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Social Centre Interviews: Marion @Can Masdeu Barcelona








CanMasdeu (CMD) is a totally amazing squatted social centre on the outskirts of Barcelona. I spent a week there with my video camera in January.  The following is a transcription of an interview with Marion from CMD. This interview focuses a lot on the structure organisation & process at CMD. Check the other interview with Luke focuses more on the work on the house & energy systems. 


Tell me a little bit about how you came to know about & be involved in CMD.

I was living in Amsterdam at this time & I was working with a camera man working on video & this kind of some we were working on undergrounds & there is a water mine behind so he came for the EYFA winter meeting two years ago. & he came back to Amsterdam & told me there is a fucking water mine & we have to go & take some shots & he told me about this place & I had been thinking about setting up a community in the south of France with Gardens & this kind of thing. So I decided to come for holidays to CMD & I came with a friend & it was one week before the frustrated eviction so we had a very nice time & I was like whoa I want to live like this so went back to Amsterdam & finished my+ study & I was supposed afterwards to finish my masters in Portugal but I stopped my way in Barcelona. 

How did CMD come about what where the ideas behind it?

I would say that CMD is like a try out for some people to live outside the system. We are a bit outside the city & we can see how it is working & for most people here they are not happy living there. Frustrated stressed out that kind of thing & personally I canít accept all the norms of society you know. So itís a try out to see how is functioning the system & to find an alternative way of life. Thatís through living in community how to live together. For the energy how to set up the light the water. For me we are making the experience of limits. Weíre living a lot of people here its not so easy weíre trying to further the possibilities of what we learn & to think about it to take distance for the city & to think about it. I would not say its perfect but itís a try out.

We try to reduce as much as possible consuming & to live without money as much as possible. Most of the people donít work here we just work for ourselves & we work a lot & we are involved in a lot of things inside the house & outside the house & its really worse than having a normal job.

How long has CMD been occupied & what has the building been before?

 2 years .

Before it has been left empty for 53 years & just before it was a hospital for lepers. So this is a hospital for crazy people. This is a very old house from I think the 13th Century. Before a hospital it has been a house of private people & a man called Masdeu thatís why its called Masdeu

How many people live here

I would say 26/27

There is all the process to enter into the community people are moving & coming & goingÖ.

& you have a lot of guests all the time? 

Yeah, but right now we are changing the way we are functioning were making one month closed & one month open because to have a lot of people going around & you donít know everyone. You know already we have a social life so intense by living with 27 people when you have new people coming most of the time I donít feel like going & being very social & saying welcome to my house. It gives you the feeling of guiltiness just because your not nice so weíre like eating our own heads because we have all these guests so we try to play with all these kind of conditions to make people happy in the house. 

What are the main activities of the house?

2 parts. Inside the house & the Gardens. There is the environmental education kids from school come & we try to give a reflection about how we function in the system & what do we think about it. Afterwards there is to fix the house like making electricity, all the domestic tasks for the community because we eat together & everyday it is the turn of somebody to make food, & there is the PIC where there is always some activities going on outside & some people on their own or some people in the house or sometimes its in the name of the house it depends  are involved in some actions in some political stuff. For example were involved in the platforms against transgenics, against the speculation, against the next forum in Barcelona which is like a big big speculation event which the discourse of cultures which is completely biased.

We work on alternative energy so its very normal to go everywhere on bikes & we have a nice bike workshop & there is the bike powered washing machine & the sounds system.

What has been the reaction &  what kind of involvement is there from the local people in the area around Can Masdeu?

Canyelles the district weíre in is quite populated & the down part of the economic class so people are quite happy to come here to have the possibility to work on the land. For people working on the garden its very cool & thereís a lot of different kinds of people like family like punk like women like very different people. When we go to the district the neighbourhood people can recognise us very easily & there are all the children making jokes saying Ďah you are the people from Can Masdeu you are staying naked all the time.í There is the old men waiting for the summer when we are getting naked very impatiently.

One of the main work of the project is to work on the local level. & for me to develop this kind of autonomous space its not just a network on an international level thatís important but the most important thing is to work on a local level. To light up a reflection about how the society is functioning & say look we can do something else. 

& The people who live in the house are from all different countries but thereís also quite a few local people?

One third of the house is from Catalonia & for the rest mainly Europe & some people from South America. Its more or less from the occidental world. There are people more or less from all the countries in Europe but there is no people from Africa or Asia. Its still very occidental & one way of thinking according to me. 

What is the legal situation of the house at the moment?

We have a meditative dimension here with the frustrated eviction there was a lot of stuff in the media & we had nice point of view the city hall & Hospital San Paul are quite afraid of the noise we can make & the last time we had the court we were ready to make a lot of noise & they just stopped the process of the court. & right now we have  more or less 2 years with the appeal before being evicted.

Before November it was just like early in the emergency we had to think on the very short time but right now we are more relaxed & more cool & weíre starting to think in a bit longer term & what we can set up in the time much more than beforeÖ

Describe a little of what happened in the attempted eviction.

I was just there one week before & the thing was they open a very tricky stuff that we could be evicted during 15 days without any notification. We were preparing a lot of barricades & the position for hanging on the house to resist on the house

The frustrated eviction as we call it was in May 2002 & the authorities made tricky stuff without telling us that we could be evicted during 2 weeks without any notification. So we prepared barricades & had the position from people to hang on the house & resist & personally I went back to Amsterdam at this moment I wasnít there. The police came one day & people started hanging on & they stayed there for three days & the police were very hard the putting very strong lights in the face of people a lot of sound during the night so people couldnít sleep. The police made very horrible stuff in the house because they were in here with people hanging on & a lot of people maybe 400 demonstrating all the people from the neighborhood coming the old women coming with bottles of water asking to give to water to the people hanging on. The police came here they killed chickens they cut a lot of climbing stuff they shit in the beds they pissed everywhere. They didnít break so much stuff but they broke a lot of bikes & they stole material for sure.

But in the end they had to leave because people were supposed to be in danger like the people hanging on where in danger of dehydration lack of food & this kinda stuff & it was a big victory. In Amsterdam we made some actions at the Spanish consulate it was funny.

& This is one of the reasons that Can Masdeu is so well known?

At this moment we had a lot of media coverage & people were working on it to move the public opinion to say look what we do we just want to make a nice project because this place is completely empty on a longer term were not gonna stay here & probably their gonna make urbanisation right along the valley & so we wanted to keepÖ as it was empty for along long time there is a lot of plants & animals growing round here & we wanted to protect it & to say to the people look what we want to do we want to do something nice & their just making repression. 

What experience/advice would you share with others trying to set up a social space? 

To have a good group to be sure that people are really involved. That is one of the problems here that people are moving all the time are involved in so much & the garden is sometimes a bit left behind or sometimes work is not done.

To have good interaction with the local people thatís very important itís a social place itís the kind of place to build the social links weíve lost in the society everybody is super individualist super selfish in the sense that I have my life I have all my comfort & I donít talk with my neighbour. & This is a kind of open place to go back to thisÖ

How do you organise what are the decision-making structures etc of the house?

As we are living with 30 people we need a very strong structure & because we are more or less young & not everybodyís got a big sense of responsibility. So we meet once a week with all the groups to talk about the internal & external functioningís. We have simple lists to know whoís gonna cook whoís gonna take care of the wood or the toilets, or the compost. & to make groups of interest the group of the garden environmental education the group of resistance. We are in the process to make better the meeting to make effort to listen to let each other to talk & not cut words of others all the time. Itís a process & the structure is very important. Its whatís saving us more or less.

Experience of trying to live without money in this society

For the money everybody has their own tricks. More or less everybody pays one euro a day for dried food rice pasta etc. & we try to eat from the garden & we eat quite a lot but still not enough, as we need to think more about what we can grow & we are learning. We would like to be in complete self organisation & would like to live like this for the food as well. We also recycle a lot from the city from the market of the neighbourhood etc.

I would like to add that everybody that is living here we are not living by causality everyone is here to learn something. I learnt a lot about relationships with other people & on gender point as well with menÖ & afterwards once youíve learnt you have to leave but itís a very very difficult place to leave. Iím planning to leave in some months & in the process I want to learn the most I can. Because Iíve made my work on myself because when your in confrontation with people all the time you have to do a lot of work on yourself. To control yourself to not be in a bad mood all the time & to scream at people because its not working. & so you have a very important work on yourself to do. Everyoneís got to learn something here.

There are 20 men & 9 women in the house. When we are trying to create new ways of living & gender can be a big issue in our society how is the gender situation in the house?

All the time there has been a big misbalance between the number of men & women in the house & all of us are coming from the city & we are bringing with us all that society teaches us about the gender problem. All the problems that are there are here as well. Itís not just that we are alternative & we are different & we have to recognise that.

ON my point of view gender problems are very unconscious & maybe much more present in womenís that in menís minds Its not a question of guiltiness Iím not interested in that.  & maybe what is difficult for women here is that you have to be very strong & you have to be able to do everything & you have to fight when you want to be listened to. Normally men use tools or are welding or use very big electric tools. & normally you have to fight to give your opinion to be listened to, to be looked at imagine that you are doing some electrical work with two men their gonna talk to each other but their not gonna look at me. We learnt all these kinds of things. Itís unconscious because of 5000 years of history.

On the other side there is all the couple relationships which is very difficult to live here because when you split up someone is going or what? Sometimes its very difficult to manage to have bad relationship with someone & you have to live in the same house there are very very few couples here & generally its going very bad.

Do you think the gender imbalance is only in Can Masdeu or is it something you see in a lot of social centres?

The gender imbalance you can see in all the political stuff. In other social centre I donít know. In the political world the gender imbalance is really clear. & like in a house like CMD from my point of view the house is running well because of women. The group is very small but very strong & we have a lot of support from each other. WE are quite more able to talk about emotional stuff & we try to show to men Ėtry to talk about your emotional stuff because there is not only political stuff competitively. Thatís the point also living with men the competition is really present & sometimes the only solution you have is modeling your own behaviour on the menís behaviour instead of trying to set up your own way of thinking or your own way of doing things.

There are some social centres going on with only women.

Are there some things you do to try & deal with these issues?

From last year we started to make womenís meetings & it was very funny because men were very jealous. I liked this idea & I set up the first meeting to empty the house from women & maybe show them how much they need us. When we make womenís meeting we say we feel much more in trust about & more confident to talk how you feel you donít feel so much judged & we have a big problem in society of seduction so how you appear how you want to show yourself in the group & this kind of thing. This is much more to help us find our place in this menís world. But not fighting Iím not interested in fighting with men Ė I love men Ė Just like to make us all happier & to make us all work more efficiently together.

So what do you think of this idea a womenís squat in Barcelona does it appeal to you?

I wanted to go from this house some weeks ago so I left I was very unhappy in the centre & started a project to watch out for some new house maybe to start a squat only for women. I felt very bad here with so many men  for my personal life & personal problems. & I wanted to live in a place where when I go in the door I feel in peace & Iím not afraid to go there or who Iím gonna meet next door. Iím tired of seduction & Iím tired of all this kind of stuff & I want to be in peace. Most of the time men in the house are quite average normal people but women living here & women involved in things are really great women & I want to make great things.











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