A shelter for a life
The Shelters of the Spanish Civil War in Almería are a unique and unknown construction, as part of the heritage that the province of Almería keeps. It is an underground gallery complex in which the population of Almería reached safety during the period of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
The civil war meant a split and division in the society of a country. An uncertain mark in the history for learning and reflecting on. Violence and fear took possession of the country. Brotherhood and consensus were a distinct lack of ingenuity. Peace survives like a citizens’ longingly desire.
The Shelters of the Spanish Civil War in Almería have an impressive story which must be told. A melody which plays offbeat. These shelters meant the creation of an island of life within one of the darkest pages in the recent history of Spain. An oasis of distressed peace in complete shambles. A shelter for a life. A corner where new souls were born watching the World for the first time in the midst of total darkness.
History and building of shelters
If we talk about tourism and guided tours, in fact the Shelters of the Spanish Civil War in Almería are, nowadays, the second most visited monument in Almería. The exceptionality of its constitution, together with the huge area, have turned the Shelters of the Spanish Civil War in Almería into a unique place in Spain and Europe.
With effect from 1937, a group among 200-400 workers, directed by the acclaimed architect of the city council as foreman, Gullermo Langle, started to build that titanic underground gallery complex. They were built under 9 meters deep in order to safeguard the lives of 34.000-38.000 inhabitants over the 50.000 people Almería had at that moment. The rest of the population from Almería fled to nearby towns, cottage houses in the mountains or inside the caves that were old galleries of the period of mining from the neighborhood of Pescaderia-La Chanca or Alcazaba in Almeria.
This wide and complex gallery network, that formed the shelter, was divided into different areas. So, this way, everybody could have a close entrance to have access quickly. This pharaonic work took 16 months to be done. Also, the inhabitants of Almería helped to speed up the construction of this complex engineering work and survival.
This life network has its precedent on the little bunkers of Almeria’s burgess, which started its construction in 1936. However, some public buildings also had these bunkers to host people with less opportunities in life. In addition, the huge majority of these bunkers were later joined to the general. This way, it also increased the capacity and number of entrances to over 100. The main network had 67 entrances of public access.
Inside these shelters we could find anything necessary to survive. From storehouses and pantries to a tiny hospital with everything that was necessary: waiting room, first-aid kit, treatment room and an operating room. The last room mentioned was the only room that had light 24 hours a day such as running water.
It has to be like that, because when the sirens turned on, people had to take everything that was important and run to the closer entrance. Once inside, you did not know if it was going to last in minutes, hours or even a night. There were lots of implicit rules and agreements about the use of the shelters created by the inhabitants of Almería. But the worst thing was not the entrance and access, very dangerous because of the avalanche of people, but the exit. It was impossible to expect what you will find outside, if your house would still remain or if your family and friends would be alive too.
Almería received, according to some sources, 754 bombs through sea and air distributed in more than 50 bombings. Lots of stories and anguished moments were lived in the capital. The most famous attack was the one by the Germans the 31st of May in 1937. We had our own Guernica, but not a Picasso to paint it. However, the echoes of that huge attack arrived to other shores of the ocean and another Pablo, on this occasion Neruda, who wrote a poem due to this event.
An emblematic place in Almeria
To conclude, the Shelters of the Spanish Civil War in Almería are a unique place. There are lots of stories about its construction, use and future. An uncertain future: a reuse for the Second World War or a sanitation and drainage system. Finally, the access to this network was blocked due to the construction of some kiosks that would slumber little by little the shelter’s history and everything that happened. A word that still remains today thanks to the survivors’ tales. A voice that we can still feel in its walls and will not leave you indifferent.
Recovery and enhancement
In 2006, nearly 1km of the 4,5km of the underground galleries that formed this network were recovered. Specifically, we are talking about the main gallery that goes parallel with the main artillery of the city: the “Paseo de Almería”. Currently, there are guided visits to the Shelters of the Spanish Civil War in Almería, thanks to the City Hall and authorized private companies.
In Raizes Turismo Personal we offer this experience in 2 versions. A private one or a group one. The guided visit of Raizes has an extension of 2 hours and it is realized by official local guides. Apart from the complete underground route, the visit is complemented with a walk on the surface of the city. We can show you elements related to the history of the shelters that are not noticeable by the travellers and locals’ eyes such as: press kioks, entrances and accesses, old and new ventilation systems, bombing areas and other stories the city of Almería keeps waiting for someone to tell and revive.
Stories to learn about the past and build a better future. We must not forget about the past so we do not make the same mistakes.