By Regina Winkle-Bryan
Last week we headed north into Girona and more specifically, Empordà. These regions of Catalonia are known for the footprints left behind by Big Dogs such as Dalí and Picasso. In fact, there are three Dalí museums in Empordà. Girona offers fertile fields, miles of vineyards, the rugged shores of the Costa Brava and medieval villages with the Pyrenees as a dramatic backdrop for it all. Among all this beauty are the putas, or prostitutes, or “ladies of the night”, except it’s not night, it’s 10:00 a.m.
We’re driving through really the middle of nowhere, and there by the side of a country lane is a woman in fishnets, high-heels, a black mini skirt and a halter top. She sits in a white plastic chair, maybe sipping a Red Bull. A couple miles down the same road we see another one, and another, and another. On my last trip north to Girona we counted about 25 women working the back-roads with their plastic chairs and occasionally a sun umbrella.
How the hell do they get out to the middle of rural Catalonia? There aren’t buses out there, and these women are in dire straights, so I doubt they have cars. I would guess that the man, or pimp behind all this exploitation leaves them out there every day, and then picks them up later on. How many customers can these women have along Bob’s Lane? Not too many probably, but clearly enough to keep coming back. These are all good questions, and I don’t have the answers, although I think the most important question is: Why is this happening?
I’ve never seen so much prostitution in my life as I have on the country roads of Girona (not just on this trip, but on every trip north I’ve made since 2008), and the road leading into Castelldefels. Numerous women in dangerous, solitary places, alone, selling themselves. Usually they are Latina or Eastern Europeans, probably immigrants, which makes the whole thing even worse in my opinion.
On this last trip north it especially struck me how blind we can collectively decide to be as a society. Girona and Empordà are high-end hot spots for tourism in Catalonia and many families from Barcelona have second homes there. How many Catalan families drive past these putas every weekend on their way to their beach house? Why hasn’t anyone complained? Where are the strong feminist women of Catalonia, and why aren’t they raising hell about this and shutting it down?
I find these women in their thigh-high boots and see-through tops standing in the mud in a field deeply troubling on many levels. They represent the economic crisis in Spain, desperation, exploitation, and also those who take advantage of them, and the many others, most of us, who turn a blind eye.
I for one, when in the Girona countryside, would like to see more poppies and pajaros than putas.
Photo by alessandro isnotaurelio