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World March Blog
16 November 2009

(English) Madrid and Toledo

(English) We arrive from Barcelona to Madrid’s Atocha main railway station, where in 2004 terrorist bombings took place on the 11th of March; known locally as “11-M.” Inside the station building there is a memorial space, and after a press conference we enter that guarded room. We are instructed to stay quiet before entering. Inside the silent space, a small orchestra is playing serene classical music. The memorial event is simple and humble. In his speech, Rafa reminds of the need to overcome violence in ourselves as well as the need to change the way of life and society based on violence.

Video: Homage to the victims of 11M

After the memorial event we continue to the main street, Paseo del Prado, where the march is already waiting for us. We are led by gaiteros, musicians playing bagpipes, in a ceremonial procession that walks by the groups of marchers that are waiting for us, from the end of the mass of marchers to its beginning, where a huge banner is waiting for the World Marchers. It’s a great way to enter the march, because we get a glimpse of the whole procession with its great diversity, including some Bolivian dancers and the various voluntary organizations, especially humanist organisms who are strongly present, such as the Humanist Party, which demands the retreat of the Spanish troops from Afghanistan.

In this march I meet various old and newer friends. I feel quite at home, as recently I have been visiting Madrid several times for activities related to the Humanist Movement. But it’s also a huge march, maybe 3000 participants and in the front, a banner that is so long that it fills four lanes. There is also a “march of the Ferraris”, a collection of luxury cars; there is a team of bicycles; and there is a team that has travelled from Galicia and Portugal through various towns and cities and converged with us in this massive event.

Video: World March in the streets of Madrid

Pictures of the march

Interviews of Rafael de la Rubia, Carmen Almendras, José Manuel Berzal, Pilar Manjón (in Spanish)

Our new member in the Base Team is Magdalena, a history professor in the university of San Andres in La Paz, Bolivia. She has considerable political experience: she was the Minister of Education in the government of Evo Morales from June 2007 to November 2008. In this historical march of Madrid she talks to the masses of the process of change in her home country. While she joins, the Costa Rican parliamentarian Alexander Mora, who has been in the Base Team since St. Petersburg, is leaving on the following day. Alexander, who keeps a touching speech in the bus before leaving, is from Costa Rica that has abolished their army; and Bolivia with the leadership of Evo Morales has declared war illegal in its constitution. Thus the power of Latin American active nonviolence remains as a stable lighthouse with an immediate presence also in the Base Team.

At the hotel my room-mate Lars gets an acupunture and a massage, given by a volunteer healer, who not only gives Lars a massage, but also after this voluntary service thanks us for what we are doing and says that in Madrid they are many who are thankful and inspired by what we are doing. I feel that it’s not that we are doing wonders, and in fact we are not, just a very simple act, completely comparable to the simple act of any one who participates in their way. The real question is how does it all continue afterwards; here and for us in our homes, when we come home to the same old town with the same old difficulties?

Anyhow, the March is an effort and it gets late and I decide to skip the concert, in spite of being initially enthusiastic of the possibility of seeing Antonio Carmona of Ketama perform live. Meanwhile Bhairavi and Juanita reach the concert, but there are no other members of the Base Team, so they decide to return. Luis arrives after they have left, looks for Base Team members to get on stage, and finally finds a bunch of them. The next day in the train I see the video from the concert, where the whole nightclub is chanting “Peace, Force and Joy” to them. (By the way, Micky proposed at some moment that perhaps “Peace, Strength and Joy” would be a translation that would be a more suitable English translation universally. In my mouth it tastes good, as “force” in English feels violent (use of force)).

But here in Spain we don’t need to wonder about that. Here we hear and use the words “Paz, Fuerza y Alegria” several times, with increasing conviction. Not least importantly, that happens also in the Park of Study and Reflection in Toledo. After a short ride around the city of Toledo with the bus, with a lecture on the history of Toledo by the native of the place (our international spokesperson Rafa), we continue towards the Park of Study and Reflection. The history of the city of Toledo is a theme that merits a longer explanation than what I can here give, but I recommend everyone to find out about it and visit this special and amazing beautiful place.

We enter the Park through the usual stop: “tres jotas”, the 3 J’s cafe and hotel by the highway. For me it’s the “usual” stop since it is here where I have come in my recent visits. These Parks of Study and Reflection host seminars and workshops like the ones which I have attended together with many of those present during the passing year. More information can be found in

The march has the atmosphere of the Park of Toledo, which I would describe as clarity, as brightness. Maybe it is the wide open sky in the place, or the ascetic beauty of the landscape of olive trees typical of the region, that creates this impression of open clarity; or maybe it is a more subjective experience related to the activities and the aspirations in the Park. The light wind is favourable to our procession, whose flags unfurl and show the message of the World March. The particular peace of this march is certainly also created by the fact that our spectators are only virtual, through the lenses of the cameras, as here in the olive fields there aren’t even a farmer to convert to our cause.

In the Parks, we also hold ceremonies, such as this time. But before the ceremony, we stop at the threshold of the sacred space of the Park; at the gate, where Pau Segado, the Spanish spokesperson of the World March, gives a welcoming speech, and the representatives of the Base Team and the Galicia-Portugal team greet everyone.

The ceremony consists basicly of an asking that we do in our hearts, for peace and nonviolence in the world.

After the ceremony, we have to leave immediately, without time to explore and enjoy the Park, because we have to catch a train to Malaga.

P.S. While we had been to Barcelona, Charles and Sinthya had been to Mallorca, which apparently had been a historical success. The photos in the front page and other pages of the local newspaper speak for themselves; full of flags with the logo of the World March, this march was clearly dedicated to the World March and not only that, it was the biggest march ever in the history of Mallorca, with 2000-3000 participants.

2 comments to (English) Madrid and Toledo

  • Alessia

    Vaya experiencia!!!!! Sono curiosissima di sapere come continua! Ahora estoy intrigada!!!
    Un bacione grandissimo e a presto.

  • Maria

    Hola Liliana.
    Me alegró muchisimo que estuvieseis en Madrid. Creo que es muy imnportante que se hable de paz en una ciudad que ha sido tan duramente castigada por el terrorismo.
    Ánimo y adelante.