He arrives at the plaza and everything opens up. Everything murmurs. Everything flaps. Everything shakes. But, at the same time, everything stops. At that time it is better to shut up the noise and know how to listen in the silence. The still photo of the square informs, communicates, transmits, inspires, shapes. Speak and listen. The entire group of people who complete the landscape and create it at the same time are living individually, alone or with others, but there is a group that is only drawn by uniting everything and carefully observing the whole.
The square as a place of meeting and disagreement. Arrival and farewell, but always knowing that what wins is arriving. Sit and watch.
When I arrive at a square I always feel that different opportunities and possibilities open up before my eyes to choose from. The square lives and has life. When you sit down, on a wooden or stone bench, or perhaps on a terrace, everything revolves around everyone and oneself. Because each man, woman, have their leading role. Also the children who absorb watching what happens in the square or playing. Everyone has something to do and say. While I write I think of a stage but no, the square is not a stage, because what prevails is what each one is. No costumes. The plaza entails reality, being yourself.
The arcaded squares with their arcades are special. With its columns, with its shelter. You can also sit in the center, on the free floor that you find for yourself, to think and live a little of the existence given by all those who share time in the same place; that time, those hours. You also give away part of yourself because you can also be observed.
For everything, I insert the square in my thoughts as a meeting place and I link it to what a Parliament is and means. Even a hemicycle is an arrival that contains in its form and in its mission a square.
In Athens, Syntagma Square, Constitution Square, brings together elements that invoke the cradle of democracy. History and also stories of all the people who have been there at some point. In the upper part, the Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier dominate the square. The National Guard continuously guards the tomb, the evzones are dressed in their fustanela uniforms and clogs. The square is flanked by texts of the Oration or funeral speech of Pericles collected by the historian Thucydides in the account of his History of the Peloponnesian War. I move to the Athenian polis and its Agora and I think that Politics follows one another down the river of History with us, the citizens, as protagonists of our own destiny. I don't believe in destiny as such, but I do believe in working the land, sailing the seas and making the way. And squares.
The square receives and recreates a space where streets converge. For this reason, I believe that political parties should always walk and work towards and for the plaza. The squares are usually located in the center of towns and cities. They are all center because lives, dreams, paths flow into them. “Our lives are the rivers that flow into the sea”, Jorge Manrique told us in Coplas about the death of his father.
But I want to return to the hectic, rowdy life, also stealthy if we look at it closely, that the squares hide and show. When discovering one, even if you know it there is always a discovery when reaching its space, it is important to observe and listen for a few seconds. It is true that what usually greets us is the color, the commotion, the hubbub, but, to really listen and understand the square, we have to abstract ourselves from the noise and immerse ourselves in its silence.
There are people who come looking for something or someone. Others for them to look for or find. They all come to find themselves.
Politicians are citizens too. Sometimes we forget, or even they forget. Hopefully they are in a square, in the center, with a display of streets through which to choose to come and go, also to go out. A square in which the veins that give it life form the backbone of a constitutional policy that preserves and creates at the same time.
Pericles, in his speech, unfolded a foundational text that survives adapting to the times. A living political reflection that encourages the possibilities of man and his ability to build.
The squares are built to be lived in and to configure a place to share, of arrival and departure understood as paths to choose from. They evoke freedom to continue, within the orderly framework of our democracy and our constitutional power. Spain and the European Union always need a brave project to build and take care of a square, the EU is. The citizen is tired and politics needs to become politics. We cannot faint.
Susana del Rio
European Union expert
Tribune originally published in THE MAIL