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Marinaleda, the Utopia Where Everybody Works for the Benefit of All


In Andalusia, in southern Spain, there is a utopian community where collective work is the strength of resistance and solidarity.

Utopias have been a constant in human thought, sometimes just as a metaphor that makes us see more clearly the deficiencies of a society and other times as a kind of state that is unattainable by definition but that we can still aspire to. Utopias such as that of Thomas More are mental experiments that respond to the question ‘what if?’ while others seek to try out the idea as a reality to discover its real impact.

In southern Spain there is a community that has been living the utopian dream for 30 years. The place is Marinaleda, an Andalusian town that unlike almost any other in the world can boast its complete lack of two kinds of people: police and unemployed. It is not necessary to have someone to make people obey the law and, among its almost 3,000 inhabitants, there is nobody who suffers from not having a paid job.

Marinaleda’s history is rich, almost as rich as the list of characteristics that make its model of life admirable. The town was originally populated by out-of-work farmhands with little money who, for those same reasons, felt that they had no future. But the town’s now legendary mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, implemented a system in which all the town’s inhabitants would work in a cooperative for the same period and for the same salary. In terms of housing, the municipality would manage the rentals and prohibit the sale and purchase of property for profit.

With these and other measures, Marinaleda survived the crisis that hit the rest of Spain at the end of the 1970s and the authorities and inhabitants achieved that with practices that challenged capitalism and its voracity head-on. In recent years they have also survived in this journey of protest by preserving their cooperative approach as the principal strength that allows them to resist where the rest of the world tamely adheres to the way of life that implies exploitation, destruction, egoism and similar forms of conduct.

Is a utopia possible? It would appear so. In any event, examples such as Marinaleda enable us to see that despite everything being against us, it is necessary to try it, to make an idea a reality, day by day, discovering its possibilities along the way.

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