Spain cave-dwellers resist evictions

Fermin A.F/Flikr

By Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America / Dec. 14, 2013

A community of cave-dwellers in Spain who resisted eviction earlier this week said Saturday that claims about their residences being unsafe are only an excuse to throw them out – and that some of them have nowhere else to go.

The furnished, ecletically decorated caves, located on the San Miguel hillside overlooking Granada, have panoramic views of Alhambra, a historic 14th-century palace and major tourist attraction.

San Miguel is the site of one of the four main cave neighborhoods in southern Spain. According to some accounts, for hundreds of years the caves carved out of the hillside have been home to Roma people and homeless settlers.

Today – especially since the global recession and austerity measures in Spain – the caves have attracted dozens of young people, artists and the unemployed.

Granada’s city council, which claims the caves are unsafe, calls the residents squatters and says it has the authority to evict the residents because the caves are on municipal land.

The eviction, planned for Tuesday, failed after at least 200 protesters set up a human blockade, local media reported.

Demonstrators, including activists from “Stop Evictions,” a housing rights organization, chanted, “The only ruin that threatens us is to stay homeless,” and, “The caves are not bought or sold.”

It was the city’s third attempt in six years to evict residents. Authorities managed to seal several homes in 2007.

Stop Evictions spokesman Antonio Redondo rejected the eviction plans and called on the city to restore the area, which he said has an important historic heritage.

“It’s more dangerous to leave families in the street in the middle of winter,” Redondo said according to Spanish news website Terrcera Informacion. “People have spent more than three years living in the caves and nothing has happened.”

On Thursday, Granada’s city council proposed providing public housing to the cave dwellers.

Granada city authorities have said the caves are in ruins, but residents maintain they are safe. Some of the cave-dwellers allege that the city wants to get rid of them in order to build an expensive resort.

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