Perhaps you know that under the Reyes Católicos street, that vital city traffic artery that connects Puerta Real with the Gran Vía for buses, taxis and bikes, runs the River Darro on its way to its meeting with the River Genil, it in turn on its way down “from the snow to the wheat”. (Quoting Lorca: Baladilla de los tres ríos in Poema del cante jondo.)
Well, at the recent local elections, the leftist list, Podemos-IU, led by Antonio Cambril, included the uncovering of the Darro beneath Reyes Católicos in its election programme. And unsurprisingly, the demand won the support of Lorca and Granada admirer and expert, Ian Gibson, as revealed by Alba Rodríguez‘s interview with him in Granada Hoy, 15 May, 2019. Gibson, convinced by the left coalition’s cultural and environmental proposals, added his name to Cambril’s electoral list. Air pollution, as we know (blogs #post97 & #post106), has reached a critical level and Granada needs more green. Verde que te quiero verde, he quotes (Lorca again: Romance sonámbulo from Romancero gitano): “Green how I love you green”. As for uncovering/recovering the Darro: it’s a great idea and Gibson has thought so for decades.
The idea, of course, is not really his. It goes back to the powerful, coherent and influential urban criticism of Angel Ganivet, who wrote in his work Granada la Bella that he knew many cities with rivers running through the centre of them (London, Paris, Berlin, etc) but only in Granada had they hit upon the mad idea of covering theirs over. The idea, he suggested, had been conceived at the depths of darkest night. The Reyes Católicos, vulgar in itself, was out-of-place in relation to the shady and narrow streets that - then, and to some extent still - lead off it.
For Ganivet (1865 - 1898), the burying of the Darro was a contemporary event and the more deeply felt for that. Until the 1880s, what today is calle Reyes Católicos used to be the Revés del Zacatín, the Back of the Zacatín, and it was where the local craftsmen, specially the dyers and the tanners and leather workers, dumped the waste from their artisanal workshops. Straight into the River Darro. Like they still do today, I believe, in Fez (Morocco.)
Since Arabic times, the Zacatín and the Alcaicería, on the left bank of the river, had been the home of craftsmen, the Alcaicería in particular being for centuries an important centre of Arabic craftsmanship, though the original workshops were actually burnt down in a devastating fire in 1843, and the area never recovered anything of its former character. Today, only Orientalist-themed and kitschy souvenir shops remain.
By the 1880s, be that as it may, the River Darro had been identified by the authorities as a health hazard for the densely populated nearby area, and hence the crude decision to simply cover it over. And by 1884 it was virtually all over.
Then, just a
few days after the Ian Gibson interview, a photomontage appeared on the front
page of Granada Hoy (21 May G. Cappa) giving architect Saúl Meral’s impression of
what Reyes Católicos could
look like, gentrified and beautified, with the river recovered from its gloomy
tunnel. His artwork was an attempt to imagine a harmonised continuation of the
aesthetic of the river as it runs along the Carrera
del Darro, Darro Road, before disappearing into its tunnel just next to the
Santa Ana Church. How closely it may reflect a credible potential
reality is open to discussion, says the architect, but in the end he is clearly
in agreement with Gibson’s attitude of: Verde
que te quiero verde with regard to Granada’s urban development.
Above: Architect Saúl Meral's impression of the River Darro uncovered. Below: carrera del Darro