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May 27, 2017

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New Year revelers defy Spain's economic woes

MADRID -- Uncowed by cold, rain and recession, revelers in Madrid on Monday sought to numb the pain of economic crisis with a glass of wine and plenty of cheer as the New Year reached Spain.

Armed with snacks and bottles, hundreds gathered in the evening rain on the capital's Puerta del Sol square for the countdown to 2013, set to be a fifth year of crisis for Spain.

Manuela Ibanez, 51, who came from Barcelona with her two daughters, said however: "At times like this we forget the crisis."

Sol has been the scene of numerous protests against crisis reforms, but with its clock tower it is also a prime spot to count down to the midnight chimes.

Wrapped up against the cold, Ibanez and family brought a bottle of cider — instead of Cava sparkling wine — and bunches of grapes for the traditional Spanish new year rite: the gobbling of 12 grapes, one with each chime at midnight.

"We will drink from the same bottle, we will kiss each other and wish each other happiness and good health for the coming year. That is the most important thing," she said.

"For a few moments we will stop thinking about our problems."

Several hundred people gathered under umbrellas in the square, with thousands more expected to arrive by midnight.

Earlier a horde of joggers sped shouting and smiling along the avenues of Madrid in the 10-kilometer (six-mile) New Year fun-run.

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