“Another mistake that we make a lot is that those of us on the left believe that we are very intellectual and that those on the right are stupid. And it is not like that. There are very good and intelligent people on both sides,” says Luis Miguel Peña, 53, Mayor of Cercedilla. Sitting in front of a beer clear and under a still cold spring sun in the main square of his town, Peña speaks with a restraint and lucidity that are as shocking as they are welcome. Also his slow tone of voice, which hardly rises even when he misses a fuck or a hosts. And the absence, in his speech, of slogans, insults or almost warlike rhetoric.
He has just left the town hall, behind him. There he has occupied the office of the mayor, the “mayor”, as reported by a plaque next to the entrance door, for six years. A room that looks like a scene of Tell me; frozen in time, with its old mahogany wood furniture and mountains of papers, at that time when the mayor, as he remembers it, was someone important, very important. That Mr. Mayor on the plate. This is how he was made to see, in fact, by his own relatives when he became alderman. “Oh, if your father and your uncles saw you …”, his aunts used to tell his nephew Luismi.
It was the proud and still incredulous sigh of a humble family, workers and bricklayers, who saw how one of their own occupied an office that was never for one of their own. “They still had the Franco regime in mind and for them the figure of the mayor was something big … Damn … It was that mayor … We, on the other hand, had been donnadies in the town and with me one of ours had come to mayor, “he explains.
Peña was not running for mayor. He never thought it would be. Community official, maintenance personnel, landed in politics from the unions. He says of himself that he is a very discreet and shy person and that he did not even like to stand out in the jobs he did. But he entered the trade union movement at a time when his jobs were in danger and then he began to have contact with the people of the United Left in the city hall. In 2007, several of the party’s militants withdrew and asked him to join the lists. It was going as filler. But four years later, colleagues continued to withdraw and Peña, at their request and because he thought he could help, rose to the top of the list. Izquierda Unida then had only one councilor in the town hall. In 2011, the first year with Peña, they got two. The PP ruled. In 2015 he repeated. Then it happened. “Was a shock“He remembers it. Nobody expected IU to win the elections. But he did.” It is true that we had made an atypical opposition, because we defended at all times the good that the government had done and we even voted in favor of some measures. But suddenly we saw ourselves winning the elections, “he remembers.
The second surprise would come four years later. During that legislature there were only three municipalities in Madrid governed by IU: Cercedilla, Rivas and Casarrubuelos. Peña confesses that they felt “abandoned” by the party, that he did not “remember” them at all. That is why they decided to become independent and present themselves as Together for Cercedilla. They doubled the votes they had obtained and won again. Peña governs today in the town with the support of PSOE and Podemos. At that moment of change they felt, as he says, “in no man’s land”. On the one hand, abandoned by IU. On the other, “forgotten” by the regional government of the PP. “You can see it in the video of Ayuso running through the city. We peoples are the forgotten ones,” he sums it up. Cercedilla, in addition, as he explains, a municipality of 7,500 inhabitants, does not have demographic weight or vote importance to count as others or aspire to the social funds of the European Union but it is not so small to be able to request other types of support and aid .
“With the maelstrom of Podemos and IU they left us abandoned and we felt very disappointed. Orphans. And then the other maelstrom that was on the left to see which way you were going, that if IU or Podemos, that if More Madrid appears later … But, are we stupid? Where are we going? “Laments Peña. The mayor sees, as he analyzes it, to the left, and especially to the Madrilenian, “desnortado”, involved “in a race of egos instead of being united.” “And so it happens to us, that later the hosts come to us everywhere … And we, meanwhile, to look for the quotas of power or command or to appear, or whatever you want to call it, and while losing citizens and groups like Vox taking to our people, “he adds.
That criticism that the mayor makes to the left is what has caused that today, as he acknowledges, there are left-wing voters in the town who have gone to Vox. In the last municipal elections, Vox obtained 230 votes in the municipality. In the general elections, six months later, they totaled 714. “The left have failures, many, like everyone else in the world, but something that we have not been able to convey is that we are first-rate Spaniards just like the PP or Vox. explain that, within the republicanism that characterizes us, as long as the monarchy exists, our flag is the same as ours. And Vox, as it happens here in town, is taking over that flag and that thought as if you are not on the right You are not Spanish “, continues his analysis.
Q: The key to the rise of Vox, for you, is that Spanishism?
A: Not only. With different aspects. For example, to mention another case: hunting, an environmental issue badly exposed by Podemos and that generates rejection. Hunting is a heritage that is neither of the right nor of the left. Does it exist? Well today, that not all prey have a natural predator, we need to make a certain selection, because otherwise we cannot live together. It is an evil that humanity has created and that humanity must solve. Is hunting compatible with left-wing ideas? Well, it should be, because it is not one or the other. What is now frowned upon? You are right. But what about before? Our grandparents were hunters. Should we repudiate that? No, we must order it.
Q: What other mistakes do you think the left has made so that there is such a broad abstention that is now trying to mobilize?
A: Above all, internal disputes. There is a feeling that we are inefficient workers. People see that we are more to have the armchair than to work. And then there have been concrete failures. To explain it with another example: Pablo Iglesias has defended many good things, but he bought a villa that you shit. Do you have the right? Yes, of course. Why not? It would be more. Or does the left have to live in a shack? But at the moment of transmitting certain ideas by doing that he made a mistake. And the left is paying for it. Another example, something that Podemos and Iglesias also did, and I do not mean it as a pejorative criticism of him, but with all due respect: saying that politicians did not have to charge. What do you mean not? A problem that Spanish politicians have is that perhaps they charge little. And the few who can dedicate themselves to politics are people who have other incomes or from the right, and there are very good and highly trained people on the left who do not enter politics because of the income. We are paying for those mistakes that have been made. “If you are the same as the others,” they tell us all. It is not that we are equal or not, but some recklessness has been committed that should not have happened.
Facing the May 4 elections, Peña believes that the PP will obtain a good result in the town. In this left-wing municipality and where the More Madrid candidate, Mónica García, has a home and “good press,” as she says, the party went from governing to being the penultimate force in just eight years. But keeping the bars open, the mayor perceives that in Cercedilla it makes people think that the management of the community has been good. “Although they obviate that what the government has done is to save public aid. At bottom it is a political strategy, but they are confusing the population,” he says.
This reality also goes beyond the hoteliers in the area and applies to all residents. In Cercedilla, as the mayor says, they do not speak clearly of freedom, the slogan repeated and turned into the slogan of the popular candidate, but they do “creep” the idea. “Above all, that the communists come here to take away our freedom and rights and screw what we have achieved. It seems a lie, but people are not aware that freedom is guaranteed in Spain and that they are only, in reality , different opinions, “he adds. This moment of the conversation is when Peña is most exalted, with an unusual exaltation for these times. He keeps his voice extremely calm, but his eyes shine. His words confirm it. “That hurts me a lot … The right wing is championing that they are freedom. Damn! Something that cost us so much to get to the left and now they want to become owners of it. And from the left we don’t know how to respond. The first thing we We should do is recover the idea that those who defended freedom when it was really in danger were us and that this is not a problem of freedom. But that’s how it goes … “, he laments.
Peña, perhaps because he is not, is an atypical politician. Or because he was not, because he himself confesses that he does not know what will happen in two years. He says that he does not want to continue, that other people have to be given way and that being in politics for him is, above all, frustration because he is always left with the feeling that he could do more than he can. “Everyone in life would have to be mayor or president sometime or be close to understand that not everything is in your hands, that we depend on a lot of bureaucracy that makes it excessively difficult,” he explains. However, knowing what has happened in recent years, he does not dare to confirm that he will leave. But Peña is also that atypical politician because of his speech. Because of how he says, as natural as it is correct, “in politics you have to think a lot about what the rest think to know what I want.” For its self-criticism of the left and for the absence of direct attacks on other parties, of linked slogans and inflammatory terms. And because of how it explains, for example, the relationship that its city council has with the Ayuso government.
“It is a cordial relationship. We are two public entities and I understand that, as such, the first thing we owe each other, and that is something that fails a lot, is loyalty. And I, despite the ideas I may have, the first thing I am he is loyal to the community and to the state, “he says. He, as he continues, was chosen by some to rule for all. Hence, it will always have good relations with the community. Peña does not even try to make politics with this. “I cannot tell you how the government behaves with other towns that are of its kind,” he replied when asked if the municipalities of the PP have better treatment or better solutions. Neither does it with the management of the pandemic. “It could have been more demanding, provide more financial aid and not have such a high hand with the measures, have been more restrictive,” he says. But he believes that for the community, as well as for the State and municipalities, the pandemic has been something “very hard” that caught them by surprise. “Nobody helped us. But I did not accuse the community or the State because we all defended ourselves as best we could, like cats with belly up,” he says.
When Peña finally leaves the city hall, when he ceases to be the mayor and returns to being only the neighbor Luismi, he says that he will take, as the best of the experience, having had the trust of his people. The fact that they chose him because they believed that he was the person “chosen to be able to help them and be their guide.” That and the pride of reality today, which his older relatives never imagined, that humble people can also be mayors.