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Why Barcelona's Ada Colau Is The World's Most Badass Mayor

Is your city run by a feminist and former activist who used to get arrested by riot police?

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On 24 May 2015, Ada Colau was elected mayor of Barcelona, becoming the Spanish city's first female mayor.

Her party, BComú, was the first new party to gain power in the city in 35 years.
Emilio Morenatti / AP

Her party, BComú, was the first new party to gain power in the city in 35 years.

Her rise is part of a broader phenomenon Spanish people are calling la nueva politica - the new politics.

The leftwing party Podemos - for whom Colau is campaigning - is predicted to do well in Spain general election this weekend, despite only being founded in 2014. (The above quote comes from this interview in Democracy Now).
Facebook: ada.colau

The leftwing party Podemos - for whom Colau is campaigning - is predicted to do well in Spain general election this weekend, despite only being founded in 2014.

(The above quote comes from this interview in Democracy Now).

During the mayoral campaign, Colau had promised to tackle the city's housing crisis, and hold the banking industry accountable for its part in causing it.

Thousands of people in Barcelona - and an estimated 400,000 across Spain - had been made homeless since the financial crisis, thanks to a system whereby people are evicted, and their homes repossessed, when they fall behind with their mortgage payments.
Facebook: ada.colau

Thousands of people in Barcelona - and an estimated 400,000 across Spain - had been made homeless since the financial crisis, thanks to a system whereby people are evicted, and their homes repossessed, when they fall behind with their mortgage payments.

Voters could see these campaign promises were sincere - because, prior to running for office, Colau had been a prominent anti-eviction activist.

This is her being carried away by riot police officers after occupying a bank in July 2013. The bank had evicted a family, refusing to negotiate with them.
Emilio Morenatti / AP

This is her being carried away by riot police officers after occupying a bank in July 2013. The bank had evicted a family, refusing to negotiate with them.

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Her involvement in protests led to her being arrested a number of times.

Paco Serinelli / AP

In 2013 she caused a sensation when she said of a high-ranking banker during a televised hearing on the housing crisis: “This man is a criminal, and should be treated as such."

Blaming the banking industry for the wave of foreclosures that had left millions of Spanish homes lying empty, she became visibly emotional and said: "He is not an expert. The representatives of financial institutions have caused this problem; they are the same people who have caused the problem that has ruined the entire economy of this country – and you keep calling them experts.”
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Blaming the banking industry for the wave of foreclosures that had left millions of Spanish homes lying empty, she became visibly emotional and said:

"He is not an expert. The representatives of financial institutions have caused this problem; they are the same people who have caused the problem that has ruined the entire economy of this country – and you keep calling them experts.”

The chair of the committee asked her to retract her “very serious offences”. She refused.

After taking office in 2015, she set about translating her radical instincts into action.

Among her first actions as Mayor were to slash her own salary, fine banks who owned vacant property, and to spend a night on the streets of Barcelona with a homelessness charity.
Andrea Ciambra / Via Flickr: tchacky

Among her first actions as Mayor were to slash her own salary, fine banks who owned vacant property, and to spend a night on the streets of Barcelona with a homelessness charity.

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Not everyone has been supportive. Spanish politics can be deeply sexist - earlier this year a rival politician said Colau "ought to be mopping floors" instead of running the city.

But, far from being cowed, Colau calls sexism out at every opportunity.

La situació a Cat donarà per debatre molt. El q requereix reacció immediata és un rebuig absolut als atacs masclistes contra dones d la CUP

"What requires immediate reaction is an absolute rejection of sexist attacks against women of the [political party] CUP."

And when a local councillor proposed a national día del machote - or "day of real masculinity" - she shot back with a masterful subtweet.

"Some would seek to celebrate a day of the big man. We, on the other hand, wish to put nurture and care in the centre of politics, to improve the lives of men and women. On June 26 [the day of the general election], you choose."
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"Some would seek to celebrate a day of the big man. We, on the other hand, wish to put nurture and care in the centre of politics, to improve the lives of men and women. On June 26 [the day of the general election], you choose."

Moreover, she doesn't take herself too seriously. She recorded a rumba song, El Run Run, as part of her election campaign.

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Have a listen. It's really cute.

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A former drama student, she once starred in a sitcom.

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It was called Dos + una and it aired in 2001.

She even dressed up as a superhero to protest housing policy in 2007.

Plus she's a passionate and emotive public speaker, with a knack for saying things that connect with voters on a gut level. Like this:

Emilio Morenatti / AP / Via democracynow.org

And this.

Emilio Morenatti / AP / Via democracynow.org

And this.

So, kudos, Ada Colau. The world's politicians can learn a lot from you.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti