First of all we want to thank you all again for your support for the Karakola: those of you who came for the demonstration on December 11th, those who have written letters and sent greetings. It was very exciting to take the streets together with so many people, such diversity, such energy. Photos and a short video of the demonstration are at:
Moreover, we didnšt want all this support to be left up in the air, so we thought we should let you know what has happened since the demonstration. We are sure that our presence in the street that day created a moment of force, which is encouraging.
For the moment, here is the news. We will leave for later the analysis of this situation and the perspectives that open before us (keep an eye on www.sindominio.net/karakola)
A big hug and many thanks from
La Eskalera Karakola
The Eskalera Karakola, a feminist social center in the Madrid neighborhood of Lavapies has been a key space for feminist thought and struggle for 8 years now, intervening in public space, in the street, in politics eight years of struggle housed in a building, #40 Embajadores, which has survived until now despite its ruinous conditions. There came a point, about three years ago, when this material limit could go no further: ruin was taking over the space, taking over our time and our energies, diminishing our strength. With what energy we had, we decided leap out into the void.
We imagined, shaped and designed a project of rehabilitation and cession of the space we illegally occupy. With this project in hand, we began to develop strategies to open a process of negotiation with City Hall and with other political forces. These negotiations were accompanied by actions, interventions in public space, presence in the street, agitation in the media, etc.
On December 11th 2004 we culminated this campaign strategy with a demonstration which allowed us to occupy the streets of the center of Madrid under the banner of łFor a new feminist presence: No to the eviction of the Karakola˛, a message with much resonance for many women. With this we expressed our criticism of the instrumentalization and victimization with which the institutions tend to approach feminist demands. We expressed the diversity of our messages, together with the collectives and networks we work with every day.
And the countdown began: on the 14th of December the trial was held. A ridiculous trial, which we denounced and continue to denounce: a trial in which, in order to defend ourselves, we would have had to pay the desorbitant sum of 25,000 euros. A trial in which we did not even have the right to a defense. All went as we expected: we showed up with our lawyer, we saw the judge and the owner of the building, they impeded us from speaking (the first question the judge asked was łHave you paid the bond?˛). They ignored what we tried to say and read the sentence: they gave us one month to abandon the building.
In parallel, two days after the demonstration, the day before the trial, we received a call from the Department of Urban Planning. They knew about the trial and about the noise wešve been making. They made an appointment for another meeting with us which we attended with few expectations though, as usual, with some curiosity. We continued to be sceptical, we donšt trust them and then suddenly it seemed something had happened. They had changed their tune. They finally stopped avoiding and deflecting us and we heard, for the first time, a more or less firm commitment: the immediate temporary cession of a 150 m2 shopfront in the neighborhood.
What does this mean? What doors open before a commitment such as this, not yet entirely confirmed? At least a stable place to continue developing feminist practices and theories, to stimulate encounters and actions, to continue weaving networks. Evidently, we read this cession as a victory. But above all, we read it not as an end in itself but as a means to continue fighting. We are aware that from City Hall this represents part of the strategy of Mayor Gallardon, which is oriented to establishing contacts with sectors distant from their usual supporters. We are aware of what we have built in #40 Embajadores, what we have demanded, what we have fought for brick by brick, and well we know that the real bone of contention for the squatting movement real estate speculation and the lack of habitable spaces remains unquestioned and unchanged. We are aware that these battles continue. But above all we are aware of our own power to turn the tables, to invert the terms and above all, to continue generating a critical voice from a particular feminist perspective, from a space which will continue operating in autonomy and self-management. A new era begins. A new era, as always, uncertain and stimulating.
For the moment what is coming is an imminent eviction, always painful and impune, and the perspective still unconfirmed of a new space of feminist production in Lavapies. Wešll keep you informed.
La Eskalera Karakola
20 January, 2005