Postcard from... Madrid



It hasn’t been a good week for Spain’s finances. First, Reyal Urbis, a Spanish real estate corporation, declared itself insolvent – the second-biggest single Spanish company to do so since the recession began. And now, just 24 hours later, Miss Spain herself – or more strictly speaking, the organising company of the country’s biggest beauty competition – said yesterday that it had gone bust.

The bankruptcy of one of Spain’s more intellectually frivolous but hugely popular annual competitions, first held in 1929, has been seen as symbolic of the country’s wider troubles, which include 26 per cent unemployment and a seemingly interminable recession.

Miss Spain already had an uphill fight on its hands after losing 17 years of national TV coverage in 2008, with the last competition held in 2011. That year’s elected champion, Andrea Huisgen of Catalonia, was obliged to use her own contacts and funds to make it to the world-wide version of the event, Miss Universe, after the organiser lost the licensing rights to take part.

The competition’s image was already somewhat tarnished after 2007’s Miss Spain, a woman from Cantabria, was stripped of her title when it emerged she was a mother. The ex-Miss promptly took the company to court on discrimination grounds – finally forcing a rule-change to allow parents and pregnant women to take part.

The organisers can take some scant comfort from the fact that their brainchild is hardly alone in her plight. The year 2012 saw a new all-time record in companies filing for bankruptcy in Spain, up to 7,988, 32 per cent higher than in 2011, with 70,377 employees affected.