Madrid. Parque Norte, July 22.
Here we are. After a march of almost thirty kilometres, divided into two acts – ‘before lunch’ and ‘after lunch’ – we have arrived in the northern outskirts of Madrid. Jim and me, and many more people have accompanied the marchers for only the last hundred kilometres or so. The people who did the entire march from the Basque country and the Rioja are the real heroes of this trip. They couldn’t hide their excitement when the skyline of city appeared in the distance.
Just as all great cities, Madrid is like a star. The urban matter gets ever more dense when you close in on her center of gravity. Roads and motorways, factories, office buildings and powerlines cover the land. Just outside the city limits there’s the campus of the Autonomous University of Madrid. This is where we stop to eat and rest. On the grass in front of the Facoldad de Letras y Filosofia we meet up with the comrades of the Phantom Column from Cantabria.
Up until today the Phantom Column was pure legend. Nobody knew if it really existed. Not even at the Ministry of Extension in Madrid. Testimonies from people in the Northern Column who said they have marched together with the Phantom Column for various days between Burgos and Aranda del Duero couldn’t be verified. But now, here they are, a dozen people who had started their march in Santander, alive and well under the trees of the Philosophy Department with a Cantabrian flag.
To be honest I’m a bit sad that the march is almost over. I really started to like it, to be with these people, to see all these places, to start thinking about distances not in terms of time or kilometres, but in terms of days. I look at the vague outline of the Sierra de Guadarrama on the horizon. It’s maybe half an hour by car. For us it has been three days walking.
I’m not the only one who got attached to walking. During our lunch break I meet people who are actively organising the next chapter. International marches, from all over Europe, to Brussels. The idea is to get there by mid October, in time for the worldwide protest day on the 15th. Two columns are supposed to leave from Spain, one from Madrid and one from Barcelona. Nothing is certain yet, but it seems the idea is also taking shape in Germany and France.
At the end of the afternoon we walk the last few hours to the Parque Norte. Our final descent on Madrid takes us through fields of gold where the hay has recently been cut. At the city border we’re welcomed by members from a neighbourhood assembly and applause. We take out our banners, we take the streets, and amidst the enormous human storage buildings of the outskirts we walk into the park.
We are welcomed with hugs and kisses as if we were soldiers returning victoriously from the front. And indeed, there is food enough to feed an army. But before we eat, we take the fountain. Overjoyed to be finally here, in Madrid, the people from the Northern Column jump into the water and splash around. The flags are waved until they’re soaked, and when everyone is wet we sit down, in a circle, laughing. The people from the neighbourhood look on in amazament as we spray columns of water around, shouting: “Assembly in the fountain! Assembly in the fountain!”