Food, work and housing for everyone in a Spanish community based in the beliefs of “Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Marx, Lenin and Ché."

Joyce Nelson

White houses of Marinaleda | Photo: Ana Vigueras (

In 2011, Spain’s severe economic crisis brought 8 million Indignados on to the streets throughout the spring and summer months. By that time, at least 400,000 families had been evicted from their homes by the banksters but under Spanish law still had to pay their mortgages.

For practical inspiration, Los Indignados have looked to a small Spanish village of about 2,700 people: Marinaleda, in the impoverished region of Andalusia. There, the mayor is a hero named Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, who for almost forty years has helped the local people build an extraordinary community based in the beliefs of “Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Marx, Lenin and Che.”

There is food, housing, and work for everyone through sharing and co-operation. As Dan Hancox wrote, “The town co-operative does not distribute profits: any surplus is reinvested to create more jobs. Everyone in the co-op earns the same salary, 47 euro (40 pounds sterling) a day for six and a half hours of work: it may not sound like a lot, but it’s more than double the Spanish minimum wage.” (Dan Hancox, “Spain’s Communist Model Village,” The Observer, October 20, 2013)

In 1991, Hancox notes, Marinaleda had finally gained access to a large abandoned farm, “awarded to the village by the regional government following a decade of relentless occupations, strikes and appeals.” In addition to the olive trees and an oil-processing factory, the villagers plant many crops that can be eaten fresh, but also some that can be preserved and jarred in the village for sale: peppers, pimentos, artichokes, a variety of beans. There is some small private enterprise in the village (bars and cafes, for example), but no franchises are allowed.

Think of it as a lifestyle of conspicuous non-consumption, but at least with benefits of an actual community.

Marinaleda has inspired at least one other Spanish farming cooperative, in Somonte, where hundreds of people visit and donate labour, second-hand equipment, furniture, etc. The fertile farmland was originally scheduled to be auctioned off by the government in 2012, but the Andalusian Workers’ Union occupied the land, and the land was turned over to the farming co-op.

While more and more people become what the financial sector calls NINJAs – no income, no job or assets – agricultural villages like Spain’s Marinaleda might be showing us an alternative, modest though it is. Think of it as a lifestyle of conspicuous non-consumption, but at least with benefits of an actual community. Apparently, that may be better than having Wall Street or Bay Street as your landlord.

These examples of resistance may seem way too humble for North Americans to contemplate, but maybe not. As Guy Dauncey has noted in his excellent article, “Canada’s Housing Crisis: Eight Solutions,” published in the Watershed Sentinel in March 2017, “Many younger people want more than an affordable home. They also want to live sustainably with a strong sense of community. They want to build a sharing economy, with a lighter footprint on the Earth. They want to build their own ecovillages and tiny home villages.”

Excerpted from Joyce Nelson’s latest book, Bypassing Dystopia: Hope-Filled Challenges to Corporate Rule, Watershed Sentinel Books, Spring 2018. Bypassing Dystopia has been nominated for the 2018 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, and is a follow-up to 2016’s Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism.

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