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.
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 government have just proposed a new bill aiming to abolish all types of sex work in one fell swoop, bringing unions of sex workers to Sol in protest.
Madrid was the first region in Spain to start fining people for drinking in the street. The Law on Drug Addiction and Other Addictive Disorders (the drinking bit is just a tiny part of this law and was coined the anti-botellón law) came into effect on 30 July 2002. From then on, municipal police were able to fine anyone €600 for drinking in the streets.
Street art and graffiti have long been forms of protest. When the streets speak, the voices we hear are of the struggles we bear and the memories we hold. But in Madrid, street art is increasingly being hijacked and weaponised and used as a form of colonisation by those who are more powerful.
Let’s start with an example. In 2010, Elisabet heard about a flat in a social housing block in Lavapiés that had sat empty for five years. She broke in, changed the locks, and made it her family home. With three children, now aged 14, 15 and 23, she was recently handed an eviction notice by the council telling her to move out.
Madrid is world-famous for its lively LGBTQ+ scene, multiculturalism and the hedonistic Movida Madrileña which undeniably lives on. But, in the background of Pride celebrations and behind balconies decorated with feminist symbols, residents of the Comunidad de Madrid are denied fundamental freedoms.
On 4 May, the Comunidad de Madrid will go to the polls electing the 136 deputies that make up the Regional Assembly. One of the crown jewels of Spain’s autonomous regions, the election is also a bellwether for the broader mood of the country and a chance for the region to give its verdict on the response to the pandemic that has killed nearly 15,000 people in the Comunidad alone.
The Right is famous for writing and re-writing school history books in favour of conservative narratives, distorting society’s view from an early age. Now, they want to hinder children’s understanding of the world even further by censoring feminism and LGBTQ+ rights.
I know Serigne Mbaye from the grassroots activism circuit in Lavapiés, where he regularly frontlines at protests with powerful anti-racism speeches. It’s no surprise to those who know him that he’s now running for election in the Madrid Regional Government with Unidas Podemos, where he’s set to become one of Spain’s first Black members of parliament, and achieve many other firsts too.
The Cañada Real is a 16km linear neighbourhood made up of six sectors which skirt the east of Madrid. Sectors 5 and 6, where residents are mostly Roma, Gitanx and Moroccan, have been without electricity for more than six months.
The pandemic hasn’t affected everyone equally. In fact, it has exacerbated and deepened pre-existing inequalities. During lockdown last year, Madrid alone recorded a 37% increase in calls to its regional helpline for gender violence. Due to the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, women in the capital have evidently been disproportionately affected in comparison with their male counterparts.
Period poverty is an umbrella term describing the socioeconomic barriers which prevent women, girls, and people who menstruate from managing their periods safely, and with dignity. It manifests itself in various ways, from the unseen (skipping meals to scrape together money for tampons and toilet paper) to the severe (lacking access to a bath or shower).