Thursday, October 24, 2013

marinaleda: the village against the world

This is the title of a book by journalist Dan Hancox and I went along to Foyles Bookshop last night to hear him talk about the place, the people and, obviously, his book… as part of the excellent Bristol Festival of Ideas. I was intrigued/encouraged to attend after reading an article he’d written in the Guardian (highlighted by my mate Jon).
Marinaleda is a small, remote village in Andalusia which has become acclaimed by many as "a communist utopia". It started in the late 1970s from a position of abject poverty (with more than 60% unemployment) - a farming community with no land. Led by its charismatic mayor, Sanchez Gordillo (who has been re-elected at every election since that time), the village has, somehow, succeeded - through sacrifice and determination. In 1985, Sánchez Gordillo told the newspaper El País: "We have learned that it is not enough to define utopia, nor is it enough to fight against the reactionary forces. One must build it here and now, brick by brick, patiently but steadily, until we can make the old dreams a reality: that there will be bread for all, freedom among citizens, and culture; and to be able to read with respect the word 'peace '. We sincerely believe that there is no future that is not built in the present”.
It proved to be a highly-stimulating evening – half an hour of him talking followed by 30 minutes or so of questions+answers from the audience.
Absolutely fascinating.
Photo: Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, the village’s long-standing, charismatic mayor.
PS: the audience was probably bigger than the one that had turned up at the Old Vic the previous night!
PPS: The one negative aspect of the evening was the T-shirted bloke sitting immediately in front of me… who had AWFUL body odour!!

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