A Job and No Mortgage for All in a Spanish Town
Nice piece in today’s NYTimes about communists in Spain weathering the financial crisis.
By VICTORIA BURNETT
Published: May 25, 2009
MARINALEDA, Spain—The people of this small Andalusian town have never been shy about their political convictions. Since they occupied the estate of a local aristocrat in the 1980s, they and their fiery mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, have been synonymous in Spain with a dogged struggle for the rural poor.
Now that Spain’s real estate bust is fueling rampant unemployment, this Communist enclave, surrounded by sloping olive groves, is thumbing its nose at its countrymen’s capitalist folly. Attracted by its municipal housing program and bustling farming cooperative, people from neighboring villages and beyond have come here seeking jobs or homes, villagers and officials say.
Mr. Sánchez, a bearded 53-year-old who this month celebrated three decades as mayor of the town of 2,700, says the economic crisis proves the wisdom of his socialist vision.
“They all thought that the market was God, who made everything work with his invisible hand,” Mr. Sánchez said on a recent morning, seated in his office below a portrait of Che Guevara. “Before, it was a mortal sin to talk about the government having a role in the economy. Now, we see we have to put the economy at the service of man.”
While the rest of Spain gorged on cheap credit to buy overpriced houses, the people of Marinaleda were building their own, mortgage-free, under a municipal program, he said. If a resident loses his job, the cooperative hires him, he said, so nobody wants for work—a bold claim in a region with 21 percent unemployment.
Vanessa Romero, who moved here with her family from Barcelona in January after she and her husband lost their jobs, said she was drawn by the prospect of work and facilities like the nursery school, which costs about $17 a month. The couple make about $1,500 a month each working for the cooperative.
Read the rest of the article.