Spanish Squats in Andalusia

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Spanish Squats in Andalusia

In 2012, a bunch of leftist workers and farmers seized some unoccupied land in economically depressed southern Spain. Photographer José Colón, who grew up in the region, was there with his camera.
October 11, 2013, 11:00am

Faced with the harshest cuts to public services in the history of Spanish democracy, workers in Andalusia are going through an undeniably shitty time. Unemployment in the southern autonomous region is around 36 percent—much higher than the national average of about 26—and the labor reforms that allowed corporations to fire huge swaths of the workforce without severance pay only made things worse. The victims of this climate of economic gloom have struck back by occupying abandoned homes, as the corralas have done, or staging mass protests and strikes a la the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (Andalucian Workers Union).

Inspired by the communitarian village of Marinaleda, whose revolutionary bearded mayor is also the president of the SAT—and its sister organization the Sindicato Obreros de Campo (Farm Workers Union)—have been expanding their operations across the region over the last couple years. This includes highly publicized "raids" on supermarkets in places like Seville, Malaga, and Cordoba.

While it might be good for generating headlines, wiping a few packets of pasta and bottles of olive oil do not a revolution make. The SAT’s real work lies in their steady process of squatting on farms, not just to protest the fact that all this workable land is lying unused while their owners soak up EU subsidies but also to provide a living for the locally unemployed jornaleros (day laborers).

It was this part of the SAT’s activity that attracted the attention of photographer José Colón, who grew up in the type of small Andalucian town hit hardest by the crisis. In December 2012, he spent two weeks documenting the one of these projects, the Finca Somonte near Cordoba. Here are some of resulting photos.

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The guy with the beard is Juan Manuel Sanchez-Gordillo, president of the SAT and mayor of Marinaleda. Here he is leading some workers on a protest in favor of reclaiming lands for collective farming.

The graffiti reads, “This land belongs to the people – Agrarian revolution.”

Somonte workers attending one of the assemblies where all decisions about the farm are made collectively. The mural reads, “People of Andalusia, don’t emigrate, fight. The land is yours.”

Guardia Civil police officers attempt to clear the occupied farmlands. SAT members usually return the next day to continue the occupation.