Some 400'000 eviction proceedings have been opened in Spain since 2007, with roughly half of the families involved having already lost residential properties due to foreclosures. For most of them, these were their homes.
Now, in the fifth year of the financial crisis, the evictions have become an iconic image of the country's economic plight.
During the first six months of this year alone, the Consejo General del Poder Judicial, which oversees and organizes the Spanish judiciary, registered 94'502 repossessions -- and the evictions reached a record 532 a day during the first half of 2012.
What happens to people who lose not only their jobs, but whose homes and hopes for a better future are taken away? There are now 1.7 million Spanish households in which not a single family member still earns a salary. Nearly 4 million people have lost their jobs since late 2007, when the real estate bubble burst. More than half of those out of work in Spain are now considered to be long-term unemployed.
The result is that an increasing number of them can no longer service the loans they took to purchase apartments, houses and commercial space during the boom years prior to the crisis.
According to a forecast by the Spanish central bank, the number of foreclosures will increase by another 30 percent in the coming year. And as the year draws to a close, there is no end in sight to the financial crisis. The outlook for 2013 is grim.
Small companies are facing bankruptcy, large companies are announcing additional layoffs and international corporations are pulling out of the country.
The Madrid Confederation of Employers and Industries estimates that economic output could drop by a further 1.3 percent in the coming year, with the ranks of the unemployed likely to swell to over 6 million.
Currently, 12.7 million people are already forced to survive on less than 60 percent of the average Spanish income, meaning that 27 percent of the population is living below the poverty threshold.
A joint study by UNICEF, Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders concluded that the country will need over 20 years to regain the standard of living it attained in the prosperous, pre-crisis years.
The crisis has altered Spain's DNA, says Francisco Lorenzo, who heads a social research group at the Catholic aid organisation Caritas. Lorenzo notes that we are currently transforming from a society with poverty to an impoverished society. One year after the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took office, the country is worse off than ever. In mid-December, Spain received nearly 40 billion from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to restructure its ailing banks. But experts in Madrid and Brussels still fear that the government will have to apply for a bailout of the entire economy in early 2013.