Sun, 31 Jan 2010


Today, I was glad to attend the biggest demonstration ever in favour of the Cabanyal neighbourhood of València, a traditional district populated by the sea people of the city. After decades of oblivion, the Valencian right-wing government is trying to execute an old plan to “open Valencia to the sea”, which means demolishing around 450 traditional houses, many of them under protection for their cultural and architectural value, to extend a big avenue until the beach. Patrimonial loss aside, neighbours would be forced to other areas in the city (sadly, this has been happening for a decade already), making Cabanyal-Canyamelar the new posh neighbourhood for the richer class, destroying its identity and replacing it with a new set of skyscrapers.

The local government of PP, led by the infamous Rita Barberá, knows that getting the anti-riot police in the neighbourhood and forcing very old men and women out of the houses where they were born isn't what many people like to see in the evening news. They also know time is their ally; this plan is many decades old, and there's no need to hurry now, so it's better to apply silent mafia tactics on the problem. It's very easy.

First, stop investing a single euro in the area and monitor the slow but effective results of the degradation. Have a bit of patience, and after quite a few years, start promoting the illegal occupation of the increasing number of empty houses by marginal collectives which will bring the associated introduction of drug dealing in the area. This will surely make even more people leave or accelerate their decease. Keep repeating this process, until the Cabanyal is really fucked up. Now, start promoting the “rehabilitation plan”, which unavoidably includes splitting the neighbourhood in two pieces, and destroying a substantial part of it. Hopefully, many of the neighbours not directly affected by the demolitions will back the plan, they can't be blamed for being really fed up after all. Do all you can to confront those in favour to those against. In the meanwhile, start harrassing owners, make them end up selling their property at ridiculous prices and as soon as this happens, demolish it very quickly. Don't even bother with cleaning up the rubble: an increasing number of sites like this all over the place may be what makes a few more families give up and leave.

In the end, you either have an empty neighbourhood, or you've managed to demolish all the annoying houses that block your shiny avenue. However, if a Supreme Court argues that the remaining houses still have some cultural value, you might want to consider changing your local law to unprotect those architectural elements.

Today, many thousands of Valencians marched around Cabanyal to say “enough!”. From the street, I saw several old women out on the balconies of their beautiful houses, their eyes wet with tears, while they observed in silence all that many people who were fighting for them. There's still a long way to go in the courts until this is all over, but at least these people have a little more hope today than those in el Carme or La Punta, who ended up losing similar battles, years ago.