Squats (Okupas)

Misperceptions around this issue are so gobsmacking that we decided to start a thread on squats, squatters and squatting.
Let us start by saying that squatters are not homeless people who take an empty house to destroy it or live in it. Squatting is a social movement trying to highlight the fact that some buildings are empty and everybody has a right to have a home, some shelter.
In Madrid, in contrast with squats in London, squats are mostly cultural sites, not housing squats. Before squatting a building, squatters find out all the information about the place and they usually squat buildings like old factories which have been out of use for over 25 years, or things like that.
Once the squat is regained for people in the neighbourhood, squatters clean it, which is usually very hard work, and put the place in shape so that other people can be welcome. Then they set up all kinds of services: using what people bring along with them, they set up libraries, child care, even computer rooms (if they get one or two computers), but mostly, they offer the space so that people can give and take (free) courses (yoga, theater workshops, languages, etc.) and celebrate all kinds of cultural events (live culture!) like showing movies, offering talks and discussions, organizing parties and collecting money for noble unpublicized causes! You see, if you paint, write, perform, if you have something to say to people, our society doesn’t allow you to say it or do it anywhere: we can’t publish, we can’t appear on TV, not even on the radio, you cannot share your knowledge and your skills anywhere, and there are tons of people doing interesting things that deserve our attention. So what you do, if you are one of those people, is go to a squat, and for instance, set up the course you want to give, and just give it!
We’ve been to El Laboratorio squats in Lavapiés and to La Karakola women’s squat in Lavapiés too. In one of the El Laboratorio, accoustics in the building were so amazing (Pza Cabestreros) that the squat was used by musicians who couldn’t afford to rent a place to rehearse. Here they could play without being a nuissance to anybody. Also drama groups came, and we had the chance to attend wonderful shows, for free, of course.
Another important role of squats is that they are meeting places. They try to offer drinks or food at low prices, and they become hangouts or very interesting people!

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One response to “Squats (Okupas)

  1. Very interesting indeed! I didn’t know all that about squats in Madrid! Thanks a lot! 🙂

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