Originally published on the Weave on November 24, 2009 - reprinted here as part of the "Weaving the Street" People's Archive!
During my year-long stay in Spain, I have been keeping my eye out for interesting examples of "street ephemera" - graffiti, posters, and other interesting interventions in the urban landscape. These expressions offer important insight into everything from political activism to popular culture. In this post I present a brief photo essay featuring some of the street ephemera that have caught my eye so far. I hope to create a few more posts of this sort before I return to the U.S. in June. (To view all the images as a slideshow, just click on the first image.)
To inaugurate our new “Weaving the Streets” blog, I’d like to take a trip down memory lane—back to 2003, to be exact. Shortly after the US war in Iraq began, I traveled to Spain to promote the Spanish-language edition of Collateral Language, a book I co-edited on the rhetoric used to justify the US response to the September 11 attacks. Traveling with my co-editor and another of the book’s contributors, I had the chance to speak with a number of local journalists and activists and also participate in one of the massive anti-war demonstrations in Madrid. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards were in the streets that day to say “No a la guerra! (No to the war!).”
One of the journalists we met, a freelance contributor to the mainstream El Paísnewspaper, was kind enough to take the three of us to visit a remarkable example of how people’s movements can make use of the urban landscape. During this visit we learned that young people in Madrid had taken over an abandoned printing warehouse in the Lavapies neighborhood in 2002, renaming it El Laboratorio 3 and turning it into a vibrant squatter community complete with public art and music space, a communal kitchen, and a fully-functioning media center. It was given the number “3” to indicate its role in a longer history of establishing similar community centers stretching back to 1997.
El grupo de comunicación de la Asamblea de Arganzuela, distrito de la ciudad de Madrid, nos explican los orígenes del movimiento 15-M asi como su influencia en los movimientos asamblearios nacidos en la mayoria de las cuidades y pueblos del estado español en los últimos meses. La entrevista tuvo lugar en el parque central del barrio donde se reunen semanalmente para discutir de forma democrática los problemas que necesitan atención.
We have recently been treated to the unedifying spectacle of EU governments scrambling to 'revise Schengen': no sooner had France and Italy called for this, than Denmark put customs officers on its borders with Germany and Sweden. Thinly-veiled xenophobia has been lurking in the background throughout. As soon as refugees began arriving in Italy, Italian politicians began crying blue murder. Roberto Maroni, in particular, spoke of a "human tsunami".
For those following the ongoing popular movement in Spain, take a look at the live feed from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid (off the air at the moment, but sure to be back online in the morning when Spaniards are scheduled to vote in municipal elections):