Valsaín, July 18.
Today Jim and I joined the Northern Column. The wake up call is at dawn. The camp is divided between the square under the Aquaduct and the local sports center. We lift the tents, we have a quick breakfast together. At eight o’ clock we’re on the march.
Today’s leg is easy. Fifteen kilometres of flat land up to a small village in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama. All the time we have the massive wall of the mountains straight ahead of us. Madrid is on the other side. Only towards the end the march becomes panoramically interesting. After we pass the village of La Granja de San Ildefonso we enter the pine forest, the long and winding road starts to go up.
One of our Basque comrades tells a funny story about the village of Otxandio, which they passed on their way through Biscay. As always they held an assembly at night on the central square, explaining to the local people how it works. Someone answered: “You don’t say. We have been holding regular popular assemblies for three years now.”
Three years ago the mayor of the village had decided to grant the right to build an incinerator to a certain a company. The citizens were against it. They presented a feasible ecological alternative, but the mayor persisted with his own plan. So one day the entire village went up to his house and the people simply said: “You are not our mayor any more.” Since then the citizens have instituted their own popular assembly. Every important decision that concerns them needs to be ratified by it.
We march on happily. Some people greet us by honking their horns. But not all of them are happy to see us. And it’s not because we are the 15M movement, but because we are waving Basque flags. This is the conservative hartland of Castilia. There are lots of people here who still love Spain, who love the king. I don’t understand them, just as I don’t understand the Basque nationalists. The era of kings and nation states is over. It just takes time for people to realise it.
Not long after noon we arrive at the small village of Valsaín. There’s room to camp on the grass in front of a little church. And there’s the local sportscenter for people who want a roof over their head. We have lunch on the steps of the church, a rich meal of beans and pasta and potatoes and meat. Real marchers’ food, offered and cooked with lots of love.
The afternoon is dedicated to relaxing on the banks of a small mountain stream, and in the evening, as always at eight, there’s assembly. It’s curious that the participation of the local people is much bigger here in the village than it was yesterday in Segovia. There are elderly and mothers with children who sit down in our circle. They explain us a bit about the village.
All the pine forests and the springs around here used to be personal property of the king. Now they are the state’s. And the state lets all the richness be exploited by multinationals of wood and water. They cut down the trees, they take water from the springs and sell it back to the people in bottles of plastic.
We invite the citizens of Valsaín to form their own assembly. We tell them about the example of Otxandio. This is their valley. They can take back what’s theirs. There’s nothing the people can’t do, as long as they really want it.