A Spanish protest.
As we come out of the socialist party offices, past the gleaming bust of Karl Marx which stands inside the doorway, suddenly I heard it, witnessed it, the Spanish reaction to property foreclosures sweeping the country, the sound of my very first cacerolada, the tactic is copied from Argentina when it also went bust in 2002, the idea lacks subtlety yet appears to be affective, protesters block the streets banging pots and pans, these particular protesters are women, office workers mostly aged over 40 and well dressed, they have spread themselves in a line across the road, blocking the traffic at one of Madrid’s busiest intersections, they bang their pots and pans and chant, “the bailouts are rewarding the Banks” they say, but insist they are doing nothing to ease the suffering of families laid low by the economic crisis. People are losing their jobs a woman tells me, decent families with children, living on the street, surviving on handouts and charity. This was one of many caceroladas I have witnessed in the last two weeks.
When Bankia Spain´s fourth largest banking group had to ask for a 4 billion euro bailout, followed by another 19 billion when the initial 4 was not enough I saw the same type of protest involving pots and pans again, deployed primarily outside many of its branches. But Spain’s problem is not just its banking system the country’s economy was buoyed up for a decade by the very property boom that the banking system fed, so now they are left with bankrupt banks and a shrinking economy, with protests happening up and down the country and no decisions as of yet by the government, the situation is set to worsen with one in four unemployed, people from all sectors seeing their wages and pensions cut, all kinds of ordinary people have taken to the streets using methods copied from and sometimes aided by the M15 movement the hard core anti capitalist youth movement who occupied Spain’s Plazas over a year ago, but the new breed of protesters are well aware that the constant banging of utensils on Teflon is at the moment merely acting as a kind of release valve on the feeling of social discontent.
Later I met a group of squatters who had occupied a block of flats in Seville after losing their own homes to repossession; they were planning a protest of this kind themselves outside the electricity company headquarters that had just recently disconnected the electricity to the building. The squatters mainly families, calling themselves Barrios en Lucha which translates as ‘neighbourhoods in struggle’ were evicted from their own homes when they were repossessed by the banks, released a statement
‘Twenty families in urgent need of housing, organised through the 15M movement, have squatted an empty building in Avenida de Juventudes Musicales, (the Avenue of Musical Youth!) to make homes for themselves there under the name of Patio of Neighbours “La Utopia” and to “make visible the terrible housing problem that so many people suffer. The building has been empty since it was completed in 2010. Instead of it sitting empty, twenty families have made it their home’.
The building in question is an empty apartment block, never been lived in since it building work was completed in the year 2010, it was previously owned by a large property company, since declared bankrupt, it is presently owned by the bank Ibercaja, the number of families now squatting has recently risen to 36, some had simply fallen into rent arrears and been evicted, but the majority were still the victims of bank repossession, the people inside are a mixture of ages from the very young to the very old, some in a state of serious ill health, but even this has not stopped them being constantly harassed by the local government, water and electricity have been disconnected, One woman I spoke to was previously living in a block of flats from which thirty families have been evicted, in an area called La Macarena which has the highest rate of mortgage foreclosures in Seville. If this continues I fear a lot more cacerolada´s will be heard ringing through the streets Spain.