Ada Colau, the first woman mayor of Barcelona, made major changes starting with her election in 2015, a time when former judge Manuela Carmena became the first woman mayor of Madrid with similar goals. An article about Colau is titled, “The World’s Most Radical Mayor?”[i] Housing activist and PAH (Platform for Mortgage Victims) founder Ada Colau (age 41) was the first of the Sanish indignados to win office, She told her supporters, “This is the victory of David over Goliath.” Her campaign included a popular music video available on YouTube with her having fun singing El Run Run (the buzz). She wants to “feminize” politics and avoid macho leftist rhetoric, such as Pablo Iglesias’ statement that, “Heaven is not taken by consensus—it is taken by assault.” He is the head of the new party Podemos that grew out of the 2011 huge demonstrations against austerity programs. In response to the 2015 immigrant crisis, Colau posted on Facebook suggesting a network of refuge-cities. Her “appeal to affection” went viral and families responded with offers to share their homes. She is not afraid to shed tears while making public speeches.
She promised to follow the Zapatista way “to govern by obeying the people.” The Barcelona en Comu platform was drafted by over 5,000 people online and in assemblies. Neighborhood assemblies researched the needs of their areas and generated proposals for solutions. In office, Colau quickly reduced her pay, restored school meal subsidies for poor children, fined banks that owned vacant properties, and sought to limit the millions of tourists with a moratorium on new tourist apartments and hotels.
I asked a resident of Barcelona about Colau’s administration. Vani said that Colau is an environmentalist who prevented building an ice rink in such a warm city and created a municipal solar energy company, a feminist who works for shelters for women and finding housing for low-income people in abandoned buildings. Before the paintings in City Hall were all by men, but now portraits of eight women leaders are on walls, including famous anarchist leader Federica Montseny. When opponents criticized Colau for doing what a cleaning woman could do, she said she had the highest respect for such workers.
[i] Dan Hancox, “Is This the World’s Most Radical Mayor?” The Guardian, May 26, 2016.