The world’s economy is still fucked. And ever since the West went into an economic meltdown in 2008, anticonsumerist sentiment has been steadily on the rise—presumably because you kinda have to eschew materialism when you’ve got the spending power of a Dickensian chimney sweep. But while proletariats in the US have largely settled for memories of Zuccotti Park and organizing “buy-nothing days,” the Catalan civil disobedience movement Yomango has been getting out there, actively raging against consumerism since 2002. How? Through a campaign of ideological shoplifting.
Spawned in Barcelona by your usual black-bloc types and those hash-smoking crusties you see hanging around Thompkins Square with dogs on ropes, Yomango is Spanish slang for “I steal,” as well as a pun on local clothing company, MANGO. Falling somewhere between social experiment and sixth-form political statement, the movement’s members claim that what they’re doing is raging against the machine.
Yomango practitioners pillage multinational franchises for five-finger discounts and turn their stolen winnings into feasts. These feasts are kind of like countercultural Christmas dinners, with those taking part sharing shoplifting tactics (which, handily, are also now available as instructional YouTube videos), exchanging loot, and discussing ways of turning throwaway junk into DIY thieving accessories. If you’re not using an alarm-detector-resistant handbag, or a jacket with “magic” pockets that disappears swiped goods, you’re not shoplifting like these pros.
Molly Crabapple, who you may remember from her previous posts, The World of a Professional Naked Girl, and Rubber Bullets in the Streets of Madrid is now officially doing a monthly column for us that will feature original writing and illustrations on a variety of subjects. Here’s her first one. Hopefully it will help ease the pain of your first day back to work (or whatever it is you’re doing).
“You never think this will happen to you. But life changes fast.”
Anna, 36, is a cleaner who has been unemployed since Spain followed Greece into the vortex of the Eurozone crisis. Once homeless, she now lives at Corrala Utopia, one of Seville’s many squatted buildings. When we spoke, she was keeping watch over half a dozen children who also live at the squat, whilst their parents were out protesting in front of a local bank, IbjerCaja, which owns the building. The squatters wanted to pay for utilities, but the bank wouldn’t let them.
Corrala itself is an ugly, boxy apartment block, in the architectural style of all building booms, humanized by a blanket of graffiti. “Stop Evictions. No Light, No Water, No Fear.” Thirty families live there. When we walked up their pitch dark stairways, It felt like climbing seven flights of unlit stairs to my own New York apartment, which a week before had had its power knocked out by Hurricane Sandy. Anna’s apartment was filled with toys, a flat-screen TV, sofas. The relics of a middle class life.
The squatters I’d known in the US had been stoned crustpunks or dedicated activists, but most of them squatted by choice. In crisis-crushed Seville, squatting was necessity. Blue collar moms in neat lace collars acted like the most hardcore radicals. Because they have no money, they could do nothing else.
The city of Seville is so broke that it hasn’t paid its civil servants for six months. Nonetheless, it spent ten thousand euros digging up the sidewalk and cutting Corrala’s water main to try and force the squatters out. Now, Anna’s kids have to make five trips a day to haul water jugs up those dark stairwells.
“Life is hard here.” said Anna. “You see 10-year old kids gathering water from the fountain, like it was the 19th century. I’m ashamed for my country.”
What with the overthrowing of the Spanish government not really happening and skulls getting cracked left, right, and center, the 25-S protests in Madrid last week turned out to be a bit of a bummer. However, there was one image that shone like a ray of karmic light through all the police brutality and debris of smashed dreams. Or actually a bunch of images, most of which were taken by pervy Spanish photographers, who may or may not have been suffering from pee-filled kettle boners.
But whatever, let’s not ruin the moment:
Through her profile on Modelmayhem, I tracked down Jill Love: model, actress, independent filmmaker, and the best publicist Spain’s anti-capitalist indignados movement could ever hope for.
VICE: Hi Jill. You’re a Catalan-born American filmmaker who lives in Santa Fe. Is that right? Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself? Jill Love: I’m Catalan, I was born in Tarragona. At the age of 18, I moved to Madrid to start a new life. At the age of 26, I moved to the United States to start another new life. I’m still moving and I’m still having new adventures every day.
Clearly. Did you expect the photographers to go so wild? Not at all. I was on my knees in front of the police, praying to Isis. My eyes were closed. When I opened them I was surrounded by many photographers. It all got a little out of control. I left once it got too crazy.
Have you been getting much attention since the protest? Yes, I’m getting a bit overwhelmed with the situation, to be honest.
What’s the reaction been like from the rest of the 25-S protesters? Loads of people understood that my act was one of LOVE and PEACE. Others think it’s an easy way to get attention.
Here in Spain we have these things called “siestas.” They’re awesome. We get to take a break from work in the early afternoon to take a nap or masturbate or go to the bar. It also gives us an excuse to be late with a lot of our contributions to the US office because we can be all, “Oh, sorry, we were siesta-ing hard as fuck. Must’ve lost track of the time,” and they can’t say anything because it’s like one of our cultural traditions or whatever, and if they gave us shit about it we could probably have them arrested for a hate crime.