we share an interesting interview with Estitxu Villamor, by Adrián Almazán for 15-15-15.org/webzine/ on the situation of Errekaleor, neighborhood of Vitoria.
Let’s start with the history of the Errekaleor neighborhood. In what year was it built? What kind of population lived in it and what was its role in the struggles of the city?
Errekaleor is a working district that was built in 1959 to house the workers who came from the whole peninsula to the factories of Gasteiz. This is a time when there is a very strong industrialization in the city and many workers come with their families.
The city grew and this type of labor districts were created, away from the center of the city. This, in particular, is built by a cooperative of the bishopric, totally on the periphery, without any services (the neighborhood initially comprised of the houses and a church), so that the life of the workers was reduced to the work and did not have the possibility of organize themselves in the workers’ struggle.
Even so, because of their workmanship, neighbors were very close and organized from the outset. Very involved in the workers’ struggle and in the defense of their own neighborhood, they themselves built a cinema, a bar and a grocery store; Also through their struggle they got the city council to equip them with services such as the social center, nursery, …
It is important to highlight the events of March 3, 1976 and the repercussion they had in the neighborhood. At that time indefinite strikes were taking place in all factories in Gasteiz, the situation of tension was unsustainable.
On March 3, at an assembly held in the church of St. Francis of Assisi in the working-class neighborhood of Zaramaga, police entered the church and killed five people.
They were tragic events that are remembered every year in Gasteiz. One of the murdered, Romualdo Barroso, was from the neighborhood and, to this day, his family is still involved in our fight.
When did the idea of squatting come up and for what purpose?
Around the year 2000, in the middle of the real estate boom, the city council decided to demolish the neighborhood to construct luxury houses with which to profit. It must be said that from a few decades ago, some neighbours were already leaving the neighborhood to go to more central houses and the profile of the new neighbours was different: gypsies, immigrants from outside the peninsula …
When the city council decided to demolish the neighborhood they also begins to put in conflictive people, people to turn it into a ghetto. A process of expropriation began, relocating people in other houses or offering them money for their flats. A fairly dubious legality process, for which they are still sued in court.Working on our organic farm.
In 2013 a group of students worried about the housing problem, decided to go a step further and squat. They visited different areas of Gasteiz, they found this neighborhood and all the possibilities that it offers and decide to squat it. To do this, they talked to the remaining neighbours, explained their project and proceeded. Thus began the project Errekaleor Bizirik !! Which means Errekaleor Alive, in Basque.
Manifestación del 3 de junio de 2017 en apoyo de ‘Errekaleor Bizirik’. Foto: Txto. Fuente: Wikimedia Commons
Could you describe the space and the projects that now work in it?
Since the ten students who occupied it at the beginning, until now – when the neighborhood is about to celebrate 4 years, the project has grown enormously. We are about 150 people living here, and what was initially a project to seek a response to the housing problem, today is a transformative project, an anti-capitalist, feminist, Basque project, based on self-management and self-production,
We have recovered the social center, the cinema, the handball wall, we have built the gaztetxe (social center) … All this to have spaces in which to foment a free culture, where we offer talks, debates, cinema projections, concerts … totally open for the people of the city.One of our open market days.
We also have a printing company with the idea of offering service to Gasteiz’s groups. The food sovereignty project is also very potent. We have an orchard that already has 3 hectares, which supplies the neighbors of the neighborhood. We also like to sell bread to some of the neighborhoods
Tell us how is the day to day, how it is organized and managed everything.
Well, each neighbour’s day to day may be quite different, but it is true that we have many activities in common. At the structural level, we organize together. We have a general assembly every two weeks, to which all neighbors are invited to attend. Here the most political decisions are made, so to speak. The most practical and daily activities are managed by working groups.
Normally, each neighbour participates in one or two work groups. The work groups are very diverse: garden, bakery, culture, infrastructure (it is in charge of the rehabilitation of the neighborhood), relations (fosters other kind of relations between usotrxs), economy, RKmeak (the non- Communication …
These are organised in coordination meetings, the weeks in which there is no assembly.
Sometimes some groups call collective work days (auzolan in Euskera) in which all us neighbours participate, although many also belong to the group that calls itself auzolan. For example, the orchard group summons work days to plant or collect, the infrastructure group convenes to rehabilitate common areas of the neighborhood
… Other times, when a group manages some event, it opens shifts, so that the other vecinxs help.. Such as when the culture group organizes a concert and you sign up for the turn of the bar. Then, apart from all this, each portal (block) can function as a small organizational unit.
Although there are portals in which everyone lives in their apartment, as in any neighborhood outside, there are others where all the houses are open and we live in community. This happens where I live, a non-mixed portal inhabited by 10 women and trans.
How is your relationship with the rest of the population of Vitoria?
The truth is that, although the physical distance is not so much, psychologically the city is far away. Even so, we work to get closer to Gasteiz, of course. We have quite a relationship with Antiguxs vecinxs (ex inhabitants) (we organize meals, we invite them to the parties …) and with organizations of different districts of Gasteiz.
Also with the groups of Gasteiz, to whom we give space whenever they need it. We organize events with these groups in the neighborhood, as well as in the city.
The relationship with the Vitorian in the street is different. Many do not know the neighborhood and the image they receive is given by the mainstream media, which -especially this year- have dedicated themselves to selling Vitoria-Gasteiz as a totally squatted city. Even so, there are many campaigns that we do to get closer to other cities, such as open houses, for example.
The truth is that more and more Vitorians are getting to know us and from the moment they know the project, they often share a lot of concerns with us.
Since the recent power cut off and threats of eviction, many more Vitorians have approached the neighborhood. In addition, a group of writers, artists, professors of University, sports … of Vitoria has started a nice campaign of support and I believe that a lot of the undecided people are seeing our project with other eyes.
We have known that in the neighborhood measures have been taken specific to the issue of energy decline and ecosocial problems. Could you tell us a little about them? What services are self-managed and which ones depend on the municipality today? Do you fear that they can stop offering other services depending on them, in view of the current conflict situation?
We manage the entire neighborhood: we build and rehabilitate spaces, we launch new projects, such as the previously mentioned printing press or the garden … But by services you mean the supply of electricity and water which have depended on the council until a month ago practically.
The water still depends on the city council, but on May 18, workers subcontracted by Iberdrola, accompanied by numerous police forces, came to cut off the power supply.
the huge support demo arrives in Errekeleor
Units of the autonomous police of the Basque Country, Ertzantza, in the Vitorian district of Errekaleor protected the workers of the company Iberdrola who by order of the Basque government cut the electricity supply to the project of self-management .
We militate in groups that fight in defense of the Earth and for a long time we had been thinking about energy sovereignty, accompanied by a change in our model of life, since we understand it essential to fight against the capitalist system.
Even so, because of the resources we had, it was technically very difficult, if not impossible. We were waiting for the right moment and that moment has arrived. We now have an ambitious project in hand and we are very excited.
We intend to be the largest insulated renewable electrical installation on the peninsula!
Our idea, to begin with, is to build a large photovoltaic installation (about 50 kW of power), to supply the needs of homes and, above all, common areas.
We are going to take a step forward in community life and dispense with certain services in the homes (electric kitchens, washing machines, refrigerators …) to have them in common areas.
So the electricity consumption of each house will be minimal, but we will strengthen the common areas, to achieve a much more efficient and much lower consumption than the current society. To achieve this, we have set a budget of € 100,000 and We have launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring them together.
We understand that Errekaleor Bizirik !! Is a project that is not only ours, which aims to transform society and, in that sense, we call on the citizens who also feel the project and who are in favor of another energy model, to collaborate with small economic contributions.
Our goal is to get the above amount in 50 days. The campaign ends on July 22 and, today, we have raised more than € 50,000 [N. Of the E .: more than 70 thousand at the time of publishing the interview]. Anyone who wants to collaborate can do so through the CoopFunding website.
Why do they want to evict you now? Tell us what the current situation is, and the forms of resistance you are developing.
The position of PNV (rightwing nationalist ruling party in Euskadi) and Mayor Gorka Urtaran tried to be quite neutral up to this point. He expressed his willingness to evict us, but in a rather paternalistic way, apparently preoccupied with our security. Since the beginning of this academic year, however, the Council has hardened its stance, until a few weeks ago when it has stated emphatically that it will evict us.
It repeats the safety argument again, but we are clear that it is a matter of political will, as our houses are perfectly safe, as some reports have already shown or that we will soon bring to light. We are not sure why this hardening. It may be due to the pressure that Vitoria-Gasteiz is becoming, increasingly, a squatter territory, as the media say. Or it may be due to the PP (far right ruling National Perty) -PNV pacts that have taken place both in the Congress and in the Basque Parliament …
Today the plenary has just been approved at the beginning of the process of demolishing the neighborhood and the bidding process has begun to be adjudicated to a company designing the demolition plan. Even so, before demolishing the neighborhood, it would have to be evicted and for the time being, as far as we know, no legal proceedings have been initiated for the eviction.
We are clear that from here we shall not be moved; We believe in our project as do the more than 10,000 people who came to the demonstration in defense of the neighborhood on June 3. Therefore, our greatest resistance is to continue nurturing and developing the project.
In that sense, it is very important the network that we are weaving with other movements of occupation and self-management, as well as with much of the social movement of Euskadi (Euskal Herria). We also feel that we have a greater and greater legitimacy; As I have told you before, more and more people support what we do and we will continue working to achieve this legitimacy.
In fact, the energy sovereignty project will be an important key in that regard. As for depriving us of other services … well, the subject of water is a fear. Although we do not see it very likely to be cut, because it would be illegal to leave an entire neighborhood without such a basic good.
With this new situation, are you going to redefine the project?
The truth is that the project is in a continuous process of reflection and definition, due to the constant entry of people until recently which means a permanent change in our way of living and organizing. Now it is true that we have a much clearer main objective: the permanence in the neighborhood and in our houses. The threat has always been there, but now the risk is more palpable and, therefore, the target is stronger.
In that sense, it may be necessary to redefine the structures of the neighborhood, such as work groups or the frequency of meetings, and focus on this.
Do you have plan B in case the threat of eviction is finally carried out? Is there an offer from the Administration or from the owners? How do you rate it, if there is one?
As I said before, we believe in our project and do not intend to move from here. In its day, the city council (owner of the housing) offered us housing in a neighborhood (Aretxabaleta) in exchange for rehabilitating them. Theye offered us these houses on the grounds that our homes were not safe, while expropriating the neighborhoods of Aretxabaleta with the same argument about the safety of their homes.
We did not accept the proposal, since what was proposed (rehabilitating the houses) was exactly what we had been doing here from the beginning. In addition Aretxabaleta does not offer us everything we have been getting here (common spaces, printing, garden, bakery …).
Throughout your history as a self-management initiative, have you considered or studied other models such as Can Batlló in Barcelona or the veteran ecovillage of Lakabe, who opt for other strategies in their relationship with the various administrations of the State? What do you think of these models? Do you have contacts or relations with them?
Can Batlló I do not know it well. Lakabe, yes, it is a project with which we have a good relationship, especially after the power outage, since they have been self-sufficient energy from the beginning and are helping us with our project of self-sufficiency. I think Lakabe’s legal and social situation is very different. They are lands that have been abandoned for a long time and away from any urban nucleus. We are in the southern part of a city, subject to urban plans, real estate interests and political strategies….
original en castellano AQUÍ … Errekaleor, el acoso a un barrio autogestionario y anticapitalista …