Sunday, 30 November 2008
Director: Andrés Rubio.
Editing: Daniel Ramo.
When, in July 2005, the Spanish parliament finally passed the law which granted the right to marry to homosexual couples, the battle for equality was still far from over. With the Catholic church at the helm of the opposition, mayors and civil registrars in several major Spanish cities refused to implement the new law claiming freedom of conscience which, of course, was nothing more than plain old religious bigotry. At the same time, Francisco Maroto, the mayor of Campillo de Ranas, a village of about 50 inhabitants deep in the mountains of Guadalajara north of Madrid, stepped forward and said that everyone was welcome to be wed in his town hall. Since then, Campillo de Ranas has not only become somewhat of a gay wedding Las Vegas but also substantially revived its economy.
„Campillo Yes, I Do” takes us on a journey to a picturesque village set in an area which has experienced decades of stagnation and decay. Unable to find work or create any meaningful existence for themselves, people born and raised here fled to the cities or other, more prosperous regions. It was therefore a radical decision on Francisco Maroto’s part when he decided to leave his native Madrid and settle as a beekeeper in this remote countryside area. It should also be mentioned here that Francisco is himself gay and being gay outside of the big cities in Spain is usually as difficult as in most other countries. Being a lot younger than most of his new neighbours and full of energy, he ran for Mayor in 2003 and got himself elected to manage the local community which in this case was an unpaid job. But soon enough his rural adventure took a dramatic turn and he found himself at the centre of attention of the whole country’s media when he publicly announced that all those same-sex couples turned down in other places could come and be wed in his tiny village. It was a bold step in a rural community whose most precious building was an old stone church in need of repair. When he came back to his office after the announcement had been made, he saw that there were 18 messages on his answering machine. He really had to pull himself together to listen to them, expecting the worst kind of verbal abuse and threats from neo-nazis and their like. To his great relief, every single message expressed support for his brave actions and wished him luck. Also, on the day of the first same-sex wedding, almost the whole community, mostly elderly people, showed up at the town hall to protect their mayor since they also expected protesters. Only no protesters came.
„Campillo Yes, I Do” doesn’t just take us on a journey to a picturesque Spanish village. In a sense, it takes us to a different world. A new world. A world of tolerance and acceptance. Utopia, if you like, where villagers go in their weekly Catholic processions carrying a statue of Virgin Mary on their shoulders and then later greet the newlywed gay and lesbian couples with the same sense of joy and pride in their local community. Yes, it does sound like utopia. Only in this case it’s real – Campillo de Ranas is an actual village in an actual country. So, how can it be?
I once asked a Spanish gay rights activist how come Spain, a country which is still perceived as one of the strongholds of the Catholic church, has introduced the institution of same-sex marriage and how come there hasn’t been a counter-revolution yet, especially seen as 80% of the population consider themselves Catholic? To which he replied that much of the explanation had to be sought in Spain’s turbulent past. During the many decades of Franco’s dictatorship the local Catholic church discredited itself in the eyes of many a Spaniard by actively and willingly co-operating with the oppressing regime. Therefore the words of the church carry a lot less weight here than in, say, Italy. Associating oneself with a particular religion is often just a question of tradition. And it doesn’t automatically entail following the words of that religion’s self-appointed representatives blindly. A nationwide poll conducted around the time the law was passed showed that 66% of the population supported it and roughly 50% of the population also supported the rights of homosexual couples to adopt children. I guess this is as far as a self-proclaimed Catholic country can veer from the official Vatican dogma and it’s nothing short of impressive. When the Spanish people were liberated from the yoke of Franco’s regime, a great majority of them embraced the free world and its diversity with an enthusiasm and passion only rivalled by flamenco. And just as Campillo de Ranas saw a boom in its hospitality business with old taverns and inns re-opened and new ones added, the whole country, too, has blossomed economically in the past decades. And it’s just self-evident that there is a direct connection.
It might be needless to add that Francisco Maroto was re-elected as Mayor in 2007 with an absolute majority of votes. It is also somewhat ironic that the old church has now had the necessary repairs as a result of the village's new niche in the wedding industry.
Andrés Rubio’s first documentary is a powerful testimony to the virtues of love and tolerance, mutual respect and acceptance. A world devoid of bigotry and imagined divisions is also a prosperous one. The only thing that remains to be said is - ¡Viva Campillo! And I’m absolutely certain that if Jesus ever existed, he would have thrived here unconditionally!
Here you can watch a short fragment from the film