Saturday, April 1

20 years of the Soria ¡YA! campaign: from a provincial platform to a benchmark for Emptied Spain

“Toño, warm up that you go out!”. A group of friends or members of the Soria ¡YA! They shouted at Toño Palomar, number 3 on the candidacy lists, at the closing of the campaign, when he went up to the stage that the platform had set up. Toño, hearing them, laughed. The polls gave the Soriana platform two seats, but the third was the most complicated.

Syria NOW! it exceeded all expectations and swept the province: three seats (out of five), and 226 votes more than the sum of PP and PSOE in the province. The latter has been the one that has lost the most in these elections: it won three seats in 2019 and has lost almost 12,000 voters in a province of 88,000 inhabitants. Now, 20 years after the start of the mobilizations, Soria NOW! becomes a benchmark for the Emptied Spain.

Soria wants that, for the first time since 1987, there are representatives who are neither from the Popular Party nor from the PSOE. How can this phenomenon be explained? Because Soria NOW! He has been campaigning for 20 years, although his entry into the political game was announced on the same day that Alfonso Fernández Mañueco advanced the elections.

The last Numantines

What happened on February 13 was a cry – in the form of a vote – against policies that – they feel – have abandoned them. “We have always said that they put a fence around Soria and that they come to visit us like the redoubt that is going to disappear. We are like the last Numantines, they can throw us peanuts like in the zoo.” It is a bar conversation between two neighbors that well reflects the anger of many people from Soria.

Syria NOW! was born in January 2001 after a meeting held at the Chamber of Commerce that brought together businessmen, unions, political parties, neighborhood or ranchers’ associations and some individuals. They agreed to form a citizen platform under the slogan ‘Against institutional oblivion’, which they would later change to Soria ¡YA!. But the institutional abandonment began much earlier. Boni Gallardo was in that first coordinator, which included 80 people.

This almost nonagenarian recalls that the germ of the platform was already in the minds of many in the 1990s, although it was not consolidated until the new millennium. “Something had to be done,” he explains to Boni still remembers one day that he went to visit his daughter in Zaragoza in 2000 and ended up in a demonstration in Teruel Exists. “We had to do something like that ourselves,” he says.

Goyo Sanz has been one of the visible faces in this electoral campaign. He was not part of the first coordinator, but he has been very active on the platform in the last twenty years. He starred in Soria’s campaign video ¡YA! and a relative silence was heard during his speech at the end of the campaign: relative because the event was held in El Tubo, a bar area in the capital of Soria. “The first years were difficult because we were starting from scratch. It was a bit difficult for people to understand what a platform was, but good. People responded very well: a few months later, we organized a demonstration to which 2,000 people came and a year next, one of 9,000 people,” recalls Goyo.

The first years were difficult because we started from scratch. It took a bit for people to understand what a platform was

Goyo Sanz
Member of Soria NOW!

The people of Soria responded to the new platform, once they understood that they did not mean themselves with one political party or another, but rather addressed ‘provincial’ issues such as infrastructure, health or depopulation. “People responded very well. Not so much the politicians. They saw us with suspicion. Those on the right said that we were on the left and those on the left said that we were on the right,” he recounts just before adding, jokingly: “And that remains the same” . During the electoral campaign, the PP compared Soria ¡YA! with nationalist parties: “Localism is to Castilla y León what separatism is to Spain,” said Mañueco. The PSOE called for a unified vote and questioned the lists of Empty Spain: “The only vote that guarantees change is for the PSOE,” said the socialist candidate, Luis Tudanca.

These twenty years have served to mobilize people with campaigns, roadblocks, meetings and initiatives. “I remember that we went with my six hundred, the first car I bought. In the first demonstrations, we went to the big towns and the people of the town did not go out! Some of the committee got angry, but we had to continue”, highlights Boni, who also remember how the then president of the Diputación did not want to meet with them. “We wanted to have a constructive dialogue, because dialogue is freedom,” she reflects.

Before the so-called ‘Empty Spain Revolt’ of 2019, in 2003 Soria ¡YA! and Teruel Exists managed to mobilize 10,000 people to protest the abandonment suffered by these two provinces. In 2019, there were more than 100,000 protesters and dozens of platforms. In 2004 and 2005 a slow caravan was organized to Madrid and another to Valladolid. The N-122 only had 32 kilometers divided into the Autovía del Duero, an infrastructure whose first section was inaugurated in 1997 and which is still unfinished.

“In order not to enter politics, in 2003 we asked for a blank vote in the elections. But it didn’t go very well, really,” admits Luis Giménez, another of the founding members of Soria ¡YA!, who left the platform a couple of years ago. of years. Only 4% of the votes in Soria in very complicated elections –just after the 11M attacks– were blank. The province of Soria was symbolically incinerated in another massive act, as a symbol of how “burned” the province was. Later, the ashes of the province were taken to Valladolid in a funeral procession.

Luis also remembers a relay race between Soria and Madrid, in which two athletes from Soria participated: Abel Antón and Fermín Cacho. Later, the platform met in Moncloa and the Government signed the Soria Special Action Plan (PAES). “In the end they didn’t do anything, of course,” laments Luis.

But over the years, some members left the platform or were very old. “Some thought that this was going to be easy and they left it when they saw that this is a long-distance race. Others, because of their age – two of us who were still active were over 80 years old – and those of us on the board were also we were leaving. In one way or another, it was weak”, recalls Goyo. In 2017, the platform launched a call to find younger people. “We asked for help through the media and about twenty boys responded who were very prepared, enthusiastic, consistent with their work… Now there are much more, of course,” says Goyo.

Then the platform was relaunched, but Soria NOW! still had no regional or national impact. “The media have behaved wonderfully with us, but of course, it did not leave the provincial sphere.” And then, the Revolt of the Empty Spain breaks out. Teruel Exists obtains representation in Congress and the Senate, and now Soria ¡YA!, another benchmark for these platforms, follows. “It’s another way of continuing to make ourselves noticed. It’s nice to see how a movement that gets representation is born from the city itself,” Jorge explains from the Plaza Mayor in Soria.

In the rest of the provinces of Castilla y León, the España Vaciada brand has not achieved enough support, but it is true that these are early elections and that everything has been very hasty. Syria NOW! He has his eyes fixed on the constitution of the Cortes and on the initiatives that he will take to the plenary session, but he is already talking about presenting himself in the local and national elections. It remains to be seen what other platforms will do in the rest of the country.