Young people take to streets in Spain
“El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido.”
The people, united, will never be defeated.
Midnight in Reno was early morning in Madrid, Spain. My plane glided through an abbreviated night over the Atlantic before landing in Europe in the madrugada (dawn).
I recently tripped to Spain for a conference, staying first at a hotel near the famous Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid. My husband and I took the subway and arrived at Estación de Sol and climbed out of the dark metro into the bright light of the Spanish Revolution.
Make that #spanishrevolution (Twitter) or www.democraciarealya .es (Real Democracy Now).
And make the morning damp and gray where tens of thousands marched before Spanish elections weeks earlier. When I arrived in early June, dozens had been camping for several weeks in colonies of Quechua-brand dome tents.
Think Reno’s Tent City meets a politically motivated Burning Man in an alternate universe where everyone speaks Spanish and buys eco-friendly camping gear. Unemployment’s around 21 percent in Spain—for youth. Leaders from conservative and liberal parties are under investigation for fraud and corporate kickbacks.
Fed up with limited political choices and furious over lack of representation, Spanish protestors (los indignados) from all walks of life took to the streets on May 15. Police estimated that 20,000 marched in Madrid.
The newspaper El País interviewed the two men inspired by social media use in Arab democracy movements to kick-start this Spanish revolution. Fabio Gándara is 26, unemployed, and has a master’s degree in urban-planning law. Jon Aguirre is a college student who studies architecture.
“We are neither anarchists nor working against the system, we’re just ordinary people,” Gándara told El País. “The real anti-system people are the sharks who ripped the financial system to shreds,” Aguirre said.
After May 15, handfuls of protestors with evangelical zeal camped in city centers across Spain. Protesters staffing an info booth at Puerta del Sol gave media interviews, discussed political solutions with passers-by, played drums and gathered email addresses. Though media reported the camp’s dismantlement in early June, a core group was still hard at work when my plane left Madrid June 18.
I spotted protest camps a block from Madrid’s Prado museum and in Granada. I talked to pro-democracy folks in Ronda. There, protesters (holding but not wearing Guy Fawkes masks) gave me an English translation of the group’s manifesto.
“We are ordinary people … who get up every morning to study, work or find a job, people who have family and friends.”
“We are all concerned and angry about political, economic and social outlook we see around us—corruption among politicians, businessmen, bankers—leaving us helpless, without a voice. The situation has become normal, a daily suffering, without hope.
“But if we join forces, we can change it.”
Like others in the past year, Spain’s pro-democracy movement is connected and empowered by social media. When news media reported that protests were turning violent, protesters countered with YouTube videos showing peaceful protests interrupted by police in riot gear firing rubber bullets into the crowd.
Despite media coverage, the Spanish revolution is gathering steam. On May 19, a Madrid protest drew 40,000. In Barcelona, 50,000 marched. Across Spain, as I was back in Reno writing this, an estimated 200,000 indignant citizens were on the street.
This much I know: Young people are not apathetic in Spain, the Middle East, China or in the United States. When they act—in Carson City or in Egypt—they wield power. The old guard should be shaking in its corpocratic shoes. Today’s youth are knowledgeable and frustrated. They believe democracy can work. They engage with good humor.
A banner in Granada’s Tent City featured Rosie the Riveter and an English slogan, “Yes, we camp.”