A year ago, if you had asked me what I expected of my year abroad in Granada, I probably would have given a predictable list of expectations: my Spanish will improve, I’ll meet lots of people and make some great friends, I’ll visit some interesting places and, to chuck in a cliché, I’ll have some unforgettable experiences’. One thing that certainly hadn’t occurred to me back then (or even since my arrival), however, was witnessing a Revolution. Preoccupied by the hype of a life-changing year, and how the year here would transform me, the notion of revolutionising politics never even crossed my mind – not to mention the possible repercussions on Spanish society…
It all started in Madrid’s Puerta de Sol. Spanish students, workers and unemployed took to the streets in mid May. Their pacifist manifestations turned heads, inspiring the population of Spain to do the same in over 50 cities; united in their discontent with the lack of economic opportunity and political leadership. Since M-15, the protests have seeped into every crevice of Spain, colonising squares of even the smaller cities with their campsites, parading streets and gaining support via the internet. The work of communication teams, established in technology tents in every camp and relying on wifi device donations, has enabled the message of the indignados to spread beyond Spain, touching people throughout Europe- with protests taking place in London, Greece and France- and even outside of the continent –made evident by the appearance of Facebook groups such as “Egyptians with the Spanish people revolution” and “Democracia Real Ya-Colombia” to name a fraction.
The movement is undoubtedly huge but are we really witnessing a revolution? Will dedication to camp out in the streets for weeks on end and take on the challenge as a second job really lead to any significant change? Will the indignation of ‘two-man race’ politics be converted into democratic satisfaction? I would love to be able to say yes but the truth is that the notion of “real” democracy is an idealistic one; for a start how many parties would constitute a fairer election and would providing more choice of possible candidates ever satisfy everyone? Technicalities aside, it is doubtful whether any change will be achieved without a political arm, without support in high places. What’s more, whilst I fully support and admire the choice to protest in pacifistic manner, as well as the determination to continue doing so despite the violent and disgraceful retaliation of police in Barcelona, the reality is that the protests will be more easily ignored. Historically, revolutions have required some level of violence and strategic tactics for a chance of success.
That said, I am still amazed and inspired by the efforts of the people
to make a change to our world, even if we won’t see action for many years to come, not to mention the solidarity manifested in the acampanadas (camp sites) all over Spain. The volunteers slaving over camp stoves, being inventive with donated funds and ingredients to ensure that the campers don’t go hungry or thirsty, the makeshift libraries and art classes to keep spirits up between the asembleas of protest and debate as well as the tents dedicated to children just go to show how much time the people are willing to invest in the cause. If nothing ever comes of the Spanish Revolution, at least we can say that the indignados will have been successful in raising awareness of the growing political dissatisfaction and inspiring people all over the world to stand for what we believe in. As I walked around the acampanada of Granada, reading the slogans of frustration alongside motivational posters with mantras such as “Yes, we camp!” I really did feel that in Spain, they are writing history.