In 2001, I visited Euskadi, also known as the Basque region which is kinda, sorta part of Spain but don’t say you are in Spain if you happen to find yourself there because the locals will either give you a super long history lesson or a dirty look. In Bilbao, the city most known for Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, a citywide anarcho-punk conference was taking place. We didn’t know exactly where it was happening, we just followed the crusties and their dogs to various locations. The local anarcho-punks were quite friendly and freely shared their cheap wine and coca-cola concoctions i.e. kalimochos with us as we hung out waiting for the workshops to begin.
One of the gigs was taking place at a squat at the edge of town. A girl on the street pointed us in the general direction. We hopped on a train, saw a guy carrying some anarchist zines and asked if we could follow him. As we walked through a quaint little neighborhood, the zine guy asked an old man who was hanging his laundry out the window if he knew where the “punk squat” was and the old man without hesitation said “The kids are down that way.” My mouth dropped open, this would never happen here! Then the zine guy introduced us to some South American punk guy who it was assumed we’d have stuff in common with because: We were both from the Americas? Both mestizos? Who knows? But the S.A. punk was a nice guy.
At the squat, there were more kalimochos to be had. There were all kinds of tables offering various sorts of things like zines, CDs, t-shirts. One stall was a woman selling homemade postcards with scenes of riots and other insurrectionary images, like the one above. I bought this one cause they were smashing up a cash register. But I swear, for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what country “Argelia” was, duh.
I got in a lenthy conversation with a heavy metal communist guy with long blond hair, or at least it was an attempt at conversation because the Basque Castellano was a bit difficult for me to understand. He was a collective member of the squat and was telling me all about their private bar which I listened to in wide-eyed amazement. You mean, it’s a squat and a bar? Fucken Europeans have all the fun, hrrrmph! Next thing I know, there’s a Korean newscaster and cameraman asking me if I’m really from California. Yup, you read that right. What was a Korean news show doing at a edge-of-town squat for an anarcho-punk show, you might ask? Well, earlier I’d seen them wandering around Bilbao and from what I heard later, they came across the colorful bunch of punks (2001 was the year 1977 came back in style for European squatting scene) and thought, hey these people will make a good story for our Korean morning show! So like us, they followed the crusty rainbow across the city and through the subway to the big old squat which at one time had been some kinda airplane hanger. Someone told them we came all the way from California for the conference (which wasn’t exactly true) and since I spoke English, they interviewed me. (I wonder if I ever made it onto Good Morning Korea?) Then later the music started. I had my postcard, a belly full of kalimocho and one anarchist/communist debate in broken Spanish under my belt. It was a good night.
Rioting spreads across Tunisia; unrest also reported in Algeria, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2011.
Southern California Anarcho Punk Fest Tour, Saturday, January 29, 2011.