What is life like when the crisis descends upon your country? When banks have to be bailed out to the tune of 100 billion euros? When at the same time the unemployment rate is 27 per cent? What is happening over in Spain, with ever increasing austerity measures because the troika is tying loan commitments to them? What happens to human dignity when living conditions suddenly change in such a way and without anyone’s fault? Is it worth fighting when everything seems to be conspiring against you?
The impact of the Spanish financial crisis is most tangible in the sunny south of the country. In the rural regions of Andalusia the unemployment rate is up to 47 per cent, and two thirds of young people are affected. After six years of the crisis hardly anyone is still receiving unemployment benefit, social security does not pay mortgages and rents, and according to Caritas 350,000 people are malnourished. There are six million empty houses in Spain – about 25 per cent of the entire housing stock. At the same time there are up to 500 evictions a day. On the other side of those affected in their difficult situation are the banking giants, and it is only thanks to the self-help groups and solidarity campaigns that some manage to fend off or postpone eviction.
“Corrala de Vecinas la Utopía”, “neighbours of the Utopia block of flats”, is what in May 2012 36 families named the large building they were occupying. It was the beginning of an occupation movement by families that saw no other option and realised that a big solidarity movement was needed to win the right to affordable rents. The fear that their children will be taken away from them by the social security office because they are homeless gives the women in particular strength they never knew they had. They put up resistance and suddenly become politically involved. Even the European Court of Human Rights forbade Spain from evicting people who had no alternative to living on the streets. On 6 April 2014 the “Corrala de Vecinas la Utopía” were evicted.
The book with this work was published in 2014 bilingual in German and Spanish. Titled ‘Jenseits der Kastagnetten-Klänge‘, this essay shows the resistance to the impact of the crisis in Andalusia. The book can be purchased by emailing me with contact details to mail(at)kollatsch.com.
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