How a rural Spanish village has resisted capitalism – until now

The mayor of Marinaleda has spent decades fighting the system to create the ‘utopian’ village, near Seville. But many are starting to question whether this ‘paradise’ will last much longer, as Elisa Menendez explains

Elisa Menendez
Wednesday 16 January 2019 10:21 GMT
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Workers sort beans ready for distribution across the country
Workers sort beans ready for distribution across the country

A black and white portrait of Che Guevara casts a watchful eye over a room adorned with socialist memorabilia from all over the world. A sculpture of two giant marble fists bound by a broken metal chain inscribed with the name “Marinaleda” has pride of place on a grand wooden desk. Behind it sits a small, bearded man wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf and a multicoloured shirt. His name is Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, mayor of the last communist town in Spain.

Capitalism is like King Midas,” he tells me, “everything it touches turns to gold, commodity, trade and death. I think the capitalist system is necrophilous.”

The 70-year-old has run Marinaleda, near Seville, for almost 40 years, having spent decades fighting the system to create his “utopian” village. Many are starting to question whether this “paradise” will last much longer, after the Socialist PSOE failed to gain an absolute majority in Andalusia’s regional elections in December – for the first time in history. For four decades, Marinaleda has been granted free rein under the Socialists but that would not be guaranteed under a right-wing coalition, which could soon be formed between the Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and far-right party Vox.

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