Spain’s leftist mayors walk the talk as they take office

They promised change, and as Spain’s new crop of leftist mayors with roots in the indignado movement began their first day on the job they kept their word, shunning official cars for the metro and stepping in to suspend home evictions.

Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, began her day in office on Monday in the district of Nou Barris, which made headlines last November when 15 families faced eviction on the same day. She had been informed of several others at risk of eviction for falling behind on their mortgage payments and when she arrived she found a family – including two children aged two and seven – sitting in the street with their suitcases. “Their nerves were on edge,” she said.

Colau called the family’s financial lender, Bankia, which assured her the eviction had been suspended. She then dispatched another city councillor to make sure the other families at risk remained in their homes.

“We’re working to find a more stable solution,” she told reporters afterwards.

In Valencia, ecologist Joan Ribó began his day by cycling to the city hall. His Compromís movement, which put an end to more than two decades of the centre-right People’s Party (PP) rule in the city, has made increasing sustainable mobility options a priority.

Metro instead of car
As she was sworn in as Madrid’s new mayor on Saturday, Manuela Carmena insisted she would continue to take the metro to work rather than make use of the mayor’s official car. And on Monday she did just that, smiling at the handful of journalists who gathered to follow her just before 8am. Standing rather than sitting in the carriage, she was congratulated by several well-wishers. “I voted for you,” said one passenger excitedly.

In Galicia, the three new mayors from leftist coalitions made headlines when they declined to attend a mass and religious procession on Sunday, rebuffing a tradition for officials in the region since 1669.

Their decision was taken out of respect for Spain as a secular state, the new mayor of Santiago de Compostela, Martiño Noriega, wrote in an article on the Praza Pública website. “I’m one of those who thinks it is not right for a mayor to ask the apostles to do away with unemployment and corruption. Instead, a mayor should be able to put in place policies aimed at fostering transparency and creating jobs,” he wrote.

Noriega’s counterpart in A?Coruña, Xulio Ferreiro, said he would instead pay homage to the Galician mathematician Maria Wonenburger, who died a year ago at the age of 86 and was the first Spaniard to secure a Fulbright scholarship for doctoral studies in mathematics.

Jorge Suárez, the new mayor of Ferrol, said he would also give the religious ceremony a pass, pointing to the separation of church and state.

Their stance contrasts with that of the central PP government, which has repeatedly angered secularists in recent years by handing out the country’s top policing award to a statue of the Virgin Mary and stating that Saint Teresa was intervening to help the country through the economic crisis. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

Ashifa Kassam
Guest Author

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