Cantabria: Pedrosa Island, the island that is not | The traveler


Pedrosa is what no one imagines it to be in an urban and industrial enclave where there is no shortage of industrial estates, shipyards and the Santander-Seve Ballesteros airport just opposite. The island of Pedrosa, more than by the Cantabrian water, is surrounded and occupied by nature. It has conditions typical of an amphibious natural park. Located opposite the town of Pontejos, here there are so many types of trees that, in the event of a universal flood, an ark would be needed to rescue them all; Pine, chestnut, acacia, banana, palm, oak, cypress, lime, eucalyptus. In addition to being a wooded area, it is also used for shellfish (chirlas and clams) and for fishing for seabass and seabream. Food for people and birds, such as seagulls and swans that have made the surrounding marshes their refuge.

The lush forest grows as the buildings turn into ruins, inviting you to wonder and even enter them, despite the danger and no-trespassing signs that hang from little intimidating barbed wire. Buildings that witnessed the work of health personnel against plague and tuberculosis. Although Pedrosa is not an island (despite its name), the ship crews and the sick people who were there when a lazaretto operated here, later turned into a sanatorium, may have felt isolated in a beautiful enclave during their forced quarantine and convalescent of some bone pain.

The city of Santander found on the Pedrosa peninsula – it was still an islet and the bridge had not been built, 15 kilometers away – an ideal enclave in which to locate this health facility. Officially it dates from 1869 and in it the sailors coming from beyond the seas and potential transmitters of contagious diseases from the tropics and other latitudes were controlled. The pharmacopoeia still had much to research and develop to deal with the infectious diseases of the time. In 1914, a royal order of Alfonso XIII determined that the lazaretto became a preventive and therapeutic center for tuberculosis diseases of bone location and of a national character. Institution that was baptized as Pedrosa Maritime Sanatorium and consisted of a hospital with regionalist, classicist and art Deco, very well equipped technically and scientifically and organized in three pavilions (men, women and children, and terminals), in addition to having the doctor’s house, a church, a spa and a modernist theater.

Many of the patients in the sanitarium were children. Children who still live today and fondly remember the care and treatment with which they were cared for, although they prefer not to delve into or give more details about their stay in an idyllic setting that they could barely enjoy with their eyes. At present, only authorized vehicles are allowed to circulate within the farm, but visitors can travel it on foot or by bicycle following a path that circles the peninsula. Those who want to, at their own risk, can enter its abandoned buildings, as forgotten as they are mysterious (with ghost legends included). That is what there is in Pedrosa, romance and no bar, not an ice cream stand, not even a van from the local company La Polar. Tranquility, silence and views in a place hidden from view of all that is on the way to the popular beaches of Somo, Loredo and Langre.

Ecos de Billy Wilder

The Infanta Beatriz theater, one of its most emblematic buildings, is located at the opposite end of the entrance to the peninsula. At the foot of the jetty and next to a stone staircase was the access point when there was no bridge and the tide flooded everything. The poster that indicates what this place is resists lowering the curtain. Worthy ruins of which the tables on which actors and actresses acted for the sick no longer remain. The show now is the panoramic view that can be seen from here, which has some Twilight of the godsby Billy Wilder; the bay and the city of Santander in the background.

The theater is not the only construction in which vegetation seeps through cracks and trees grow unhindered by non-existent roofs. The deterioration and abandonment of the pavilion Maria Luisa Pelayo and the Queen Victoria buildings and Maria del Valle they also remain hidden under a green blanket that makes them enchanted places. Sites that might have to be rescued for their historical, architectural and landscape values, as has been done with the islands of San Simón and San Antón in the Galician Ría de Vigo. In Cantabria there are more lighthouses than memory. In fact, last March this Cantabrian sanatorium was included in the Red List of Heritage prepared by the Hispania Nostra association, which includes more than 800 monuments that run the risk of disappearing if it is not acted upon immediately.

On the Pedrosa peninsula, nature is the only one that remains. In 1989 the sanatorium closed and a short time later a reception and assistance center for drug addicts opened. The current guests treat their addictions in the buildings that have been rehabilitated, while the strollers walk in silence. Some and others, in some way, benefit from the environment and its tranquility. An area of ​​1,613 hectares in which there are more ruins than people. When the tide goes out, more people are seafood than strolling. An assiduous Santander woman tells this place, camera on her shoulder, that it is at high tide when you have to come and thus see how Pedrosa transforms into the island that it is not. An arm of land whose skin peels off due to neglect and saltpeter. Pedrosa, who suffers from chronic psoriasis, is more healing than beautiful.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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