Immigrant exploitation is all around us. Many of Spain’s 600,000 undocumented migrants are essential workers, They pick Europe’s vegetables and keep them cheap, they take care of the elderly, clean the hospitals, deliver us food, build our homes and allow us to stay confined in them during the pandemic. Institutional exploitation of immigrants must stop, and that is exactly what Regularización Ya are here to do.
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.
Lavapiés is a neighbourhood of extremes. It was recently crowned the coolest neighbourhood in the world by Time Out Magazine, but is also one of the most multicultural – and poor – in Spain.
It is only by chance that a small bungalow in Madrid bearing the scars of Nazi shelling still survives. And it is only by pure coincidence that, just a decade ago, this fact came to light when photographer and archeologist Jose Latova stumbled across a photograph taken by the Hungarian war photographer Robert Capa. Its residents share their stories.
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.
The fight against coronavirus echoes something hauntingly familiar in Spain, and it’s from this dark period in history that local artist Félix Rodriguez has found inspiration. From the confines of his home in Madrid where he remains, like the rest of us, under lockdown, a renaissance is happening.