In May of 2012, some 30 families occupied a residential building in Seville, baptising the occupation Corrala de vecinas la utopia. The building erected in 2010, but never inhabited, was and is still owned by the bank Ibercaja. For the occupiers, it was the only possible response to eviction or imminent eviction; the only possible political response, for the occupation was a political act carried out against the primacy of private property/capital over human needs and freedom.
Animated by the 15th of May movement, the families of the Corrala became an example to others, other Corralas/occupations in Andalusia and throughout spain, most notably perhaps, in the many occupations under the Obra Social of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca‘s Obra Social (with some 2500 individuals housed). The manifesto that announced the taking of the building still echoes the spirit of the gesture …
CORRALA DE VECINAS
We, some twenty families, have housed ourselves in an empty building located on the Avenida de las Juventudes Musicales (Sevilla) to make of it our homes. The crisis has left us without resources and without homes and we are not willing to remain without shelter.
It was not easy to take this step, but after much thought, seeing that throughout Spain people are rebelling, animated by the 15M movement, and with no responses forthcoming from the public authorities, we have decided that we cannot remain in the streets while thousands of houses sit empty.
In the last year in Spain, there have been more than 60,000 home foreclosures (more than 3,000 in Sevilla), while more than 3 million houses remain empty. Houses are not lacking in the country, what is lacking is justice.
The building that we have occupied was completed in 2010 and since then has remained empty and is likely to remain so in the context of the present economic crisis.
Our hope is that this act brings this terrible problem to the attention of as many as possible. This is an alternative to our pressing social condition. We call upon the public authorities to negotiate with us the best way to legalise our situation. We believe that with public help, it will be possible to find a solution to the housing problem, through dialogue and the search for solutions that help families avoid the social drama of homelessness.
We call upon the Defensor del Pueblo (Ombudsman) that s/he mediate between the affected parties with the aim of finding a solution to this problem.
We have confidence that the relevant authorities will protect our right to dignified housing and that through their actions the social role of property will be promoted, as affirmed by article 47 of the Constitution, which states that all “citizens have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. The public authorities shall promote the conditions necessary and establish the pertinent norms to make this right effective, regulating the use of land in accordance with the general interest to prevent speculation.”
Most importantly , we ask of all citizens that they support and follow us, and of the thousands of homeless people, that they not resign themselves, that they leave behind them their fear and shame, and that they follow our example, organising themselves, seeking a solution to their problems, and that they occupy the thousands of empty houses that exist throughout our country.
The thousands of houses without people await the thousands of people without homes.
Corrala de Vecinas La Utopía
On the 15th of February 2014, the Corrala was evicted. On that occasion, members of the community issued the following statement …
A first word: Thank you. Thank you for having helped to transform what began as a utopia of 36 families into the struggle of a whole people.
You know already how we arrived at this point. You know because in each battle you were here, giving your warmth and support.
Even though they wish to label us delinquents, we are not. We are only families that after years of work and struggling to pull our families up, we simply could not continue to pay for our homes, or we simply never had one.
We are those who working 12 hours a day for a miserable salary had to pack our things and with our children move to the streets because we either ate or paid the rent. We preferred to feed our families. Did we choose badly?
We are those who have worked our whole lives and when we thought that our home was more or less secure, we saw our children lose their jobs from one day to another. We decided to help them to improve their situation, but this improvement would not arrive and with them we lost everything. Did we act incorrectly?
We are also those who became adults and entered the labour market with precarious work, even though we dreamed of a job in which we could realise ourselves and which would permit our emancipation. But it would not arrive and it did not arrive; and we need an independence that will allow us to grow and not be a burden on our parents. Did we ask too much?
We are those that after many years of work and effort we were considered useless because our health was diminished. Are we really useless? Did we choose the wrong moment to become ill?
We are those definitely whose present and future was stolen, those whose place in the world was taken, or who never had one. But we are also those who believing in justice and basic rights, seeing that these are denied by public institutions, decided to empower ourselves and fight for them. We are those who struggle to transform utopia into reality, to make the universal right to a home something real.
We are fed up with being repressed and silenced before the loss of rights and freedoms so that a few can continue to maintain their privileges. For this we took a stand, and we will no longer be silent. So much injustice cannot remain unpunished.
For this reason also it is important that in these moments that we are living, that we remain united, making it clear that the Corrala and its people will not surrender.
We need you more than ever. Now that we have forced institutions and the bank to yield, they must provide real solutions, thereby facing up to their responsibility before the situation suffered by all of the people. History is in the hands of all and it is during these days that we must continue to show the strength that we have to continue to write it. After 21 months without electricity, water and gas, supporting in all aspects subhuman living conditions, with the pressure of being David throwing stones at Goliath, we continue to firmly hold that the Utopia is possible.
On September 4th of this year, began legal proceedings against two of those involved in the occupation (in what will be a total of 53 individual trials). The crime that all are accused of is usurpation of private property. Curiously, it is not the bank Ibercaja that initiated these proceedings, but the State fiscal authorities, an extension of the ministry of the interior, acting on their own. (Periodico Diagonal 02/09/2015) The trials are in other words political, part of the larger effort to persecute, criminalise and suppress all that 15M contested and made possible. It is not only an effort to secure the flow of capital, but also to repress the collective, autonomous self-management that the Corrala la utopia expressed and inspired. What no State-Capital authority can today tolerate is that any group of people do something on their own; our doing, in all of its dimensions, is now almost exclusively at the service of private wealth accumulation for the benefit of very few. And as our creativity is appropriated on a global scale, we become each one of us, superfluous, disposable; and seduction fails, fear holds us in our place.
Yet in our very nothingness, our “proletarianisation”, we can discover that together we can become all.
The spanish anarchist Carlos Taibo once said that should 15M die, it would have to be re-invented. The goal persists: a generalised revolution of autonomous self-management.
On spain’s anti-eviction/occupation movement Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, a very impressive movement of mutual aid, the documentary SÍ SE PUEDE (with english subtitles) offers a window …