My name is Antonio Jiménez Castro. My parents emigrated. I was born in France, but I have been living in the Albayzín since I was a child. I studied in the Colegio San Salvador, a school that doesn’t exist anymore. We lived in Calle Pagés. My parents opened the Bodegas Granadinas del Albayzín, which was known as “the New Bar” as it was the only one for years. This happened 40 or 50 years ago. My father’s bar’s specialties were the chicken giblets and hearts. There wasn’t running water in the district, so we had to bring water to my grandmother’s house, from the fountain located in the Mirador de San Nicolás. My grandmother, my mother and my sister were born in this viewpoint. There are few residents left. In the lower part of the viewpoint, the only house left belongs to my mother. The rest are restaurants and bars. My great-grandmother was born also in the Albayzín. I represent the fourth generation, but most of the families of the neighbourhood are made up of three.”

Antonio is the head of the Albayzín Residents Association, one of the oldest in Spain. “In Granada, only the residents’ association of the Chana district is older than ours. The association is 40 years old. I was chosen as its head this year. Nobody wanted to take the position but, in the end, here I am. I am unemployed, so I devote my free time to the district.” Only 4 out of 16 board members are born in the district.

The Albayzín needs a strong residents’ association. Nowadays there are many associations in the district, so we need to collaborate. I noticed that the district had many problems, and it needs protection from the institutions that have damaged and continue to damage it.”

When Antonio came back to Granada 18 years ago, he was looking for “the calm one can only find here. I was hoping to find a feeling of cohesion among the people, but it isn’t like that anymore. The rhythm of the district is very different from the rhythm of the city. The smell of the Albayzín, sounds like its bells or little birds….” However, most of its idiosyncrasy has disappeared. “There used to be complete solidarity. If you moved a brick, people came to help you. Now, they report you to the police.”

According to the head of the Association “The first thing that my generation did was to buy a flat in the Zaidín district or in Camino de Ronda. Houses in the Albayzín were cheaper than flats in other districts of the city. It was expensive to restore the houses in here. I bought mine during the nineties for a song. Today, that price would be inconceivable. It was more comfortable to live in a level surface, and so the Albayzín started to depopulate. The people who live in the district nowadays are old”. However, according to his figures: “The district started to depopulate in the seventies and the eighties. We were 40 000 – 50 000 approx. and right now we are less than 6.000.”

Nowadays well-off people decide to buy little restored houses or cármenes and use them as summer residences. Many people end up making them their usual residence over time”, he points out.

“Actualmente, la gente con recursos se compra casitas y cármenes que rehabilitan y tiene como residencia de verano. Muchos, con el tiempo, lo terminan convirtiendo en su residencia habitual”, señala.

 

“The rhythm of the district is very different from the rhythm of the city. The smell of the Albayzín, sounds like its bells or little birds… However, most of its idiosyncrasy has disappeared. There used to be complete solidarity. If you moved a brick, people came to help you. Now, they report you to the police.”

According to the head of the Association “The first thing that my generation did was to buy a flat in the Zaidín district or in Camino de Ronda. Houses in the Albayzín were cheaper than flats in other districts of the city. It was expensive to restore the houses in here. I bought mine during the nineties for a song. Today, that price would be inconceivable. It was more comfortable to live in a level surface, and so the Albayzín started to depopulate. The people who live in the district nowadays are old”. However, according to his figures: “The district started to depopulate in the seventies and the eighties. We were 40 000 – 50 000 approx. and right now we are less than 6.000.”

Nowadays well-off people decide to buy little restored houses or cármenes and use them as summer residences. Many people end up making them their usual residence over time”, he points out.

With regards to the actual controversy concerning the peaceful coexistence between the residents and the tourists, he states: “Right now, we have no fear of tourism, but many tourist guides tell some outrageous things.” He remembers that the Platform SOS Albayzín was created in 2003 to end the mobility plan of the Lower Albayzín, which prioritised its tourists over its residents.

The head of the association believes that the public administrations can improve this coexistence without the need for huge investments. Antonio puts forward many ideas. The first is to regulate the use of public space in streets such as Calle Calderería. “Once there were clock and watch shops, fruit shops, and many other small shops. However, when they bring their merchandise onto the street, walking by becomes dreadful.”

Antonio thinks that it is fundamental to work together with tourist guides to make sustainable tourism, a type of tourism that will not have such a negative impact on residents, possible.

In his view, increasing citizen insecurity is another issue which the public institutions should prioritise in tackling: “We made a video to denounce citizen insecurity. We are decrying the negligence of the public institutions. Acts of violence are increasing, especially against the elderly.”

He contemplates two other demands which “don’t need huge investments”: to regulate the access of the buses that go to the zambras of Sacromonte district (a very ancient style of Flamenco dance and singing) and to provide public services for the hundreds of tourists who go to the Mirador de San Nicolás daily.