CASTILLA-LA MANCHA – town of Talavera de La Reina, in the Spanish province of Toledo in the Castilla-La Mancha region has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. The town has the largest private air-raid shelter in Spain built under a hotel. However, now the shelter is being used as a garage.
Due to the invasion of the Ukraine and the fear of nuclear war, the dream of the late Justino Pérez, a native of Toledo, is now receiving particular attention.
‘My grandfather was a visionary, he had a foresight for the future,’ says his granddaughter Dolores Cases, the current manager of the hotel under which the shelter was built. As a child, my grandfather lived through the Civil War. He was so scared that he decided that if he was going to build a hotel, he should also build an air-raid shelter to protect his family in case of another war’.
During the Cold War, Pérez contacted engineer Antonio Alcahud, an expert in this type of building in Spain. So began this year-long project of reinforced concrete and wrought iron in 1982. With four two-tonne doors, emergency exits, two cold-storage rooms, three kitchens, two ovens… enough to house 400 people. This makes it ‘the largest shelter in Spain’, according to Cases. It is a completely safe place which, once closed, is completely sealed. Moreover, even if a bomb were to fall, it is ‘impossible to destroy the shelter’.
The construction may come as a surprise to many in Toledo, but Justino Pérez had the air-raid shelter built on purpose. He foresaw that bombs would fall on Spain, with its strategic location between the United States and Russia. In addition, Talavera is very close to Madrid, which only increased the risk of an attack, according to Pérez.
For granddaughter Dolores, the shelter was a playground when she was young. A great place to spend hours playing hide and seek with her sister. She could not have imagined that years later she would have to reconsider its original function. The bunk beds that were originally in the shelter made way for cars at the time; now it is the hotel garage. But the beds from the hotel rooms can be moved back to the shelter if necessary. Casares has received many phone calls in recent days asking if there is room in the shelter. The enquiries are mainly from elderly people who are worried about the conflict.
Purchase of air-raid shelters in Spain increased
It is certain that the purchase of shelters in Spain has increased in recent weeks. ‘Requests have increased by more than 50%,’ explains Francisco Javier Márquez, owner of Underground Building, a company dedicated to the manufacture of shelters. The purchase price ranges from €30,000 to €1.5 million.
A private shelter is not always underground and can also be constructed above ground. However, an underground shelter protects better against an explosion, an above-ground shelter can also protect against harmful radiation.