The Village Against the World
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One hundred kilometers from Seville lies the small village of Marinaleda, which for the last thirty-five years has been the center of a tireless struggle to create a living utopia. Today, Marinaleda is a place where the farms and the processing plants are collectively owned and provide work for everyone who wants it.
As Spain's crisis becomes ever more desperate, Marinaleda also suffers from the international downturn. Can the village retain its utopian vision? Can the iconic mayor Sánchez Gordillo hold on to the dream against the depredations of the world beyond his village?
atmosphere of unease. In the cottage, we sat down at the kitchen table, and Mariano rolled up one blind above the sink. We remained in this dim half-light for the couple of hours we sat there and talked. It was only a simulacrum, but we really felt like we were in hiding. I had got the sense that Mariano Pradas is rather unfairly maligned in Marinaleda, where he is one of two elected Socialist Party (PSOE) councillors, alongside the nine of Sánchez Gordillo’s Izquierda Unida (IU). He tends to
often revolves around the development and management of El Humoso. PP or PSOE voters tend to dismiss it as a talking shop for members of the co-operative. Attempts to reach out to the non-believers in nearby pueblos have not always gone well. During the first of 2012’s two nationwide general strikes in March, Sánchez Gordillo and the SAT went picketing in neighbouring towns – there would be, of course, little point picketing in Marinaleda itself, since no one would dream of working. During
rejected the idea that 15-M was ‘merely reformist’, as some of its leftist critics have contended: it was developing, he said, ‘an increasingly anti-capitalist vision’. In London, I told him, big-state social democracy on the post-war model was increasingly seen as finished. The centre-left approach, of a compromise with capitalism, was kaput: apart from anything else, if someone won’t meet you halfway, it’s not a compromise anymore. Just like 15-M, the people at Occupy London and Occupy Wall
both thin and awkward. Slowly, he circulated the room. Everyone shook his hand and smiled, the older marinaleños placed a tender arm on his shoulder – you’re looking better, they said – and he smiled and looked a bit shy, a bit overwhelmed, like someone who remembered once having a different relationship with these people, now forgotten. When he reached our part of the room, I greeted him, and we exchanged a few words about my book. He was polite but uncomfortable, like a recently released
big and sparsely populated that there is even a social imperative behind the historic congregation in these small communities. The fact Andalusia never had an industrial revolution means there was no great wave of urbanisation in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. For centuries, Andalusian day labourers have settled in these tidily-sized pueblos, rather than in big cities or scattered in isolated cottages out in the fields, and this has forged a unique spirit, an ultra-local