“And they’ll ask us who we are…”

Translation of the speech ‘And they’ll ask us who we are’, by Ada Colau of Guanyem Barcelona, 16 September 2014, Cotxeres de Sants, Barcelona:

Illustration by Miguel Herranz

Illustration by Miguel Herranz

“We know that those who are in power today are very well-organized.

They’ve had a grip on power for a long time

and they’ve gotten used to having it

and to using it with impunity.

And, it’s clear that as soon as they realize that we citizens are organizing,

they won’t make it easy for us.

They’ll call us idealists, they’ll say we’re good people,

that we’re nice, that we’re activists…

They’ll call us anti-system, they’ll call us ‘alternative’.

And, what’s more, they’ll try to ridicule, silence and criminalize us…

They treat us like intruders in what they say is a democracy,

when it should be the best kind of news that citizens are organizing ourselves

to decide what we want and how we want to achieve it.

That’s what democracy is. Everything else is just words.

We’re not intruders, we’re protagonists,

and we want to be the protagonists of this city

and of the democratic revolution that is underway.

Either way, they’ll ask us: “Who are you?”

Let’s not be so arrogant as to say we’re ‘everyone’.

But we are the people on the street.

We’re normal people. We’re simple people,

who talk to our neighbours each day,

who, unlike professional politicians,

use public transport every day,

work in precarious jobs every day,

and who see how things are every day.

That’s why we have a much more accurate sense of reality

than many professional politicians.

And who are we?

First, let me say that we are women,

We are many women who are underrepresented

in decision-making, in the spheres of political power,

and who are overrepresented in the invisible care work

that makes the lives of everyone, rich and poor, possible.

We’re local residents, men and women

We’re the neighbourhoods,

that have led some of the greatest victories of this city,

which wouldn’t have taken place

without the struggles of local people over recent decades.

We’re also the people who are organizing ourselves today

to deal with the disasters that are being caused by public institutions

in connivance with the economic powers that be.

We’re also working people,

people who have to work to make ends meet

because if we don’t, we don’t make ends meet

because we don’t live off investments.

And we’re also unemployed people who,

even though we don’t have a job,

are completely capable and have every right to participate

and be protagonists of this democratic revolution.

And we have the right to a minimum income,

because everyone has the right to dignity.

We’re also the people who are promoting the economy of the future,

the people who own and defend small local businesses,

traditional shops, and the social and sharing economies.

We’re the cooperatives that are trying to weave together a sustainable economy

in the face of the speculative, predatory, plundering economy

of the multinationals that come to Barcelona,

and take all their profits away to tax havens.

We’re also the education community and healthcare professionals who,

in the face of unbearable cuts that are endangering fundamental rights and basic services,

we’re those professionals of our hospitals and nurseries,

of our schools and universities,

who, way beyond their contractual obligations,

are doing everything they can to protect the rights of all men and women.

Thank you.

We are migrants, whose rights are not recognized here

And here no one should be illegal

We’ll win Barcelona because we want to close the Internment Centre,

a shameful hole

that denies human rights.

We won’t stop until we close the Internment Centre

and we’ll do everything to ensure that people who have migrated here

are first-class citizens

and that, not only are their social rights guaranteed,

but also their right to participate in politics at every level.

We’re also men and women who work in the municipality.

Many, many public sector workers

have contacted Guanyem Barcelona

because they’re fed up of seeing how the political parties

use the institution,

and because they want to put all their knowledge and experience

at the service of the city and its men and women.

We are many families and people who live together, of great diversity.

There is no longer only one kind of family.

It’s not about mums and dads with kids any more.

There are many kinds of family and people who live together,

there’s diversity and sexual and emotional plurality

that enrich the city,

and all of their rights must be recognized and guaranteed.

We are also, above all, the children of the city.

The girls and boys who deserve to be able to enjoy the city,

and for their rights to be guaranteed

but who also deserve to be seen as legal subjects,

as protagonists.

Children often have more common sense than many adults

who have lost it as they’ve grown up.

It’s not enough to just care for our children and protect their rights,

we must also listen to them and let them speak.

We are older people, grandfathers and grandmothers, pensioners.

We don’t just have to win just so that everyone, absolutely everyone

has a dignified old-age with all of the care and assistance they need,

not just for this reason, but also because older people

have a lot to say, and they’re not being listened to.

Policies are being made for older people,

in their name,

without their involvement.

And they don’t just have a lot to say about the policies they need,

we need our older people.

Stop this business of treating older people as an annoyance.

Older people are a well of experience, of historical memory,

that we need to improve our present and our future.

We need our older people and we must look after them.

I’m finishing… it’s just we’re a lot of people!

As you can see we are a huge number of people.

We are also our young people

Our young people who have been asked to make great efforts.

Who have been asked to work hard, to study, to take degrees and Masters….

But who are then given no opportunity

to contribute their knowledge, their energy, or their ideas,

and we’re forcing them to leave our city.

We want our young people to stay here

and give the best of themselves for the common good.

Let’s never forget who we are and why we’re here.

Let’s never forget and never stop being who we are.

Thank you.


Thank you so much.

We’re going to win back Barcelona because we’re the majority,

and we’ve decided to win back Barcelona.

We won’t stop until we achieve it.

Thank you very much.”