The traffic signs make it clear that this is not a simple residential area with little houses and meadows. “Castillo”, say the signs through some narrow streets on the outskirts of Santander, with the sound of the sea in the background, leading to an imposing stone fortress that has seen better days.

Ivy grows wild on its walls, where blocks are missing in places. A panel informs that it is a fort from 1874. It is the castle of Corbanera and it was built to protect the city from possible attacks during the Third Carlist War (1872-1876). Due to its historical past and architectural value, the fortress was declared a Site of Cultural Interest (BIC) in 2012 by the Government of Cantabria.

Despite the fact that the regulations oblige the authorities to ensure the protection of the BICs, no institution has dealt with their conservation since then. The reason is that until now it was not clear to whom the monument belonged. According to local archives, the fortification is on municipal land, but the City Council has never been able to intervene in the fortress because a family has lived there for decades. It has been living there for so long that on March 23 a team of researchers from the University of Cantabria, after requesting a report on the ownership of the castle from the Consistory, ruled that the heirs of those who inhabited it for the first time are legally its owners, taking in a legal figure called usucapion, which grants ownership of a property after possessing it peacefully for more than 30 years.

Since it is not theirs, the City Council has now passed the ball to the Cantabrian Government, since the regulations establish that it is the autonomous community that is obliged to exercise the protection functions of privately owned BICs. In addition, its inhabitants must take care of its maintenance and open its doors to the public certain days a month. But the main access gate to the fort is locked tight and visitors have never been allowed. In addition, the bell has ceased to be operational to avoid the media bombardment that has been unleashed since the City Council released the report from the University of Cantabria. The meters for the housing supplies are installed outside so that no stranger has to cross its boundaries and no one responds to knocks on the metal gate.

The silence that emanates from the castle contrasts with the loquacity of its neighbors. Adriana Celis, who has one of the walls of the fort as a rear wall, claims to be a distant relative of the family that inhabits the castle and says that “more than 100 years ago” many like them began to settle in the vicinity and build houses. some adjoining the fortress. “We were afraid that they would take it off because we were stuck,” she says, grateful to be able to stay there.

The taboo word against which the neighbors situate themselves is “occupation”. Reyes Lastra, who is resting on her porch with several friends, asks that that word not be used because of the connotations it has. “It’s a very nice family, they’ve been there their whole lives,” he says. In addition, she gives some details about the inhabitants of the castle: it is about an older woman and her son, a painter by profession, who reside in the house of the former guardians. She assures that in the defensive construction there is nothing else. “I went in a while ago to pick flowers, it’s a non-residential castle, just a fort”, she describes, and shows the distribution of the construction via Google Maps.

An aerial look at the houses in the area gives an idea of ​​the lack of planning with which the houses in the area were being built, with no other criteria than to occupy the green lands next to the Cantabrian Sea. The neighborhood is quiet and the calm is only disturbed by the intense debate about Salvame coming out of Manolo Caro’s living room, who has left some chickpeas on plates for the stray cats. “I’ve been here for 74 years and this family has never caused any problems,” stresses the neighbor, although he admits that there is debate about his occupation. “I understand that they want to give it public use, but also that they own it if they have been inside for so many years,” reflects Caro, while recommending carefully surrounding the fortification because of the sheep that graze around it, oblivious to the debate: “Be careful, they suck.”

Some of them threaten to charge while the strangers come to look at the walls, but they soon get bored and return to their contemplative life. Outside these pastures, a bus stop called “Castillo” recalls the naturalness with which the fact that a family lives in a Carlist castle is assumed in the neighborhood. The only person who does not want to give her name to the journalist is a woman who lives right next to the monument and who takes care of some chickens and an attached garden. “They are normal and ordinary people!”, she exclaims to vindicate the inhabitants of the fort, with whom she says she maintains a good relationship. It hurts her too, she confesses before going back to her chores, in addition to the harsh criticism on social networks or the media against that mother and that son who have lived in Corbanera for as long as she can remember, that there are those who think that she is the illegal tenant. The kind lady, tired of the cameras that hang around the place and film her house, exemplifies her precision: “As Epi and Blas said, I am outside and not inside.”

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