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.
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.
Zoom out of Madrid on Google satellite view and red clusters begin to emerge. Between grey, gridded avenues and barren parks, see clusters of winding narrow streets with red roof tiles and tiny plazas, which were once independent towns with their own culture, economy and architecture. Today, even though they lie well within the city limits of Madrid, they remain different.
Down Calle Tribulete, just a few minutes from Plaza Lavapiés is Cómics El Coleccionista, where it has stood seemingly forever. Opened in 1993 by a pair of friends who met each other through their mutual love of comic books, El Coleccionista has remained virtually unchanged throughout its 27 years of existence.
I’m sitting on a concrete bench on Plaza Nelson Mandela, taking in the warm winter sun on my face. A local Senegalese man wearing an ivory silk boubou pours his friends cups of hot black coffee from a canister. On a bench near them, a group of young Argentinians top up their cups of mate and share a smoke.
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.
Allí está Maribel y los demás, sobre todo entre semana es raro el día que no ves a alguien con quien ya te habías topado en el mismo lugar. Mismo lugar, la bodega, y mismo lugar, el espacio que ese conocido ocupa en ella. Los habituales de los bares, tabernas y bodegas funcionan así, ya sabes.
The prices are low, the quality is fine, the service is quick, the menu is in Spanish and the soul and decor of the bar is utterly no-frills.
Spain’s first McDonald’s opened in 1981, replacing an old jeweller’s on Gran Vía. Many predicted that this gran hamburguesería would be the beginning of the end of Madrid as we knew it. And they were right.
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.
It’s 1979. Franco had died just four years earlier and the transition to democracy was well underway. Everything painted, moulded and built in this era would become a time capsule to Spain’s post-dictatorship optimism. Or, at least, what still remains of this era.
What the lateros are doing is illegal and there are police everywhere. If they’re caught selling beer, their stock, which they purchased themselves, will be confiscated. But, for the tin men, it’s worth the risk.
What is an urban sky frame? It’s a worm’s-eye view centring around the sky, almost seamlessly framed by urban structures (a term invented right here, right now).