Part 2: what is acampada sol?

Map of Acampada Sol.
Map of Acampada Sol.

Text explaining the nature of the encampment in Puerto del Sol (now known as Acampada Sol).

Submitted by Ed on June 6, 2011

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).

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. (This will be explored more in the following posts).

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”.

4. committees and working groups: internally the encampment is organized through a number of different committees and working groups.

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; feminism; migration & mobility; science and technology; inter-religious dialogue

The committees (dedicated to maintaining the space of the camp and coordinating the assembly process): extension (building links with other movements and other camps); neighborhoods (organizing the neighborhood assemblies); infirmary; infrastructure (building and maintaining the camp’s structures and cleaning); communication; legal; food; arts; respect (what would otherwise be called “security,” maintaining some sort of order, stopping fights & excessive drinking); library; dinamization of the assemblies

Committees and working groups have to be approved in the general assembly. Most were formed in the first 2 days of the occupation, and others were added as necessary: 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).

The obvious critique (constantly repeated by the mainstream press and the institutional Left) is that the encampment (and the movement) is too diverse, a wide-range of issue-based groups without a clear unifying message or project. Up until now, sharing the space of the plaza has been one of the major forces holding these groups together – talking to each other, eating together, seeing other groups’ list of demands and proposals and, above all, having to collectively live in and govern a common space. Environment organizes recycling; Feminism ensures that gender-neutral language is used; Migration tries to make immigrants feel welcome and comfortable in the encampment; etc. As of yet, this has not been enough to create a common project outside of the encampment itself.

While their physical presence is largely what makes up the encampment, the working groups go well beyond the encampment. They will continue meeting, debating and developing proposals after the tents are taken down and the plaza is once again filled with shoppers and tourists. In the months and weeks ahead, a virtual space will replace the physical one (if only those could be so easily separated). Developing tools and methods to use these virtual spaces is of the utmost importance if we are to build a common project.

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.

During 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. not the movement