Part 2: what is acampada sol?

1. an encampment in the Puerta Sol

consisting of: tables for the different working groups and committees; 3 food stations; 2 infirmaries; a library (with a comfy couch and lots of books); a  children’s space (with matted floors, toys and books); an art space (where people make signs and other artworks for the encampment); a tent offering free massages and “psychological help”; numerous sleeping areas and tents; and a lot of other stuff i’m forgetting. basically, everything one needs to live here (except for showers).

(this is the most recent map i could find, but as it’s a few days old,
it’s no longer exactly accurate)

food comes from donations and the 3 kitchens cook and distribute it

2. “the democracy we want”: decisions in the encampment are made through consensus in the assemblies. all major decisions must be approved in the general assembly. when asked what “real democracy” is, the encampment is the answer. i’ll explain the concept more in the next part of this series, and critiques and problems in the final part.

3. a “meeting-place”, a place for dialogue and debate :

a friend explains to me: “we went to the march because we thought we would be alone, that nobody else would be there so we had to go, the same for the first days of the encampment. and then we saw we were not alone, that there were many other people that thought like us, and we kept going to the plaza so that we wouldn’t be alone”.

the first thing i notice is the strong desire to talk. talking to strangers, not only about why we are angry but what a better world would look like. talking for hours in assemblies with hundreds of people. nobody ever seems to get tired. it’s as if they’ve been silent their whole lives, and now they suddenly realize they can talk, and it’s wonderful. and listening, listening to each other instead of bullshit politicians. and realizing that actually we are just as good at coming up with solutions as the politicians and supposed “experts”.

Traficantes de Sueños organized a presentation of the book La crisis que viene (The Coming Crisis) and a discussion around the causes of the crisis and what we’re calling for (a guaranteed basic income!)

Also, read Marta’s piece: Sol, when the impossible becomes unstoppable

And a nice video about how there is space for everyone in Sol.

4. committees and working groups: one of the constant criticisms from the press and the institutional left is that the 15-M movement is too diverse, there is no one unifying demand or problem, people are interested in too many different single issues. walking around the encampment or looking at the daily schedule, it is easy to see where these critiques come from.

The working groups (charged with generating debate on their topic and developing proposals for discussion in the general assembly): education & the university; culture; environment; economy; social; politics; feminisms; migration & mobility; science and technology; inter-religious dialogue

The committees (dedicated to maintaining the space of the camp and coordinating the assembly process): extension; neighborhoods; infirmary; infrastructure; communication; legal; food; arts; respect; library; dinamization of the assemblies

Most of the working groups and committees where created in the first two days of the encampment in the general assembly. More groups were added as necessary (after approval in the general assembly): neighborhoods after the assembly decided to organize neighborhood assemblies; feminism after a debate about hanging a feminist banner, etc. As they began developing proposals, most of the groups created additional subcommittees (in Spanish).

Sharing the space of the plaza has been one of the major forces holding these groups together – seeing each other, talking to each other and having to collectively live in and govern a common space. Environment organizes recycling; Feminism ensures that gender-neutral language is used & generally intervenes in cases of overly machista behavior; Migration works to make immigrants feel welcome and comfortable in the encampment; etc. Of course this is not enough to create a common project, but it has been a start. And, of course, this space does not have to be a physical space and in the upcoming weeks and months, how we are able to use and share virtual spaces will become increasingly important.

While their physical presence is largely what makes up the encampment, the working groups go well beyond the encampment. They will continue meeting after the tents are taken down and the plaza returns to “normal”.

5. changing: one of the most impressive aspects of the encampment is that it is constantly changing. you’re there in the early afternoon, you leave for class, you come back and there are new structures, new pathways, new posters. in one sense this is super confusing because it makes it hard to find things, but it’s largely exciting (especially when the changes make the space more livable).

for example, the nursery: Originally the encampment had no designated area for children, then a small space was cordoned off in the middle (this was during the days when the camp was super packed and the pathways were narrow so it was almost impossible to reach, especially with small children). Parents were not impressed so they organized a march, bringing their kids and pushing strollers, to the encampment from a nearby plaza. now the nursery is one of the nicest places of the encampment, easily accessible, with cardboard on the floor to make it safer, plenty of toys, a library of children’s books, and lots of arts and crafts activities.

6. #acampadasol: the encampment also exists in a very real way on the internet. the website, the tv station, the radio, the twitter, the facebook page. not only does this allow people far away to see and learn about the camp, but it also means that campers are always in the encampment even when they’re not physically there. You follow the tweets about it when you’re in class, watch the live broadcast when you’re at home. In this way, the camp spreads, takes over the space of the city and our daily lives. This explains it better.

I remember one of the first days of the occupation of the plaza (before it had really consolidated into the encampment), people started chanting: “we’re not on facebook, we’re in the plaza”. I look over at the kid next to me, one of the loudest chanters, uploading a picture to facebook while chanting. This isn’t as much of a contradiction as it might appear to be. Of course, we’re in the plaza, and we’re also in facebook, and the plaza is on facebook and we’re in the facebook plaza. Our power lies in that we can go from facebook to the plaza and back again whenever we want. Our power comes from not needing a political party or a trade union to tell us when to go, from not having to rely on the corporate-controlled media to get our story out. Of course they can block and censor things on the internet, but we already know how to get around that.

7. and much much more.