I moved to Spain in the middle of the Great Recession. I lived and taught English in Triana, an old neighborhood of Seville on the western bank of the Guadalquivir River. I’d often cross the bridge, venture into the Casco Antiguo, and wander through the old streets of Seville until I’d arrive at the Metropol Parasol. Still under construction at that point, I often wondered what it would be like to walk under its latticed shadow when it was finished.
The Metropol Parasol, which we called Las Setas (the mushrooms), opened to the public in April 2011. It became a meeting point for me and my friends. “Meet me at the Mushrooms,” I’d say and, at the appointed time, I’d find my friends somewhere on its elevated Plaza Mayor or seated on the steps leading up to it. From there, we’d disappear down Calle Regina, stopping at bars to drink and nibble our way to the Alameda de Hércules.
Yet no sooner had the Mushrooms opened than they also became a popular gathering site for protest. In the weeks before they opened, anti-austerity and “real democracy” protests marched through Seville—down Avenida de la Constitución, in Plaza Nueva, along Calle Tetuán, and around the Alameda de Hércules. Now, however, the young and disgruntled began gathering under the shade of the Metropol Parasol.
The Setas became a focal point for the 15-M Movement. As protestors in Madrid squatted in the Plaza del Sol, Sevillano picketers gathered under the shade of the parasol. Makeshift libraries, clinics, and kitchens sprang up on Plaza Mayor, which transformed into Plaza 15 de Mayo.