Spanish Squats in Andalusia
Faced with the harshest cuts to public services in the history of Spanish democracy, workers in Andalusia are going through an undeniably shitty time. Unemployment in the southern autonomous region is around 36 percent—much higher than the national average of about 26—and the labor reforms that allowed corporations to fire huge swaths of the workforce without severance pay only made things worse. The victims of this climate of economic gloom have struck back by occupying abandoned homes, as thecorralas have done, or staging mass protests and strikes a la the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (Andalucian Workers Union).
Inspired by the communitarian village of Marinaleda, whose revolutionary bearded mayor is also the president of the SAT—and its sister organization the Sindicato Obreros de Campo (Farm Workers Union)—have been expanding their operations across the region over the last couple years. This includes highly publicized “raids” on supermarkets in places like Seville, Malaga, and Cordoba.
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."