The Gardens of Atocha: Pablo Iglesias’ Election Night Speech

by | 23 Dec 2015

Kindly translated by Richard McAleavey over on the superb Cunning Hired Knaves. Translator’s Note: This is a translation of the speech given by Pablo Iglesias following the election results on Sunday night. I do not have a satisfactory English translation for ‘patria‘ (‘Fatherland’ has other connotations) so I’m leaving as is. There are two words in Spanish that both translate into English as ‘people’. ‘La gente‘ refers to people in a general sense, and is often best translated as ‘ordinary people’ or ‘everyday people’, depending on the context. ‘El pueblo‘ is in the sense of a collective subject in political terms, as in ‘the will of the people’. I have included links to provide background to some of the references made.


Buenas noches. Gabon. Boas noites. Bona nit, Madrid, capital of fraternity. We are still here, knocking on the doors of heaven. 76 years ago, very close to this square, my great-uncle said to his sister: whatever happens, we will always have the gardens of Atocha. He was on the verge of losing a war, and a few months later, my uncle was shot by firing squad in Valencia. That man met a socialist fate, (as) one of the boys of La Motorizada [a socialist youth militia] that always accompanied Don Indalecio Prieto. The sisters of that man raised my mother and me, and they always spoke to us of the gardens of Atocha. They never spoke to us from a place of rancour or vengeance, but from love. It is said that the heroes of the patria are those who die and kill in wars. I do not agree. The heroic feats that make a patria are not acts that go down in history, but the everyday acts. A grandmother who bursts with joy when she sees her grand-daughter, clean and wearing a good pair of shoes, with her schoolbooks in her bag, running towards her when she comes out of a well-equipped public school, is the image of a decent country. That is what makes a patria.

Tonight, I want to pay tribute to the anonymous heroes and heroines who with their small acts, have shown us what it means to change a country. The grandmother who teaches her grandchildren that toys are for sharing, the activist who loses hours of sleep because he is out putting up posters in his neighbourhood, the (female) magistrate who applies the law knowing that it is the only guarantee that the weak have against the strong, the (male) nurse who knows that his tenderness is the dignity of the sick elderly woman. The (female) teacher who strives so that despite the cutbacks, all children learn and are happy learning. The (male) police officer who does not lose his patience and puts up with whatever comes along and does his job without reaching to his belt. The (male) banking employee who refuses to sell preferential shares. The (female) worker on strike who does not lose her smile. The (male) public defender who gives his all for his defendant. The (male) small business owner who treats his employees as comrades. The grandfather who stretches his pension to pay his daughter’s university fees. Behind those everyday acts lie the heroes who change a country. Revolution does not consist of flags. It is in the small things, like in the gardens of Atocha.

Today’s events are historic. A new political time has opened up in our history, one that puts an end to the system of taking turns. 15M marked the beginning of a new transition in our country, led by ordinary people. In moments such as this one, the democratic abundance of our history breaks through. Tonight we can hear the voices of the people of Madrid resisting invasion. We can hear the voice of General Riego, defending the constitution with sword in hand. The voice of Torrijos, disembarking in Málaga. We can hear the voices of the liberals and the democrats of the Glorious Revolution. The voice of Joaquín Costa, and the voices of the Free Educational Institution. The voice of Rosalía de Castro and the ironic laughter of Valle-Inclán. We hear the voice of the working class and of the women struggling for their right to suffrage. We hear the voices of the Republican reformers, the voices of Clara CampoamorMargarita NelkenDolores IbárruriFederica MontsenyVictoria Kent. The voices of Miguel HernándezFederico García LorcaMachado and Alberti. The voices of the Asturian miners. The voice of Companys, telling Madrid: it is your brother who speaks. The voice of Durruti. Of Largo Caballero. Of Azaña. Of Pepe Díaz and Andreu Nin. The polyglot voices of the International volunteers who by defending our patria, will be Spanish forever. We hear the voices of those who raised the flags of freedom against terror. The voices of the prisoners of the dictatorship. The voices of the working class who won their rights through strikes. We hear voices in Basque, in Catalan, in Galician. We hear the immortal voice of Carlos Cano singing to the emigrants. The voices of Serrat, of Paco Ibañez, of Rosa León, of Imanol, of Lluis Llach and also the voice of Soledad Bravo and of Pep Botifarra. We hear the voices and we read the words of Manolo Vázquez Montalbán, and all those who struggled for a better future, along with the voices of you tonight, who are the leaders of political change in Spain.

I want to thank my family, all my comrades, and all those of you who are here, but above all, the people [las gentes] and the peoples [los pueblos] of Spain. There is a lot of work to do starting tomorrow, and it won’t be easy but something has changed. Never again a Spain without its peoples [pueblos] or its ordinary people [gentes]. Today from here we commit to push towards a new historic settlement that defends social justice and decency. Democracy must reach the economy, so that there can be no more violations of human rights and dignity. Tonight we hear once again the immortal voice of Salvador Allende: history is ours, and it is made by the peoples. ¡Sí se puede!


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