One hot summer night in 2015, protestors gathered outside Congress, quietly sitting cross-legged on the pavement with blue gags tied around their mouths and with their hands behind their backs. Their timing was key, protesting until the clock struck midnight on Wednesday 1 July – the moment their actions would suddenly become unlawful.
Becha opened up her Lavapiés tailor shop two years ago with a big ambition: to get Spanish people wearing African clothes. But what she never anticipated was that her workshop would become a small hub for African migrants and, further still: a food bank for the local community.
The same spotlights that once shone bright on the faces of Madrid’s rising stars now illuminate food parcels for victims of Lavapiés’ Covid-19 crisis.
As Madrid remains the European epicentre of the coronavirus crisis, the city’s most marginalised groups have been pushed even closer to the edge. Once dependent on charities and local organisations, many migrants are suddenly fending for themselves, but not if the Lavapiés Dragons have anything to do with it.
While ordinary people with ordinary jobs occupy the headlines, there are people whose hero status has become their only form of survival.
Yesterday, the people of Madrid make their thoughts crystal clear: don’t evict Baobab! So far, this emotive Instagram post has been shared by 2,793 people in their stories, and viewed by 32,557. To put things in perspective, that’s about 10 times more people than my average Madrid No Frills Instagram posts.
Earlier this year, I discovered that I had a long-lost twin in Buenos Aires: Bar de Viejes. This is an Instagram account that was born out of a desire of one person to document the beautiful old Buenos Aires bars, especially those that are under-appreciated and disappearing.
Around 150 people are currently sleeping rough on Paseo del Prado. Since February this year, a homeless community of activists have been camping out on one of Spain’s most prestigious streets in protest for visibility, safety, security and access to affordable housing, and to end all homelessness in Spain.
An elderly woman dressed in all black is straddling the wrong side of a first-floor balcony. Standing up there with her is another elderly woman wearing a floral smock, bellowing unsolicited advice about how her friend should tie up the bunting. Fierce high-rise arguing descending into laughing, and I watch on in horror yet reassurance that, somehow, these ladies have got it handled. After all, it is quite possibly their 90th year of decorating the streets.
Secret gay nightclubs and bars were opening right under Franco’s nose and the cornerstones of Chueca’s infamous nightlife were being laid. By the time the dictator died, in 1975, Spain’s marginalised communities were already organised and ready to begin the countrywide fight for freedom of expression.