Interview with Maria Montavez Sanchez and Fransico Garrido Torres from Cerro Libertad

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Cerro Libertad is an occupation of a country estate of 75 hectares and 1500 olive trees in the Spanish Andalusia.
This finca is property of the bank BBVA who has done nothing to stop the deterioration of the land and the farm in five years time. On April the 1st of last year, activists started their occupation of the cerro, restored the house and cultivated the land. ‘Land belongs to those who work on it’ is their motto. The police will come to evict them on the 19th of March 2018. The inhabitants of Cerro Libertad are asking their network for support, because they don’t plan on giving up. This is a battle between agricultural workers and a bank speculating on neglected farmland. We talked to the activists Maria Montavez Sanchez and Fransico Garrido Torres.


MMS: “We are a farm in Jaén, Andalusia, Spain, called ‘Cerro Libertad’, a farm that officially belongs to the BBVA bank and that the SAT (Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores, Andalusian Trade Union of Workers) occupied. The objective is to reclaim the land for those who work the land and we did it also because we have a partner in prison, Andrés Bódalo, who was unjustly imprisoned and was already claiming this property. On the 1st of April 2017, when Bódalo had served one a year of his sentence, we occupied the farm to honor his name. [On the day of the interview] we are in our fifth month of occupation, during which we have refreshed the entrance, created an orchard producing all kinds of vegetables and rebuilt the house.


“Before an eviction there is always an occupation.”


Of course, everything functions outside the capitalist system. We believe that the soil can supply us and we believe in self-management. We usually are with eight to ten people and daily partners to support the work that has to be done, depending on the season and the weather. But when we occupied the farm, we were with about 200 to 300 people. Now the problem is the eviction. The trial has already been held and we are waiting for the eviction order but as we always say: “Before an eviction there is always an occupation.” The truth is that we still have to determine what we are going to do. In principle… we did not really decided what we are going to do.”


FGT: “The most important of the Cerro Libertad (the Freedom Hill) is that the soil needs agriculture. We can only hope for the best with this occupation. We hope the wealth will be better distributed and stop the acceptance of the idea that a few have a lot and many have little. May each one have his own land, cultivate it, and don’t lose what we had in the past: this kind of happiness, that joy of going out into the country, listening to birds, being in touch with nature and with what the soil produces. Doing what you like influences what you think and what is stipulated: go to the super market and you will find it. In my village, a teacher once asked a pupil: “Paint me a chicken” and the child painted a fried one as they had never seen a chicken being raised. So I said: “this can’t be, something must be very wrong.” (laughs)


“We see our occupation as a constitutional right. The land belongs to who cultivates it.”


We see our occupation as a constitutional right. The land belongs to who cultivates it, as you can’t just posses land. Nobody really owns land. When you take care of the land, you know that the better you cultivate the soil, the bigger will be the present you receive from it. Nature is very grateful.


The owner, the bank, was using poison on its property. They are poisoning everything. The poisons they use makes the land a desert: the product is impermeable, water resistant, and therefore it causes eruption. The rain does not penetrate the soil, so there is no water in the subsoil. The poison disrupts the very important cycle of life: the cycle of rain water falling on the soil and evaporating through plants and trees to become rain water again. If the bank continues it will cause irreversible damage.


In principle all our fruit is organic, we plant seeds from the natural genetic laboratory, and grow it the natural way because for selling it as organic products we have to follow the law that protects the label ‘organic’.


“We are the link in a chain, we are the seeds that grow in the society.”


My philosophy is the philosophy of life. We have to change things if we want to survive. We seem to be alive, but we are already dead. When we think different, the way we do, we transform into a lion: to survive we have to capture a rabbit and when a lion has his paw on a rabbit, he can’t lift his foot, because when he lifts his foot the rabbit will run away and the lion can’t eat it. That’s why we are not leaving this land, even knowing that it will be a struggle, a heavy fight to stay in the Cerro Libertad but we know that we are doing this the same way other activists did it – think of Marinaleda in the past – and are doing it in a lot of other places. We are a link in a chain, we are the seeds that grow in the society, that grow in the mentality and help the people that are thinking free and acting free.”

Interview and photos by O LIMPO rio – SAGIKOLIBRI


Watch More

Video on the work that the occupiers have done on the cerro

Video with more information on Cerro Libertad’s accomplishments

Video of an occupiers’ meeting and debate

Video on one of Cerro Libertad’s actions, to bring the issue of bank speculations on agricultural ground to the fore

Video on the impending eviction