“Four Mossos (Catalan police) arrived along with three state officials and a locksmith to change the lock. I was home alone with my boyfriend, waiting for them. We left our home, leaving our belongings behind and they changed the lock. Three days later, we went back and this time we were the ones to change the lock”. Sali Arreaga, age 24, and her family, have been living for almost one year as squatters in their home in the N’Anglada neighborhood of Terrassa.
Three of the four people who make up Sali’s family lost their jobs and could no longer afford to pay their mortgage. Soon after they moved back into their flat they recalled the fear of being evicted. One year later, however, that fear is gone. They are now decided that if they were to be evicted again, they would simply move back in or find another apartment to occupy. They have no alternative. The majority of their belongings remain packed in boxes just in case.
For many families, waiting for eviction is just terrible. Outside on the street, neighbors gather to lend their support, but inside is evidence of preparations in case things go wrong – everything is packed into bags and boxes. Carlos and Veronica, from Hospitalet, wait inside their home, in silence. They made sure their two daughters were not present, so to spare them the experience. Outside there is noise, picket signs, shouting.
Luis Vera’s family also lost their home because they could no longer afford their mortgage. “I wish I had never bought the apartment and just kept renting”, he laments. In December 2011 during a demonstration organized by the Movement of Mortgage Victims (PAH in its Spanish acronym) in the town of Terrassa, a group of neighbors occupied an entire apartment block, with 11 empty apartments. One of the apartments will house his family. As in so many other instances, the solidarity among neighbors has been essential in getting his family off the streets. “One hand washes the other”, says Luis, who never misses a move the PAH makes.
The work of the PAH has been fundamental in stopping numerous evictions in cities and towns throughout the country. They have staged protests outside homes the courts have ordered with eviction. Their solidarity is of utmost importance to families that are about to lose their homes and who are on the verge of losing it all. PAH provides clear evidence that social organizing does work. The demonstrations organized by PAH receive the support of neighbors, affected families and activists. Aside from preventing evictions, they have also taken the protests into the banks which refuse to accept mortgage debt forgiveness after an eviction.
The drama evoked by foreclosures and evictions does not always come to light. Miguel Angel Domingo from Granada, committed suicide in his home before he was to be forced out. People came out across the country to express their outrage over his suicide.
Text: Jordi Mumbrú