Spain is routinely referred to as a democratic country, and it does possess many of the attributes typically associated with democracy. At the same time, as I have seen during the past several months of living in Madrid, the country is also home to some profoundly anti-democratic tendencies. For many critics, these tendencies represent not an erosion of a previously democratic reality but rather a confirmation that “La Transición” (Spain’s post-1975 transition from dictatorship to democratic rule) remains fundamentally unfinished. Nowhere is this clearer that in the ongoing attempts by the state to restrict the ability of ordinary citizens to exercise freely their right to protest and to share information about what is happening in their society. In this “Weaving the Streets” post I will share what I observed and learned at a recent protest in support of Raúl Capín, an independent photojournalist who is facing potential jail time after photographing police activity at a major public demonstration in February 2013. The case is intimately connected with a broader series of issues having to do with the criminalization of information and possibility for real democratic transformation in Spain.
Farewell notes at the Café ComercialI've just arrived in Spain's capital, Madrid, and will be reporting from here for the next ten months or so. Many of my reports will fall within the purview of our "Weaving the Streets" project, part of a larger collaboration between the Weave and the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery. One of the first things that has caught my eye is the recent closure of the city's oldest café: Café Comercial (CC), located in the Glorieta de Bilbao, just a few minutes up the street from where I´m living. The sudden decision to shutter the legendary café has been reverberating throughout the city and beyond. It has also provided an opportunity for madrileños (residents of Madrid) to express themselves through hundreds of small notes attached to the windows of the café.
More than forty years after Henri Lefebvre proposed the concept of the “right to the city” amidst the urban uprisings of the late 1960s, we are witnessing a new wave of mass protest in cities across the world in response to widespread austerity cuts, entrenched corruption, plutocracy, police violence, and other injustices. Cairo, Athens, New York, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, and other major cities have been focal points of media coverage in recent years, providing endless material for scholars who study the dynamics of globalization, social protest, state repression, and the evolution of the “right to the city” movement. It’s important to remember, however, that while mass protests (especially those that feature violent clashes between demonstrators and police) tend to draw the most media attention, there is also much to learn from the everyday interactions that almost never receive any coverage. On a recent trip to Spain, I witnessed a small but ominous example of this.
El grupo de comunicación de la Asamblea de Arganzuela, distrito de la ciudad de Madrid, nos explican los orígenes del movimiento 15-M asi como su influencia en los movimientos asamblearios nacidos en la mayoria de las cuidades y pueblos del estado español en los últimos meses. La entrevista tuvo lugar en el parque central del barrio donde se reunen semanalmente para discutir de forma democrática los problemas que necesitan atención.
For those following the ongoing popular movement in Spain, take a look at the live feed from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid (off the air at the moment, but sure to be back online in the morning when Spaniards are scheduled to vote in municipal elections):