Sinforiano Lemes and Pilar Callero, a couple of advanced year, aged 90 and 87, have lived in the same house in Argana Alta, near the Arrecife on the Spanish island of Lanzarote since 1957.
Their home was built by a church led initiative, with the help of parishioners in the parish of San Ginés in the 1950´s, on land donated by neighbours, to be used by people in need.
The contract of tenancy, dated 7th December, 1959, states quite clearly how the signatory holder, Symphorian Lemes was entitled to the use of the home for free and “indefinitely”, with the only clause being that if the parish priest, Lorenzo Aguiar, considered there was another family in greater need, then they would have to vacate the home.
A less than idyllic life no doubt, but a life that was lived under the roof provided by them, leaving largely safe in the knowledge that as time started to drift away, their final days would be spent in the home they had come to love and cherish.
However, in 2006, in a move reminiscent of ancient London, the church made the decision to sell the houses, getting 300,000 euro for the home from the vehicle manufacturing company Iveco.
Not willing to leave their home, despite offers of a new house and compensation, the couple stayed put, resulting in Iveco leading a legal challenge to have them evicted. However, through a technicality, the sale was not as clear cut as they may have hoped, with the judge ruling that Iveco had only purchased the land, not the home, and there were discrepancies over the registered use of the land.
Joy was short lived though, as the provincial court ruled on an appeal by the company, an appeal which took their side, and giving them the right of eviction and demolition. That final appeal is as far as the judicial process can go, and, as such, an eviction order has been issued on the couple, who now have until the 12th of March to leave the home they have lived in for over half a century.
“Where are we going to go at our age?” asked Pilar rhetorically, the emotion somewhat clear. “I am sick, have kidney problems and cannot do anything”, before reminiscing about the nine children they raised in the home, before defiantly turning to a mood of preservation of the home given to them, albeit at their own potential personal expense, “When they come to knock it down, they will have to do it to me too”.
With their 800 euro per month pension, which already goes to pay their electricity, water, funeral plan and food, “I feel cheated”, said Sinforiano, recalling how the priest didn´t even consult them before the sale, only to reveal the outcome after the contracts had been signed.
The couple are still not losing hope however; they are trying every avenue, through the Legal Aid scheme, to try to find a way of stopping the eviction and remaining in the house, even happy to pay rent on the property, “until the day we die. Then, they can have the house”.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/42199/