Problems and Purpose
La Tabacalera is a self-organised social center, a space for theatre, music, dance, painting, conferences, meetings, audiovisuals workshops, events, neighborhood actions. All activities are given equal standing and reflect the organization’s deal of collective, public, transformational intervention.
Background History and Context
The former Tobacco Factory of Embajadores is publicly owned under the Ministry of Culture through the General Directorate of Fine Arts (GDFA). Due to its characteristics, the building is part of the historical heritage and has been listed as Heritage of Cultural Interest.
The Tobacco Factory of Madrid was vacated in 2000 after the privatization of La Tabacalera/Altadis. The building remained abandoned for ten years of progressive deterioration and no maintenance, during which groups struggled to open the building to a neighbourhood with a lack of public spaces.
By November 2007, the Cabinet approved an agreement in order to found the National Visual Arts Center (CNAV), whose headquarters were supposed to be held in the Tabacalera building. On July 29th, 2008 seven architecture consultants were invited via email to submit a proposal. In November 2009 the Minister of Culture, César Antonio Molina, announced the winning project together with the creators, Nieto and Sobejano. Unfortunately, the Council of Architects rejected the award procedure at the end of the month. With Ángeles González-Sinde now serving as Minister a new contest was announced and in February of 2009. When it finished on June 2, Nieto and Sobejano’s project were announced the winners for the second time.
With the decision not to go ahead with a publicly funded, 30 million euro project, the Dirección General de Bellas Artes (DGBA, State Fine Arts Office) asked the Sociedad para la Cooperación y Convivencia de Pueblos y Personas (SCCPP) cultural association to initiate an artistic and cultural project in the building. This association, which had participated in public discussions about the future of the building, accepts the DGBA order, signing a one-year contract that commits to develop a self-managed project called Self Managed Social Center La Tabacalera, using 9200 meters of the 30,000 square available from the building. The SCCPP also extended the proposal to other groups and residents of the neighborhood of Lavapies to garner feedback.
The LTBC renewed the first contract for another year but, at its expiration after two years, the organization requested that the DGBA sign a long-term agreement that would allow the artistic and cultural activities to continue unabated. This assignment took effect in January 2012, for a period of two years, renewable for two at a maximum of eight years.
The new contract was signed between the DGBA and La Tabacalera Cultural Association of Lavapies (CSA), an association created by the assembly of the social. The association’s organization ensure that the decision-making process is collaborative and solely under the control of the assembly and the committees that manage the center – all positions of which are open to anyone interested.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Minister of Culture, the Dirección General de Bellas Artes and La Tabacalera Cultural Association of Lavapies.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
With decision-making completely under control of the assembly and the committees that manage the center, LTBC operates through open assemblies in its general space and through committees in the spaces, projects and areas specific to each. Any person or group who commits to the common operating criteria, may participate in LTBC.
The assembly of the CSA is held every fifteen days, on Mondays at 20:30 at the No-Boss Room (Sala Sin Jefe). Once a month (normally on the last Sunday) a common working session is organized to, for instance, fix toilets, paint certain areas, repair the electricity. Every three months a plenary session is held, where the former period is evaluated and the guide lines for the next one are debated and decided.
The agenda for these assemblies is public and anyone can propose items to be included in it through the social centre mail lists or in the assembly itself. The contents of the agenda are communicated in the physical spaces created for the purpose and through the CSA mail lists. The acts are documented on the organization’s wiki which are publicly accessible.
In each assembly a “rotative dinamization” team is chosen to prepare the next meeting. If someone has a topic they want brought up, they are encouraged to come early to the Monday meeting to discuss it with the dinamizers. Together, the issue or topic is discussed and it is jointly decided how it should be dealt with – whether it is informative and should be brought to other member’s attention or, if it requires resolution, when it needs to be agreed upon and how the agreement is to be made.
To enable this mode of decision-making, the organization and its members work to:
- Ensure the full autonomy for the organization and development of member-proposed initiatives
- Explore public management in terms of participatory democracy
- Promote cultural practices of low cost and free culture
- Use a programming methodology different from classical practices of cultural management
- Work to equalize the different scales of social and cultural expression
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
As a social center, LTBC promotes the direct participation of citizenship in managing the public domain. A cultural center that understands culture as a concept encompassing creative and social skills of citizenship. These capabilities include not only artistic production, but also social action, critical thinking and the dissemination of ideas, works and procedures that seek to expand and democratize the public sphere.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
LTBC is a comprehensive center that includes languages and modes of expression, but also the complexity of demographic, cultural, ethnic, records and ways of inhabiting the territory and the time in the short term.
In this context, the LTBC project provides its members with the opportunity to address its faults and offer improvements. Since its inception, the organization has been an open invitation to all kinds of groups and individuals to get involved and participate in the project. As a result, the internal social composition LTBC shows the complexity and richness of a life that supports the diversity of human beings and builds its own ecosystem betting on intercultural coexistence, inter-ethnic, gender and sexual exceptions and, ultimately, by heterogeneity.
Durán, Gloria G. and Alan W. Moore, "La Tabacalera of Lavapiés: A Social Experiment or a Work of Art?" http://field-journal.com/issue-2/duran-moore
SCCPP.org - "Sabotaje Contra el Capital Pasándoselo Pipa" http://www.sindominio.net/fiambrera/sccpp/septiembre/bureau.htm
The original submission of this entry was taken from the site: http://latabacalera.net/about-la-tabacalera/ and is protected under Creative Commons license 3.0.
 the organization’s name has been variously documented as “Sociedad para la Cooperación y Convivencia de Pueblos y Personas” (Society for the Cooperation and Coexistence of People) and “Sabotaje Contra el Capital Pasándoselo Pipa” (Sabotaging Capitalism Creating Perverted Parties). Both appear to be correct and, while the former name is used in conjunction with the LTBC project, the latter is the name of their official website which can be found at http://www.sindominio.net/fiambrera/sccpp/enero/bureau_eng.htm)