Las Setas and the 15-M Movement in Seville

by Jeremy Bassetti
15 M Movement Seville 15-M
People Gathering under the Metropol Parasol, May 2011

I moved to Spain in the middle of the Great Recession. I lived and taught English in Triana, an old neighborhood of Seville on the western bank of the Guadalquivir River. I’d often cross the bridge, venture into the Casco Antiguo, and wander through the old streets of Seville until I’d arrive at the Metropol Parasol. Still under construction at that point, I often wondered what it would be like to walk under its latticed shadow when it was finished.

The Metropol Parasol, which we called Las Setas (the mushrooms), opened to the public in April 2011. It became a meeting point for me and my friends. “Meet me at the Mushrooms,” I’d say and, at the appointed time, I’d find my friends somewhere on its elevated Plaza Mayor or seated on the steps leading up to it. From there, we’d disappear down Calle Regina, stopping at bars to drink and nibble our way to the Alameda de Hércules.

Yet no sooner had the Mushrooms opened than they also became a popular gathering site for protest. In the weeks before they opened, anti-austerity and “real democracy” protests marched through Seville—down Avenida de la Constitución, in Plaza Nueva, along Calle Tetuán, and around the Alameda de Hércules. Now, however, the young and disgruntled began gathering under the shade of the Metropol Parasol.

The Setas became a focal point for the 15-M Movement. As protestors in Madrid squatted in the Plaza del Sol, Sevillano picketers gathered under the shade of the parasol. Makeshift libraries, clinics, and kitchens sprang up on Plaza Mayor, which transformed into Plaza 15 de Mayo.

15-M Movement Plaza 15 Mayo Seville, 15 M

Ten years ago, I was a silent observer of the protests. I walked next to the protestors, took pictures, and tried to understand them.

Some of the older (and employed) Sevillanos ridiculed the protestors, calling them los ninisni estudia, ni trabajo (no education, no job). That was a cheap shot, for many of the Spanish youth I knew had advanced degrees and, some argue, it was the older generation’s financial mismanagement that created the crisis to begin with.

Still, it was hard not to get caught up in the general spirit of protest. Back in 2011, nearly 50% of all young adults were out of work, and the sense of frustration was palpable. The sense of community, activism, and solidarity sparked by the gatherings, a sensation that was new to me, played out in the shade of the Metropol Parasol.

Below are some previously unpublished photos of the 15-M Movement in Seville I took at the Metropol Parasol.

What we created last month

Last month we published two Travel Writing World episodes. The first was with Pam Mandel her book The Same River Twice. We also published an episode with Patti Shales Lefkos about her experiences self-publishing her travel memoir. On the same theme of self-publishing, we also wrote an article about Self-Publishing a Travel Memoir and another about the must-have tools and apps for travel writers.

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I end this dispatch with gratitude. Please stop by and say “hello” on Twitter. -Jeremy

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