In a cardboard box there is room for a world, a life and food that cannot be bought. The priority should be the size of one of these boxes that they use in the pantry of the Hacenderas association, in the prestigious Retiro neighborhood, to distribute food among their most needy neighbors. A home also enters one. Angela León, illustrator, shows three of them, the children turned them into the places where they live on a small scale. “A nice way to get to know his life a little better,” he says.
Solidarity is a Vallecano invention
They came with their families to the storeroom. The Hacenderas association not only distributed food during the toughest year of the pandemic. In fact, the group was born as an organization with culture as a weapon of intervention and social awareness, but not as primary assistance. The viral reality altered the mission in which they had thought to serve the neediest people in the neighborhood. The culture could wait.
As soon as Social Services granted them permission, they went to buy the shelves to set up “a giant pantry”, which they learned to make it work on the fly and which has fed more than 200 families and some 500 people, in the place where before cooking classes were given and its owner gave in. “In my head it was 24/7. We could only be very effective. We put a lot of imagination into it to anticipate ourselves”, Angela León explains as she remembers those days.
“But we had no experience,” says León, who had to ask other pantries how they were organized. “It seems silly, but making the baskets and setting up the delivery chain requires very complicated logistics. Until then we had only set up a chat with Georgina [la cineasta Georgina Cisquella], about his documentary Hotel farm: Las Kellys. Immediately afterwards we had to start the pantry, “he recalls those not so distant days when a dozen people set up the association urgently to respond to the shortcomings that the health crisis had caused. Now, outside the association, he defines this year and a half like “a whirlwind.”
The culture of aid
Looking back, he finds everything very diffuse due to the feeling of overflow and fatigue. There is also enthusiasm in his words when he talks about the activities he did with the little ones. How to play at reproducing in bright colors each of the rooms of your home in those cardboard boxes, with their tables and beds, armchairs and toilets. Some window. Houses like boxes where to be and to be without any guarantee. They are models of vulnerability and joy, of precariousness and dignity. A nice way to self-portrait. Tell me how many square meters your family lives in and I will tell you what income you have.
Somehow, 34-year-old Angela, who has worked and lived in Sao Paulo and Milan before returning to Madrid in the midst of a health storm, turned to culture to subtract drama from a dramatic situation. The graphics in the pantry were his illustrations that brought joy to the classification of products. And in the boxes there was a fanzine that he did with the families who came to the pantry. They contributed their images, stories, whatever. “The fanzine put us all on the same side. There were many people from many countries, it was a way for culture to serve as a tool for social cohesion. We created a space to share. Something nice to all of this”, says Ángela León, proud to have created a joyous memory. “Food could not be linked only to pain and lack,” he adds.
There were many children in the distributions and he took the opportunity to invite them to draw pictures. Same with recipes. The community participated and made themselves known to the rest in the publication that Angela made in the midst of the chaos. There were 150 copies of each issue, which was distributed every two weeks. He printed near his home, in a neighborhood printing company, as cheaply as possible. “I did it for a while, tired, but with pleasure. I feel very proud to have done something beautiful in such difficult circumstances. We take care of the beautiful regardless of what happened,” the illustrator explains and recreates in her memories.
They thought, and it does not seem strange, that in Retiro the pantry would not be as much in demand as in other less favored neighborhoods. “We came out of our bubble and we found that there were many people in great need,” Angela says. At this time, Hacenderas continues to help more than fifty families. The association became known with a posting of posters on the street. The Municipal Board did not help locate those most in need. “I assumed that the institutions had located all these people, that they were aware of what was happening in the neighborhood. No. And I don’t think they want to see it either. If you are not registered here, you do not exist. The institutions have ignored these Hundreds of people have left reality to us, “explains Analía Suárez, one of the founders of Hacenderas, disappointed.
Food could not be linked only to pain and lack
Analía Suárez was born in Argentina 46 years ago and has lived in Spain for 18 years. She works as a clerk for a natural cosmetics brand in El Corte Inglés de Serrano, where their needs have been exhausted. She serves the rich and the day leaves her time to collaborate with the neighbors who need her. “In this year and a half I have realized the power that neighbors have when we get together. It is very powerful and this is what has surprised me the most. We have shown that we are not alone. If the institutions do not help you, your neighbors do. “, she says proud of her discovery. She is one of the founders of Hacenderas and wants to clarify that this is not the story of heroines or superheroines. No.
Both Angela and Analía avoid the expression “hunger tail.” They do not like it. They go out of their way to emphasize that the group has avoided “welfarism” from the beginning. For Analía, they are all companions, those on one side and the other. In fact, families who received help also helped. Angela recognizes that reality is what it is: “It doesn’t end up being a horizontal relationship, as equals, because lack places you on both sides,” she says with less optimism than she would like. But the illustrator has a message for optimism: “Inequality has grown, but also generosity. Before, in our urban way of life, it was difficult to have spaces to share and help each other. We must strive to create those spaces and strengthen the community” . This is the message you send to the future after your experience.
Against the deniers
“We are normal neighbors doing things that the neighbors do. We have not invented anything new, it is called help. I was surprised by all that we could do together and organize ourselves with so little,” says Analía. The pantry has fed more than 200 families and more than 500 people. We believed that the common thing was for himself who can and that the extraordinary thing was the support. But in the last year and a half the story that applauds the capabilities of the individual as a castaway has collapsed. The wreck was isolation. The insistence of the reactionary chant against the desire for a less unequal world has been annulled by citizen mobilization.
To the philosopher Marina Garcés (Barcelona, 1973), author of Princess City (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2018), he has not been surprised by the capacity for mobilization and organization of citizens in the face of the lack of response from the administrations. “I do not think it was spontaneity, but a social and political culture that exists and that in what we call normality we do not see why those who do not need others (or thus the individualized society makes them believe) do not perceive it. But it is there, and when it has been necessary it has emerged “, Garcés tells this newspaper.
Most of the stories written from capitalism instruct us on how to protect ourselves to be happy
Natalia Carrero placeholder image
For the philosopher, any experience of solidarity, mutual support and self-organization has “political transformation effects” on those who participate in them. “Something changes and changes us, although it seems that later each one of us returns to his life. The question is not to be disappointed, but to persist in that learning and know how to take it to moments and circumstances in which the need may not seem so pressing. That is where it is possible to create a sense of us that is not the one that the politics of fear are offering us “, proposes Marina Garcés.
Against reactionary tales
The 50-year-old novelist Natalia Carrero, from Barcelona, believes that we have always known about small-scale aid despite capitalist routines. The pandemic has impacted on the health of citizens, but also on the conscience and conscience. For the author of I am a box (Trojan Horse, 2008) or Olympic views (Lengua de Trapo, 2021) the population has adjusted its needs and expanded the objective of “good-natured generosity” to offer material resources to those who live in conditions of real need and give them to them without expecting benefits.
The public has not looked the other way, but why was it expected otherwise? What has made you think that the population only thinks about its own? “Most of the stories written from capitalism instruct us on how to protect ourselves to be happy, how to be more selfish, better, more competitive, how to take better refuge in our lives. sameness. It is a good time to stop reading these predictable stories and make an effort to find in libraries and bookstores other stories that have always been there “, says Natalia Carrero, who remembers Simone Weil (1909-1943) to begin to overthrow the reactionary narrative.