Society

Seville: Dance Classes in the Time Bank

Article published on July 21, 2014
Article published on July 21, 2014

The Tri­ana dis­trict in Seville is al­legedly the cra­dle of fla­menco. Today, peo­ple are tak­ing dance classes here in a bank. In the time bank, ser­vices are ex­changed for oth­ers. I vis­ited the bank in Seville to see whether it works and I didn't have to bring any money to do so. 

Every Thurs­day night in the Cen­tro Cívico of Tri­ana, peo­ple meet in the 'Banco del Tiempo' (Time bank — Ed.). The meet­ing spot in the Cen­tro Cívico is rel­a­tively new, so it's rather quiet and empty when we con­duct our in­ter­view, at least in the as­sem­bly room. In the room next door, music is paired with clap­ping and stamp­ing — there, a sevil­lanas music and dance class for se­niors is tak­ing place.

Be­gin­nings in the protest move­ment

Eva Marino, one of the founders of the Banco del Tiempo, re­counts its be­gin­nings and its in­cep­tion. Peo­ple gath­ered to­gether in the con­text of Movimiento 15M, the Span­ish protest move­ment of May 15, 2011. After the first wave, smaller com­mit­tees met spo­rad­i­cally. Eco­nomic al­ter­na­tives were con­sid­ered and dis­cussed; out of that even­tu­ally emerged the idea of cre­ating a time bank. They wanted to im­ple­ment some­thing con­crete, to de­velop some­thing that ac­tu­ally helps oth­ers. 

The con­cept is sim­ple: trade one hour of ser­vices against one hour of an­other ser­vice — a fair com­pen­sa­tion. Here it re­volves around stand­ing in sol­i­dar­ity with each other above all, not eco­nomic ex­ploita­tion. The goal is for peo­ple to sup­port each other in times of cri­sis. Not every­one has money, but every­one has some kind of skill, some­thing they can offer oth­ers in ex­change for a skill they may not have. It is clas­si­fied as mu­tual help. Con­tin­ued ed­u­ca­tion, work­shops, classes; lan­guage ex­changes in par­tic­u­lar are in high de­mand, but also help around the house, es­cort ser­vices for hand­i­capped per­sons, trans­la­tion work, sewing, hair­cuts and more. 

There's a web­site where you can learn more and reg­is­ter. Cur­rently, around 160 peo­ple are reg­is­tered at the Banco del Tiempo. In the be­gin­ning, it was only around 70. The con­cept is in de­mand, and aside from the gains from mu­tual out­put, such an ex­change serves as a bea­con of hope — and maybe even as ther­apy. You get the feel­ing that oth­ers are there for you, that you'll be helped and that you your­self can help. This in­creases self-es­teem.

For some time now, the ex­change has also taken place be­tween dif­fer­ent groups. A gui­tar class with six stu­dents prac­tices one hour every week. Each stu­dent pays with one hour of a ser­vice in re­turn. 

Even the founder doubts whether an al­ter­na­tive sys­tem with­out the use of money can last on a large scale and within a cap­i­tal­is­tic sys­tem. It works great on a small scale, but on the large scale things get con­sid­er­ably more com­pli­cated. 

FLA­MENCO WAS ALSO BORN HERE

Co­op­er­a­tion with other time banks has been non ex­is­tent up until now, with the ex­cep­tion of one case. It seems fea­si­ble to re­ally de­velop this whole thing. But for now, they're going to first con­cen­trate on Seville. They en­vis­age trans­form­ing so­cial ser­vices fol­low­ing the same con­cept, such as the care of the el­derly, or help with schools and fa­cil­i­ties for chil­dren. For the time being, there hasn't been any sup­port from the gov­ern­ment for the ini­tia­tives of the Banco del Tiempo. Eva Marino sees Tri­ana as being the per­fect place for the head­quar­ters of the time bank — not only was fla­menco also born here, but peo­ple gather here who are in­ter­ested in al­ter­na­tives, in ex­change, in co­op­er­a­tion.             

I my­self live as a Ger­man expat in Barcelona and know how sparse the num­ber of jobs and pro­por­tion­ate salaries are. I be­long to those who are also try­ing to find a way to live in and with this sit­u­a­tion, to some­how make the best of it. I knew of many al­ter­na­tive move­ments, but until now I had never heard of a time bank. The Banco del Tiempo model can also be found in Barcelona. In Spain, the sym­bol of the times is the bank of time. 

This ar­ti­cle is part of a spe­cial se­ries de­voted to seville. It's part of eu-topia: time to vote, a pro­ject run by cafébabel in part­ner­ship with the hip­pocrène foun­da­tion, the eu­ro­pean com­mis­sion, the min­istry of for­eign af­fairs and the evens foun­da­tion.