The Village Against the World

Marinaleda, in impoverished Andalusia, used to suffer terrible hardships. Led by a charismatic mayor, the village declared itself a communist utopia and took farmland to provide for everyone. Could it be the answer to modern capitalism’s failings?

“As the borderline between dream and reality shimmers in the heat of Andalucia, we begin to wonder if living as if change were indeed possible is the very key to making actual change happen.” – Suzanne Moore, Guardian

“A thoughtful, take-nothing-for-granted account … this engaging book is as much a study of idealism in practice as it is of life in a highly unusualpueblo. The respectful, intelligent writing places the villagers at the centre of their own story – and that story is fascinating.” – New Statesman

“Hancox’s book could not be more timely – with Spain on the brink of social crisis and the shadows of the past emerging.” – Paul Mason, author of Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere

One hundred kilometres from Seville lies the small village of Marinaleda, which for the last thirty-five years has been the centre of a tireless struggle to create a living utopia. This unique community drew British author Dan Hancox to Spain, and here for the first time he recounts the fascinating story of villagers who expropriated the land owned by wealthy aristocrats and have, since the 1980s, made it the foundation of a cooperative way of life.
Today, Marinaleda is a place where the farms and the processing plants are collectively owned and provide work for everyone who wants it. A mortgage is €15 per month, sport is played in a stadium emblazoned with a huge mural of Che Guevara, and there are monthly ‘Red Sundays’ when everyone works together to clean up the neighbourhood. Leading this revolution is the village mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, who in 2012 became a household name in Spain after heading raids on local supermarkets to feed the Andalusian unemployed.

As Spain’s crisis becomes ever more desperate, Marinaleda also suffers from the international downturn. Can the village retain its utopian vision? Can Sánchez Gordillo hold on to the dream against the depredations of the world beyond his village?

Spain’s communist model village: read an extract from The Village Against the World in the Observer.

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