It’s losing its identity, but people used to die in its streets, and now they don’t.
…responds Miguel Navia to the question if he misses former Chueca. He’s right: this is a part of Madrid that has experienced gentrification, but also one that has benefitted hugely from it until now.
Growing up in Chueca was eye-opening for Miguel. He was exposed to things that some parents would do their best to protect their child from seeing. He was surrounded by drugs, sex, filth and death – the foundations upon which Chueca’s character is built.
Navia’s memories of his youth are near perfect in his mind, but his artwork portrays only the depths and extremities. In his mind, Chueca seems to exist in either sunset, darkness or sunrise. His paintings very much revolve around the sinister night during which the neighbourhood would, and still does, come alive.
The lust for this former Chueca – one of desperation and debauchery – still has momentum. Many people who live in or visit this barrio continue to live the era that once defined it, though increasingly underground. Many residents would like to see Chueca move on and become cleaner, safer and more family-friendly.
Miguel Navia’s talented expression of his unfiltered memories paints a wicked but nostalgic picture of what he lived through, and even if this is disappearing under an unrelenting tidal wave of gentrification, Chueca’s dark place in history deserves to be remembered, because the enviable barrio that it is today stands upon the shoulders of its seedy past.
Here is a selection of Miguel Navia’s illustrations taken from his latest series, Chueca.