Be aware, this entry is not work-related. I am instead going to talk of what has been the most significant and unexpected aspect in my life in Malaga, especially considering my placement is really not political: Politics.
Malaga is a very politically militant city, with loads of demonstrations, civic activity and communitarian spirit. Back in December I discovered this anarchic commune in the very heart of the city, “La Casa Invisibile” ("The Invisible Home"). It is located in an old building in the very centre, belonging to the City Council and left disused. 9 Years ago, a community of willing citizens decided to try to bring it back to life. They completely restored it, and now the building looks wonderful. They do a number of activities open to the public, in the interest of the civic body, to, as they say, "build community”.
I usually go for yoga lessons and for the very interesting talks that are held there. Granted, sometimes the views represented are quite extremist (we are talking of anarchists after all), but even if I don't agree with all they say, I still really enjoy listening to some widely unorthodox views and non-conformist opinions.
It was my first time in a commune. My idea of anarchists was the drunk, drugged up kids I saw at the general assemblies of students back in high school, much talk of “stick it to the power man”, but not much substance or ideas. That is not real anarchism.
The Anarchism I came to know is about creating community, putting the common interest first, without the need for authority, hierarchy or bureaucracy. In our over individualistic and individualized society, it was a breath of fresh air.
The commune has not been the only political experience I had in my time here; I have been to a number of demonstrations as well. Sometimes I don't even particularly care for the cause, it is just nice to march and chant with people, feeling part of a movement, something larger than yourself. Not feeling alone for a while.
All these experiences made me realize how much I moved to the political Centre since arriving in the UK, where the common discourse is much less leftist than in southern countries such as Italy and Spain, that had very strong positive communist experiences (the partisans that were fighting against fascism were mainly communist in Italy, and communist and anarchist in the Spanish Civil War). I would probably not have realized how much my own ideas have changed till engaging with a side of the spectrum that is often derided and misrepresented.
So what has this to do with the placement blog? Well as highly private and unrelated as this entry may have sounded, I think where I want to get to is that is fundamental to live the life of your city: not just bars and cafes, but actually meet normal people in the streets to discover the soul of the place where you live in, to participate in it, and finally to actually know it and live, not merely exist, in it. Once I started living the city, with the city, I started to finally feel like a citizen, and not just a stranger. It meant stopping feeling so alone, and discovering more about myself.
It does not even have to be participating through politics, just joining communitarian events such as marathons or city celebrations end up creating a link with the place you reside, making it more than just a location and bringing it in the realm of affection. I feel many times students miss out this part, for example knowing the names of all pubs but not of a single street, or being completely unaware of the history of the place. It is a shame, as it ends up depriving them of an experience so much more enriching and worth it. What is the point of leaving home if not to create bonds somewhere else?
(I feel obliged to add a necessary post scriptum: living the life of the city can sometimes be hellish, as I came to know in the so called “Semana Santa”, the week of daily procession held over Easter here in Andalusia. It meant drums, trumpets, and rivers of people under my window from 5 pm to 5 am for 7 days!)