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?
‘revolutionary gymnastics’. And like all gymnastics, the flexibility, strength and spontaneity of the workers’ uprisings were only possible thanks to long periods of training. The promise of the pre-Civil War period dissolved in the relentless horrors of the conflict itself and the brutal vengeance of Franco’s White Terror that followed the fascist victory in 1939. It was a revolution not only delayed, but, by necessity, forgotten. The rallying cry of agrarian reform, the only solution to the
of the vote in Marinaleda (the centre-right coalition UCD the remaining 22 per cent), and thus nine of the eleven councillors for the village’s municipal council. They have maintained an absolute majority on the council ever since. The CUT is not a traditional communist party, according to any tradition understood outside the region. It is neither a regular Marxist-Leninist party, nor a Trotskyite or Maoist one. ‘Our union gathers people of many political stripes,’ Sánchez Gordillo explained to
hours. Indeed, at 2 am there were still as many actual prams outside the bars as there were drunk men in their late twenties dressed up as babies. Even at that time, more revellers were turning up from other villages, some of them in costume. The latest point at which I managed to have a serious conversation about the village was around midnight in the Sindicato bar, according to my increasingly illegible notes. Paco, a smart, serious man in early middle age, was even-handed in his appraisal of
instruction from them. There is, and has always been, one overwhelming problem for right-wing or liberal depictions of Marinaleda as a grotesque, demagogic dictatorship: Sánchez Gordillo keeps on winning elections. Again, and again, and again. He does so neither by slender, contestable margins, nor by margins so implausible that you’d be minded to send in UN election observers. As the crisis slowly saps all remaining credibility from the major parties, the rightist Popular Party (PP) and PSOE,
silly. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that Sánchez Gordillo was self-replicating in this way, inspired by Los Gordillos, the Cadiz chirigota group. The real people’s leader seemed to be absent, but his spirit lived on in ludic fancy dress. At Marinaleda’s carnaval the following Saturday night, no one was so disrespectful as to reduce their icon – and elected leader – to a caricature. But in his absence he loomed over the pueblo and lingered in the air, in half-heard conversations from