Sergio, aged 36 from Madrid, works at a kiosk on Plaza de Isabel II, right in front of the opera house. One cold December evening, we got chatting…
How long have you been working here, Sergio?
I’m the 4th generation of my family to run this kiosk. I’m open from 6 am to 6 pm every day of the week. Sometimes it gets very cold, but I’m always here.
Is business going well?
No. It’s nothing like how it was when my mother was running the kiosk. My customers are elderly, and they’re dying. When one of my customers dies, they’re not replaced by another younger customer.
You must really value your elderly customers.
Absolutely, and they value me too. I play an important role in their lives. You know those people that go and visit old people every day in their homes? I’m like that, but the old people come to me, buy a paper, we chat a little and then they go to the bakery. They know the bakers too, and the bars. We’re a community.
How much longer do you think you’ll stay open?
Five years, maybe 10 years at most. Nobody buys newspapers anymore – only old people. I’ve started selling souvenirs to try and make some more money, and that helps a little. Do you know the kiosk on Gran Vía? They don’t even sell newspapers anymore – only souvenirs.
What will you do when you close?
I don’t know. I’ve been doing this all my life – since I was a little boy, I would come and help my mother. I always knew that this would be my job one day, but a lot has changed in recent times.
Despite the kiosks’ threatened existence, they’re a familiar feature of the Madrid streetscape. The glow of these art nouveau sculptures brings life to dark corners beside metro entrances, and they’re a charming window into an increasingly bygone era.
As I waited for an opening in the crowd to take this photo of Kiosko Glorieta Bilbao, I watched customers swoop in and out having already counted their change for a newspaper. Others procrastinated over various front pages, and some chatted to the quiosquero for a few minutes.
This little news stand right outside the famous Café Comercial also sells CDs and DVDs, which seem to attract the lingering customer. A few commuters emerge out of Bilbao metro station and make a beeline for the plastic boxes of old CDs, most of which are scratched and sellotaped, pushing the boundaries of nostalgia.
THE LAST UNBIASED NEWS SOURCE
Sergio stocks every national newspaper as well as many local, regional and international papers. He even stocks The Guardian, the Financial Times and the Daily Mail, platforming a wide spectrum of political opinions and in numerous languages. There are no echo-chamber algorithms here – not even the physical positioning of each newspaper is strategic.
This week, it emerged that Chamath Palihapitiya (Facebook’s former vice-president of user growth) had in 2011 expressed his disgust at Facebook’s control over people’s opinions:
[…] you don’t realise it, but you’re being programmed.
From time to time, it’s good to take a step back from social media and go unplugged. If you pass a kiosk on your way home from work, take a moment to go and browse a few headlines because it’s important to know how the rest of the world thinks. You’ll also be supporting a local business, even if it is just for a few more years, because this is probably the last generation of the Spanish kiosk.