On Thursday, September 15, around nine in the morning, it was pouring rain in Madrid and an elderly woman with an umbrella, sitting on an old abandoned office chair, watched in the middle of a vacant lot as a bulldozer demolished her house made of flimsy materials.
The scene took place in the wasteland of Calle de Tiziano (Cuatro Caminos), a large urban void stranded in time and the complexities of justice after a scam occurred in the 1990s, in the context of the Compensation Board private PERI-Tiziano Dulcinea, which left a hundred residents homeless. Since then, the area that according to urban planning should be a green zone is a huge wasteland.
On Thursday morning, numerous vans of workers arrived at the site accompanied by the police and Samur Social. Days before, the ten inhabitants of a small settlement of four shacks had been notified that the dismantling would take place that day. As explained by the Security area of the City Council, the operation was due to a request from the Urban Discipline service “for the dismantling of an illegal settlement (shacks and a plot with various belongings)”.
The inhabitants of the slums tried to shelter from the rain under one of the wild aliantos. “We don’t have a house!” They yelled heartbreakingly in front of the agents, the municipal technicians and the police. Hours later, already in silence, some were still looking, leaning on the facade of the building opposite; others were already leaving the place carrying backpacks, overflowing shopping carts and wheeled suitcases.
The people who lived in the slums were mostly young, of Filipino origin. Before they were in a nearby abandoned building on Jaén street that they had to abandon in February, when a fire broke out and, even before, they had built the settlement in the adjoining vacant lot, on an abandoned garage that overlooks Teruel street, which is pustule of the same real estate scam. As explained by Social Services of the City Council to Somos Tetuán, the evicted people were attended by the Calle del Samur Social team. Although “at the moment they reject accommodation in the homeless care network, work is being done to locate all of them and be able to propose accommodation alternatives in said network.” The day after the eviction, several of these people are still around the vacant lot accompanied by their belongings.
After shoveling the shacks, it was the turn of the rest of the informal constructions that existed in the wasteland: the feline colony and a small urban garden. The cat colony is in an adjoining vacant lot, leaning on a party wall with the memory of an old house tattooed in the brick – the silhouette of a gabled roof and the concretions of what was the mortar of a demolished house, stamped on the Tetouan DNA–. Behind a metal fence, placed by the City Council itself at the time, some wooden boxes leaning against the wall served as a cat shelter and a homemade sign announced their presence.
In recent times, Tinín, a neighbor from the adjoining street, spent hours tidying up the space with plants and had even tiled some parts. He also placed things that he found, here and there, on the wall, from a dartboard to a mirror. A stuffed Pluto dog hanging from the fence seems to have watched over the neighbors since time immemorial.
One would think that these details humanizing corner, which many neighbors liked –although we suppose not all– led the workers to think that it was part of the settlement, but some eyewitnesses tell us that they were warned before they proceeded to raze it. The kittens, they explain, suddenly jumped onto the roof of the industrial warehouse that is a little below at the roar of the bulldozer.
The feline colonies serve to control the cat populations in the city. The City Council maintains a registry, the cats are sterilized and a series of collaborators authorized by the Consistory itself feed and care for the colony. This is also a registered colony, so Judit, caretaker of the colony, does not understand the destruction or why they have not been notified of anything.
“From what it seems, those from the Department of Urban Planning and those from Colonias Felinas should not have any coordination. There were only boxes for food and shelter, and the colony is declared… ”, he says. According to what he tells us, Judit has filed a complaint with the City Council and has asked those responsible for the neighborhoods if they share the locations with other municipal offices.
Finally, the mechanical shovel has attacked the urban garden, an area delimited by a colored fence built with pallets that lived through times of greater exuberance. The orchard was set up in its day by a group of neighbors, including many families from the nearby Los Gavilanes Municipal Nursery School. The site was too exposed – at night a lot of people pass through the open space – and, between the boredom due to the frequent damage caused and that the children of the save grew, the group dwindled until it disappeared. However, Cristina continued to go every day with her dogs to the wasteland and take care of the orchard. At this time, she says, she “had only planted the field of broad beans.”
As he knew of the eviction of his neighbors – who had placed their fragile structures wall to wall with the limit of the corralito –, it was early that morning. At first, she was calm because the order was about substandard housing. The police told her to wait for the municipal technician to arrive and, when he arrived, he told her and her dog to leave the premises. She was going to go all out. “I have already found another orchard, they have left me a key so that I can go whenever I want,” said the gardener, who has had much more friendly contacts with other municipal technicians over the last year, as she explains. The City Council, for its part, speaks of the eviction “of fences and various stockpiles of belongings and waste”, avoiding mentioning the word orchard.
After the destruction, the work continued. A day of debris removal to fill three construction containers. Throughout the day, the evicted older woman, referred to in the first paragraph, continued to watch from the same spot. And the next morning she was there again. That same night some voices will be heard again in the wasteland. During the day, the place gathers a more or less homogeneous peasantry. Strange intergenerational alliances between dog owners, unemployed people who stay forever in the gathering of Mondays in the sun some who play the guitar, kids at the time of pellas or photo sessions that want to be urban. But every night the voices come and go, different. If the gathering goes on, a cry of “silence!” from a window he wakes up the neighbors who had fallen asleep.
At dawn, Tiziano’s hole, a vacant lot that preserves the sidewalks, on whose sides there were houses; a plot of land almost on the banks of Bravo Murillo and in the shadow of the Picasso tower, presented an almost brushless appearance of misery that, without a doubt, will seek accommodation nearby again. That has not disappeared, it has only become less visible. There is no longer a limping orchard there either, and the cats, who on Thursday were wandering around nervously looking for their little houses, made room for themselves in the bushes. Tinín, paletina in hand, has already begun to refurbish the corner of the feline colony. Start again.