Human Journalism – best articles from

By Mónica Hernández  / Translated by A.L.C.Teen Translators, Asturias-Spain

  • Gloria, early-retired from Iberia Airlines, keeps nine homeless men in her home with her pension and has created a business where they work.
  • She has already taken in 160 people in thirteen years.

“Gloria, the journalist is already here!”  shouts Fede, looking up as he raises his voice. He leads me to the top floor of the thrift shop where Gloria appears to be waiting for me. I see her coming round sofas, lamps, picture frames, shelves and second-hand books.

We exchange glances and she smiles at me. “Hi, Monica” Gloria is a dark-haired cheerful woman around 60 years old with tiny bright eyes. From her early retirement pension from Iberia Airlines where she was an air-hostess, now live ten people – nine men without any family ties and herself. They are her only family and she loves them as if they were true family.

She has created two second-hand thrift shops with her pension and the earnings from people’s donations of their old furniture. “Her boys” as she likes to call them, go house to house with the van gathering items that later will be restored and sold. They also do odd-jobs at a good price, like painting if necessary, moving or whatever brings money home to where they all live – the home that Gloria rents for everyone. The place where they live, eat, sleep and are treated for both their physical and emotional illnesses – the latter ones being the ones that hurt the most. They dream about the crisis ending and that someday the world will be better. At the moment, since Gloria took them into her home, it already is.

Everything began 13 years ago when Gloria, who had been a volunteer helping children of prostitutes who had cancer or Down’s Syndrome, decided to set up her own NGO – Proyecto Gloria – taking in to her home drug-dependent homeless men from the street. 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. Bertolaza

  • The Platform of those Affected by Mortgage (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, PAH) launches a campaign calling to occupy houses that are empty because they have been evicted.
  • “They are paying for the evictions with our taxes to kick people out on the street so banks can keep empty houses”, says Rafael Mayoral, PAH lawyer.
  • José Coy, co-founder of the PAH in the city of Murcia, predicts a heated Fall season. “We have to go after them because they are going to keep going after us”.

José Coy is a well-known and respected man in activist circles that, until now, had remained in a parallel world for many people. Some veteran trade-unionists from the shipyards and mines of the region of Asturias know him well since the 80s, when he, along with other trade unionists, travelled from Murcia to Asturias to bring food and support to the relatives of the workers who were on a hunger strike; he is well-remembered by those who were in Murcia in 2001, when 400 Central American immigrants locked themselves in several parishes to protest for the reform of the Aliens Act undertaken by then-Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja, that opened the door to something that was unconceivable back then and that is now an everyday reality: the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Hundreds of workers locked themselves in out of fear of being deported after years working like mules in the fields of Murcia, with no income whatsoever because the employment of undocumented immigrants also started to be persecuted, as their last packs of rice and beans started to run out. Those who lived through this humanitarian crisis talk about José Coy’s relentless work, as he became the spokesman for the Molina de Segura Immigrants Platform, keeping them company in their sit-in, talking to the media, coordinating the food drive, all while he was still travelling around the villages of Murcia selling clothes. On the opposite side of this fight, Aznar’s government and his policy on foreigners, which many human rights advocates described as a “hunt for immigrants”. Because of it, hundreds of immigrants went hungry in Spain, a fight Coy now remembers as the “tears rebellion, because some fights do not involve blows, but cries”.

José Coy in 15-M Gijón’s stand during the Black Week (Javier Bauluz/Piraván)

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By Juan Luis Sánchez · Traslation: Blanca G. Bertolaza
  • Hundreds of concentrations organized in 45 countries for change based on “dignity, direct democracy and proactivity”
  • It does not intend to be just any other demonstration, but to spark off an international social movement
  • Part of the 15M movement admits to some fragmentation and places hopes of reunification on Saturday

15O organizational meeting in Madrid’s Retiro Park (Juan Luis Sánchez)

“When they ask me what we want, I say that we want to spark off an international social change; when they ask me how we are going to do that, I say that creating a new power, citizen power that pressures the other powers to spark off that change”. These are Olmo Gálvez’s words, member of Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now), one of the organizations working for the multilateral, international and unified call for October 15th.

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Palestina Hotel (AP)

I read judge Santiago Pedráz’s ruling – rigorous, professional, categorical, efficient- and I, as a first-hand witness of the case, cannot help but remember what happened that April 8th, 2003 in Baghdad, when in less than three hours the US Army attacked the three headquarters of independent media in Baghdad –the Palestine Hotel, and the headquarters of Abu Dhabi TV and Al Jazeera TV-, killing 3 journalists and severely wounding three others.

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Translated by Merche Negro

More information: Armies with impunity, by Olga Rodríguez

By Juan Luis Sánchez / Translation: Nerea Alonso

  • Fishermen from Mauritania and Senegal demand that the European Union put an end to the “looting” of their coasts.
  • “I think it is fine that European fishermen emigrate to Africa looking for work, but we want a fair deal”, Karim says.
  • 67% of European boats outside of community waters are Spanish

Several porters go towards boats that arrive with fish in the Saint-Louis shore, in Senegal. © Javier Bauluz, Piraván

“My father used to send me fishing, and in 5 minutes, before the water my mother had heated began boiling, I would be back with a couple of fish”. It’s not a passage from a magical realism novel, but a memory of what was common for Karim, a Senegalese man who is now 45 and who has seen from his house by the sea how the fish that used to give them food and work disappears.

Decades later, “when the fish started to disappear from our area, we had to move to another town so we could keep living off the sea. Three years later, I had to go to Gambia to work. Later, to Guinea-Bissau”, he says. “I’ve had to go around chasing the fish”, Karim, who inherited the trade from his father, remarks, “and adapting myself: we started using GPS, engines, monofilament nets, I worked for big European boats… until I had enough”.

Fish market. African coastal communities depend on fish as one of its main sources of food and income. Nouakchott - Mauritania. Christian Aslund/Greenpeace.

He had enough and Karim Sall became president of his village’s Fishermen’s Association and later of the West Africa Sea Reserves Committee. With another Senegalese, Raoul Monsembula, and a representative of the Mauritanian fishermen, Ahmadou Ould Beyih, they are campaigning to ask that European boats stop exhausting their waters, taking their fish and not giving anything in return. It is a crucial moment because the new Common Fisheries Policy is being debated over. It will come into effect in 2013 and it will regulate how much, how and where Europe will fish. 67% of Europe’s fishing fleet outside of community waters is Spanish.

What is being done up to now is clear to environmental associations such as Greenpeace: “looting”. Since 1989, industrial fishing has gradually conquered areas traditionally in the hands of local, traditional fishing. 17% of Senegal’s population lives off of it, according to Karim Sall. “It is true that European boats hire local population”, says Paloma Colmenarejo, from Greenpeace, “but, besides the fact that industrial techniques are destroying the resources, those jobs are less than the ones traditional fishing used to create”. And, besides, the fish comes straight to Europe.

“Capture zone: Central Eastern Atlantic FAO 34” says the label of this pack of female shark.

In the supermarket: FAO34

In the supermarket, fish that comes from the coasts of Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde, or Guinea Bissau comes with the label FAO34. The most – captured species are squid, prawn, sardines and mackerel. “We don’t usually eat squid or prawn”, Ahmadou Beyi tells us, “because they barely have any protein and they are not part of our diet; but they were one of the few species we could export. Now there simply isn’t any left, we have lost 30% of it in 10 years”, because besides they are not respecting the temporary fishing ban, a kind of “fallow land” for the sea.
The three fishermen assure that there are species that “have almost completely disappeared: hake, silver bream, Senegalese grouper”, for example. “A lot of times we have to eat couscous with mangrove seeds” – a tree that grows in mangrove swamps and shelters mollusk – “because there is no fish”. Most European ships in West Africa are bottom trawlers, the most damaging for the ecosystem, and some use longline hooks. More than two thirds of the 154 bottom trawlers are Spanish.
It’s not a fair competition. “Us fishermen don’t know the exact contents of the agreements between the companies, the EU and our countries”, Karim insistently complains. “The EU does publish how much money it gives each country, but it doesn’t specify which species and how many tons it allows to fish”, Paloma Colmenarejo points out.

Fish market. African coastal communities depend on fish as one of its main sources of food and income. Nouakchott - Mauritania. Christian Aslund/Greenpeace.

The Western African coast was already over-exploited before the Europeans arrived en masse. “75% of the ecosystem was already threatened by our own fishing practice”, they tell us. That is the reason why Paloma Colmenarejo points out that the answer is not for Europe to give the Senegalese or the Mauritanians boats so they can continue the over-exploitation of the fishing industry themselves, and they can benefit from the exportations, “because the problem here is that resources are running out. We have to support traditional fishing and decrease exports”.

As they report, “the European fishing industry has done a lot of damage, the few rules there are are not respected, in some cases not even the areas marked for traditional fishing. That is destroying the ecosystems and has even caused deadly accidents because of the co-existence of big ships with small fishing boats inside the same area”.

Fish market. African coastal communities depend on fish as one of its main sources of food and income. Nouakchott - Mauritania. Christian Aslund/Greenpeace.

“The Spanish come, loot all the resources, and when Africans don’t have anything to eat and they emigrate, they are not wanted in Spain”, says Karim drawling a circle on a paper, pushing the pen hard down. Even so, Karim is not against Europe fishing in their waters and also uses migratory terminology: “If there are no fishing resou.rces left in Europe, I’m fine with European fishermen emigrating to Africa looking for work. But we want the exploitation agreement to be fair to us”

By Juanlu Sánchez / Translation: Blanca García

The Assembly chooses to prolong the camp in spite of the reluctance of several commissions

Sol sees itself as an international reference point and the camp’s problems are seen as secondary

This Sunday's general assembly has lasted about four hours. (Stéphane M. Grueso)

At five in the afternoon, few meters away from the Puerta del Sol, started a small but important assembly for M15: the spokespersons from the dozens of commissions that make up the Madrid movement got together to reach a consensus on a common posture about whether or not to take down the camp that has turned two weeks old this Sunday. This proposal would be taken at eight in the afternoon to the general assembly to debate over it.
At a quarter to eight the negotiations remained open, although an idea was assumed:  the camp is not sustainable and we have to look for an alternative way of continuation before some incident or a police break-up take away control of the situation from those who are camped.

Because, according to the camped themselves, risks and problems exist: security of the people and the facilities, health, image. And co-existence: “here some work and others enjoy”, a spokeswoman said. “There are people who only come here to camp and to eat for free who have nothing to do with the movement and that don’t show up in the commissions”, another one stated. For days, and this is something that has been approved in the general assembly, the camped ones are being asked to take down their tents during the day to make the work and the meetings easier, with little success. “The camp has given us a lot, but now it can start to weaken us”, another person said later.

The canvases and tents stand in the way of the increasingly massive assemblies (Juan Luis Sánchez)

Most of the commissions in this previous meeting agreed on the fact that “we have to stop sleeping here” and in keeping an area for the commissions’ activities, for reflexion and as an iconic reference. Someone with a phone in his hand interrupts the meeting: “we are being offered a barrack hut to set up on the square”.
But decisions in the M15 movement are taken by consensus, not by majority -which means that if just one person blocks any initiative, it has to be debated over until someone gives in- and the terms of the proposal have been toned down to a point in which the text looks more like a press release than a proposal:

“We are not leaving, the movement continues. We will restructure the camp because we are responsible. The work groups and commissions are still working in a public area. Today we are going to start the restructuring process. Each work group will start, from today, to work on a plan to suggest how that process has to be”.

(S. M. G.)

This text, which measures more as a press release than as a proposal, was too ambiguous for part of the assembly and would have to be clarified, re-read and revised several times, emphasizing the risk so that its meaning is clear. More or less this is the way it is: that they want to take down the camp now that they can so they can keep on having assemblies in this square and in the neighborhoods with no trouble; that they don’t have an exit date nor do they know exactly what is going to be left in the square, but that it should be started as soon as possible.

But one thing is the commissions’ working environment and their advice and another one is the collective atmosphere of the thousands of people that have attended the eight pm. assembly. People who see how thousands of protesters “have taken the Place de la Bastille”. How in Athens dozens of thousands are gathered. How Barcelona has “reconquered the Plaça de Catalunya”. How more than one hundred neighborhoods and towns in the Madrid region have held their assemblies this Saturday. Sol sees itself as an international reference and given the situation logistic and invisible risks are “local issues”, in the words of someone who took part in the assembly.

Among these “secondary” issues is also the risk of the police breaking up the camp. In a last gesture, the Legal issues commission has informed that the Police, with whom they are in regular contact with by command of the assembly, has told them that “from Tuesday on, they break up the dialogue with us”. The assembly has responded chanting “We are not afraid”.

So after a four-hour debate, the M15 movement has decided to keep camp, although holding the stay subject to security, health, and co-existence issues that the different commissions will have to evaluate starting tomorrow to determine whether or not they can be fixed. In the final phase of the session, they have tried to reach a consensus on when that assessment would be made in a new general assembly, but weariness and the need to finish at midnight in order not to bother the Sol neighbors have prevented them from fixing a deadline.

(S. M. G.)