Clowns & Protests

When you watch a TV series and miss several parts of it, you feel kind of lost – what happened in between? This is how I felt trying to catch up with what is going on here.

“Are you coming to the demonstration?”, Jaione asked. I was reluctant.

“All clowns are taking part in it, it is organised by Porrotx.”

My jaws dropped. What is happening here now? Porrotx was on the list of people I wanted to make interviews with. The MAIN BASQUE CLOWN.

The story goes like this.

There would be demonstrations demanding bringing back the prisoners at least a little bit closer to the homes of their relatives, as the international law for prisoners requires. Now they are being held as far as possible. The Spanish government seems to be taking pleasure in a revenge of some sort, even if the object of hate has already vanished, which was ETA. But things are not as they seem to be, Spanish government seems to need ETA and seems to desperately need any excuses to demonise Basque society. So even if the arms are down, Spanish government is still fighting in its dark ways and methods by not complying to international law of prisoners and still applying draconic Aznar era laws which means that for burning a trash container you might get 12 years of prison.

I got already used to these demonstrations, seemed like business as usual – thousands of people marching, no reporting in the news and no reaction from the government. Almost all the walls bear a sign here – EUSKAL PRESOAK ETXERA (Basque prisoners – back home). But this demonstration was a certain surprise. First of all the cause of it and then – the method.

There is a prisoner Sara Majarenas who was condemned as being part of ETA for 13 years. She already accomplished 3/4 of her time in prison. Usually prisoners get the chance to move from the first grade prison (which is the most restricted one) to the third grade, which presents a lighter form of conditional imprisonment. In this case the usual practice was not applied to Sara, since she was connected to ETA and the revenge of Spanish government is great.

However, Sara happens to have a child of 3 years. After 3 years children have to be released from the prison. At the same time they are separated from their mothers, which is painful for both. Now, in this case the story does not stop here. The daughter was brought to her grandparents. But somehow her father has gotten hands on her and tried to kill her as a matter of revenge for her mother.

Questions marks and exclamation marks appeared wildly mixed in my mind.

So, the Basque society got alarmed. The child was in danger, mother was in prison. What to do?

Then the main clown of the country, Porrotx, a figure known to every child in Basque country and Catalonia has come to idea to make a different type of demonstration. He called thus for a party. So today, samba drumming, clowns, children with star shaped balloons (the name of the small girl was Izar, which means “a star”), and thousands of parents, pregnant women, youngsters and elder ones came to a huge event requesting the authorities to allow mother to be with her daughter.

Porrotx flying his flag with wild coloured stripes, singing children songs that everybody small and big knew, marching though the streets of Donosti on the first warm spring evening, the skies in beautiful dark blue, the yellow lanterns of Donosti.

When everybody gathered at the stage, the good news was proclaimed – today the decision has been changed and mother can be united with her daughter.


Never underestimate the power of clowns. Porrotx is the real political player here you will not read in any newspaper abroad.

You would say – this is a total manipulation of children. That was also my first thought. But the second thought – all education is manipulation. If the other side – Spanish government was alright, then desperate Basque leftists would not have to bring their children to celebrate that kind of sad occasions. I imagine some children’s animation movies where Native Americans teach their children to resist the white colonialists and am sure it would squeeze a tear out of anybody. (Just watch Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron to get the idea).

It was a very peaceful and even funny protest. I guess Basque society should be given credit for resisting with just balloons.

Here is an article in Spanish on the matter, ignoring the balloons and the clowns:


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