Infoshop News: Squatting in Spain

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Mon Oct 2 20:11:52 BST 2006

Squatting in Spain
Tuesday, September 05 2006 @ 06:17 PM PDT

In Spain, there exists a great culture of squatting that the folks in 
Barcelona call "okupas" or the English language equivalent of 
"squats". In Spain for the last 20 to 30 years the squatting movement 
has gained momentum, but in the late 90's governmental repression 
increased and has continued until now.


authors note: Last spring I wrote a report about Squatting Spain in 
Espanol. Today, I translated the article into my first language of 
English for all those folks out there who can't read my broken down 
Spanish. Overall, I added a few things and also feel that the English 
version is better than the Spanish version, simply for the fact of 
English being my first language. Below, you will find first the 
English version, and then following you will find the original Spanish 
version. In case you're wondering, I'm not from Spain or have I ever 
been there, this article is simply outside research and from an 
interview I conducted with a friend who lives in Barcelona. Well, hope 
you find it interesting, please feel free to comment and make 
suggestions if you know some dire information about squatting in Spain 
that I left out. Salud! 


Squatting in Spain

Squatting is the act of occupying property that is often abandoned or 
in disuse. Squatters or the individual/s who do the act of squatting 
are not the legal owners of the property in question, but at the same 
time they are not renters, thus meaning that they don't pay rent or 
usually have the good graces of the property owner to live there. 
Sometimes squatters proclaim rights to survive in these squatted 
locations by using the law of a country, which in turn can lead to 
them becoming the property owners of the property if the law permits. 
Governmental laws across the world vary in terms of squatters rights, 
with some places like the United States of America having very strict 
property ideals, while other governments have laws that are more lax, 
but it seems that with the passage of time property rights are being 
enforced more strongly throughout the world. Squatting has an enormous 
history that is perhaps, older than the idea of property itself, but 
as stated early squatting is considered illegal or a civil conflict 
between the property owner and its occupants. Currently, it is 
estimated that there are one billion squatters in the world with 200,
000 new squatters each day. 

In Spain, there exists a great culture of squatting that the folks in 
Barcelona call "okupas" or the English language equivalent of 
"squats". In Spain for the last 20 to 30 years the squatting movement 
has gained momentum, but in the late 90's governmental repression 
increased and has continued until now. There are basically two types 
of squats, the first type acts as a resident for the squatters, while 
the second type are the squats or locations that are designed as 
places to organize events. Of course, both types of squats can and do 
exist simultaneously. 

Some of the events that are organized include for example, community 
food a la Food Not Bombs that may also be in celebration of some 
festival or in certain cases to direct funds in order to support legal 
aid for friends who have been detained by the government. Some squats 
organize classes that are related to artistic manifestations such as 
painting, exotic dances, drums, and theatre, ect., where capital may 
be donated for the class in order to help maintain the squat. Besides 
organizing events, many of the squatters find temporary contracts in 
order to support the squat. Quite frequently many squats organize 
parties and festivals, where an entrance fee is sometimes charged and/
or drinks are sold. 

These squats are normally directed by cooperative initiatives, often 
resembling for example agricultural cooperatives. These collaborations 
permit the squatters to have access high quality, often organic food 
that is created with respect to the earth. Usually everything that the 
squat sells is at a very affordable price, with large meals often 
costing 4 or 5 euros and drinks that are no more than 1 euro. 

Of all forms, each squat is a world, which is created and formed 
depending on the individuals and social collectives involved. 
Squatting is often interrelated with the more radical social movements 
of the "left", often including, but not limited to, anarchists. Squats 
also play a vital role in organizing protests, manifestations, and 
creating informative periodicals. The activities that the squat is 
involved in often strive to defend the local area and the rights of 
the other individual's and organizations in the neighborhood. Some of 
these examples may include supporting workers, creating and aiding in 
protests, actions, and parties that are sometimes agreed upon through 
the "Asociaciones de Vecinos" or Association of Neighbors of the 
community. For an example of these "Asociaciones de Vecinos" please 
see the Madrid example here. 

One place where squatting is alive in strong in Spain is in Barcelona, 
where supposedly there are more squats than anywhere else in Spain. 
One can find more information about the squatting movement in 
Barcelona, Spain through the Internet on Barcelona's Indymedia 
project. One example of a squat near the frontier of the city of 
Barcelona is Can Masdeu. The building of Can Masdeu is very old, with 
some parts dating back to the 1600's. During the 20th Century Can 
Masdeu was used as a Leprosy Asylum, which is one of the reason why 
the enormous building may have been abandoned for 53 years. However, 
in 2001 a group of internationals, including some Spanish started the 
process of squatting Can Masdeu and now the squat is a fine 
demonstration of how another world is possible. The majority of 
activity of the squat developed in relation to manifestations against 
war, against genetically modified foods, defense of other squats, 
anti-G8, work as repression, struggling against speculation, and 
defending "La Sierra de Collserola." Another important project of Can 
Masdeu is it's social center, where they experiment with different 
forms of relationships. Some of this project includes solar cooking, 
solar collectors, solar shower, compost, flower and vegetable gardens, 
a bicycle shop, a bicycle washer, and a stove that runs on manure. 

Currently, the government of Spain and possibly all of the governments 
of the world have begun to realize that squats are locations of 
resistance that build upon radical ideas, in turn showing that another 
world truly is possible. This realization has lead the government of 
Spain to passing Article 245, which thereafter lead to many of the 
squats in Spain being infiltrated by the police, yet no matter what 
form of governmental repression there will always be those brave souls 
who continue to struggle for a brighter future.

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