Marinaleda is the only village in Spain governed by collective self-management. It is located in Andalusia, about 100 km from Sevilla. Since 32 years, Manuel Sánchez Gordillo is the mayor of the village that has about 3.000 inhabitants.
Gordillo founded a radical labour union and supported militant actions of landless labourers right after the fall of the Franco dictatorship. This activism was crucial for the further development of the village. In 1988 people from Marinaleda waged a determined struggle gainst the brutal regime of large-scale land owners who dominate Andalusia.
Their first victory were 1.200 ha land they gained from the 17.000 ha of the Finca El Humoso owned by Conde Duque Infantado, 12 km outside of Marinaleda, after many years of confrontation. The government of Andalusia bought the land and gave it to Marinaleda – for free. The land is managed collectively since then, with produce processed in a self-constructed factory or sold to supermarkets.
The village has a well-developed infrastructure and has until now been spared by the effects of the crisis that hit Spain. Living costs are very low and some services are for free. People have built about 350 houses collectively. They are allocated after construction by lot. From each family, at least one person works in the village co-operative. 1.200 is the standard income per month, regardless of the task performed.
Decision making is done collectively and on a broad range of issues, from public works to the management of the village co-operative.
Amidst the crisis, Marinaleda resembles an island of prosperity, which attracts many outsiders. However, the village may face problems in the future since it relies on agricultural subsidies from the EU (as do the large-scale landowners in the region) and also cleverly managed state subsidies for real estate development, which lead to the highest debt-income ratio in the Sevilla province. Furthermore, the Andalusian government plans to sell El Humoso, the foundation of Marinaledas wealth. While the village rejects the possibility to buy the land, Gordillo threatens to repeat the militant activism of the 1980s to keep it in use.
Some observers claim that Gordillo dominates the village despite democratic decision-making, which they claim is only a facade.