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Spain: The Rebel Grandparents of the 15M

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

They call themselves “the children” of 15M despite the fact that the majority of them far exceed the age of 60, they are retired, they are “iaios” (grandparents, in Catalan) and they are veterans of long-term activism.

Celestino SánchezAntonia Jover, Adrián Rísquez, and Rosario Cunillera are some of the members of the the “Iaioflautas,” a collective that emerged in Barcelona last October alongside the camping grounds in Plaza Catalunya.  Its objective is to support the youth in their own way. But the fight, they assert, is the same: “for a dignified democracy by name and social justice against conspiratorial bankers and politicians.”

The “iaioflautas,” whose name was invented in solidarity with the “perroflautas” (gutter punks) — a derrogatory term with which the president of Madrid used to refer to the young occupiers — combine some of the methods they used in the anti-Franco, labor union, local or leftist fights with their learning about new technologies. To summarize, they organize a “direct action” in the street once a month, almost in secret, and do not announce it on their Twitter account, @iaioflautas, or blog [es] until it has already begun. That way, they avoid problems with the police.

The first event took place in November, when they occupied a Santander Bank office in Barcelona.  The most recent one, called “Operation #RebelionBus,” occurred on Wednesday, February 1. Some 70 “yayos” (grandparents) arranged to meet in the very center of the Catalan capital and “hijacked” a bus in protest of the abusive increase in public transportation fares.

They chose Line 47, in reference to the missing bus driver and syndicalist Manuel Vital [es] that hijacked a bus on this line in May of 1978 to demonstrate that he could get to his neighborhood. The following is part of a series of tweets that they started writing a few days before with the help of young activists:

January 30:

@iaioflautas: #eldía1F los @iaioflautas vamos a hacer algo muy loco. (puenting…como que no). Filosofía #occupy 99% ¿Le dais un meneito? Gracias!

@iaioflautas: #Feb1 the @iaioflautas are going to do something really crazy. (bungee jumping… but of course).  #occupy 99% Philosophy.  Will you give it a little shake?  Thank you!

@celescolorado: Miércoles 1 por la mañana nueva travesura de @iaioflautas, síguenos

@celescolorado:  The morning of Wednesday, the first, a new @iaioflautas prank.  Follow us

January 31:

@iaioflautas: Tic-tac, tic-tac…cuenta atrás para una travesura más. Será #eldia1f ¡especuladores, os vais a enterar! Somos el 99%. No olvidamos.

@iaioflautas: Tick-tock, tick-tock… counting down to one more prank.  It will happen on #Feb1.  Speculators, you're going to find out!  We are the 99%.  We don't forget.

February 1:

@iaioflautas:  En marcha! Hoy será un día largo. No olvidéis el bocadillo, medicaciones varias… Hoy entramos en acción. ¡Atentos!

@iaioflautas:  Marching! Today will be a long day.  Don't forget your sandwich, various medications… Today we start the action. Watch out!

@iaioflautas: Calentando motores, q frío que hace!

@iaioflautas: Starting our engines, it's so cold out!

@iaioflautas: Hemos ocupado un autobús, el 47, en pl. Catalunya. Somos más de 70 @iaioflautas, la acción ha empezado, seguidnos en #rebelionbus

@iaioflautas: We've occupied a bus, the 47, in Pl. Catalunya.  There are over 70 of us @iaioflautas, the action has started.  Follow us with#rebelionbus

@iaioflautas: [Calle] Industria con Sardenya. Que se escuche: rechazamos las reducciones de tarifas y el plan de recortes salariales #rebelionbus

@iaioflautas: On Industria and Sardenya Street.  Listen: we reject the reduction in prices and the plan for salary cuts #rebelionbus

@iaioflautas: Aquí podéis ver algunas fotos de #rebelionbus. Vamos por Ronda Guineueta. Estamos ocupando el bus 47 http://www.iaioflautas.org/2012/02/operacio-rebelionbus/

@iaioflautas:  You can see photos from #rebelionbus here.  We're going along Ronda Guineueta. We're occupying the 47 bus.  iaioflautas.org/2012/02/operac…

@iaioflautas: Bueno, el trayecto de ida ha acabado. Ahora, volviendo para la Plaza Catalunya. Sobre las 12:30 haremos una asamblea allí #rebelionbus

@iaioflautas: Well, the trip there has ended.  Now we're returning to Plaza Catalunya.  Around 12:30 we're going to have an assembly there #rebelionbus

@iaioflautas: Final del trayecto mañanero de la #rebelionbus. La lucha continúa con #yonopago esta tarde. pic.twitter.com/8GaRmzSw

@iaioflautas: The end of the morning trip on the #rebelionbus. The fight continues with #yonopago (#Iwontpay) this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/8GaRmzSw

@celescolorado: En la asamblea final en pz. Catalunya @iaioflautas hemos cantado el cumpleaños feliz a un compañero, Manolo González cumplía 80 años

@celescolorado: At the final assembly in Pl. Catalunya @iaioflautas We sang Happy Birthday to a friend, Manolo González, who turned 80

And here is the video that @15Mbc_tv recorded and edited:

The #RebeliónBus operation had been prepared a week before, during a meeting I attended.  I had been following the Iaioflautas for some time online, and I wanted to get to know them.  There they finalized the details of the action and began planning the “prank” that they will carry out in March.  This is part of what some of them told me:

Celestino Sánchez, 61 years old:  

Celestino. (Screen shot taken by the author)

Celestino. (Screen shot taken by the author)

El 15M representó para gente como nosotros una especie de aire fresco. La situación ha cambiado y hay un nuevo escenario y tenemos que volver a aprender. Eso no quiere decir que nuestro pasado no sirva, pero las cosas son diferentes. Por ejemplo, hace diez años era impensable que se convocara a través de las redes sociales la ocupación de la plaza Catalunya. Se decía que la gente joven no hacía nada, y hace, hace mucho. La gente de las generaciones futuras vivirá peor que la del pasado, ese es otro cambio. Lo que creo que no ha cambiado son los objetivos: una sociedad en las que las personas podamos vivir libremente, que tengamos vivienda, transporte, que estudiemos. Eso lo queríamos hace treinta años y ahora también, sigue siendo vigente. 

The 15M represented a sort of breath of fresh air for people like us.  The situation has changed and there is a new scenario, and we have to go back to learning.  This doesn't mean that the past no longer serves a purpose, but that things are different.  For example, ten years ago, it was unthinkable for the Plaza Catalunya occupation to be organized through social networks.  People said that the youth did nothing, but they do quite a lot.  Future generations will live worse than those of the past, that is another change.  I believe that the objectives are that which hasn't changed:  a society in which we as people can live freely, where we can have homes, transportation, where we can study.  This is what we wanted 30 years ago and now it also continues to be the case.

Antonia Jover, 72 years old:

Antonia. (Screen shot taken by the author)

Antonia. (Screen shot taken by the author)

Me gusta mucho esta forma de lucha, porque pienso que es una forma directa y, además, responde a la concepción que siempre he tenido de la democracia. La democracia es poder del pueblo, ningún gobierno puede ser democrático, porque los gobiernos son represivos. La verdadera democracia está en el pueblo y en la vigilancia del pueblo de que los gobiernos cumplan lo que prometen. Los iaioflautas podemos aprovechar las experiencias que teníamos del franquismo. Entonces los que queríamos una sociedad democrática teníamos un enemigo común, el franquismo, un sistema bárbaro y represivo. Y ahora, ¿por qué no hacer una misma experiencia de la unidad contra los especuladores y los financieros? Nos afecta al 99% de la población y sólo es el 1% el que se beneficia. Ésta es la idea.”

I really like this form of uprising, because I think it is direct and also responds to the conception that I have always had of democracy.  Democracy is power of the people, no government can be democratic because governments are repressive.  True democracy lies with the people and in the peoples’ vigilance that the governments deliver their promises.  We iaioflautas can take advantage of the experiences we had with the Franco era.  So those of us that wanted a democratic society have a common enemy, Franco's regime, a barbaric and repressive system.  And now, why not create the same experience of unity against speculators and financiers?  It affects 99% of our population and it is only the 1% that benefits.  That is the idea.

Adrián Rísquez, 77 years old:

Adrián. (Screen shot taken by the author)

Adrián. (Screen shot taken by the author)

En los iaioflautas me siento muy bien. Llevo cinco años encerrado en la Federación de Asociaciones de vecinos hablando de la sanidad sin salir a la calle y como nuestra trayectoria fue en la calle, dentro de los locales no me aguantaba. Con los iaios hacemos lo que me gusta, en la calle, porque lo hicimos en aquellos tiempos y lo estábamos echando en falta. Decíamos que era necesario que la juventud saliera a la calle, pues ya está en la calle y ahora lo que tenemos que hacer es estar con ellos, que ellos aprendan de nosotros y nosotros de ellos. No se puede estar en casa porque las cosas que tenemos no las hemos conseguido en casa. La sanidad pública se consiguió en la calle y tenemos que conseguir en la calle para que no nos la quiten.

I feel really good being with the iaioflautas.  I have been locked up in the Federation of Neighborhood Associations talking about health without going out into the streets, and since our experience had been in the streets, I couldn't take it anymore inside the locales.  With the iaios, we do what I like, outside, because we did it in those times and we were doing what was needed.  We said that it was necessary for the youth to come out into the streets, well now they're in the streets and what we have to do is be with them, so that they learn from us and we from them.  You can't stay inside the house because we haven't gotten the things we currently have from sitting at home.  Public health was achieved in the street and we have to continue on in the street so they don't take it away from us.

Rosario Cunillera, 66 years old:

Rosario. (Screen shot taken by the author)

Rosario. (Screen shot taken by the author)

Todo empezó cuando fuimos a la plaza Catalunya a ver a los jóvenes y saber qué pensaban. No entramos en su lucha, porque, para mí, era totalmente diferente a cuando vine a Barcelona, a los 18 años, a luchar contra Franco. Pero fue un impulso nuevo. Ellos van a encontrar su forma de luchar, pensé, con el Twitter y todo esto. Y me apunté a los iaioflautas y cada vez que hay algo de los jóvenes, procuramos ir. Los jóvenes del 15M nos han dado un poco de ilusión y eso es algo que nos faltaba a la gente mayor.

Everything started when we went to Plaza Catalunya to see the young people and find out what they were thinking.  We didn't join the fight because, for me, it was totally different from when I came to Barcelona at the age of 18 to fight against Franco.  But it was a new impulse.  They went to find their own way of fighting, I thought, with Twitter and all of that.  So I joined the iaioflautas and every time the young people do something, we try to go.  The 15M youth has shown us a bit of hope and that is something that us elderly were missing.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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