Carmen Martínez Ayuso says she has “no tears left.” The 85-year-old has spent them all saying farewell to a half-century of memories in the home from which she was evicted in the Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas on Friday.
Now, though, players from local Primera División soccer side Rayo Vallecano have committed to paying her rent for the rest of her life. “We are not going to sit by and do nothing, we are going to help this woman,” said coach Paco Jémez before his team’s game against Celta on Sunday, Europa Press reported. "Not just me, but the technical team, the players. Within our means we are going to help her and lend her a hand so she can find a place so she can live with dignity and not feel alone.”
Nevertheless, Martínez Ayuso can’t help but repeatedly ask her grandchildren and two great-grandchildren: “Are they going to help us?”
I didn’t know anything. I don’t know how to read, so I asked the neighbor for help and we learned everything”
Carmen Martínez Ayuso
“I’ve spent my whole life working, getting up at 6am to earn a crust, just so at the last minute they come and take it all when the only thing I want is peace,” she says, clutching her walking stick.
Martínez Ayuso was kicked out of the property, which is valued at €160,000, because her only son, Luis Jiménez Martínez, used it to guarantee a €40,000 private loan he took out from one Francisco M.. The family explains the son had asked for the money to do up the house and sort out the financial problems he had been experiencing since he got divorced and lost his job as a real estate agent. He inherited the deeds to the house after the death of his father seven years ago. Martínez Ayuso did not even know she was facing eviction until the police visited the property a few days before the first attempt to throw her out was made last month.
“I didn’t know anything,” says Martínez Ayuso. “I don’t know how to read or write, a signature is enough for me, so I asked my neighbor for help and that’s when we found out about all this.” The family says the son had asked for a private loan because the bank had turned him down.
The property was an old farmhouse inhabited by eight families. There were chickens, tractors and an allotment and it was owned by her husband’s mother. Ten years ago they tore down the old structure and put up the current property. One of the apartments in the building was earmarked for Carmen and her husband, who worked his whole life in the fields under conditions that still horrify her when she recounts them. “He got home so exhausted that I often had to open his mouth while he was asleep to feed him a yogurt.”
Martínez Ayuso’s routine changed after her husband died. She sobs as she remembers the never-ending walks they used to take in the evenings. Now she spends her time with her friends, the neighbors she’s lived with her whole life, above all going to Mass.
Although activists from the Vallecas Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH) managed to stop the first eviction a month ago, she lived in terrible fear after that. Every time she saw the police she started to tremble. “They told me it would all be fine, but when you have to talk to a policeman, something’s up,” she says. She didn’t sleep the night before the eviction and when at dawn she saw that they had cordoned off the area she knew her hours were numbered.
Now her grandson Luismi is in charge of looking for an apartment that Rayo Vallecano can later pay for. On Monday Madrid Mayor Ana Botella said City Hall would offer her access to social housing, though municipal social services also stated that the family had previously rejected its offer of help, saying that with PAH’s help they were going to try to stop the eviction and they would rent an apartment nearby.
The vitality she exudes, her tone of voice and the power in her eyes have nothing to do with her age. A woman who survived the bombing of Vallecas during the Spanish Civil War does not want to be brought down by an eviction. “All the money that the powerful took comes from our toil,” she says. “I have lived a lot of years, but life doesn’t stop waking you up.”