The ‘residents’ of a Spanish housing estate fight eviction

Written by By Pilar Martinez, CNN There is no room for error in the battle against evictions. You never know when a job, a home, a social status could be stripped away just to…

The 'residents' of a Spanish housing estate fight eviction

Written by By Pilar Martinez, CNN

There is no room for error in the battle against evictions. You never know when a job, a home, a social status could be stripped away just to make a buck.

Tenants have been demanding rent control since the height of the Spanish housing crisis in 2013. But landlords have been fighting hard against such legislation ever since.

As of November 2017, over 13% of Spain’s population live in “urgent physical or legal danger of losing their home,” according to the national government. About a third of these families, according to the statistics, are living in settlements — informal, DIY property ownership structures that the occupiers own without legally registering their ownership. The disputes are currently taking place in municipalities in the east of the country.

By taking out 10-year mortgages, most local authorities are also supporting landlords who want to increase rents in these settlements.

Speaking at the Ralli Festiva, a festival dedicated to the history of street politics, Ana, a 26-year-old artist living in Casanura, told CNN: “Now that the national government has increased support to municipalities that are operating in the territories of urban precariousness, and helped them create this handy bureacue for the landlords, (this has) exacerbated the problem, as far as we are concerned.”

This increase in support has led to increased racist attacks against residents of these informal, informal settlements, since the neighborhood was successfully re-incorporated into the city, with all of its tenants returning after the authorities removed many illegal, illegal buildings.

In the late 1970s, the community’s city residency had been wiped out due to dozens of illegal buildings that had been demolished. The local authorities stripped the building materials from them without keeping any documentation, leaving residents with absolutely no residence and needing to find permanent homes.

A message of protest from Casanura. Credit: Ana Toro

The only way that these families had to maintain their dignity was to find a new home through self-managed property projects, and there was a minority of residents that had already used the collective method.

In 2016, a veteran soldier had returned to Casanura to find out what his memories were like from there. He was the first to bring the idea of this project to the Spanish artist and sociologist Angel Cuitus.

“This city is shifting between certain values and extreme poverty. This is a time when Madrid is being rebuilt, and new values emerge.” Angel said.

At the end of 2017, the author and historian Laura Marda imagined a project that would document the stories of the Casanura community and see what they had to say.

Through traditional self-managing housing, the group had managed to rebuild the skyline of the town after its degradation. They knew that these stories should not be lost in the national or international perception of a wealthy, reserved community. They wanted their inhabitants to tell their stories, rather than being reflected in other artworks.

Using posters, stickers, a map, an audio-visual exhibition and a map showing how the Casanura community had rebuilt the city, their documentary has been running for five months now. It aims to defend the honor and dignity of the Casanura community, and to put an end to the evictions taking place at their doorsteps.

The film is currently showing at Casanura’s old women’s cooperative, a building on the town’s outskirts that was completely demolished due to back-to-back development between 1920 and 2018.

Soon after it was vacated, the communal member — Lucia — passed away at the age of 94, leaving behind the knowledge of how to live peacefully without political slogans and the controversial extra-legal aspects of social construction.

The return of local celebrities has led to a sense of nostalgia, and the need to re-establish a sense of belonging. “Locals who do not live at Casanura, those of the neighboring towns — and those who do not want to live here — I think that they, in their thinking, take away an obligation that we have to keep moving forward to preserve these values of peace and stability,” Laura said.

This desire to make the Casanura community its own is motivating the revolutionary objective that comes from trying to “maintain the structure of this particular municipality.”

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