The Free Hug movement in Malaga
Published: January 12, 2007 | 5294th good news item since 2003
Passers-by would have been forgiven for believing that this was an attempt to make it to one of the more ludicrous entries in the Guinness Book of Records, but they would have been mistaken. This was, in fact, an entirely new phenomenon that is sweeping through the Internet, called Free Hugs.
It originated in Down Under a few years ago, usually with young people heading out on the streets of big cities and hugging all who cross their paths, free of charge. The key to its world-wide popularity is due to the fact that the hugs are videoed and then placed on the Internet, for people to see everywhere in the world.
In Malaga last week, the huggers were a group of three students from the Las Viñas secondary school in Mollina, and Guinness not withstanding, they most certainly hold the record for the number of hugs given in the streets of Malaga city. It was an unforgettable experience for both them and the people they hugged. “We had not expected people to be so willing to be hugged,” says 16-year-old Juan Carlos Reyes, one of the three huggers.
The Malaga video, made on calle Larios, was placed on the Internet on New Year’s Eve, and has since attracted approximately 50,000 hits, which is the population of Mollina multiplied by ten.
“I was very excited when I saw a Free Hug video for the first time, and I decided there and then it would be a great idea for some of the pupils to do,” says ángel Rueda, the computer science teacher in the secondary school.
It was he who actually taped the hugging sessions in the streets, and who edited the final film. Many people from all over Spain have since called to congratulate him on his initiative, saying they were deeply touched by the Internet video showing the reactions of the recipients of the hugs.
His pupils were also delighted to see themselves and their friends on the video, especially because of the great reception given to the three pupils in the streets and the enthusiasm with which passers-by agreed to be hugged. “many of them took photographs and videoed us hugging, all saying how nice it was to see such affection from total strangers.
It was a wonderful success,” says Yamila García. He hugged people of all ages: men, women and children, old and young, including firemen, waiters, street cleaners, cyclists and postmen. “There was one old woman who was so touched by what we did that she gave us a lottery ticket and a bar of chocolate,” says Yamila.
A sense of values
The third hugger, Rocío Rojas, admitted she was somewhat shy at first about hugging strangers in the street, but she soon got over it.
“Many people asked us why we were doing it, and we told them it was an expression of our desire for peace in the world.” ángel Rueda tells us he was more influenced by the values of solidarity and affection of the Free Hug movement.
“I believe it is important to motivate the pupils by showing them another side of the educational process, especially now, with all the bullying in schools all over Spain.”