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By Patricia Simón / Translation Blanca G. Bertolaza

  • For his proyect “Essay on mockery”, painter Toño Velasco began to portray anonymous citizens sticking out their tongues and making faces at the camera
  • Research and current events led him to portray the ones he considers responsible for this crisis

“The research process for Essay on mockery led me to ask myself who I would like to mock, who are the ones in charge of this big joke we are going through”. And the first one he did, “just in pink, white and blue colors, because I wanted it to be an absolutely cold face”, was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obviously, the second portrait, two meters tall and two meters wide, is dedicated to the face of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. Among his next “models” are some Goldman Sachs CEOs, “the ones truly responsible for what we are going through. They are laughing at us and it is our turn to laugh at them, to stand before them and be able to feel a lot of the things we are going through because of them, without forgetting that we are also responsible”.
Toño Velasco has many years of experience as a painter, but also teaching graphic design in the Superior Art School of Avilés, in interior design and other activities. We talk to him about art in Spain, how he uses the Internet to manage his works, and other subjects such as the crisis or the 15M movement.

Translation of the interview

My project is a big bid. It starts with me taking pictures of my friends and the people around me and there are always people who, are intimidated by the fact that you approach them with a camera and their reaction is to stick out their tongue. So I realized that I had a lot of pictures or friends and loved ones sticking out their tongue and making faces in my photo archive. So I began to ask myself why people make that face, the moment in which they might feel observed by a camera, they make that face, or maybe when they are in the dentist’s waiting room and a kid is staring at them and they break that silence making faces. So I began to develop that idea and asked my friends to send me pictures. At first it was a local thing, for me to see images that I wanted to reinterpret, to paint over putting in plasticity, putting in my own technique. In the end “Essay on mockery” is a series of pictorial portraits, but always based on photo portraits which I have either taken myself or that people send me on a website. Mockery exudes other things, it exudes a bit of rebelliousness, it exudes optimism. When you go up to someone with a camera and you want to mock them, people a lot of times feel intimidated, stick out their tongue, it is like getting undressed, as if you were undressing them. People don’t mind making ugly faces, in fact they make ugly faces on purpose, so that way they start to peel off layers of the mask we wear every day when we go to work, when we live our daily routine. And very interesting things come out. When someone distorts their face they are opening a door I walk through, and I reinterpret that expression my own way in my paintings. Almost two years have gone since this project started, and it feels great because it is turning into a global action. I set up a website where I invited people to send me these pictures and I’m receiving photos from all over the world. I’ve realized that this is a very positive action, it is a liberating action, it means for each person who takes part in this to laugh at themselves. Leer más

By Patricia Simón / Translation Blanca G. Bertolaza

A few meters away from Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, one of Spain’s most popular squares, we find a place where we could easily imagine, chatting at a round table, Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Poppins and the mother of the kids she took care of, suffragist Jane Banks, Dolores Ibárruri ‘La Pasionaria’, painter Remedios Varo or Egyptian activist Nawal El Saadawi. And, of course, their hostesses, booksellers Lola Pérez, her daughter Elena Lasheras and Ana Dominguez, the women responsible for Librería Mujeres and for the exquisite musical selection that is the final touch to work the miracle: a timeless place, which seems to harbor the last century of women’s History and that, at the same time, has spearheaded the liberation of the Spanish woman since it opened its doors in 1978. A time in which in this country we did not have the right to open a bank account or to rent a house without the consent of a man.

Elena Lasheras wears a purple blouse and a black beret, like Che. Her thick mane of white hair frames a broad and open smile. She has just returned from a tour promoting Mexican anthropology professor Marcela Lagarde’s latest book, Women in captivity. Mothers, wives, nuns, whores, prisoners and mad women, published in Spain by Horas y horas, the publishing house set up by Librería Mujeres. She is exultant, overwhelmed by the audience’s reception and participation. Her enthusiasm articulates the conversation, but it flares up each time she mentions the young women that make up the Madrid feminisms commission of the 15M movement, in which she plays an active role.

Elena Lasheras in the Mujeres Bookshop (P.S.)

Periodismo Humano. How and why does your vocation to be booksellers start?

Elena Lasheras. At that time, 1978, bringing culture to the people and setting up a book shop in a working class neighborhood was completely revolutionary. So we opened one in the La Ventilla neighborhood, very poor, where the city dump was, but also very combative –they were very proud of having said no to Franco’s two referendums-. There was always a book about sexual education in the shop window and we turned a page each day. So the kids, when

they got out of school, ran over there to continue reading it. It was a wonderful experience, but the neighborhood was very poor culturally and economically, so we had to close.

Also in 78, sociology professor Jimena Alonso had opened the Mujeres Bookshop along with 200 other women who had each invested 25,000 pesetas, as in a co-op. They met secretly in the basement and they were constantly vandalized, which is why they had police protection in the 80s. Finally they closed the same year as us and three years later, in 1988, after reaching a deal with the publishers to pay the debt, we reopened it. Ana and I had six children in total, so my mother joined us so someone could open the library if all of them decided to get chicken pox at the same time. Leer más

By Patricia Simón /Translation Blanca G. Bertolazo 
  • Family farmers produce 70% of all food
    They are almost half of the world population, about 3,000 million people made invisible by the media’s urban perspective and the poverty that haunts many of them
    Food price speculation puts their subsistence and our food sovereignty at risk

A family farmer waters his crops in Cambodia (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Already in 2007, a rise in corn prices hit some of the world’s poorest neighborhoods, including those in Latin America.  Women who sold tortillas, who tried to support their children buying two pounds of flour and turning them into the continent’s staple food –after kneading, baking, patting them into shape, baking them again, selling them on the neighborhood…- so they could buy some beans, rice, a couple of eggs some days… These women had to raise the price of tortillas a few cents, some families had to buy a few less, and that hole in the stomach many children took with them to school became deeper. Some NGOs had to divert funds from educational projects to nutritional support in soup kitchens. We witnessed it in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, among other countries. Leer más

By Patricia Simon / Photographs:  Javier Bauluz

Translated by European Revolution

Police trying to enter the building about to be evicted. (Javier Bauluz / Piraván)

The 15M movement of Gijón (in the north of Spain) had called for a gathering on July 7th in front of some of the city’s banks to protest for their “greed and responsibility in the crisis we are living“, as one of the participants stated. At that same time, Ángel T.P. was heading for the the city’s court to see if his petition to delay the eviction from his house had been accepted. The eviction had been set for midday by another court, so that very morning, when he found no answer to his petition, he went with little hope to one of the permanent information points set up by the movement in front of the Town Hall. Thanks to social networking and the coincidence that a protest was being held at exactly the same time, merely one hour later 40 people were occupying the stairway of his building, stopping an eviction for the first time in Asturias.

Ángel lives in a house being reclaimed by Banco Pastor together with his wife and two children (10 and 19 years old respectively). He says that economic problems started a year ago, when he lost his job and was unable to pay the monthly fees of the 108 thousand euro mortgage he signed, and that, with all added expenditures, went up to 180 thousand. His house was auctioned but, as tens of thousands of homes in Spain, was taken up by the bank as there was no buyer. However, without going into detail, he explains that in the last weeks he has managed to rack up part of the money and deposit it into his account, only to find that the bank was no longer interested in stopping his eviction.

Two members of the 15M in Gijón listening to the representative of Banco Pastor and to the spokesman of the local police. (Javier Bauluz / Piraván)

The committee waiting on the steps was a big surprise to the bank’s representative, as well as the locksmith – hired to change the lock after the family had been kicked out- and the local police that accompanied them. Soon after their arrival, police reinforcements appeared in vans.

After some minutes of negotiation, in which the local police demanded that they be let into the building to talk with the proprietors, it was finally Ángel who, from a distance of about two meters, heard for himself how the policeman said that “for today the eviction is suspended, but the problem is still there”. Adding that he “should find a better solution to this affair“. The applause echoed in the stairs and the hugs flowered under the amazed looks of the participants, who could not believe how easy it had been. All these men and women are starting to get to know each other, after so many protests and gatherings. But they come from very different backgrounds, from different professions, areas of interest and even cities. Now they speak among themselves, they say goodbye like friends, until the next one. Because they have already cried: “We will also stop the next one“.

Miguel Ángel, in charge of the 15M’s local eviction platform, created that very morning, explained visibly touched that after the temporary cancellation of the judicial order, that they already are planning to stop another eviction that will take place in the following weeks. “It’s a different case”, he explains, “one of real-estate mobbing. An old woman and her daughter, the last inhabitants of a building bought by a building company that plans to evict them to tear down the place and build a new one”. While he talks with us, many other journalists from different places give him their contact information, and he sighs trying to assimilate that thanks to them a family has a home to live in. At least, for one day.

The month of the rebellion against evictions

On the 15th of June, the movement that had been born one month before, joined the Platform of Citizens Affected by Mortgages (PAH in Spanish) to stop, for the first time, an eviction in Madrid as part of their expansion strategy after leaving Puerta del Sol. Hundreds of people met in front of the building of Anuar, originally a Lebanese citizen that had had to close his bakery because of the crisis, and had ended up drowning between the mortgage and the loan he had accepted from his bank. The eviction was adjourned and the phenomenon took off. Twenty days later, Anuar has not received any new communication from his bank. Both him as Chema Ruiz, member of PAH in Madrid, are confident that the eviction order will not be reactivated until after summer. Meanwhile, the petition filed y Anuar against the bank’s will is running it’s course. At the same time they are working to get Social Services to find them a free home sponsored by the Government. Anuar is clearly overwhelmed when, over the phone, he tells us what he felt the day hundreds of people helped him stay in his home. “Before that day I was very depressed… but it is thanks to all of them that we are still here. Let’s see if more people come for our help (referring to the platform) and we manage to solve this problem”. Anuar participates actively in other acts organized by the PAH.

The number of families that have lost their residence because of eviction processes reached record high figures during the first three months of this year. More than 15.000 family lost their home, 36.3% more than the same period last year. The web Periodismo humano, did a great job reporting how the movement started in Barcelona by the hand of a group of citizens that were witnessing how the effects of the financial and labor crisis in Spain, where 5 million people are unemployed, was making it impossible for thousands of families to pay for the extremely expensive mortgages they had signed during the years of the real-estate bubble. Until the 15th of June, the Platform had managed to stop a dozen of evictions in Catalunya. From the moment the 15M assumed their role in this battle, 50 more evictions have been stopped, more than two per day. And not only people that can’t pay their mortgage have been helped, also victims of real-estate mobbing and families that have occupied empty government sponsored houses, like what happened in Seville this week.

Citizens participating in the eviction action in Gijón (Javier Bauluz / Piraván)

Giving the house in exchange of the debt or substituting the mortgage fees for a monthly rent closer to the person’s income, two of the proposals made by the Platform from the beginning, have already been accepted in the last two paralyzed evictions in Madrid. At the same time, however, the president of the Supreme Court of Madrid, Francisco Javier Vieira, has declared himself worried saying that they have to “find ways to stop the blocking of our sentences”. Even though he assumed that “we have to find formulas for the families, to reduce injustice”. Many people participating in these actions are worried by the kind of politics that could be adopted in September.

Meanwhile, each day more evictions are being stopped, and even more are being planned. The method employed is practically fail proof: block the access to the house via the physical presence of people in front of it, always in a peaceful manner. As the Gijon case proves, you don’t even need a large mass of people, nor time for organizing, nor coordination with other platforms. You only have to be there when a call for help comes.