Spain's 'indignants" fight crisis with food aid

Spain's "indignant" protesters against economic injustice, who once inspired a global uprising, seem to have vanished from the headlines right at the peak of a financial crisis.

But that does not mean they have given up.

In fact, far from the public squares they once occupied in their tens of thousands in a blaze of publicity, the "indignants" are building an extraordinary street-level network to help those hardest hit by economic hardship.

Jhenny, a 35-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant whose declined to give her family name, said she struggles to provide for her family, with her husband out of work for more than a year.

When in need, she can go to a free food bank in southern Madrid's working class district of Usera and stock up on potatoes, carrots, apples and other fresh produce for her family.

"I get all my fruit and vegetables here. It is a huge help," she said, resting on a chair surrounded by plastic bags packed with groceries.

But the food bank is not run by the Church or a charity. It was set up in January by the "indignants".

It is an example of how the movement, which emerged in May 2011 to decry sky-high unemployment and the economic system it blames for the crisis, has shifted its focus to building the just society it advocates.

When their protest camps were dismantled, the activists set up neighbourhood associations that now run food banks for the poor, "time banks" where people can exchange favours and a cooperative.

"Indignant" activists rally supporters to block home evictions; help homeless families to occupy empty flats; run a legal advice office; and broadcast reports on the movement via an online TV station.

"We are trying to create a more sustainable and fairer economy," said activist Diego Gutierrez as he loaded a red van with a bag of potatoes donated to the Usera food bank by a Romanian couple's vegetable shop.

While attendance at neighbourhood assemblies of "indignants" has plummeted, those left are more determined.

"We had 1,600 people at our first assembly. Now there are around 18 who come but they are more committed," said Gutierrez, a 41-year-old psychologist who works as a school counsellor a few hours per week.

So far 82 families have signed up to use the Usera food pantry -- which gets absolutely no government money -- and every Friday 20 to 25 people turn out to collect food.

Jhenny, a mother of two who works part-time as a housekeeper, said she is able to save around 60 euros ($75) a month thanks to the food aid.

"This is money that I can use to buy clothes and shoes for my two daughters," she said.

"Indignant" volunteers collect food donations from small neighbourhood shops, many struggling themselves.

Raul Barbero, a 41-year-old father of three who runs a fruit shop, said he always gives the food pantry something every week because "for two years I had nothing to eat."

"I went through really hard times. With a little bit donated by everyone, you will have a lot," he said as he prepared a crate of apricots, cherries and other fruit to give away.

Once a month the Usera "indignants" run a "swap meet" at a park where people can barter goods, from clothes to toys to books to furniture, and save money at the same time as they get rid of items they no longer need.

One of the most ambitious projects is a cooperative that offers services like plumbing and painting provided by the jobless -- Spain's unemployment rate is 24.44 percent, the highest in the industrialised world.

Jobs for the "Synergy Cooperative" are shared on a rotating basis among its 230 members at three branches in Madrid.

It plans soon to start producing soap and beer.

The goal is to set up branches in all neighbourhoods across the country.

Arturo de Bonis, 55, a former World Bank project manager in Africa who helped set up the cooperative, said the movement evolved because people realised that "protests alone were not changing things."

"These types of initiatives will continue to expand in the coming years because people see that our economic system does not work," he added.

Other neighbourhood assemblies of "indignants" have set up "time banks" that use units of time as currency and provide services ranging from hair cutting to bicycle repair.

If you give an hour's work, you receive credit for an hour's work by another member of the "time bank".

All services are valued equally. An hour of a hairdresser's time is equal to one hour of a massage therapists' time.

"The time bank allows people to improve their quality of life without spending money," said Maria Jose, a 59-year-old primary school teacher who helps run the project in Retiro, a leafy middle-class Madrid neighbourhood.

"Indignant" activists say the goal of initiatives like "time banks" and food banks is as much about strengthening ties among neighbours as it is providing economic aid.

"Your neighbours start to be your friends. It's fantastic," said Isabel Perez, 47, a self-employed solar energy consultant and mother of two who helps run the food bank in Usera.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires
    Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires

    Eleven Filipinos are included in Forbes’ 2015 list of richest people in the world. Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy Sr. continues to be the wealthiest man in the Philippines. The 90-year-old SM supermalls, banking and property tycoon ranked 73rd among the world’s richest with an increased net worth of $14.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year. Sy’s net worth was attributed to the continued growth of his SM Investments Corp. and his more recent venture, the City of Dreams Manila resort and …

  • Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit
    Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit

    Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla wept and embraced his father as he apologized for the “accidental” shooting incident in their Ayala Alabang residence, the family’s spokesman said yesterday. Lawyer Raymund Fortun came out of the private room at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City to speak to reporters, who were barred from entering the hospital compound during the visit of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. …

  • Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media
    Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media

    By Jane Wardell and Beawiharta SYDNEY/DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers were removed from a prison in Bali on Wednesday to be taken to an Indonesian island where they will be shot by firing squad, Australian media reported. The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ratcheted up diplomatic tensions amid repeated pleas of mercy for the pair from Australia and thrown a spotlight on Indonesia's increasing use of the death …

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines
    US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the American billionaire for his high-tech mission that apparently succeeded after so many failed search attempts by others. Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the …

  • Another source of SAF execution video identified
    Another source of SAF execution video identified

    The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still tracing the source of the video showing one of the wounded police commandos being finished off by Muslim rebels during the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. A source from the Department of Justice (DOJ) said they have identified two persons who first uploaded the video that went viral over social networking sites. The supposed source of the video was elusive and claimed that somebody just placed it on an external drive. The …

  • Pacquiao big hit so far in Vegas sports books vs Mayweather

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Manny Pacquiao has always believed he can do what 47 other fighters before him have failed to do — beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring. …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • A trying Heat season now hitting the stretch run
    A trying Heat season now hitting the stretch run

    MIAMI (AP) — To say the Miami Heat have been presented with a new problem every day since last season ended, that would be an exaggeration. …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options