Spain is Different: Sol and the Kilometer Zero

As a scholar of literature and culture with an interest in urban cultural studies, mutual (re)production of the material and the metaphoric is always of interest to me. On Saturday, the events associated with the first anniversary of the Indignado movement in the Puerta de Sol in Madrid began. They are scheduled to run through the night of the 15th with scheduled events occurring in both the Puerta de Sol itself as well as other smaller plazas around the city, around Spain, and, in fact, around the globe. Yesterday standing amongst the Indignados composed of young children, teenagers, university students, pensioners I reflected on how the metaphoric qualities of this space have been a part of its powerful presence in the cultural imaginary of activists in Spain and in other parts of the world.

“Esta noche el Sol va a salir” [Tonight the Sun will come out] read one of the banners carried by the crowd. The conflation of the physical place and its namesake natural phenomenon inserts a symbolic and poetic quality into the discourse that one just does not find in Zuccotti Park (for example). It is in Sol at the Kilometer Zero where this has happened, is happening; it is literally the official center of Spain. With the Real Casa de Correos as a backdrop the Indignados make reference to other hisotrical moments. It is from the balcony of this building where the Second Republic was declared. Its basement dungeons sequestered political prisoners. In this context, the flags of the Republic waving in the crowd gain greater significance.

Because May 15 is also the day of San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid, this “Spanish Revolution” has an  associations with Madrid that cannot be forgotten. There were plans to tie global protests in London and other locations to this anniversary of #15M, as if to launch the start of “Occupy” season and inspire another summer and long autumn of protest and resistance. It is from Sol, perhaps, that these global circuits of resistance will find renewed energy.

The #15M movement is so highly embedded into the scale of the urban, but because of its metaphoric possibilities has soared into the popular imaginary across Spain and across the globe. After protests in London, in Wisconsin, in New York, in LA, in Oakland, and of course Tahrir Square, it is in Madrid where perhaps the Kilometer Zero of the Global Occupy Movement seems to have settled. As always, that old slogan from the Franco era seems to be relevant again: Spain is different. 

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