Wednesday, January 13, 2010

El Patio Se Queda

Last week the police closed off several streets in the centre of Madrid for a special operation. No, it was nothing to do with terrorism or even anything that remotely affected the safety or lives of the vast majority of Madrileños. The big police operation was solely to remove the squatters from a building in the Calle de Acuerdo that had been left empty for years. El Patio de Maravillas was not just a squat for people to live, it housed workshops in languages or bicycle maintenance, offered legal advice services and staged numerous cultural events over the last couple of years. In other words, it made good use of a building that had been left empty for years by its owner and which now may well be empty again until Madrid's ever generous administration permits its demolition for speculative construction purposes. The owner, you will be amazed to hear, is of course a long standing member of the PP who, even more amazingly, is involved already in what could be described as some legally questionable activities related to construction projects.

The occupants of the Patio and their supporters accepted the expulsion, they had little choice given such a massive display of force. However, it didn't take long for them to find a new home with another decaying, unused, building in the nearby Calle del Pez. The Patio continues and represents a movement in favour of a model that finds social uses for buildings where the owner desires nothing more than a demolition order and a subsequent "pelotazo". Madrid is not short of such buildings, there is one in my street that has been empty since I arrived and probably for years before. Anyway, that's enough about Madrid, what about the situation in Valencia?

The barrio of Cabanyal is one of the most traditional in Valencia, and for that reason alone it must have the heart ripped out of it. The Valencian administration wants to make a huge hole in the Cabanyal so that they can extend a broad avenue all the way to the sea. Their argument is that Valencians need "access" to the beach and in their view of the world no sane Valencian would go down to the sea without a broad new road where they can drive their broad new car. Also, incidentally of course, some nice new 5-6 storey blocks of flats can be built by the usual suspects to replace all of those ugly old low buildings. The residents of the barrio didn't agree with the plan and the national Culture Ministry agreed with them by blocking it. The response from the Valencian regional government didn't take long, Mr Camps put on his best suit and an emergency session was convened to change the local legislation protecting buildings of cultural interest so that they can be demolished more easily. Truly an administration that thinks of nothing except the well-being of those who so generously support it.

No comments: