Encountering the Guardia CivilSalamanca, Summer 2010

Late Sunday, as five other IESers and I returned from our weekend in Sevilla, we were awakened from our half sleep by a surprising sight. A handful of Guardia Civil officers were boarding our bus, which had been pulled over a few minutes outside of Salamanca. Then came the dog.

Two thoughts immediately occurred to me: It’s either drugs or ETA. I considered Spain’s relapse to military dictatorship to be a distant and improbable third.

An officer led the dog up and down the aisle a few times while the other officers took up positions in the back, front and center. Still more waited outside.

“Anti-droga” an older woman explained, to my relief. At least we didn’t have to worry about terrorists (or the ghost of Franco).

The woman explained that smugglers come up from Morocco, using Spain as an entry point for the entire EU. She had witnessed three or four such boardings in the past couple years, and once saw two young men taken away. They weren’t found with much, but she told us she’s heard of major seizures at such roadblocks.

I recalled hearing that a small town in the North, Miranda de Ebro, has the second highest rate of cocaine use worldwide, trailing only New York City. A surprising claim, but one supported by the United Nations, which also ranks Spain as the world leader in per capita cocaine use.

The officer then led the dog down below, to have a go at everyone’s baggage. You’ll be proud to know that none of the IESers were found to be part of any international drugs rings — Nor for that matter was any one on the bus. The officers disembarked and we proceeded to Salamanca without incident.

Traveling abroad, you really never can predict when you’ll have a memorable experience or what it will be. I’ll certainly keep this one with me for a while.

Kids, stay in school.

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