youth culture

youth culture
   Though Spain has an ageing population and the lowest fertility rate in Europe (see also demographic indicators), the effects of this will only be seen in the twenty-first century, as the birth-rate in the 1970s was relatively high, leading to a substantial proportion of under-25s in the mid to late 1990s. A visitor to the country is therefore likely to receive the impression of a vibrant youth culture. This is due to a number of factors, not least the enthusiasm with which young people in Spain have, since the 1970s, embraced the lifestyles of their counterparts in the US, Britain and other European countries. Dress, tastes in music (see also rock and pop), and the numbers of young people observed in bars and discos combine to strengthen the impression of a cosmopolitan, consumer generation identifying with the rest of the developed world.
   There are, however, a number of features which for historic reasons are arguably more accentuated in Spain than elsewhere. Though persons under 25 in the year 2000 will by definition have no direct experience of living under Francoism, the feeling that Spain is a young democracy recently emerged from an authoritarian system is still strong. In addition, this generation is considerably better educated than its elders, and, having access to betterpaid employment, has more disposable income. There is also a strong libertarian strand to youth culture in Spain, represented in its most characteristic form by the Movida of the years around 1980. Though this had spent its force by the early 1990s, the element of excess in the lifestyle of the young is perhaps more marked than elsewhere, notably in the phenomenon known as la ruta del bakalao, the Spanish equivalent of the "acid house". The difference is that in Spain a weekend of disco-dancing and dosing on Ecstasy can be spread over several widely distant venues, entailing long car journeys at reckless speed. At a more general level, resistance to authority is reflected in more relaxed attitudes towards sexual behaviour, drug-taking, and the increasing rejection of the obligation of military service (see also insumisos).
   There is, however, evidence to suggest that external appearances are in some ways deceptive, and that the under-25s have become more conservative in the 1990s. Some surveys indicate that young people's actual sexual behaviour is more cautious than their replies to questionnaires would suggest. A large majority, of the order of 80 percent, declare that the family is the most important element in their lives, and Spain has one of the lowest rates in Europe of single-person households, indicating that young people are remaining longer in the parental home. Figures for cohabitation are also very low (slightly over 1 percent, according to a National Statistical Institute survey in the early 1990s), and those who marry prefer to do so in church, despite the fact that church affiliation is lowest among this age cohort. As with other aspects of post-Franco culture, it would appear that the initial exuberance has been replaced by something more moderate.
   Further reading
   - Aznárez, M. (1996) "Juventud: la infancia más larga", El País 20 Años (a concise and useful overview included in this supplement, which was published to celebrate the first twenty years of El País).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (part three, "Coming to Terms with Freedom", especially chapter 14, "A Cult of Excess", gives a reliable picture of youth culture within the context of overall cultural developments).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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