Marinaleda, Spain

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Free town of Marinaleda
Flag of Free town of Marinaleda
Official seal of Free town of Marinaleda
Province Seville
 • Mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo (IU)
 • Total 25 km2 (10 sq mi)
 • Land 25 km2 (10 sq mi)
 • Water 0.00 km2 (0.00 sq mi)
Population (2005)
 • Total 2,655
 • Density 106.2/km2 (275/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)

Marinaleda is a town and municipio of the province of Seville, Andalusia, Spain. The town is a self-identified social-democratic and cooperative municipality of 2,700 people;[1][2] The town has been described as communist for its collectivist economy.[3] In 2008, its population was 2,708 people in an area of 25 km2.


The town is located at an altitude of 205 meters and lies 108 kilometers east of the provincial capital, Seville. Marinaleda belongs to the comarca of Estepa and is situated between this latter town and Écija, in the eastern part of the province of Seville, in the basin of the Genil river. Its geographical coordinates are 37°22′N 4°57′W / 37.367°N 4.950°W / 37.367; -4.950.


The first indications of human settlement in the territory now covered by the Marinaleda municipality go back to the late Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods, about 5,000 years ago. Stone tools and traces of seeds and dwelling places have been found.

There was a major Roman presence, and some date the foundation of the village to this period. The Roman road connecting the villages of Astigi (present-day Écija) and Ostippo (Estepa) ran by Marinaleda, and there have been many discoveries from the period.

The Arab presence is visible in monuments such as the Towers of Gallape and the fortress of Alhonoz. The region was conquered by the Christian monarchs in the 13th century, and Marinaleda came under the rule of the religious Order of Santiago. Philip II granted the village to the first Marquess of Estepa, and it would remain under this ownership until manors were dissolved in the 19th century.

Marinaleda then grew up as a centre of population due to the influx of day labourers working for large landowners, especially the Marquesses of Estepa. There is evidence that, in 1751, there were 60 houses lived in by landless labourers, who earned two reals for a full day's work.

In the 18th century, Marinaleda had three clergymen and a shop belonging to the Marquess of Peñaflor, who lived in Écija. The main economic activity was rain-fed agriculture.

During the 19th century in Marinaleda and neighbouring territories, there were several groups of bandits involving residents of the municipality. Some of the more notable groups were those commanded by José María Hinojosa Cobacho, "El Tempranillo", Francisco Ríos González "El Pernales", and Juan Caballero.

In 1931, the population of Marinaleda was 2,318, of whom only 317 were entitled to vote. The elections of 12 April that year were won by monarchist supporters, whereas those of 31 May were won by republicans. The final elections of the Republican period, on 16 February 1936, were won by the Popular Front.

At the start of the Civil War, troops supporting the coup assassinated the mayor of Vicente Cejas Moreno and his son, together with at least thirty other residents.

In the postwar period, the population suffered great want and hunger as well as a severe repression. People had to glean olives and acorns from the fields.

The industrialisation of Spain beginning in the 1960s encouraged emigration from Marinaleda to industrial areas, especially Catalonia, as well as to other countries such as Germany, France and Switzerland.

On the death of Franco in 1975, the dictatorship he had established gave way to a democratic system. In 1977, the Sindicato de Obreros del Campo (Union of Farm Workers) was founded in Marinaleda. The following year a struggle for land began with a two-day occupation of the Bocatinaja estate, between Osuna and Los Corrales.

The first post-Franco municipal elections were held in 1979. The Colectivo de Unidad de los Trabajadores (Workers' Unity Collective) won in Marinaleda, gaining 9 of the 11 council seats. The new council removed street names associated with the Civil War victors and substituted names Left wing heros: thus Muñoz Grandes street became Che Guevara street, the plaza of Spain became the People's plaza, the plaza of Francisco Franco was renamed for Salvador Allende, etc.

In 1980, 700 people staged a 13-day hunger strike, demanding better pay and stricter regulation of the old system of community employment. The success of this action led to intensification of the land struggle, with further occupations of large landowners' estates under the slogan "Land to those who work on it". In 1984, the Cordobilla marsh was occupied for 30 days to demand irrigation for the farm of El Humoso, property of the duke of Infantado, facilitating its later expropriation.

In 1985, the occupation of estates increased in number, by at least 100, as well as length, extending to over 90 days. This led to many legal actions.

In 1991, a 1,200 hectare tract of the El Humoso farm was handed over to Marinaleda for the use of the population. Demonstrations in favour of a life with dignity increased between 1992 and 1994, with many occupations of government buildings and institutions.

In 1997, irrigation was extended to the whole of the El Humoso farm, and the Marinaleda S.C.A. Cooperative was founded to cultivate the farm collectively. Three years later, a food processing plant was set up, supplied by the products of the cooperative: piquillo pepper, beans, artichokes and olives. An oil press was also built. Production continued to increase, and employment along with it.

A severe economic crisis began in 2008, and, by 2010, its full effect was felt in the European Union, particularly its southern countries. While in Andalusia 30% of the active population was without work, in Marinaleda full employment was achieved.

The social and political system that has been implemented in the community, and the good results obtained in terms of economic development and well-being of the inhabitants, has brought Marinaleda to the attention of communications media in Spain and internationally.

The "Social Democracy" tab on the town's website carries the following:[1]

And while we were struggling for land, industry, employment, we realised that there were other basic rights that it was necessary to achieve. And the first necessity we identified was the lack of places to live, but we also realised that there was no place for our old people after so many years of hardship and troubles, nor was there a doctor’s surgery, nor a day nursery, nor sports facilities, and the streets were unpaved and almost unlit.

By Social Democracy we understand unlimited access to all forms of wellbeing for the whole population of our village. We have always thought that liberty without equality is nothing, and that democracy without real wellbeing for real people is an empty word and a way of deceiving people, making them believe they are part of a project when in fact they are not needed at all.

It seemed to us that in this field there should be no limits; that the people should have a dream of collective welfare and must then in fact turn to struggle, because the Left if it is genuinely revolutionary cannot reject, either in thought or in action, any of the people’s seemingly unachievable aspirations.

In this way we were able to win each and all of the things that we were obviously lacking.

Demographic changes[edit]

Historical population of Marinaleda, Spain
Year 1887 1897 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1981 1991
Population 1,384 1,702 1,785 1,753 1,864 2,318 2,563 3,070 3,387 2,439 2,317 2,650
Historical population of Marinaleda, Spain
Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2008 2011
Population 2,623 2,634 2,638 2,647 2,645 2,676 2,655 2,689 2,708 2,778

Local government[edit]

For over 30 years, the mayor of Marinaleda has been Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo of the United Left Party. Gordillo has anointed Marinaleda a "utopia for peace", which has no municipal police (saving $350,000 a year). Additionally, political murals and revolutionary slogans adorn the town's whitewashed walls and streets are named after Latin American leftists. Every few weeks, the town hall declares a Red Sunday over a bullhorn and volunteers clean the streets or do odd jobs.[2]

They all thought that the market was God, who made everything work with his invisible hand. Before, it was a mortal sin to talk about the government having a role in the economy. Now, we see we have to put the economy at the service of man.

—Mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, May 2009 remarks about Spain's real estate bust and rampant unemployment.[2]

Marinaleda has a long tradition of sociopolitical struggle by agricultural laborers, which has influenced decisively the attainment of diverse political and social advances. Marinaleda was ruled by CUT-BAI (Collective for the Unity of Workers - Andalusian Left Bloc) from 1979 until 1986, when CUT joined United Left, which has since been the ruling party (whilst most of the composition of IU's Local branch is basically members of CUT-BAI).

Composition of the Municipal Council[edit]

Izquierda Unida (IU)

  • Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo (Mayor)
  • Rafaela Vázquez Jiménez
  • Antonio Sánchez Hinojosa
  • Juanita Sánchez Aires
  • Antonio José Montenegro Rodríguez
  • Esperanza de Rosario Saavedra Martín
  • Romualdo Romero Aires
  • Rocío Rodríguez Saavedra
  • Manuel Pradas Martín

Partido Socialista Obrero Español-Andalucía (PSOE-A)

  • Mariano Pradas Saavedra
  • José Rodríguez Cobacho

Local economy[edit]

The town operates a farming cooperative, of 2,650 people. Marinaleda is surrounded by sloping olive groves and features a 3,000-acre (12 km2) farm. The farm is located seven miles (11 km) north of Marinaleda, and grows labor-intensive crops like artichokes, hot peppers, broccoli and broad beans, as well as wheat.[2]

Town planning[edit]

Marinaleda represents a local exception of the housing crisis currently happening in Spain. Marinaleda was also in the national news as soon as it became known that one could buy a house for 15 euros per month, providing that one would build their own house.


The local government of Marinaleda expropriated thousands of square meters of land, now communal property, aiming to find land to build new houses. Then it called upon the national and regional governments to gain funding for the construction. This is the programme:

  • the expropriated land is given free of charge to the self-builder;
  • through an agreement with the regional government and the P.E.R. (Plan de Empleo Rural), the self-builder can buy construction materials;
  • professional builders are available for the construction, free of charge;
  • the architect's design is also free; self-builders are involved in the design process;
  • all the self-builders finally meet in a consultation to work out the monthly payment to achieve ownership. The last houses have been built and bought at a cost of 2,550 pesetas per month (approximately €15 per month).

The whole process is based upon the idea of self-management and recurring consultations: the self-builders meet once or twice a month to follow the works or modify the projects on paper. All houses have 3 bedrooms, a bathroom and a garden of 100 m2, allowing for future expansions. The hours spent on the self-construction are deducted from the total construction cost, converting it into an 'induced salary'. 3,000 inhabitants and more than 350 single-family houses have been built according to this scheme.


Marinaleda's citizens reside in a colony of neat, three-bedroom houses, built on municipal land with materials from the regional government. Prospective owners donate about 450 days of their work to the construction. However, to prevent citizens from profiting, they are not allowed to sell their homes.[2]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°22′N 4°58′W / 37.367°N 4.967°W / 37.367; -4.967