The loudspeakers are playing Resistiré, a hit song by the 1960s Spanish pop sensation Dúo Dinámico, as people wave Spanish flags. It is Sunday, and more than 9,000 sympathizers have shown up at Madrid’s Vistalegre Palace for the biggest show of force to date by Vox, a far-right party founded in 2014.
Supporters have been lining up in front of the former bullring since before 10am, and by the time the rally begins the venue is full. Another 3,000 people are gathered outside, according to event organizers.
Vox wants to deport “illegal immigrants who come to Spain not to make it greater, but to receive handouts”
The Madrid rally follows similarly successful events in Valladolid and Zaragoza. And the latest opinion survey by the Center for Sociology Research (CIS) suggests that Vox could earn one seat in Congress with 1.5% of the votes at the next general election.
If so, it would signal a change in Spain, where mainstream politicians have often boasted about the absence of a far-right party, in contrast with other European countries where xenophobic movements have made inroads. Vox supporters have embraced the party’s message that Spain is under threat from many sides – Catalan separatists, illegal immigration, attacks on family values – and that patriots need to rise up to defend the “living Spain” against this onslaught.
“We believe someone is needed to watch out for Spain,” confirms Rafael Ciordi, a Vox supporter who has come to the Sunday rally in Madrid. Ciordi, who defines himself as “a normal person, a father of two, a working man,” unbuttons his shirt to reveal a white tee with the Spanish flag on the collar and a small ribbon representing the colors of the senyera, Catalonia’s official flag – as opposed to the unofficial estelada used by Catalan separatists. Ciordi says he is against abortion, and in favor of family values and the unity of Spain.
Cristina Pam has traveled here from Toledo. “We have to get this movement going,” she says, pointing at her four-year-old grandson. “He has come here to fight for Spain.” Up in the stands, Manolo Burgos also says he is here for the future of his children and grandchildren. An Air Force veteran and biker, Burgos says he does not want “a Muslim Spain.” Under his vest, there is a Francoist flag sitting “over my heart.”
People continue to file into the arena. There are more classic songs from 1960s stars such as Manolo Escobar and Nino Bravo, peppered with some Ricky Martin. The rally is scheduled to begin at noon, but it starts a half-hour late. Vox president Santiago Abascal shows up on stage with his secretary general Javier Ortega Smith, with the head of Vox Madrid, Rocío Monasterios, and with José Antonio Ortega Lara, a former prison worker who was kidnapped by the Basque terrorist organization ETA and held for 532 days between 1996 and 1997. The crowd cheers as the Vox logo turns red and yellow.
Before presenting their 100 solutions for “the living Spain,” the screens behind the speakers show images of some of the “problems” facing Spain right now: hooded ETA terrorists, republican and communist flags, migrants crossing the border, Femen activists, Islamic State.
Monasterios is the first to take the podium to defend calling things by their name. “We have to walk forward and speak the truth even if it is politically incorrect, without grey zones, without shortcuts, without fear of any kind,” says the leader of the party’s Madrid branch.
After her, various Vox speakers take turns listing the party’s 100 proposals for Spain: creating a Family Ministry, revoking the gender violence law and “any other legislation that discriminates against one of the sexes,” lowering income and corporate tax, developing a new water-management plan... But what really rouses the crowd is the proposal to deport “those illegal immigrants who come to Spain not to make it greater, but to receive handouts.”
To support this larger goal, Vox also wants tougher criminal punishment for illegal-immigration mafias “and those who cooperate with them, be they non-profits, businesses or individuals.”
Another major objective, says another speaker on stage, is “taking back our national sovereignty on the application of our courts’ decisions. Terrorists, rapists and serial killers would no longer benefit from the protection of European organizations, as they have to date.”
The Spanish Resistance
The secretary general of Vox, Ortega Smith, takes the microphone to insist that “Spaniards come first” and paraphrases Donald Trump: “Together we will make Spain great again.”
“Welcome to the resistance!” he cries. “We have come here to send out a message: we are not ready to let our dignity be trampled!”
The closing speaker is party president Santiago Abascal, who makes a rousing speech about Spaniards rising up against injustice.
“The living Spain has awoken, thank God. Spain does not rise up randomly. A nation reacts when it has historical inertia, when there is blood coursing through its veins, and when it is aggravated, as Spain is being aggravated now.”
Abascal also lashed out against other parties who use labels against Vox and its followers.
“If you love your country, you are called a xenophobe and a fascist. If you say immigration needs to be controlled, you are racist and fascist. If you love tradition, you are backward and fascist. And if you dislike abusive taxes, you are selfish and fascist.”
Taking aim at all parties – “I don’t care if they’re progressives or communists, the cowardly right, or the fickle orange [a reference to Ciudadanos] – Abascal warns that “we will wear the insults like medals on our chest.”
“We did not come here to win with Spain. We came here for Spain to win with us!” he concludes. “Vox lives so that Spain may live. ¡Viva España!”
English version by Susana Urra.