Untold Stories

The story of the little bookstore that helped save Mercado San Fernando

8 April 2019
The Façade of La Casquería bookstore

When the market’s carnicería, pescadería, frutería and conservas stalls pack up and leave, the only next step is to close the mercado, right? Well, just a few years ago, a movement came to the rescue.

Suddenly, there was a surge of small, local start-ups setting up shop in the markets’ empty units. They were offered cheap rent so that they could help revive the mercado, and it seems to have worked! It’s been happening all over Madrid for a few years now, and La Casquería is just one of the success stories.

FROM SPANISH ENTRAILS TO WORLD TALES

La Casquería (in Spanish: tripe and offal shop), who has kept its original sign, is a quirky second-hand book store which has fun-lovingly maintained the ways of its previous tenants by selling its products by weight. You can find books and maps in Spanish, English and many other languages.

An unusual read at La Casquería bookstore

The usual sections are there, plus a great crate of old Madrid guidebooks. There are also lots of world travel guides so if you’re planning a trip, make sure you stop by here first.

Sure, they may be out of date, but that’s even better – bars and restaurants in old guides no longer get the tourist rush of previous years, leaving hidden gems all for you.

Old Guides to Madrid at La Casquería bookstore

Nostalgic postcards and keepsakes can also be found here, and don’t miss the old weighing scales dotted around the store.

Inside La Casquería bookstore

A VICTIM OF ITS OWN RESCUE EFFORTS

Sadly, the story doesn’t end here. The second-generation shops that helped save the mercado are now becoming victims of their own rescue movement. During the day, walking through the aisles of Mercado San Fernando is stale and eery. The local butchers, tailors and delicatessens have all but left, and what belies those closed steel shutters are now bars that open only in the evenings.

Five years ago, Mercado San Fernando was struggling, and close to giving up the ghost. Now  it’s ram-packed with people enjoying craft beers, organic wines, ramen and vegan food. It’s a vibrant atmosphere but feels slightly out of place. And I wonder, has this market gone a step too far?

Just a handful of the market’s original and second-generation stalls plod on, yet all are now feeling the pressure of the newest generation of the market: nightlife. For locals, what little is left of the original market model may soon be swallowed up by yet more bars and restaurants, gearing itself towards a younger, wider audience.

The death of cross-generational spaces and the invasion of “new and cool” are familiar signs of gentrification, and it’s not going to end well. The next stage of the gentrification of Mercado San Fernando has already begun: there are now three chains inside Mercado San Fernando, and not even La Casquería will survive that generation of businesses.

INFO

  • Address: Mercado San Fernando, stall 20 (Calle de Embajadores, 41)
  • Nearest metro: Embajadores, Lavapiés
  • Website & Facebook
  • Opening hours: here

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