A lot of emails and phonecalls are needed to arrange a talk in another city. My friend J.M. had a visit to pay in Zaragoza and we were arranging to go there together. But now there is so much snow he has cancelled the visit. I can not, or I do not want to cancel this. I may get stranded somewhere in the middle of the railway. But I have to try to get there on the day we have scheduled because if I do not, then the chance will be gone. Maybe another year. But I can always try another year, I feel the need to make this one happen this time.
I have never seen so much snow over so many kilometres. It is so lucky the train was not cancelled. Some one, some people, has had to work for hours to clear the rails of all that snow that I can now see by the sides.
The talk is scheduled for seven in the evening in the Centro Social Autogestionado (Self-Managed Social Centre). It is not occupied, not a squat. I learn that it is rented and that the volunteers working here pay a monthly contribution for the rent. And I am amazed at the commitment. I do not think this would be possible in London. Not only because the rents there are what they are… Maybe yes. I guess if you are living with your parents and you do not need to pay rent for your bedroom you can spare some money to contribute to your social centre. If you live in a room that takes out three quarters of your salary, with work and renting contracts that hardly contemplate a weeks notice, the spare money is reserved for the next move and deposit. But at least squatting is not a criminal offence and some people are prepared to live in squats; the rest of us are prepared to contribute our volunteering time to squatted social centres. But the personal generosity of all these people still amazes me.
The social centre has two spaces. What you see first is the open space with desks and chairs and computers. A bit like the hacklab in Rampart. At the end, in what may have been the back of the shop, is a more quiet area. The library. People buzz around, I am the visit of the day and the room has been booked for my talk. The hackers try to make my video camera ‘talk’ to the Linux computers. They are talking in Spanish but I hardly understand them. Yes, an issue for a whole other talk. How corporate hardware does not talk well to free software. Other people set up the chairs in a circle, moving some tables to the side.
My talk consists of the projector showing some of the pictures I took in Palestine and then me talking. The wonderful propaganda activities of this collective have brought about twenty people to listen to me. As the talk progresses, a few people leave, some more arrive. As I present some of the situations, some put their elbows on their knees and their head in their hands. Some close their eyes and shake their heads. Some even cry.