The journey begins from North to South. From the battle of a mayor determined to cut with a radial the metal door that prevents the neighbors from passing to an island connected to land by a bridge. Even the sight of a herd of cows swimming across to savor the crisp pastures of the islands that guard the border with Portugal at the mouth of the Miño. Beyond the topically touristic islands of A Toxa and Arousa or the archipelagos that make up the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia (Cíes, Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada): from Ribadeo to the municipalities of the “wet line” with Portugal the autonomous community claims, rediscovers, recovers other paradises surrounded by water, which are still in private hands, which have been hidden from the public for decades or are barely known. Starting at the top, after seven years of lawsuits, Ribadeo has conquered Pancha Island this past week.
This rocky area where the cat’s claw insists on climbing depends on the Port Authority of Ferrol-San Cibrao, which in 2015 awarded the company Eirobra A Mariña, SL, the hotel operation of the old lighthouse building. Then, recalls the mayor of Ribadeo (Lugo), Fernando Suárez (BNG), began the long fight with the concessionaire, who set up a tourist apartment and cafeteria business there and has maintained, until recent days, “an ultra-belligerent attitude”. “He had the yolk and appropriated the white”, sums up his vision of the events the local ruler. The closed metal gate —or randomly open some days and hours according to the Local Police reports— and a sign that prohibited “access to any unauthorized person” have prevented visits despite the latest ruling by the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia, which confirmed free entry to the island through the bridge. Gone are several municipal fines to the hotelier and a conflict of years in which, criticizes Suárez, the Port Authority looked the other way without enforcing the law.
Visitors kept bumping into the door of Illa Pancha and the tension reached its peak this August: the councilor showed up with the construction crew, ready to cut the aluminum closure and store it “anywhere”. In the end, what an operator removed was the sign that vetoed the passage. But within a few hours, he explains, “another poster” appeared in its place. Suárez sent his umpteenth written protest to the Port Authority, and warned that, in view of the passivity of Puertos del Estado, he would denounce this “surreal” case in the prosecution. Now, at last, access to the Pancha is for all audiences. “You can walk all over the island”, celebrates the mayor, “and there is a lot of expectation”. The Port Authority has even promised to install an automatic opening system, remotely controllable from the public entity’s offices, to guarantee that Illa Pancha will not be held hostage by bars again.
Following the line of the Costa da Morte, the Sisargas continue to be private property. In practice, their lords and masters are barnacles and seabirds, but in the papers the descendants of the Count of Altamira appear as heirs, with surnames such as Ruiz de Bucesta Osorio de Moscoso. The last human guardians of this archipelago located on the coast of Malpica (A Coruña) were the lighthouse keepers, who took turns every 15 days until the signal system was automated. The closest Galicia came to conquering the three islands for the public domain were the purchase negotiations with the heirs, when in 2007 the bipartite government of the Xunta (PSOE-BNG) and the State announced their intention to include them in the National Park. the Atlantic Islands. In the end, the Sisargas were ruled out and the town consoled itself, for the time being, with several private initiatives for excursions by boat.
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And while in the Sisargas the traces of man can only be seen in the lighthouse or the supposed ruins of a hermitage destroyed by the Normans, a little further south another paradise no longer preserves any virgin landscape. This is reported, at least, by the recently created Neighborhood Platform for the Recovery of Illa da Creba (Muros, A Coruña). Backed on the political front by the Galician Nationalist Bloc, the group of residents of the town of Esteiro, in Muros, set out in the spring to collect signatures under slogans such as “the island is ours”, despite the fact that a century ago These seven hectares of land that emerge 250 meters from the coast were registered in the Property Registry in the name of individuals from that region. The current owners are the Penas Gerpe, responsible for a business group in the surroundings of the Galician capital, with real estate, hotel and gas station businesses. A Creba has been landscaped, repopulated with trees and crowned with a chalet, a swimming pool and other constructions such as a dock and a wind generator. As published The voice of Galicia The first licenses were obtained from the neighboring Outes Town Hall, although “in 1988 it was discovered that the demarcation of the National Geographic Institute of 1920 placed the island in Muros”. EL PAÍS has tried to obtain the managers’ version of the island’s history and current situation, but has received no response.
The citizen claim dates back to the 1980s and has now been reactivated with political actions and the “symbolic and peaceful occupation” by the neighborhood platform. In July, the residents sailed to the island and took photos of the “non-native” trees and of what they consider to be “illegalities” in a “protected space” in the maritime-terrestrial public domain. For its part, the BNG presented initiatives in the City Council and the Parliament of Galicia, but collided with the rejection of the PP and the PSOE. Meanwhile, on the internet you can see an advertisement for A Creba Private Island, with yoga sessions and swimming with dolphins. “We are perplexed that the island is advertised as a vacation destination,” the nationalist deputy Rosana Pérez cried out in May.
Sailing south, in the Pontevedra estuary, while a family has put up for sale, for 300,000 euros, the tiny island of O Santo (Marín), accessible from the beach at low tide but not developable, the City Council de Poio has reconquered Tambo, finally visitable on guided routes through the trips offered by two shipping companies. In the very heart of the estuary, Tambo still appears encrypted in Google Earth for having been, until last March when the public transfer agreement was signed, under the control of the Ministry of Defense. The first tourists arrived these days to tour the island and discover, in addition to its beach and its forest full of eucalyptus, several abandoned arsenals and military installations until now kept secret.
desert island horses
Unknown even in Galicia, the final section of the Miño is dotted with “morraceiras” and “ariños” islands, originally formed by boulders or sand in each case, centuries-old sediments that flowed down the great Galician river until, upstream, the course fluvial ended up corseted in the 20th century by the reservoirs. Mauro Fernández, rancher and PP councilor in O Rosal, tells us that the last island of the “humid line” between Galicia and Portugal was still formed “about 50 years ago” on the Portuguese side, beyond the imaginary line that divides the channel between the two countries. It was christened Ilha Mauricia and is now covered in vegetation.
From Salvaterra de Miño to the mouth there are fifteen islands of fertile land where there were traditionally pastures, cane fields, rushes and later fruit trees, crops and even the reviled eucalyptus prospered. There are small and much larger ones, such as Fillaboa, with 110,000 square meters, which was in the hands of a family and was bought by the Salvaterra City Council “for 300,506.05 euros”, recalls the mayor, Marta Valcárcel (PP). Now the council processes the permits to make this “natural heritage” accessible through a walkway.
Very close to there, in A Boega, one of the islands that falls in the Portuguese half of the river, owned by a Portuguese family but strongly linked to Galicia, there was a project to build a golf course that ended up being discarded. “The border of the Miño greatly limited economic activities”, explains Xavier Cobas, professor of Financial Economics at the University of Vigo, “thanks to that, around here, which is also Red Natura, you find a lot of sites preserved in a very natural, barely crushed”. Four of the islands in the final stretch of the Miño are not attributed to any country, and the rest are divided between the two states, mostly managed by the neighborhood or private, and some with names as beautiful as Lenta or Ilha dos Amores .
On this side of the line, on the Terroeiro, Canosa and Areas islands, mapped as early as 1714 and cared for “since time immemorial” by ranchers and community members from the O Rosal mountains, today there are 12 horses and some 60 cows. “They are only fed by the milk of their mothers, the grass of the islands between which they swim and the water of the Miño”, which here has its “salty” point because it is a tidal zone, explains Mauro Fernández. Calves and foals are born on the islands, which “grow and fatten better” with those pastures. In the past, the owners collected the cows at night, but not anymore. “We called them from the shore,” says the community member: “Paint, Mora, let’s go home!” And they alone, obediently, threw themselves into the water to cross.
The hunch of the sea reaches “as far as Tui, 30 kilometers upstream” from the coastline, explains Gonzalo Méndez, professor of External Geodynamics at the University of Vigo, “that is why the Naval Command of the border on the Galician side is over there”. Every year, the commanders of the two countries travel together by boat along the international section of the Miño to record “possible changes that require modifying the demarcation.” “The boundary treaty between Spain and Portugal dates from 1864 and the cartographic survey, from 1906. But some lawsuits over ownership date back 350 years and the islands have raised doubts and disputes both between countries and over their use and exploitation,” summarizes the geographer. Some neighbors recognize that the ownership of several islands is not clear, but that the reality of who cares for them prevails. “They are in the public domain. Everyone can go, ”says Mauro Fernández.
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