Marinalena – The Land of All | 14Mai2012 17:17:45

60 miles east of Seville, 40 men and women are scattered through a field of artichokes. They start early and will stay here for the next 6.5 hours.
The hardness of the enterprise takes the cold to other places. The high sun soon calls for lightness.

When full, the baskets then follow to the tractor. The ground the people walks harvesting the fruit has had once one owner.

Almost 1300 hectares. Now, this land is of all who work it.
The Land of All

It was hard, very hard, but by insisting we got the land. There was nothing but sunflower and wheat. It was just what they sowed.
Even with olive trees here, we could not harvest, because they were not allowing us.

30 years ago, walked around here no more than four people, including a caretaker grappling with wheat. But then happens the agrarian reform, for good. The land changed owners by force during the '80s and '90s, by the will of those who live in Marinaleda. A village with less than 3000 inhabitants.

With unemployment ordering those days, many people in desperation joined the voice of unions, born at the time of the Franco regime and decided to leave to the country.

Marinaleda municipality files.

The idea: to occupy the lands of those who had more. They followed in a row in hundreds, by trails, walking 6 miles. On their hands, they took a flag with the green color of Andalusia. They took course for the lands of Duke of Infantado who inherited it by the hands of history and from a title given by the Catholic kings of Spain in the fifteenth century.

People of Marinaleda gave the first steps in the occupation of swamp nearby. First they conquer the water then they went towards the ground. Any one of the oldest people remembers those days doing nothing, just waiting.
When they give us the water, we ask for land.

I came here many times, on foot and the Guardia Civil moved us away. Often. We came from the pathway you can see here, on foot ... When I arrived here, the Guardia was here and I had two little daughters who were frightened by the Guardía, because they were little ones, many times, and today we have pride in what we have.

Next, they chose a farm, the Humoso farm. It took months and months on foot every day, all Marinaleda down the road in protest.

At 2pm the temperature was 104ºF and we had to come back. But, the following day, we returned. And, so we walked to and from, one month.

And we made three occupations. The first lasted 40 days and 40 nights. And the second occupation lasted 60 days. We had to do three occupations because the Government did not give us the land and the third occupation was the largest in the history of Andalusia and lasted 90 days.

They were often about to lower the arms, not believing the time spent on nothing. Afflicted with hunger, because they had no paycheck. They say it was a man who convinced them. Since there are municipal elections in Spain, since the late '60s, Juan Manuel Gordillo is the mayor of Marinaleda, elected by the united left. At 56, remembers how near he was, they were all, ready to give up.
I remember we did an hunger strike, we were 700 people during 13 days and some people said:

"This makes no sense, we're not going anywhere, no one will hear us."
I believe that, over time, the small victories have made people believe it was possible to achieve the utopia that the land belongs to the people who work on it.
In those days the fear the revolt spread to the rest of Andalusia, made the authorities had very little tolerance to the protest.

I've been arrested many times, suffered attacks from the extreme right, they put us before judges hundreds of times, and so, this fight has cost us twelve years of fighting against the Government, against the owners, against the judges, against the Guardia Civil. .. And it was not an easy fight.

And if occupying the land was not enough, they travel to Seville, the regional headquarter, they invaded the airport, preventing take-offs.
They threw themselves inside the station, escaping like a mouse from the cat, the Guardia Civil, or waiting for their turn.

They were together inside banks, sometimes only women, men stayed to guard the land, alone they don’t inhibited when the protest ended behind bars.
We went to Seville, 800 women, and we manifested ourselves in public places. They arrested us, they arrested us every night and we were in police stations until two or three in the morning and there was a committee of workers from Seville who gave us shelter. But the next day, we returned out to the street, so we were 11 days in Seville.

Finally, in 1991, the regional government got fed up and expropriated the lands of the Duke to give them to the protestors. The local people began finally to grow, rising this way the Marinaleda cooperative. Peppers, broad beans, olives, artichokes, till now they never paid anything for that ground, which they named The Land of Utopia.

When everyone gathered, they began then the cultivation of olive, artichoke, also peppers, beans and in the future, we want to grow in a way that everyone in the village works. For non-stop throughout the year.

Well, here, worked only four people, they had a caretaker ... they just seeded and nothing else. Just what they have to sow
With machine?

Yes, with machines and there are also tractors that harvest the wheat, yes.
How many people work now?

Here, now, there are times when we are about 500.
And when the olive season begins it’s everybody for himself. Even before, when harvesting broad beans the ones from here are not enough, workers must come from outside.

Depends on the crop, depending on the type of crop. Right now is time to harvest artichoke and the harvest of artichoke only ends in July, but in the meantime we have the harvest of broad beans that will take about a month and everybody comes.

And when we finish harvesting beans, soon after, in August, starts harvesting peppers.
And then the olive ...
Then the olive.

During campaigns there are many people working. At the time of the olive, broad bean, pepper, artichoke ...
And what comes out of the field arrives to the factory.
Since we have the land, we realize that only with the land we would not have the jobs needed and so we created a transformation industry of peppers, artichoke, field bean ... With the land and industry of those who work on it, we have virtually full employment.

In addition to the jobs created in the harvests, the cooperative built a canning outside the city. The artichoke, much coveted in northern Spain, is already all bought. Throughout the year the production has colors, and flavors matching the season. $ 62 net per day, the amount paid to each one who puts his hands to work. There are 40 to 50 cooperativists with fixed job every day. The others come and go, according to campaigns, and there are times of the year in which even those from neighboring lands are called. In less busy times, like spring, they organize quadrilles, dividing the workers into groups of 40 that are not going to the land every day, but some weeks yes, some weeks not.

To guarantee that the families can take some money home. With more than 20% unemployment in Spain, people from here feel safe and even people from other places come off looking for a place in the sun.

I worked with window frames, but now with the crisis, I have to work here in Marinaleda.

I don’t work every day, but we make things taking turns, as a quadrille. Each gang works in a period of six days and when there’s nothing left this is the best possible, of course.

What they pay is enough?

Yes, we can work 15 days a month and a couple working, man and woman, monthly it pays off.

How much you earn per month?

Working here? More what I do outside, I make also small jobs and 1000 euros, 900 ... 800,  1000  ... Between me and my wife, 1200, 1300, so ... Yes, it's good. True, it is good.

And virtually there is no unemployment. Now with the crisis, there is a little more. At the times when there are more workers than jobs, we make a general meeting and we draw up those who work or we do shifts of work to guarantee that all families will always have an income that allows them to live. When those conditions improve, which happens almost every year, all family members work, but we always try that at least one family member can have work.
The policy options of the village are expressed in every corner. Each street and path has a name to match.

Socialism was always chosen in the vote, spreads in many murals along the road that runs Marinaleda from one end to another.

Peace, bread, work

Neither the sports hall escapes the pitch of days. For too long, there is no municipal police force which gives a saving of $ 260,000 per year. The Guardia Civil appears from time to time. Nearly a third of the village is equal, the districts are similar based on common property. This means that these houses don’t have mortgages. Residents pay $20 per month. $20 for a house with 1000f2 at the ground floor, plus 1070f2 for a backyard or garden that each one occupies as he likes, even with more concrete. In exchange for a price, that doesn’t seem price, each house has to be done by its owner with the individual contribution of 400 hours of sweat. Who does not know, learn how.

Here we even have the opportunity to learn, because we usually do not dedicate ourselves to the construction, we are dedicated to other sectors, agriculture, for example. It also gives us the opportunity to learn how to build our home.

And did you learn?

It was difficult or not?
With commitment, everything can be done.. Listen, $20 is the bill of a mobile phone ... per month, I think. Here, you can get a house.

People that are unable to spare the time to build must pay $530 per month while the house is built. Or, asks to friends or family that can. After, the $20 are used to pay the municipality, not just the advanced materials by the municipality, but also the building instructions.

The $20 are used to pay the material of the house, which was ... I have to pay about $26 000. When I finish paying these $26 000,the  house belongs to me. But with $20 per month, it would take 70 or 65 years to pay, right?
If you do not pay, your sons can?

My sons continue to pay and it’s the same. When my son finishes to pay $26 000 the house belongs to them. With deed, the house is registered as their property. For $20, this would take me 70 years to pay for the house. Therefore, I will not pay it. My children will pay. But, what this prevents? No one can speculate on the house, no one can sell the house.

The tradition of self-construction began in Marinaleda, during the '80s. People build lots, then they draw the house of each one. Lands belong to the municipality, which confuses the law, to make possible to buy them for very little money. Here private property is very slight a concept very slight.

Since we do not have the law on our side, we skirted the issue and we bought the land classified as rustic ... which makes them much cheaper. Maybe, some 500 times less expensive than urban land. Clearly, that we purchased with a classification rustic and then it is urbanized. Anyway, if we can’t buy, we expropriate. I believe that the housing problem in Europe is an absolutely false problem and that problem is not solved because of the interests that were created by predatory banking, financial capital that has been introduced in construction and real estate.

Having a child in the city kindergarten costs $16 per month and there is no waiting list. The meals of the rest school cost $17 per month. But even to the young people are asked to stick to what surrounds them. The party of peace fills the space in front of the municipality. To the younger we give flour and freedom for the confrontation, the only one they are expected to know throughout life.
Represents the battle that all children should hang with the other children, the battle of the fun. I think that this reflects what all children of the world should know. Many children do not even know flour, unfortunately.

From the streets to the classroom, the message is written and is registered to endure. Teachers in Marinaleda should not forget where they are.
We ask teachers to work and convey values that make the children more human.
Socialism values?

Of socialism ... Human values, definitely. Values of solidarity, equality, common education, peace ... Definitely that make them better people.
Side by side with the municipality headquarter, is Marinaleda television, paid with money of the local authority, looking for another perspective about headlines.

Because the news broadcast on television have always a point of view, but there is more than one, if we really look at news analyzing   the really question of the things.

During four hours a day, two in the morning, the others in the afternoon, the village knows by the screen what is happening around, the rest of the emission is picking up from who share the same values.

The rest of the emission ... Well, we put other channels, such as Cubavision and also ... TeleSUR. The TeleSUR. Emitted by Venezuela.

Why those channels?

Well, they are closer to our ideas.

Every Saturday, the leader of the city has airtime. Talks about what he thinks of the world, including the pains of the Palestinian, and drops poetry to match.
Franco, thief, traitor ...

son of a bitch and pig!

At half past seven, general meeting at the union.

Much of what goes on Marinaleda is decided by those that are living there. Are informed of the general assembly, always arrive in droves. The village with about 2800 inhabitants is called to choose the fate of the city.

I do not want to influence in one direction or another.

But if among all we make a mistake, it is easier to understand our mistakes than if only a few decide. And we think the assembly should be a kind of collective government of workers and that they must make the big decisions, such as the way how the houses are distributed, whether or not the taxes go up, the budget of the Board ... If you need to occupy a farm or any other decision. They must be the protagonists, through direct democracy, who decides on all matters that concern their lives.

And I think people have enough sense of community, more than many politicians and much more than many business leaders.

The mayor of Marinaleda spreads the cult of Che in each corner. The place where he makes decisions seems like any public service in Havana. Lives with $1 700 per month of salary as provincial deputy in Seville. Abdicated his salary as a mayor, lives in a house of self-construction, has no car.

For $20 a home, $16 a child in a kindergarten, a swimming pool where you pay $4 for the entire season in the summer, seems a city so rich that it can take up to several luxuries. Who is in charge admits that is not the case, but resources are scarce, remains the fight to go get some more.

Today, virtually all city halls are in bankruptcy. And, what are we doing? If we do not have money, we fight to achieve it. For example, we don’t have money for the houses, materials for the houses. We say to the Council that we want money for materials and they say: "There is no money." The next day, we occupy the building of the Council and stay there until they release the funds. That is, we fight for that money because we believe it is a right and that right has to become reality.

And the occupation results?
f course it results. The counselors already fear us and when we ask something that we think it’s fair, they usually give. If they not give, we mobilize ourselves; we face such counselor or president of the Government.

All the union leaders were in jail. At this point, they ask for 53 years in jail and I'm with search and arrest warrant because I refuse to attend the trials because I’m tired to go to trials where, before we arrive, the sentence is already made.
The opposition has a different opinion. Hipólito Aires, employee of a service station, is the face of the Spanish Socialist Party in the village and the face of those who disagree with Marinaleda’s way.

The village has stagnated. In thirty years, the village has not progressed enough so that it works as he says there is full employment, but it is uncertain, and being uncertain it may not be full, since people in order to work some days have to pick up a flag and go where they say, at his good pleasure and participate in strikes. Otherwise, they can not ... This is not full employment.

One must be very blind or politically ... too stupid to say that the living conditions of workers in Marinaleda did not give a 180 degree turn.

Listen, the development model, at first place, the industrial area should be implemented for some years now. What was done was only for his work and to put his factories that only benefit him. This should have been resolved long time ago. And should not look only for agrarian policy, he should look for companies that should long ago have come to Marinaleda. And so, Marinaleda would be more advanced, like other villages, the villages nearby, with more life. With more life.

In the gloom, the color of the many campfires that overwhelm Marinaleda gains space. Tonight they celebrate the candelária Party. In every street, every corner, neighbors and friends burn the remains of olive trees that bore fruit for the last time.

The municipality spreads offers door to door.

We are distributing gifts that the municipality gives each candelária time to neighbors, and which consists of a 3kg giant bread, 2 kg pork sausage, beer and soft drinks so the neighbors can have something to share.

Among the offerings and the many conversations some spread words that embrace so many people in these days.

People from the land say, still, that such things come from others because in their parts, life is not like that.

Here, the great consumerism has not reached yet, the great supermarkets, so there are small shops, we buy every day. It's not like going to supermarkets and buys for the entire month, for twenty days. We buy day by day, so we will be managing well. It's easy.

For example, having a child in school is cheap?

Yes, the books are bought collectively. We put the school and the municipality in charge of buying all the books for all students and they go from the first until the sixth cycle. So we will renew ... It will not renew, but the first is used by the second, next year the same thing and so on, year after year, so it's cheap. The canteen is very cheap. The school canteen costs ...

66 dollars....
No. $66 not.
It costs about $17 per month.
Neighbors of Rubio, of Herrera and the other villages what can they say? They say they do not believe. Even if you want to tell them, even if they see, they believe that this is impossible. But it is not impossible, it is true.
We live well in Marinaleda.

The fight does not stop at Marinaleda. From times to times the people gathers again to ask for more land, as if the people wanted all Andalusia to plant.
We need more land, because all the years the Government requires us to leave land fallow. 70, 80 acres on which we can not sow. They oblige us.

But that does not mean we do not fight for a society in which the means of production are at the service of the workers, where  wealth is distributed, where equality is possible, which respects the environment because we earn a living with it, we understand things through dialogue and peace and not war ...
I believe that the noblest dream of the human being and the people should and must become a reality.

I think that the fall into pessimism is convenient to the system that dominates us.
And if someone comes before them, they promise, as always, not to yield, teaching the way to resist to those who come after.

To my son, who is 21 years, I say: "You should not be afraid, everything is fine and ..." And I tell him that the judges are ordinary people, just they wear a gown and it is impressive, but is nothing. We must be strong. And free. And look up. If we bend, thatpeople take advantage on us. I'm proud of what I did. I do not regret anything.

The struggle never stops.
If we stand without fighting, the few rights we have are taken from us. One by one.



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