Plaza Solución: The Heart of Spain’s Peaceful Protests

No somos mercanía en las manos de políticos y banqueros.
We are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers.

Looking one month back, on the 15th of May, I remember reading every article I came across with in the internet, checking Bloomberg every couple of minutes for an update and continuously searching for new video images on YouTube of what was happening in over 50 cities in Spain – a peaceful protest on which more than 150,000 people took over the streets to demand Real Democracy.

While Tunisia was the first one this year demanding democracy and social justice, it soon inspired other its neighbors to take the reins. I never expected Spain to join this revolutionary fever that has been affecting mainly North Africa and the Middle East, and I still don’t firmly believe that this was its intention. There are obviously notorious differences between these protests – Spain is a democracy after all, isn’t it?

Sure, that’s what we’ve been taught in school ever since el Generalísimo died in 1975. But the truth is, many Spaniards believe that the country’s politics have turned into a national scam.

Esto no es una crisis, esto es una estafa.
This is not a crisis, this is fraud.

In contrast to Egypt and Tunisia, Spain doesn’t demand democracy – but real democracy. Many Spaniards feel that the media (controlled by politicians) has been playing tricks with their minds and distorting reality. Not everyone in Spain is undergoing a crisis, since both groups, politicians and, particularly bankers, are still profiting out of this economy. In the meantime, 43% of people under 25 are unemployed with only little hope left of finding a job by the end of this year.

In this sense, the 15M Movement in Spain reminds me of the riots that took place in Argentina during December 2001, its images were recollected by Gotan Project for their clip “Queremos Paz” (great song, great video!). Both protests were fueled by a fierce critics against the country’s politics and financial system. Spain, just as Argentina 10 years back, is outraged. Outraged with the political corruption. The lies. The fake promises. Then again, Argentina’s riots were much more violent and explosive (the consequence was 5 presidents in one week!), and the problem was far deeper, since people weren’t even able to cash out their money from the banks.

Que se vayan todos.
All shall leave.

While other countries have a fair number of parties that its citizens may vote – Spain twirls around two political parties: Partido Popular (PP, the center-right wing party) and Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, the center-left wing party). Let me correct this – there are more than these two, but they don’t get the same marketing, won’t appear as much on TV and so, have gone almost unnoticed for most of the population (including myself). These two parties dominate the polls.

Watching spanish politics remind me of my kindergarten – where one kid throws dirt in the other kids’ face. I couldn’t stand the continuous accusations and decided to disconnect from all that noise.

En el 2001 fueron las cacerolas – en el 2011, las redes sociales.
In 2001 it was the casseroles – in 2011, social media.

It wasn’t the TV news, nor a call or mail from family or friends that first warned me about the protests – it was Facebook. Social media has been the main communication channel for this event – where the platform Democracia Real YA – Real Democracy Now -has reached more than 400,000 followers in Facebook and and 85,000 followers in Twitter since its beginning, a month ago.

Back in 2001 in Argentina, the protest was warned with a cacerolazo, where a group of people walked the streets banging pots, pans and other utensils in order to call for attention and protest against the so-called corralito. In 2011, it is social media, isn’t it amazing the difference 10 years make?

What the future will bring for Spain is still to be seen. The spanish local and regional elections that took place on the 22nd of May 2011 were a landslide victory for the opposition, Partido Popular. It’s still to see what difference this will make.

Disclaimer: I’m not an anarchist, nor a revolutionary. I’ve been far too little exposed to the day to day of spanish politics in the last two years to have a fundamental thought on the 15M Movement. Every single opinion expressed is of my own, based solely on what the media, friends, family and my previous life have taught me. I’m happy to read about your own opinion as long as its respectful.

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12 thoughts on “Plaza Solución: The Heart of Spain’s Peaceful Protests

  1. I think it is exciting and terrifying the power social media has in the world right now. Is it the solution or totally out of control? I guess obviously no one thing is a “solution,” but I mean is it a way forward or not? I haven’t been keeping up with Spain’s politics so this was really interesting!

  2. I love the slogans and they mean something to me. If I had stayed in France, I would probably be unemployed or working barely minimum wage and struggling. Life isn’t always easy in North America but there are a bit more opportunities for the young generation. We are reasons to riot to, mind you and our politics are a fraud too. But there is a bit more hope… and I don’t see any in Europe right now.

    1. Unfortunately I agree with you on this… right now, I don’t see this going anywhere. But I’m glad to see that Spain is not accepting everything that is given! I hope this means there may be some slow coming change…

    1. Next year will be the general elections in Spain – I’m pretty sure we’ll be switching to PP again… I just hope this guy manages to carry the country out of the crisis (as they continue promising to their citizens).

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