This building, which since 1918 has greeted pedestrians crossing the center of Valencia, hidden under the shadow of the trees on the sidewalk of Barcas Street where it stands, acts like our own Everest: you can access the secrets it hides. choosing from a rich diversity of aspects, although it must be accepted that it tends to go unnoticed, perhaps because it has been with us for such a long time. It is a huge building that tends towards discretion, which belies its monumental appearance. It will not be the only paradox that the detailed visit to its interior brings, during which we will observe that this premise is fulfilled: that the heart of the headquarters of the Bank of Spain in Valencia can be accessed from multiple ways. Through the central door, of course, which opens this spring morning for THE PROVINCIAS. But also through the back door, which gives access via Correos Street, which is the entrance used to enter the key element that gives meaning to this entire grand mansion: money. Because the Bank of Spain was born to ensure its custody but over the centuries it has transformed into something more than the banking entity par excellence, the one that puts banknotes and coins into circulation: it is a substantial part of our country, a condition that will also overcome visible during the tour. And it is also surely the most armored building in Valencia. A powerful hymn to security.

  1. Ground floor, our Fort Knox

Security check by the Civil Guard team that guards the building, meticulous prior security procedures, secrets that are half glimpsed during the tour but that must remain within these walls… The catalog of protection standards applied by the Bank of Spain is as detailed as can be deduced from the high mission it is charged with. It is like a kind of great notary, the notary of whom banking transactions are executed according to the mandates of good government, to safeguard the rights of the consumer. The cameras that accompany us throughout the visit begin their task of extramural surveillance and follow it in each room of the building, with a special predilection for the ground floor, where its director, Paloma Martínez, who will be our guide, receives. She points to the surveillance system as one of the distinguishing features of the particular Valencian Fort Knox and details the functions that the institution undertakes every day, since that distant 1918… with the particularity that the operational mission has been reduced. Intermediating on behalf of the Treasury in the public debt market (bills, bonds and State obligations) will most likely be the main task that its headquarters brings to its clientele today. “Activity in Public Debt has increased greatly due to the increase in interest rates carried out by the ECB in the last two years,” says Marín, who adds: “We, Spain, hardly charge any commissions for this operation compared to private banking and that makes it more attractive for interested parties to come to the Bank of Spain for this operation.

And it is a source of safe activity, even if the best times have passed. A carousel of customers comes and goes, goes to the window or waits their turn: mostly members of the senior wing of Valencian society. At another window, a worker attends to the other key function that these walls house: managing the exchange of bills and coins. At the time we entered, there was hardly any movement. When we leave, activity will have livened up. Very much. But that is another story.

  1. Treasures inside a big safe

Already on the ground floor that operates as a lobby, along with the elaborate security measures, another of those aspects that encourage us to get to know in depth this building that was built according to the plans that the architect José de Astiz drew back in 1917 stands out. , a professional with extensive dedication to this task: billing the type of buildings for his main and almost only client, the first bank in Spain, which would remember in every city in the country where it laid its foundations the high importance of the institution. Hence his stately appearance and also that resounding, solid air that his creature gives off: he is an ambassador of Spain in Valencia, whose replicas spread throughout the rest of the territory according to that same logic. When you see the building from the outside, just as when you enter its doors, that idea of ​​absolute power that emanated from Astiz's board is contagious in a subtle but natural, spontaneous way. This is a bank but not just any bank. It is the Bank of Spain: it is natural that its walls guard a long series of treasures, such as this canvas by Carmen Calvo that welcomes us at the entrance to the imperial staircase that ascends to the noble floor. At its feet, a venerable chest refreshes our memory: storing treasures is the first commandment that the employees of the entity observe. The current ones (about thirty people, to whom are added external contract workers and members of the security team) and those who preceded them. Some of whom, by the way, lived here. The Bank of Spain was his home.

  1. A home on the upper floors

This is another of the mysteries that are revealed during the visit and that helps you become familiar with the building. Its solemnity is overwhelming in some corner of the first floor, but knowing that there were Valencians who were born here, who settled in this portal on Barcas Street while they worked for the institution, softens the profile of the Bank of Spain. It makes him nicer. The rooms we visit impress us less since we know that both the director and the cashier of the entity have their home here, on the upper floors of the building, which once had the capacity to house 17 families in its best days. “It's a great luxury,” confesses Marín regarding the privilege of running the entity. It must be a double luxury: having your workplace in a corner so close to the heart of Valencia and also having this unique building be your home. Marín accompanies us through the assembly hall located on this floor, with views of one of its seven patios, pointing towards some windows where the Bank of Spain attends to other services (requests for information on banking risks to individuals or claims from the clientele against the sector in general) and then points towards his office, preceded by (again) a long series of treasures that enrich the experience of the visit. The Bank has been putting together a rich collection of pieces, almost in a relic style, that speaks of its relevant role at the forefront of Spanish finances and exhibits them to remind us, for example, what the old calculators were like, very elaborate machines with an intimidating point that Today they watch life go by from the shelf where another jewel of great value keeps them company: a beautiful precision scale. A complete allegory of what this institution means: the guarantee of perfect balance.

  1. Noble floor: like an embassy

In his office, Marín tells a thousand anecdotes about the building where he has his home and his job. He specifies, while showing some black and white photos, that his current physiognomy is due to the decision made in the 60s of the last century to raise one more floor above the original property. These were times of very high work intensity, when the Bank of Spain was bustling with activity and the number of members of its staff was also higher than today. The tower on the corner of Pérez Puyol Street had to be raised, reinforced so that it could support the weight of another floor and so that it could continue providing its services since then, which have been disfigured by the passage of time. However, some attributes of that time remain. For example, the undisguised pride with which its workers carry out their work: if this building accepts the interpretation of being the headquarters of the Embassy of the Spanish collective imagination, they are its best diplomats. And this obsession with safety is also maintained at every step of our journey. Electronic devices snoop on our steps, the interior doors only open if Marín activates the required card, in a room we see the set of cameras that are spying on us… The enormous amount of money that sleeps in the Bank of Spain is very well protected , as are the works of art, property of the institution's funds, that decorate its walls. An Eusebio Sempere impresses, a Soledad Sevilla seduces: the list of wonders is as long as it is dazzling.

  1. Return to the starting point

The walk has ended. The second and third floors, where the Bank's senior executives have their homes, have access prohibited for an understandable preservation of their privacy, so our tour returns to the starting place: planted on the splendid black and white granite floor, scalloped by an elegant border, which is also a sign of the power inherent to the institution, we say goodbye to our guide while we observe a higher traffic of clientele compared to the moment we entered. They are citizens who come to take advantage of the coin and banknote exchange service, who form a long line at the window. Waiting there, sitting on a bench, is a harried citizen who looks like a beggar. He wears shabby clothes, which go poorly with the beauty of the surroundings, and carries in his hand a plastic bag with a loot jingling in it, which he transforms into more manageable paper money. Marín explains that this is a regular clientele, because money in coins appears in the most unexpected places… to the delight not only of this type of beggars, but also of the treasure hunters of Malvarrosa and other beaches or of the workers in the scrapyards: “Many more coins are lost in cars than we think.”

It's time to say goodbye. Marín reminds us that the Bank of Spain also plays a very delicate but crucial role in dealing with the collection and removal of counterfeit banknotes and also the exchange of damaged ones (“We have one hundred percent traceability and impressive technology,” he warns. ) and then gives us a brochure that tells the history of this formidable building, attached to the history itself, no less Homeric, of the institution, which before being located on Barcas Street had headquarters on Yerba Street and in Congregation Square. Smaller buildings, with a more contained appearance than this mansion that we just visited… although we have only walked through the rooms that are visible. All those that, for those security reasons that turn the property into a kind of giant safe, ensure the shielding of the treasures kept here are pending. Mostly money, the vile metal. Protection standards that are also a contribution to ensuring that in the public mentality the idea of ​​maximum security continues to be associated with those three words: Bank of Spain. The guidelines that justify this final dialogue with your director.

– Does the building also have a basement?

– Yes, the basement. There are the three safes.

– Can you see them?

– No. It is where the bills and coins are kept.

– And do you know at all times how much money is inside?

– Yes. I know, but I can't say.

And with a smile, he puts us back in the hands of the Civil Guard team, who leads us to the exit, always monitored by the beam of cameras that make this building the most armored in Valencia.

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