top of page

A story to remember

On February 10, 1893, the Santander City Council approved the plans for a building for Almotacenía, in which the weight and sale of the fish would take place. In December of the same year it was established that while it was being built, this activity would be carried out in the municipal fire station, with an entrance through Calle de Calderón (section of the current Calle Ataúlfo Argenta between Plaza Pombo and Calle Casimiro Sainz). ). The architectural project had been entrusted to the interim municipal architect Valentín Ramón Lavín Casalís, who designed a one-story building, with access through Molnedo street and with the rectangular shape of the municipally owned land on which it was to be built, with projections on the north (C/ Sotileza) and east (C/ Molnedo, current Casimiro Sainz) facades. Topped with a gabled roof the main body of the building and three outgoing bodies. The material used was ordinary brick, but the pillars of the projections, the cornices and the arches that rest on the pillars were made of masonry.

At the entrance to the main body was the gallery of scales on which the fish was weighed upon arrival. To its left, the room where the weights and measures are kept, to the right, through the body that gave onto Sotileza Street, in which the meeting room and the lobby were located, was access to the contracting room in which the auction was held, with capacity for about 350 people. This was done downwards, that is, starting with the price stated by the skipper of the boat that had fished it and from there it was lowered until a buyer accepted the price that the auctioneer had said. This scene was picked up very well by the Madrid writer Fernando Mora in “Crónicas montanesas. Fishermen's neighborhood", published in the Madrid newspaper La Voz, on September 11, 1925:


In the stands, which are filled with various and lively ornaments by women, there is, at the hand of each seat, the button of a doorbell.

In a gallery that looks like a stage there is a large, round piece of furniture, with tiny and strange lockers, which show off, along with some metal decorations no less strange, some numbers.

A serious, serious man, a priest of contracting, in which Mercury is king, takes the floor to say that as many or as many arrobas or kilos of fish go on sale.

The silence, then, is almost total and it is said almost because the vast majority of the public is made up of women.

The man, with paused words, offers the merchandise at the price that his masters said; if the audience is silent, he then lowers the rate of offer.

  • The kilo —he says—, in 98 cents!

And if the guy is not accepted, he shouts again:

  • At 96, at 94, at 92…!

A clang of metal closes his mouth.

A buyer, in accordance with what has been said lately, presses the button next to him.

His conformity has affected him: a ball that rolls through the entrails of the strange piece of furniture tells of the deal, which, without words, has the force of a protocolized writing...


The rest of the facilities necessary for the development of the work that was done there ran along the perimeter of the auction room: the administration, the services and the warehouse for the utensils. To the south of the building was an elongated courtyard that will be discussed later.

During the construction of the building there were some minor accidents, as was common at the time. Perhaps the most spectacular was that of the mason Manuel Camus Gutiérrez, twenty-three years old and a native of Cueto, who at six in the afternoon on March 29, 1895 fell from a scaffolding located eight meters high, despite which His situation was not as serious as it was initially thought, since the Casa de Socorro sent him home after treating a bruise on his left shoulder, several scratches on his back and a gap in the right parietal region that required two stitches.

The Almotacenía should have started operating on August 2, 1895, but the fishermen refused to enter with the excuse that it did not have the necessary conditions for the work to which it was destined. The real reason was that they wanted to recover the old tradition that put the auction of the fish that arrived at the port in the hands of the fishermen's guilds and, although the sea guilds had been dissolved in 1864, they had managed to survive by adopting other associative formulas, with the that they were determined to keep the exploitation of the Almotacenía, despite the fact that this collection had been the way to pay the City Council to the contractor who had built the building. Once this matter was resolved with the transfer of the farm to the fishermen's guild, it was opened normally. All the normality that could be expected in a center that daily welcomed groups of such marked personalities, such as the fishwives, the shipowners, the fishermen, who sometimes disrupted the life of the neighborhood before the representatives of the authority who watched over the proper functioning of the entire process of transport, weighing and sale of fish.

In addition to its own commercial function, the Almotacenía building had a social function, serving other purposes, among which was frequently serving as the setting for fishermen's meetings or protests. Occasionally it was a conference room, like the one given on November 2, 1920, by Alfredo de Saralegui (1883-1961), promoter of associationism among fishermen, in which he spoke about one of his latest projects, the . Saralegui and Admiral Sorela went two days later to Santoña, where the fishermen offered them a representation of the operation of the almotacenía of that square.

But, without a doubt, the most of the shows that could be seen inside the Almotacenía or in its vicinity was that of the discussions and fights that frequently originated, sometimes due to differences in the fish trade and others for personal reasons. Protests against attempts to monopolize a buyer all the fishing that arrived at the port. The strong personality of the fishmongers, the hardness of the trade and the economic and family difficulties were a source of altercations. It was not uncommon for a fishmonger to be reported on any given day for selling fish on public roads or due to some row between neighbors, but on April 28, 1904, the municipal police report had raged against this guild: « Two women who promoted a scandal with the Almotacenia. A fishmonger who left a basket with sea breams abandoned on public roads. Several women for selling fish in the Plaza de Molnedo. A woman, for selling fish in front of one of the doors of Mercado la Esperanza».

In the 1940s, after the city burned down, work began on the , popularly known as . Although it was an old demand of the Santander fishermen, the works did not begin until 1942 and the project included, in addition to houses, a series of service buildings, such as a church, a school and, of course, the fish market for the sale and purchase of fish. fish, which came into operation in 1952, with which the Almotacenía stopped fulfilling the function for which it had been built and became a food market. Market in which the fish maintained its presence, since the last fishmongers who came there exhibited their merchandise in the patio that was on the south facade of the building.

Still today, every July 16, the neighborhood celebrates the festival of the Virgen del Carmen. The evening procession that leaves the church of the Carmelites, the Virgin dances at various points along the route, one of them is the place where the Almotacenía was.

bottom of page