All eyes are on a little shrapnel-strewn bungalow in Vallecas this week after its owner gave residents a shock two-week eviction notice before demolition of their historic home was to begin.
The modest one-storey building at Calle Peironcely 10 rose to fame after Robert Capa – an acclaimed war photographer killed by a landmine at the age of 41 – photographed it during Madrid’s bombing in 1936. The scene in the photograph reflected a neighbourhood marred by the effects of the ongoing Civil War. Standing to the east of the city, the working-class barrio of Vallecas suffered some of the city’s heaviest attacks as it was on the route between the Republican cities of Madrid and Valencia.
Despite its extensive war damage, the little house went on to survive a further 81 years before facing its greatest threat so far: its owner wanted to demolish it, destroying not only a symbol of Spain’s cultural heritage, but also one of the increasingly scarce examples of traditional housing in Madrid.
THE FIGHT TO SAVE PEIRONCELY 10
Madrid’s city council and an association set up specifically to save Peironcely 10 (#salvapeironcely10) have been fighting for years to stop its demolition. Given the residents’ poor and cramped living conditions, however, many saw conservation as a backward step, preferring to move the residents on to higher-quality housing and make way for a new development.
Further undermining the building’s historical significance, the owner plastered over the shrapnel marks – but despite its fresh new look, this building is one of the last witnesses to a period of Spanish history that none of us should forget.
Earlier this week, all the hard work of residents, city councillors and the #salvapeironcely10 project paid off: this world-famous building has been saved from demolition.
The fate of its residents, however, is still unsure. Will they be allowed to remain in the building? And if they do, will their living conditions be improved? For #salvapeironcely10, the fight continues.
We mustn’t forget just how close Peironcely 10 came to being wiped off the map – Madrid almost lost a significant part of its history. For every piece of Spain’s past that disappears, the country’s youngest generation loses a physical connection to its culture and to society’s accumulated knowledge. History teaches us not only what happened in the past, but also who we are today and how we can avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
Over the last few months, I’d hoped the little shrapnel-strewn bungalow in Vallecas wasn’t going to be demolished, and I’m both surprised and inspired by the success of the fight to save it. It seems we’re not the only ones on a mission to preserve Madrid’s humble way of life.
There’s a growing movement here that wants to stop the gentrification of Madrid, and you’d be surprised how even the smallest actions can help:
1) Cherish overlooked historical corners of Madrid – go exploring, take photos and share your discoveries.
2) Buy your coffee at a family-run cafetería instead of Starbucks – they need your €1.20 more than Starbucks needs your €3.20.
3) Consciously avoid eating at chains. Instead, become a regular one of these amazing local eateries and order something you’ve never tried before – I promise you’ll love it.