world and one's caution is heightened. But "just away" from those intense areas (even two blocks) one might slacken off their caution. This is asking for trouble.
Spain's economy has been less stable over the past seventy years than counterpart European countries. Tourism is a significant part of its foreign currency and grown up around this has been "every scam known to tricksters". With 23% unemployment (includes nearing 45% young people unemployment), Spain is in serious trouble even with European central bank loans.
Reports are claiming that the Australia dollar is sliding with the problems associated with the Spanish bank Bankai and moreover news reports are suggesting deposit holders have withdrawn more than one billion euros from this bank on one night which drove stock markets and risk currencies like the Australian dollar lower. Ratings agency Moody's added to the negative sentiment after it downgraded the debt ratings of 16 Spanish banks last Friday. (www.news.com.au )
Spain has a history of internal political dispute and this has developed into an industry at a local level and part of this is a right to pillage the "haves". Tourists are fair game.
Spain has a vibrant international history more so than many other nations. Passports are valuable. The nature of a passport is "access authenticity". Criminal elements in Spain, more than most, realise a passport's currency on the black market.
Evangelical church under pressure in Spain
Spain like most western nations exhibits a nominal Christian population and "Catholic Spain" is a term common to all. In reality only a tiny percentage of the population attends regular worship, some figures place it as low as 5%. Less than 50% have ever been to a church wedding or funeral. Less than 75% now call themselves 'nominally' Catholic and the average age of Priests is 67.
This illustrates in part, that the ethical standards that is intrinsic to Christian teaching from childhood is demonstrably lacking across the whole society
The Evangelical and Pentecostal churches are constantly under "unsaid pressures" by the nominal Catholic majority. It must be remembered that the Inquisition (in many ways its own holocaust) was far more pungent in Spain than anywhere else in Europe. As the "terrifying Crusades" (for the Muslim) as though it was yesterday, as is the Reformation (for Protestants), so to the Inquisition is (to the Spanish). It is part of their national psyche in that it could somehow, very easily happen again.
Whatever else might be said, history reveals that Evangelicalism carries with it a vibrant and strong ethic for their societies which in turn influences their wider communities.
Spain, Mark Tronson says, is a mission field, ready for re-planting in order that a harvest might be gleaned.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html