In 2000 10 business men were planning to buy half of the rights to the house, so that they could build a luxury hotel and eject the 12 residents, who were living there at the time. As a reaction to these plans and as a defense of the house the organization Platform for the Defense of the Casa del Pumarejo Palace was created.
At this time, the neighborhood was also suffering under a policy of urban transformation called the Plan Urban (1994-1999), which were a collaboration between European funds. The results of this policy were in many cases forced destruction of historical buildings and traditional neighborhoods, but also privatization of the building rights.
This news caused a mobilization of the people living in the neighborhood. They wished to protect the people who lived in Casa de Pumarejo and the building as a cultural and historical heritage. They did that by participating in the Association of Casa del Pumarejo. The action of this organization focused on the defense of the building, the families living in the house and maintaining the variety of uses of the house.
The diversity of activities in the house (cultural events, conferences, research and more) helped to change the categorization of Casa del Pumarejo. In 2003 it was registered in the General Catalogue of the Andalusian Historical Heritage in the category of historical monuments. It was declared that the house is of big cultural interest and this provides protection both architecturally, but also of its ethnological value. Private sale were no longer possible. The Casa del Pumarejo became a “public facility” and the city council bought all rights to the building in 2009. In 2011 the Association of Casa del Pumarejo signed an 15 yearlong contract with the city council.
After the new categorization of the house, it was decided that there was a need to reuse the spaces in the house for activities and to encourage the use of new ones. The collectives in the house started to rehabilitate some of the abandoned building spaces. In 2004 a new big room on the ground floor was opened. Called “Centro Vecinal” (“Neighborhood Center”) it was created as a space where working local citizen could meet. The use of this space allowed and promoted many different activities and events: meetings of associations and groups, lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions, workshops, courses, neighborhood meetings and celebrations.
Later, with a vision of giving more life to the house the Association of Casa del Pumarejo decided to open two new spaces: the Bajo 5 (Lower 5) in 2005 and the space “Rosa Moreno” in 2009, a shared space between a library, Biblio-Puma, and a cultural market, Mercadillo Cultural Pumarejo.
All these spaces are organized through a monthly meeting, where the all the planned activities and the negotiations with the management of the city council is discussed. With amplification of activities and the inability by the management to solve all conflicts and problems, several specialized working committees have been created: the house as a home, the house as a host for events, maintenance and communication.
Along the way, we have learned that the commissions come and go like the cycle of life. The structures of the house are there, as a tool and an opportunity for the community.
During the last 15 years, the communication with the two governmental institutions, the Government of Andalusia and the City Council, has been tiresome. We have been through four different parties in government (Partido Andalucista, Partido Socialista, Izquierda Unida y el Partido Popular). None of them has been able to understand us. Everything has been a struggle from structuring meetings, to reaching the minimum agreements and to the general collaboration. This continual inconsideration of our work has led us to make the leap to higher level of institutions national and abroad.
In the end, we have taken the action of maintenance and conservation of the house in our own hands, before the final permission have arrived. With donations from the people in the neighborhood, we found the necessary resources to continue and end the restoration. With a celebration we showed the institutions, who did not wish to collaborate with us, how we had improved the house after the contract was signed.
This attitude from the governmental institutions can be summarized as a neglect of their duties: communication, maintenance and protection of the building. They have lead us to consider it as an exploitation of the institutions, which does not allow the house to achieve its purpose: to be useful for the city and its people.
Our creation happened in a neighborhood marked by its history, a neighborhood with social conflicts and a strong love for its people and their way of living. We have modified and recreated this neighborhood.
At the same time we study how this house is created, how this square has its conflicts and pleasures, how life is lived here. Knowledge that always changes with the arrival of new neighbors.
We see that there truly is still a sense of neighborhood and that its inhabitants repeatedly rebuild it over time. It is a living being that protects itself, and who wants to live in its own way.
During the last years other associations and organizations in the city has called us to participate in their activities, lectures, and conferences. At first, we did not realize that people outside the neighborhood saw us as significant. We learned that a “neighbor” is not just a person who lives near Pumarejo House, but that it also can be someone who feels part of it and contribute with his or her skills and knowledge.
We have not only visited other areas, but we also open ourselves to the arrival of other concepts such as the “El mundo del Decrecimiento” which later brought the creation of the social currency “el Puma”. It has now 800 members and it is used in local shops and associations.
The house has become a place where crossing movements and ideas coexist: defense of the residents, maintenance of the cultural heritage, participation of citizens, artistic creations, generation of knowledge and a solidarity economy. In short is a place that creates another policy and framework for the social life that is expelled from the current mechanical system.
How a drop in the ocean expands and returns gives us energy and joy. We have begun to visit and make friends in similar spaces in Andalusia (casa invisible link …). Almost without realizing it, we have been an inspiration for other movements in Spain (Vitoria, Zaragoza, and Barcelona) and from there the leap abroad has occurred spontaneously.
Thousands of relationships have appeared in our gestures of openness and it goes beyond even what we want. Invitations has come from Australia, Italy and France and they bringing us new ideas, e.g. Starting a network between the citizens’ spaces in the city, so that we can share and expand our collective power.