“The residents’ associations have to explain what tourism represents for the city; they have to make the streets more attractive. However, to attack tourism would be to attack the district itself, because the district could be abandoned. My concern about tourism is that it isn’t permanent, there are waves of tourists.”
The Albayzín is one of Carrascosa’s weaknesses. Behind his dark sunglasses, his warm gaze shivers when he analyses the debts this unique district is burdened with: “It is a privilege that an urban environment with these characteristics has been declared a World Heritage Site, but neither the people from Granada nor the institutions in general valued the importance of this declaration. The real problem is that institutions don’t realise the importance of having an environment with such characteristics. They avoid their commitments, even though we provided them an exhaustive list of tasks that must be carried out.”
Carrascosa is not an ordinary resident. He was the Director of the UNESCO Centre in Andalusia based in Granada, from its creation in 1994 until February 2012. His research work on the Albayzín is huge: he wrote four books about the district and a great number of press articles. “Even if people don’t read much”, he stated.
He combined this intellectual work with his social awareness. Carrascosa was the prime mover behind the foundation of the district’s library when he was the headmaster of the school Colegio Gómez Moreno. His endeavour comprised much more than a simple pedagogical work. “Since I lived in the school’s gatehouse, the poorest families came by night asking for food because they didn’t have anything to cook for dinner for their children, so we used to give them the American milk powder we had.”
Carrascosa was 90 years old on the last 13th of July and has been working and living in the Albayzín for almost 59 years. “Since then, thousands of houses and streets improved, there is a minibus without which the older people couldn’t live here, but there is still much work to be done” he stated. “I cried many times because they didn’t listen to me. I don’t want to say his name but one day a person from the local institutions told me that he wished the Albayzín was not declared World Heritage.”

Concerning the cohabitation between residents and tourists, Carrascosa points out: “The permanence of local artisans should have been boosted, they were the soul of the district. We didn’t promote the district in time for them to remain here. If we leave the district just for tourism, we are making a big mistake because tourism fluctuates. The workers, conversely, are forever. Residents are right when they express their discontent about mass tourism.”

“The residents’ associations have to explain what tourism represents for the city; they have to make the streets more attractive. However, to attack tourism would be to attack the district itself, because the district could be abandoned. My concern about tourism is that it isn’t permanent, there are waves of tourists.”

However, Carrascosa affirmed: “The residents’ associations have to explain what tourism represents for the city; they have to make the streets more attractive. However, to attack tourism would be to attack the district itself, because the district could be abandoned. My concern about tourism is that it isn’t permanent, there are waves of tourists. They ask me where the Palace of Dar Al-horra is and I am ashamed to tell them they have to pass through that abandoned alley.”

Carrascosa claims: “Also the residents have to be responsible for their district. When we visited the White Towns of Cádiz, not only the city council but also the residents were committed to cleaning the districts during springtime. However, to stroll around some corners of the Albayzín is shameful. Carrascosa and his obsessions, they told me…”

In the shaded patio of his house, he takes out a folder where he keeps the papers he is writing to commemorate his 90 years. While he takes them out, he answers: “How have I reached my age? By loving those who nobody loves.” Finally, he finds the front page of the documents he was looking for. The front page says: “Reasons to be satisfied, happy and hopeful.” Congratulations to Miguel. Here’s to another 90 years with such spirit.

*Photo: Pepe Marín

Miguel Carrascosa, Ex-director of the UNESCO Centre in Andalusia.