15M Movement

I’m sure most of you haven’t heard about the youth movement that swept Spain this summer. It’s called 15M (quince mayo in Spanish, commemorative of the first protest they held on May 15 earlier this year) and is basically a protest of the way things are being run in Spain and how, in the youth’s view, that has heavily contributed to the desperate situation they now find themselves in. Spanish youth currently face a 45% unemployment rate that has left an extremely well-educated, well-prepared generation without jobs and most importantly, without independence (financial, from their parents and grandparents, from living at home, etc. – of which the detrimental impact on older generations is also a huge problem in Spain today). I first heard of 15M when I arrived in Madrid, the origin and epicenter of the protest movement, earlier this summer and saw how firsthand how the 15M protesters had taken over Puerta del Sol, the symbolic and physical center of the city.

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At first, I was totally blown away. It was so inspiring and impressive to see people my age come together, organize themselves, and make a loud, spirited call for change. However, as the summer went on, the movement definitely lost some of its spirit. They had been camped out at Sol for a couple weeks before I arrived and stayed almost until the end of June, but didn’t really accomplish anything concrete in that time period. 15M is all about the abstract — rights, justice, equality, independence — which sounds great on paper (or online – much of the movement is fueled by their website/social media sites like Twitter and Facebook), but doesn’t translate into real change without some accompanying concrete goals or action.

However, this morning, I received an email from the US Embassy in Madrid, warning me about an upcoming 15M protest planned for July 23 & 24:

“The U.S. Embassy in Madrid advises U.S. citizens to avoid areas where crowds plan hold peaceful demonstrations in Madrid as part of a Spanish political movement called the 15M movement.  While no violence is expected, police will be present to monitor the demonstrations.

The 15M organizers have programmed a massive demonstration that will culminate in Madrid on Sunday 24 July.  It is expected that people from the movement and sympathizers from all over Spain will depart their regional areas on Saturday July 23 and assemble at six different locations on the outskirts of Madrid to then all march into the Puerta del Sol that evening in preparation for the Sunday July 24 demonstration.  While exact routes of the protest are subject to change, it is recommended that citizens specifically avoid Puerta del Sol in Madrid where large numbers of people are expected to gather. ”

Doesn’t sound like anything new, but I’m happy to see 15M isn’t giving up. I think that the more action, attention, and visibility they get, the harder it will be for the Spanish government to ignore them, and hopefully some real change will follow. No matter what, as a member of the same generation facing a not as desperate but similar economic and political situation here in the US, the initiative, unity, and spread of the 15M youth movement is undoubtedly exciting and inspiring. I wouldn’t hate seeing our own version crop up here…

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