It is known that housing is a basic social need. Also a right, at least since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the Spanish constitution of 1978. And despite everything, its price remains expensive and unattainable for many and the supply, always in deficit, has gone and goes behind social needs .
Throughout Europe, from the mid-nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, industrial development, the massive transfer of peasant labor in search of work in the manufacturing sector, brought with it the first overcrowding of extra population in the cities. In Spain, in each city or province, the incipient working-class neighborhoods They received different names: patios, neighborhood corrals, corridor houses, corralillos, gates, hidden neighborhoods or citadels.
What is the citadel of Celestino Solar?
Also known as the Citadel of Capua, it is a mini neighborhood singular, a model of working class housing that was repeated throughout the Spanish geography but that in Gijón had a remarkable development. Population growth was disproportionate here since at the end of the 10.000th century the railway connected the city with the mining basins and with the plateau. This, together with the port activity, made Gijón take off as the industrial capital of the Principality. In just a few years, even before the beginning of the 30.000th century, the city went from XNUMX inhabitants to almost XNUMX, generating a serious housing problem.
The Citadel of Celestino Solar is today a museum, an ethnographic space in a very good state of conservation, a survivor of the almost 200 inhabited nuclei of these characteristics that developed in Gijón at that time. In the neighborhood of La Arena, specifically, it was where there were more citadels. Celestino Solar's was made up of twenty four ground floor houses (grouped in battery in four rows) and two courtyards. The houses did not exceed 36 square meters and at least four people lived in them, because in addition to the marriage and the children (between two and four), they used to be also inhabited by the parents of the spouses. The number of single women, widows or single women with several children was also very high.
The distribution of the houses: two bedrooms, a small living room and a tiny kitchen. No amenities of any kind: no running water, no sewage, no electricity. There were four community toilets, in addition to a well in the so-called Patio Grande that supplied poor quality water. Women and girls made several journeys a day carrying buckets to the nearest fountain, outside the citadel. Only in the mid-fifties of the XNUMXth century, and after repeated protests from neighbors, was a fountain installed inside the enclosure.
In the 1960s, the Gijón citadels of La Arena began to disappear rapidly, coinciding with the interest shown in this neighborhood (near the beach) by the middle classes and "summer residents". Already in 1959, a construction company had bought the space with the intention of demolishing the houses and building new apartments, taking advantage of its proximity to the beach. It was the delays in the expropriations that saved this complex from being demolished, since with the arrival of democracy it became protected by the first PGOU of Gijón. The Citadel of Capua was inhabited for a full century, between 1877 and 1975. From that date it began to be uninhabited and its population was moving towards the new working-class neighborhoods of the city.
Where is the Citadel?
Its location is perhaps the most surprising thing about this space. We are talking about a literally hidden place, practically invisible. It is accessed through a narrow alley that goes very unnoticed, located in the 15 Capua street, behind sober buildings and beautiful facades typical of the Gijon expansion period.
This location, hidden in the back of the bourgeois buildings, is not circumstantial, but one of the most common characteristics of the working-class citadels throughout Spain, prompting a good number of sociological analyses. Backyards hidden from view from public thoroughfares, such as the one that sweeps under the sofa, and which were accessed through alleys as the only veiled access, was a form of worker urbanism born in the England of the Industrial Revolution and exported to the rest of the world. The Citadel in question was already surrounded by a wall in 1880, and at the beginning of the XNUMXth century it was enclosed within a block courtyard after the construction of the buildings that currently surround it.
Built in 1878 At the initiative of the Indian who gave it its name, in the place known as La Garita, it occupied a plot of more than 1600 square meters. Solar Celestine He had returned from Cuba and decided to invest in land in a growing area, knowing that the workers needed cheap places to live. In general, the owners of the citadels were real estate owners and merchants belonging to the local bourgeoisie. And the houses were occupied on a rental basis by the popular classes, but not only by day laborers from factories in Gijón but also by laborers, barbers, miners, seamstresses, maids, cooks, cigarette makers, street vendors, fishmongers... The salary was enough to pay for the roof and little else. As a counterpoint, small industrial bourgeois initially lived in the large buildings that surrounded it, but soon they were occupied by professionals such as doctors, lawyers, architects and merchants. Both social classes were forced to live apart only by a few meters. From the first moment, the workers' houses were criticized by hygienist societies, such as the Popular Association of Culture and Hygiene of Gijón, which wanted the houses to be organized according to the morals of the time. That homes have privacy so that no one sees or hears what goes on inside; that two or more families did not live in a house, or that the marriage and the children did not occupy the same room.
The Museum of the Citadel of Gijón
Currently, one of the rows of rehabilitated houses has been converted into a permanent, temporary and activity exhibitions. we can enjoy explanatory panels, news and documents of the time, as well as a magnificent photographic collection and various audiovisual that include the testimony of some of the former residents. can also be seen a recreation of the interior of the humble dwellings in one of the houses, taking care of every last detail: a Saint Pancratius from behind, a can of oil, a coffee grinder, cauldrons and basins with hand-painted flowers... Here inside meat was only consumed in the stew on Sundays and the children's snack consisted of milk cream with sugar, sometimes butter and bread or an ounce of chocolate. The kitchen was also a bathroom, since the family washed up there. And through it also entered part of the little light and the air that ventilated the houses. The houses were also the workplace of many women, such as seamstresses, and some craftsmen.
This open-air museum preserves the main walls of other old houses, remains of the original floor and part of the wall that closed the citadel at the time of its construction at the end of the XNUMXth century. A series of explanatory panels on the Asturian and Gijón industrial revolution, and on the housing problem at that time, have been arranged in it.
On both sides of the alley that gives access to the patio of Capua several large murals can be seen made by the Asturian cartoonist Ernesto García del Castillo, known as Net. Large and colorful murals that recreate scenes of daily life in the citadel.
Access to the citadel is through an alley located in the number 15 Capua street.
Admission is free and no reservation is necessary, the tour of the site is very enjoyable and educational.
No pets allowed.
From October to March 11:30 a.m. to 18:30 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday
From April to September 11:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday
Closed: every Monday and on January 1 and 6, Shrove Tuesday, August 15, December 24, 25 and 31. Source: Museum of the Citadel of Gijón.