A tin of sardines from 1938 has just been unearthed. It’s so perfectly preserved that we can still see its original pink paint and decorative lettering, reading, ‘Sardinas en Aceite puro de oliva español (Sardines in pure Spanish olive oil). “It’s one of our best finds,” explains Luís Antonio Ruíz Casero, the leading archaeologist from CSIC out of a team of eight, who have been excavating the site for three weeks.
“This building was completed in 1970, that’s around when my father moved his workshop in,” explains Alberto Crespo Gutiérrez, who owns a small wicker workshop in Villa de Vallecas.
Eighty-three years ago to the month, in 1939, the old Vallecas Stadium was converted into a Francoist concentration camp. In the first four days of April, which were also the first days of a dictatorship that would last 36 years, Franco’s troops crammed around 9,500 people into the old football stadium in Puente de Vallecas.
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Overnight, Storm Celia dragged a blanket of Saharan dust as fine as powdered makeup to the Spanish peninsula. Everything from snowy mountains and skyscrapers to streets and cars are covered in a layer of red dust. Look into the near distance and see a red haze (calima) settle into the horizon. This is the densest and most abundant Saharan calima in Spain’s living memory and lasted three days.
Immediately opposite Madrid’s iconic Atocha Station is a small, narrow shop selling niche products from Eastern Europe. Ucramarket is one of the most important hubs for the Ukrainian community in Madrid and, in just one week, it’s also become a collection point for donations from madrileñes destined for Ukraine.
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Many have audibly gasped when I’ve told them I’ve never been to the Prado and the classism rolls in, something I’ve experienced a lot since leaving Newcastle.
Imagina por un momento que Madrid fuera una jungla: nuestros altos edificios de ladrillo rojo serían los árboles y sus icónicos toldos verdes serían sus hojas. La M-30 sería el río –caudaloso y profundo– que fluye entre los árboles mientras sus hojas se extienden hacia el sol. Y eso es algo que bien saben los Amigos del Toldo Verde, un grupo de Facebook que nació «con el objetivo de dotar al toldo verde de la atención que merece, posicionándolo como símbolo de significación identitaria y, por ende, patrimonial».
Jose (or Pepe, as he’s affectionately known), 78, tells me about when he met María, 82. “I used to work in a bar and that’s where I met María. She’d come in to see me and we chatted for a few months. Fifty-five years later, here we are, being evicted from the house we’ve called home ever since we got married.”
On the night of 30 December, police were called to the home of a man and his daughter on Calle Amparo in Lavapiés. They found the bodies of 47-year-old French man, Julien Charlon, and his only daughter, Abril, who was just three years old. Both had died violently in a case of alleged vicarious violence, a type of gender-based violence in which the abuser uses their children to do the greatest possible harm to the mother.
In a leafy and affluent neighbourhood in the northern suburbs of Madrid, the school run swings around. Women dressed in maid’s scrubs that are hues of clinical pink, purple and blue – rush around collecting other people’s children, walk other people’s dogs, take out other people’s rubbish and fetch other people’s groceries. Their uniforms mark who belongs to these security-patrolled communities, but the reality that exists beyond their scrubs is one of exploitation; long hours, low wages, limited legal protection and in some cases abuse.
On Saturday night, a group of activists going under the name of Colectivo Corta Cables got in touch to tell me that they loved my work and that they had sabotaged numerous Christmas lights across Madrid. They asked me to share their video on Instagram, which has now been deleted by the platform, in protest against energy poverty in the city. I did, and it quickly became a trending topic.
The creators of the grand and ornate red-brick buildings you can find all around Madrid are the same architects, builders and brick merchants who built the pretty little casas bajas in the barrios of Tetuán, Vallecas and Carabanchel. Look closely at Las Ventas bullring, one of Madrid’s most famous examples of Moorish Revival architecture, and find the same intricate brickwork decorating little houses all around Madrid.
Necesitas al menos cinco para comerte la tapa que te dieron gratis con tu caña, y otras tres para limpiar la condensación acumulada justo en el punto de la barra donde vas a apoyar el codo. Luego, necesitas una más para añadirla a la colección que tienes en casa. Estoy hablando de las servilletas de toda la vida.