Notices warn visitors that an eviction action is expected any day in this peaceful rural community where time is spent baking bread, planting crops and running workshops on permaculture and self-sufficiency. Preparations for the expected police siege include deep trenches which have been dug on the lane leading to the property, and huge metal bolts on all the sturdy wooden doors and window of the house on this old rural estate. There is a wooden platform on top of a rickety pole on the roof where someone is always on watch for police movement in the distance. The people taking shifts up the tower have endured cold winter nights and stuck to their posts while storms drenched them and sent their platform swaying wildly in the wind.
At the end of February, I arrived in the middle of this situation with my friend Phil Evans to take part in their weekly bread making session and to ask if we could take photos. This was obviously not a good time for them but they invited us in anyway, fed us and said that we could take photos of anything apart from their security systems.
But what about bread making? There would be bread making in the morning. We were given two options, if we joined them at 7am for the start of the process, the night time security alert would still be in place and if the police were seen approaching the doors would be bolted and we would have to run with our baker/guide to get out of the back entrance before that was sealed too. If we were too slow we would have to stay and see out the siege. The other option was to join them at 11am for the second part of the process by which time day-time levels of security would be in effect and the police would be much less likely to raid. We really like bread so we decided on the 7am option.
Luckily the police did not arrive to interrupt our early morning baking session and we spent the rest of the day wandering about taking pictures and enjoying the tranquility of this lovely place which sits on a quiet hillside just a short train ride from central Barcelona. Despite the obvious stress of their position, the people of Can Piella were generous hosts and we ate well at their communal meals.
I returned that weekend for their solidarity party which featured performances by a traditional Catalan folk band, an all female group of mexican singer/guitarists, poetry readings by three Catalan writers, a big fire and yet more fantastic food. I left as they were gearing up for the disco that would see everyone through to the next morning.
At the time of writing - April 9th - Can Piella is still on lock down waiting for their eviction. The psychological stress of this position cannot be exaggerated. To be unable to relax in your home, to be always vigilant and ready to lock the doors and hold out under seige at any time is something I don't know if I could handle. A veteran of another long-term squat which successfully resisted eviction over 10 years ago told me of the 11 week wait for the police to come. "It was hard, really hard, the strain broke some people, they couldn't take it."
My thoughts are with you Can Piella. Bake on.