16 May, 2024 @ 13:58
2 mins read

Outrage after 88-year-old woman in Spain’s Andalucia is told to leave her home so it can be turned into a tourist apartment

Maria Muñoz, who is set to be evicted from her Cadiz home of 57 years
Mañaneros, La 1

THE plight of an 88-year-old resident of Cadiz, in Spain’s Andalucia region, has sparked outrage and action among locals, given that she is being forced to leave her home of more than half a century to make way for a tourist apartment. 

Maria Muñoz has been resident in a ground-floor apartment in the city’s Meson street for the last 57 years. The property is located in the oldest neighbourhood of Cadiz, El Populo, which has become a major attraction for visitors in recent years. 

The octogenarian has occupied the apartment since 1967, back when it was rented out by rooms. She lived there with her husband Antonio, and had her three children there.

In the 1990s, the property was refurbished, but she and her husband continued to pay what is known in Spain as renta antigua, or ‘old rent’, which is basically a small sum that has not been updated in line with inflation. 

Read more: Outrage as woman, 88, is kicked out of her home of 50 years in Spain ‘over an €88 debt’

Maria Muñoz, who is set to be evicted from her Cadiz home of 57 years
Maria Muñoz, who is set to be evicted from her Cadiz home of 57 years. Screen grab: Mañaneros, La 1

It was when her husband died in 2016 that her problems began. Legally, she was required to transfer the contract over to her name, which she failed to do within the specified timeframe given that she was unaware of this requirement. 

A new contract was then signed, with a €97 monthly rent. But there was a time limit to the contract, and in recent years the owners of the property began to sell the other apartments. 

Eventually, according to Spanish press reports, she was given an ultimatum: she could either leave, or buy the property for €147,000, a sum that is far out of her and her family’s reach. 

The new owners of the other apartments have converted them into tourist accommodation, and visitors dragging trolley suitcases regularly come and go, many oblivious to the signs that have sprung up in protest against the situation of tourist massification of the neighbourhood or indeed Maria’s plight. 

Antonio Gallardo, the spokesperson for the Platform for Neighbours and Friends of El Populo, is one of the most vocal critics of what is happening both to Maria and to the neighbourhood. 

“We were able to rehabilitate the buildings with the help of the European plan, and residents were able to enjoy being on the streets again,” he told Spanish newspaper El Pais, in reference to a previous time when the neighbourhood was famous for drug-dealing and prostitution.

“We managed to transform the neighbourhood we were living so badly in, and now it is the guiris who are reaping all the rewards,” he added, invoking the nickname Spaniards use for mostly North European tourists. 

“We need to go back to socialised rents,” he said. 

Meanwhile, there may be a solution for Maria, after a local builder offered her an apartment in a block that his company will be refurbishing. The work, however, is yet to begin and Maria is facing imminent eviction. 

Maria is facing up to the fact that she is unlikely to see out the rest of her days in what has been her home for so many years. 

“My idea was to stay here until I pass on to the other world, but if I have to go, I will go,” she said. 

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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