José María González ‘Kichi’: two terms under the sign of the anarchist mayor Salvochea

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The image of José María González, kichi, in the City Hall of Cádiz in mid-June 2015 while offering the baton to the crowd gathered in the square is iconic. It marked the end of the omnipresence of Teófila Martínez (PP) –mayor for 20 years–, who was run over by the easterly wind of 15-M.

The levantera of the squares and the impulse of illusion and desire for reform and also for revolution of the first Podemos he took a teacher, trade unionist and comparsista in air to an office “bigger than his house”. In it, shortly after arriving, Kichi removed the photo of the king, then Juan Carlos I, who had his predecessor, and placed one of Fermín Salvochea, an anarchist reference, who was mayor of Cádiz in 1873, during the First Republic.

“Several times I have remembered myself rehearsing that quatrain by Los Mendas Lerendas, the one that said If I were mayor of Cádiz…” [sería como Salvochea], says Kichi in the video with which he decided this Wednesday to announce his farewell, which had been taken for granted for months in all the political gossips in Andalusia. In 2008, seven years before being elected mayor, Kichi sang those verses while holding a crude pipe as if it were an alderman’s staff.

Kichi has thus been a mayor who has governed under the sign of Salvochea. This was indicated to him by the comparsa of his friend Juan Carlos Bienvenida the same night that he learned that he would be mayor of Cádiz –“If I were mayor of Cádiz, I would be a mayor like Salvochea“, he sang to him at that time imitating his own creation– and so, following the example of the anarchist, he has tried to leave.

The figure of Salvochea –the anarchist ended up giving up family possessions and decided to lead a life far from material luxuries– has remained in the memory of a part of the people of Cádiz as that of a good man: his burial in 1907 was massive and in it “the attendees insisted on carrying the box and people were seen both wearing tailcoats and morning coats as well as work blouses”, according to the chronicle of the Diario de Cádiz.

The word

In this years, Kichi, who began his first term going, as one more activist, to stop an eviction, gradually tamed himself in the forms: he wore a tie on occasion, he also used an official car and, two years after becoming mayor, he was awarded the Gold Medal of Cádiz to the Virgen del Rosario, patron saint of the city, after receiving 6,000 signatures for him to do it.

Although “what has been lived, what has been learned, what has been achieved” have changed it –”I am aware that I will never be able to sing that quatrain by Los Mendas Lerendas again, like that kid from the comparsa that I was“, he says in the farewell video–, beyond the ways and means of doing politics – the foam of the days, the contradictions inherent in exercising power and the obligations of a mayor are inescapable–, the essence of the Kichi of 15-M and that of the Kichi mayor, in the field of personal ethics, remains the same: “To represent the people you have to live like the people. Not professionalizing myself, not enriching myself were compromises.”

“The value of the given word [es un valor] almost revolutionary”, considers the mayor. Kichi, when he arrived, promised to be eight years and has complied. The mayor has also been donating between 40% and 47% of his salary to social causes, to stay with an assignment similar to that of a high school teacher. In August 2021, she had donated almost 100,000 euros.

Criticisms and contradictions

In his farewell video, Kichi apologizes for his mistakes, but doesn’t specify them. In this time it has received all kinds of criticism from many sectors. The traditional powers have attacked him by land, sea and air, in the courts and out of them. The PSOE, which supported his arrival at the City Council – otherwise, not doing so would have meant that Teófila Martínez would continue as mayor – has also had a hard time with him and, of course, the right wing declared him number one public objective.

His entrances and exits were the fodder of gossip and the subject of scathing criticism. He hasn’t hidden from his neighbors either and he has tried to live with a minimum of coherence and in accordance with his values, sharing tasks and care at home and outside of it. For example, one could easily find him with his daughters in a plaza in La Viña, the neighborhood where he lives.

Taking into account Kichi’s links with the Cádiz carnival and with Salvochea, no criticism has resonated as much as the one made to him in a paso doble a few months ago by the prestigious author Martínez Ares. In the letter he called him a “tyrant” “without projects” and finished: “I’m sorry, you don’t know how sorry I am, you are not, not even wanting to, my Salvochea”.

Kichi replied: “Carnival is counterpower, it is critical, it has always been that way and it should continue to be that way.. A mayor has to shut his mouth when a poet from Cádiz speaks and that is what I am going to do”.

One of the issues that has generated, in addition to criticism from locals and strangers, deep contradictions at this time -in addition to the city’s medal to the patron saint of Cádiz- has been the workload for the Shipyards, which, among other things have made warships for Saudi Arabia, something that Kichi, despite everything, has defended. “It is very painful when human rights collide with other rights, such as the whistles of the pots blowing in the houses of the people of Cádiz“.

The mayor has repeatedly argued that the City Council has no jurisdiction over what is built or not and that the The Government of Spain must seek a model for the shipyards “that does not depend on the military industry“. Kichi has always supported the establishment of the industry in the region, for this reason he has clashed with the Andalusian and state governments. He has also come to support the strikes that have been taking place.

Kichi is today a member of Adelante Andalucía, a newly created sovereignist party, whose spokesperson is Teresa Rodríguez, and has been governing in Cádiz with councilors from other parties with whom bridges have been broken on other scales. In these relationships, there are two turning points, the break with Pablo Iglesias and the expulsion of Teresa Rodríguez, after she left the leadership of Podemos Andalucía, and several deputies today in Adelante from the parliamentary group that they shared with IU and Podemos. This has also partly marked the local dynamics.

Depending on who is asked about his facts and his political work, there will be different answers. There are those who believe that it has failed, there are those who believe that Cádiz is still stagnant, there are those who think that the balance is very good. He stays from his job, as he affirms in his farewell video, with the management of public money, with social spending, with the increase in the public housing stock, with the fact that no one is cut off from basic supplies and with the fight against bookmakers and the “Pandemic” of tourist flats.

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