The CTA aims to raise public awareness about the incomprehensible lack of decent housing for thousands of potential workers in the Huelva field.
A group of day laborers sleeps outside the sports hall to give visibility to the protest that their colleagues keep inside.
The group also demands the regularization of their employment situation and greater diligence of the Immigration Office to process their records of roots and work permits.
The strawberry mill employer looks the other way and considers that the shackiness of its workers is a «social problem» that only concerns Public Administrations.
«We asked for workers, but people came» (Max Frisch)
Note: This article has been translated into English with the "translator" tool from Google. Sorry for possible mistakes.
Huelva, November 11, 2011. Twenty-seven workers of African origin (from Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Morocco …) have remained until the election day of November 10 inside the City of Lepe Soccer Field, as an act of protest for the lack of decent housing and equal rights for hundreds (thousands during the red fruit harvest season that will begin in a few weeks) of day laborers and laborers in the Huelva agricultural sector. This 10N were evicted by the City Council of the coastal town of Huelva.
From this aborted confinement a protest movement has arisen that, in all probability, will not go unnoticed. The Collective of African Workers (CTA), whose first assemblies have already taken place, and which outlines these days an agenda of activities and actions to raise awareness and protest.
The twenty-seven of the confinement of the City of Lepe entered the sports hall hosted by the City Hall with almost 200 other people on October 14, when the fire devoured the shacks of the «cemetery settlement», built with wooden pallets, cardboard and plastics that, in general, facilitate the businessmen who hire them as laborers. For almost two decades, farms have not stopped growing, nor have the demand for labor demanded by their owners. However, despite being a proven fact, public and -very well-known that this need for workers is only covered by migrant labor, the province of Huelva has not enabled decent spaces for thousands of people to sleep under a decent roof . The settlements (around a dozen in Lepe only) are spread near agricultural municipalities such as Moguer, Lucena, Bonares or Almonte, and in spring they are authentic dormitory cities that trigger the real census of those villages.
Lepe’s, razed by fire and known as the city, remained up for almost two decades, and only the decision of the ownership of the land has prevented its reconstruction after having burned completely or partially. The one on October 14 was the fire number 28 in nine years; to more than three per year. It was also the last. The fencing of the land, executed quickly and accurately the next morning, has prevented the shacks from being lifted again.
The CTA is born to claim the end of shanty towns
In principle, and as long as those locked up in the soccer field are not evicted, they will continue to hold rallies at the door of the City of Lepe and hold more assemblies that strengthen the CTA. Later, within a few weeks, they plan to make their first major «massive» act, calling a day of General Strike in full swing of the strawberry harvesting campaign (when thousands of workers without accommodation live in the settlements) and a large demonstration in Lepe in which they hope to count on the support of workers from all sectors, unions, parties, social groups and citizens in general.
In a way, and despite their precarious situation, they have become aware of the most basic premise of every protest movement: unity is strength. That union is the first challenge of the CTA. For what? So that their status as workers, on the part of the system, is recognized and an end to the indignity of the suburbs settlements inhabited by thousands of homeless laborers, many without a legal contract; essential pieces of a sector that is «a vanguard model«, according to the description made by the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Development of the Junta de Andalucía, Carmen Crespo.
They also know that finding a decent solution to their situation is only a matter of the will of all the parties involved. They smile every time they are mentioned the meetings, tables and plans with which the political representatives say they seek a permanent solution for them. They have been seen and heard every time they have burned their shacks (the extinct city, 28 times in the last nine years), and their tragic loss of sub-housing and personal belongings is made a hole in the national news. But never, in the last twenty years, and while the settlements grew and multiplied, have they seen a real, consensual and definitive proposal.
For example, they are aware that there is an entrepreneur interested in building modular accommodation with the capacity to house about a thousand people on land very close to Lepe. His proposal is to do business by charging an affordable amount to day laborers. To CTA the idea the proposal seems an agile and effective solution, if all parties do their part. Transfer of land, building permits, sanitation, municipal licenses … The City Council of Lepe has confirmed to this magazine the existence of this proposal of a private investor, but the reduction to a «mere idea without form» still, which will be studied when the concrete developer «in more detail».
Other entrepreneurs who fill their strawberry boxes with labor that lives in the sub-housing settlements, look the other way. They refuse to have any responsibility in the serious problem of the shanty town of Huelva, or in the marginality in which their own workers live. His response, through the interprofessional Interfresa is this: «We have nothing to say about it. We refer to administrations with competences in social matters that are the ones that have to take measures about the situation of these people ». Sic transit gloria mundi. Huelva
¹The phrase «We asked for labor and people arrived» – was pronounced in 1965 by the Swiss writer Max Frisch, referring to those who emigrated to Switzerland in that decade, coming largely from Spain, Italy and Portugal, and affects the distance that there is the impersonal consideration of the worker to the rich texture of the real lives of immigrants as people.