The project La Dignidad (Dignity) focuses on the creative strategies of recuperation in times of crisis. Recuperation, in a literal sense, means the recovery or regaining of something. When tackling questions of housing, within the right-to-housing debate, recuperation means to recover something that is rightfully yours: the right to decent housing and a dignified life, the right to housing as a primary necessity and not a commodified good, the right to a community and not a society of individuals, the right to the city as a commons. La Dignidad (Dignity) looks at La Obra Social, a recuperation campaign currently implemented by the PAH, a right-to-housing movement operating throughout Spain. The PAH, a citizen-led, nonpartisan movement, was established to fill a gap in insufficient measures within government for dealing with the housing crisis and an unfair mortgage system and to make visible the abuses of power by the financial systems. Within La Obra Social campaign, housing activists target empty apartment buildings which were constructed during the Spanish property bubble (1996-2008) but never lived in. The banks are the current owners of the buildings: they took over possession of the property from bankrupt developers who defaulted on their investment loans. The banks received huge bailouts by the government, while, at the same time, people were being evicted from their homes at unprecedented levels. The activists use these buildings, to relocate families and individuals with housing difficulties. According to the housing activists, if the banks belong to the public, then the houses do as well. These small, but steady acts of resistance challenge the logic of neoliberalism: small, but large, victories which can be easily shared and repeated in other locations.
Dignidad / Dignity
Dignidad / Dignity is a film about strategies of recuperation in times of crisis. Recuperation, in a literal sense, means the recovery or regaining of something. The film focuses on “La Dignidad,” a residential building in Mostoles, a suburb of Madrid. The building was constructed during the real-estate boom but never occupied after the property market collapsed following the Spanish financial crisis starting in 2008. Housing activists from Stop Desahucios (Stop Evictions) in Mostoles took over the building in June 2014, and christened it “La Dignidad.” The activists made the decision to take over the building when they realized that more and more people coming to the weekly housing assemblies were either already homeless or were about to be evicted the following week. There are fifty people, individuals, and families, currently living in “La Dignidad,” 18 are children under the ages of 10.
The building “La Dignidad” is part La Obra Social (Social Work), a nation-wide campaign initiated by the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) which targets the hundreds of thousands of empty apartment buildings constructed during the Spanish housing bubble. The banks are the current owners of these buildings: they took over possession of the property from bankrupt developers who defaulted on their investment loans. The banks received massive government bailouts, while, at the same time, people were being evicted from their homes at unprecedented levels. The activists use these buildings, to relocate families and individuals with housing difficulties. The logic of the action is thus: if the banks belong to the public, then the houses do as well. These small, but steady acts of resistance challenge the logic of neoliberalism: little big victories to be shared and taken up by others and elsewhere.
Most of the events and encounters portrayed in Dignity / Dignidad occur between Mostoles and Madrid, Spring / Summer 2015, during the post-election environment of new city governments lead by “rebel” mayors, and the Greek bailout referendum. Dull Janiell Hernández, a Cuban filmmaker and one of the occupants of La Dignidad, acts as editor for the film.
La Obra Social Manual (The Social Work Manual)
The Obra Social Manual, a 25-page manual of civil disobedience on the tactics of recuperating houses- a direct action how-to. The manual describes the tactics of the Obra Social campaign launched by the PAH in 2012. It offers a step-by-step guide for reinstating the social use of empty housing owned by banks, by putting them in the hands of evicted individuals and families. The Obra Social manual is a model for alternate approaches to living in times of crisis. It provides a step-by-step guide to recuperation: how to find buildings, which buildings to target, the relation between real-estate speculation and eviction, how to enter a building, and how stay once you are inside.
The Obra Social (Social Work) Manual is a translation project initiated by artist Michelle Teran and published by The Journal of Aesthetics& Protest. The English translation accompanies Dignity / Dignidad, a feature-length film about an Obra Social building in Mósteles, Madrid, and the Reclaiming Workshop, both developed in 2016.
The original Spanish version was released by the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) in 2013.
Download English version here.
Designed by Fré Sonneveld at Chasin’ Pigeons.
Various documents relating to this project can be found here:
MASKIN La Dignidad
Dull Janiell Hernandez
Stop Desahucios Mostoles
La Obra Social