In 2005 ten families, nearly all elderly, squatted a block of flats in Seville demanding better housing. Now the local council is trying to evict some of them.
The “granny squatters” threatened with eviction in San Bernardo, Seville.
San Bernardo is a neighbourhood near the centre of Seville which used to be a working class barrio. It was the last place in the city to be subdued by the general Quiepo de Llano in July ´36, when the workers of Seville resisted the military coup and were crushed. Now San Bernardo is a gentrified, rich neighbourhood, but some of the original working class tenants are fighting to stay in their street by squatting an empty block.
Seville is a city which has seen a general rise in rents and house prices in the last few years, and with it speculation and harrassment of tenants. On paper tenants in Spain have much better protection than in England if their tenancies are from before 1982, so landlords often use violence or harrassment to get rid of them. This is what was happening to the abuelas of San Bernardo. Their flats were so badly maintained they were living with scaffold poles in the middle of the living room propping up the ceilings. One old woman said that sometimes she felt like just throwing herself down the stairs. Many tenants talked about wanting to live the few years they had left alive in peace and quiet and in a decent home. The landlord refused to give receipts for rent collected or didn´t collect the rent at all, hoping he could evict the tenants for nonpayment. These were the circumstances that led to the occupation. Five years ago the existence of a new block of council flats, in pristine condition but left empty for three years, came to the attention of the tenants. It took a long time to overcome the fears that the elderly people had but in the end they took the decision to squat the building collectively and demand rehousing or repairs, and an end to harrassment. On the 5th of June 2005 young squatters and supporters gained entry to the building and the ten families moved in to the block and took possesion. They spent the night huddled in their cardigans in the patio. The next day the police arrived. They pushed and manhandled frail old people. The street filled up with supporters and tv cameras. The police stopped people bringing in any food, which got quite serious at one point. The squatters held out and in the end the police left and the squatters stayed. The food blockade was lifted and there was a phase of to and fro negotiations with the council when the council made several agreements and then broke them. The abuelas have been in occupation ever since and have been strong participants in the housing movement in the city, for example in the federation Barrios en Lucha, and always turn out to support other people in housing struggles.
The current situation is that four families have been given contracts by the council, one are in negotiations, one has returned to the original flat which has been repaired, and this leaves four households in a limbo. The council is now taking two of them to court this month to evict them. The abuelas are seen in Seville as a symbol of struggle and people care about them so there will be a lot of resistance to these evictions.