These are a few of my favourite… places in Seville

Garden of Casa de Pilatos.

I have been toying with writing a post about the challenges of combining social media, writing and children, but guess what? I never got around to it. Because of the aforementioned three items. So instead, here are some of my favourite buildings in Seville, and details thereof. I had the idea when I saw a post on Tara Bradford’s excellent blog; sometimes things you take for granted, and see so often they no longer seem unusual or interesting, are exactly what you should be telling people about. These photos are no great shakes, just snaps.

After living here for a weeks shy of eight years, I still haven’t seen anything like all the city – so many little narrow alleys to explore, so little time. No doubt I’ll have some more favourites in a few years, when I’ve had more minutes to while away wandering around, camera in hand – which is, after all, the best way to take photos: with no hurry, observing and not imposing.

None of these photos are recent, but none of the buildings have been knocked down, either. There are few missing, which I couldn’t find (Barqueta bridge, the kilns of La Cartuja), which hopefully I’ll be able to add soon.

The Atarazanas, the royal shipyards.

This wonderful space is used for occasional art exhibitions and concerts, and at one point was going to be turned into a conference centre. Eek. Look at those arches – they were twice as high when the Royal Fleet’s ships were built here, but the rest of the pillars are below ground now. Buried treasure. I hope someone digs them up some time, and restores them to how they should be. That was the plan when it was going to be a museum of the river’s history, but that didn’t work out. Money, as ever.

Puerta del Perdon, Cathedral.

The Gate of Forgiveness, just the original part from the mosque-era shown here. It led to the Patio de Naranjos, where the Muslim faithful would wash before going in to pray. Look at that carving and the scalloped edge. Countless tourists pass through here – compared to the Atarazanas. I met my husband within sight of it, and he wooed me directly opposite – how can you not fall for someone, looking at this?

Muralla, fortified city wall, and tower.

I used to live just behind this wall, and I walked my dog along by it for years. I grew to love it, its texture and the feeling of inclusion within the city which it gave me. Sadly, the wall is not well maintained, and is crumbling in places. Like the Atarazanas, there’s as much of the walls below ground as there is above it. More hidden intrigue. I just love Seville.

Patio of Casa de Pilatos.

I visited this wonderful palace during my first week in Seville – I’d emailed and delivered my CV, and was waiting for job interviews. One of the welcome oases of calm and cool from the hot city. It’s a funny, and typically Sevillano, mix of Roman (the statue), mudejar (carved plaster arches) and Spanish Renaissance (painted balcony). The tiles are wonderful.

Patio of Convento de los Terceros.

This convent, and the palace next to it (Ponce de Leon) can only be visited by appointment, and I went with a group of middle-aged ladies, who clearly didn’t work, and who probably spent a good amount of time looking at places like this. It’s owned by the Water Board, but don’t hold that against it, as they seem to do a pretty good job of looking after the place.

Pabellon de Portugal, from Expo 29.

Noone does curved rooves like the Portuguese. Elegant, individual, and a tad oriental. Que maravilla.

Plaza de Armas, train station-turned-shopping centre.

The terrace below the massive stained-glass window belongs to the bar-club in the building, and is a fine place for a drink on a balmy summer’s evening. Inside, there are the usual chain stores, fast food outlets and a cinema, but even these can’t kill the spirit of this majestic edifice, also built for the 1929 Expo.

The Setas, otherwise known as Metropol Parasol.

And finally, and most recently, the Setas. This curving, swooping, winding structure is a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seville’s old buildings. But there’s nothing wrong with bringing in this century, breaking the mould and shaking up such a traditional city.

Catching the wave: a march for fairer democracy

Last night I was back down at the Setas, this time with my family, partly to take them up to the pasarela (kids not overly impressed – too young – more interested in Roman ruins seen while waiting for the lift).

The other reason was for the march, organised by the Acampada Sevilla, which left Plaza de España at 7pm, went down Avenida de la Constitucion, through Plaza Nueva and up to the Setas. We managed to time it so that we were there as the marchers arrived – luckily I got a great spot on a balcony.

Policeman leads march as its moves up Campana towards Plaza Encarnacion.

As each group arrived, there were waves of cheers, applause and chanting: “Que no nos representa!” (They don’t represent us), “Lo llama democracia pero no es!” (They call it democracy, but it isn’t!), and, most vociferously “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!” (The people united will never be defeated!). It is revolutionary stuff – this must be what it feels like to a ride on a wave of popular feeling. It was almost euphoric.


All the events I’ve witnessed here at the Setas – I’m an observer, rather than a participator, albeit a sympathetic one – have had a positive, uplifting, inclusive and friendly atmosphere. People are indignant, angry and fed up. But they are not taking it out on each other. They are channelling their energy into marches, meetings (assembleas) and are devising plans for how to put their demands to the government.

Demonstrators at head of march arrive, with banner: "15M movement, for a fair and participative democracy".

Crowd greets marchers as they arrive in Plaza Encarnacion.

The amount of indignados who took part in the march varies, as always, according to whom you trust more – the police (5,000) or the organisers (10,000). I was watching for half an hour as groups of protestors streamed in from Campana, filling up the square.

Marchers from nearby town Alacala de Guadaira arrive in the square.

"No job, no future, mortgage. How do I survive?"

The acampada has voted to stay in place until next Saturday. their political agenda is being decided this week, with a Consensus of Priorities to be confirmed: of the eight original points, four will be chosen as the main ones to concentrate on.

List of eight proposals; this is being whittled down to four priority ones.

Someone I spoke to at the acampada said he reckoned the first couple would be electoral reform – the current system makes it very difficult for parties other than the main two (Partido Popular, conservatives, and PSOE, socialists) to get a seat in parliament. Also, information about candidates for political office isn’t made public, or where funding for political parties comes from. In a political culture where corruption is endemic, this does not breed trust.

The other point he reckoned would make it to the Consensus of Priorities was government economic transparency – how much of the budget is spent on what. This would make the government more accountable – one of the main aims of this movement is for the people to be more involved in democracy, and to do that, they need to have a better idea of where their money is going, and why the economy in such a mess.

"Media manipulation"

I was astonished how little coverage the march and really received in the local press today – a couple of photos (OK, one on the front page), and then a short piece tucked away on page 15. I guess the traditional media doesn’t know how to deal with this phenomenon, which is driven entirely by social media – somethign they don’t get – and has all but bypassed conventional news outlets. Either that, or they think their readers won’t be interested; or maybe it’s just not attractive to the old-school editors.

The movement is being made even more local – its main national points are the Acampadas in major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencina and Bilbao – asking each barrio for its view of the proposals. On 2 June there will be local meetings and another big march on 5 June.

You can find out more information from their Facebook page,  which also has some videos from last night’s demonstration and rally, or website.

One final thought: I saw someone refer to the Setas as Seville’s “agora” – the central square in Ancient Greek cities where people could speak in public about any topic. This concept was a central part of the world’s earliest democracy – “demos” in Greek means people, “cratos” means power. In the words of Citizen Smith, for those of you old enough to remember: “Power to the People!”

Flower power at the Setas

li>Yesterday morning the police attacked hundreds of unarmed protestors, who had been camped out in Plaza de Cataluña in Barcelona for nearly two weeks, as part of the 15M/Democracia Real Ya movement. This national network of loosely affiliated groups is demanding change to the political and economic landscape of Spain, including corruption, control over banks and the electoral system.

The reason for entering the square which they gave was that they needed to clean it, in preparation for a possible celebration if Barcelona win the Champions League Final tonight. When people sat on the ground and refused to move, the Mossos d’Esquad, the regional police force of Cataluña, laid into them with their batons and also used plastic bullets.

Video of Barcelona [youtube=]

This video has now been watched by over a million people around the world.

The number of injured was over 80, with one in a serious condition, with a punctured lung and ruptured spleen. However, strangely, there were only two arrests, which in itself says something about the uneccessary degree of police force.

Unsurprisingly, all the acampadas around Spain (currently over 70) condemned the police action, including the one here in Seville, at the Setas.

So a rally was convened at the Setas, otherwise known as Metropol Parasol, which is where the movement is based. The massive shades, with their raised plaza, provide a perfect location for big public meetings.

Crowd at rally at the Setas last night.

People were asked to wear a flower at last night’s rally, and plenty of the thousand or so who turned up did, including lots of men, to express their solidarity with the protestors at the Barcelona camp.

I had a quick wander round the acampada, to see what had changed since my last visit a week ago. There are fewer people sleeping out there – around 170, I was told – but they are more organised now, with security regulations about how to deal with police confrontations, as well as general rules for the happy existence of such a group. The mood is still upbeat and positive, if not as charged as last week. People are still busy and motivated, focussed and determined, and looking forward to taking their message out into the barrios of Seville, where they had meetings this morning.

Protocol on how to deal with the police - after what happened in Barcelona yesterday, let's hope it's not needed.

I also saw a little veg garden, an activities area, and even a board listing the kids’ entertainment programme.

Veg garden, with tomato, aubergine and courgette plants.

Sign in veg garden: "A revolutionary should be able to hear the grass growing." Marx

Activities area

Children's activities - clown, stilt walkers, concert...

The meeting followed the same idea, speakers saying their bit spontaneously, earning hand-waving, cheering or applause, depending on the audience’s level of approval. During one speech, a police car drove past with its blue lights flashing, and drew a thunderous communal expression of disapproval.

An indignado says his piece to the assembled crowd.

Shake your hands if you agree with what he/she is saying.

You can still see plenty of placards.

"I think... then I get in the way."

The French revolution comes to Seville: "The guillotine for mafiosos, politicians and capitalists."

And the star lady from my last post was still there, with an appropriate floral accessory.

Even Miss Capitalism joined in with the spirit of the occasion.

#Hashtags for Twitter.


El pueblo no se calla: the Spanish revolution

Wave your hands in the air like you DO care: 5,000-strong Democracia Real Ya! rally at the Setas in Seville last night.

Last night I went down to the Setas, Seville’s new architectural phenomenon. This is the focus of the city’s 15-M acampada (camp-out), our smaller version of Madrid’s 25,000-strong settlement at Puerta del Sol, demanding social, political and economic change, which has made headlines around the world this week.

With exquisite irony, the massive devlopment which was to be our outgoing mayor’s swansong, is being used as the base for a popular protest against politicians exactly like him – self-aggrandising, image-obsessed, and totally out of touch with his city’s residents, of whose money he spent 120 million euros on a vanity project which is now making the front pages for reasons he can’t be too thrilled about. People are fed up with his party, his government, and they’re making themselves heard, both here in Seville, and in other major cities around Spain (besides Madrid, the other main protests are in Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia). A poll last week found that 85% of Sevillanos support the protest. During the final week before the regional and local elections on 22 May, the limelight has been suddenly wrenched away from the main political parties’ campaigns.

Protesters at the Setas: "This isn't a crisis, it's a con."

Evidently this movement was inspired, at least partly, by a best-selling book written by a 90-year-old French resistance fighter and philosopher called Stephane Hessel, called Time for Outrage (the Spanish edition, Indignaos, was published in February this year, and has been the top seller at Seville’s two main bookshops ever since) – as a result, one of the many catchwords for this movement is “Indignaos”. The book denounces the “power of money,” reflecting rising popular sentiment against social inequality and the dictatorship of banks over working people’s needs.

Time for Outrage, the book credited with inspiring the "Spanish revolution".

Another element being cited as an influence is the Arab Spring, with protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain.

Solidarity message from the Egyptian protest movement.

So what’s it all about? What do these groups of indignaos want? Well it seems to vary from city to city, but broadly, all are in agreement that the economy is a total shambles which is nowhere near to being sorted out properly; both bankers and politicians should be more accountable (any politician who is under investigation for corruption should be removed from electoral lists; sounds good to me); and unemployment is not being tackled effectively: over 45% of Spain’s youth are out of work.

"For a better world without lies."

Many of the protesters are educated twentysomethings – the majority of the organisers I saw last night fitted this profile, although there were also plenty of 30, 40 and 50-somethings too, wearing their home-made papers slogans, though those sleeping out in the acampada on the first floor plaza of the Setas (shadier than Madrid’s Puerta del Sol) were mostly young.

Paper and tape are available from the organisers for making signs, and people are encouraged to express themselves on posters taped to the concrete pillars of the parasols – popular participation is a basic element of revolution, after all.

Suggestions board on pillar of the Setas.

You can also get extension leads, and they even have WIFI – this is a 21st century revolution.

Protester with sign: "Social justice".

and another one: "The people's voice isn't illegal".

The list of points of the Seville group is as follows: removal of political class’s privileges; tackle unemployment; right to a place to live; quality public services; tighter control on banks; tighter control on tax fraud; liberty and democratic participation; and reduction in military spending. They have suggestions boxes for each of these topics.

List of proposals; most signs are handwritten.

The speakers are spontaneous and without any order – when I asked one of the organisers who had just been speaking last night, he looked at me as if I’d just insulted his mother’s cooking, telling me that there are no leaders (“because they get corrupted”) it is open to all, anyone who wants to say something can. I felt suitably chastened.

The speeches often melt into rhythmical call and response chants – “El pueblo no se callea(the people won’t be silenced), “Tu si que vale” (you’re worth it), “Que no nos representan” (they don’t represent us). The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed – there may be outrage, but it is not being expressed in an aggressive or confrontational way (thankfully).

"We want to be Icelandic.""For a better world without lies."


They even have a daily schedule, which is as follows: 7am breakfast, 12 midday meeting, 3pm lunch, 8pm meeting/demonstration, and 11pm dinner (food is all donated). People are designated into different areas: food, security, information, communications, cleaning, logistics (provides everything from batteries and megaphones to cold-boxes and furniture) etc, and the areas I saw were certainly being kept spotless.

Daily timetable at the Seville acampada.

For those on Twitter, there are a number of hashtags to follow: #15M #yeswecamp (geddit?) #acampadasevilla #nonosvamos #democraciarealya #notenemosmiedo and #tomalaplaza, as well as #spanishrevolution

Twitter # hashtags, with acampada WIFI below.

One of the most intelligent features of this movement is that they have banned alcohol – no botellones. Nothing takes away a group’s legitimacy or credibility like images of drunken people waving beer bottles around, or broken glass on the floor.

The four "recommendations": no alcohol, no glass, dogs on leads, and keep the noise down.

And finally, because this is Andalucia, where humour is never far from the surface, a lady who was attracting plenty of attention from both participants, and curious onlookers, like myself.

The death of capitalism.