November 25, 2020

‘Check-point’ on the return from the Madrid Rastro


“You have to turn around and go right down the street of Juanelo,” says the civil protection volunteer to a woman with a confused face. “The truth is that it is a bit of a mess,” he admits. After eight months of closure due to the covid, El Rastro de Madrid returned this morning of autumn sun with great public success and some problems to orient between the fenced areas on the road and delimited with police plastic tape, with hardly any posters. Some 150 agents guarded the entrances between streets, sidewalks and driveways on a busy morning in which street vendors denounced the “improvisation” of the city hall in the return of the fair to the streets.

The vendors spent more than three months negotiating with the council on reopening conditions. They wanted the capacity to be delimited using the buildings as a guide, but the city council refused, hiding from the need to protect the neighbors. After starting concessions regarding the number of stalls and location, the street vendors ended up accepting, once they managed to preserve the central axis along the Ribera de Curtidores. But the route through this sloping street was arranged in an ascending direction and separated from the Plaza de Cascorro, the historic head of the market, which caused some protest from those responsible for the stalls. “The one from Madrid leaves the metro in La Latina and goes down. Those below are suffocated,” complained Bruno, who sold vinyl and toy cars right between Cascorro and La Ribera, and who lamented that potential customers had He had to go down half the street on the sidewalk, pass to the road, and then go back up to get to where he was. “If I don’t sell, I’ll go away, I won’t beat myself up, Pablo,” he told a colleague who sells movie posters and who today decided not to set up the stall yet (with reduced measures by municipal order) because he was not clear on how to organize the gender.

There was a lot of expectation and desire to support the vendors, and even a brand of beer had kids distributing tokens to those responsible for the stalls so that they could exchange it for a beer in the bars later. With good weather, the influx was very notable, with which the maximum capacity of 2,700 people was filled every so often. The agents would then cut off the path and long queues formed. “It will only be five minutes,” one said to the people who were queuing at the top of the Cascorro. On one side, similar words from another agent, who politely explained: “They have said that there are many people and you cannot enter.” Signs were also missing, so a policeman improvised an arrow on cardboard to regulate traffic. It was not very clear, on the other hand, that the drones announced to control the capacity worked very well, and in fact the controls were made at the entrances with manual people-counting devices.

The street vendor associations held a press conference at 11:30 to give thanks for the support received during the closing months and to analyze how the day was going. “We have encountered a surreal situation,” criticized Mayka Torralbo, spokesperson for the Rastro Punto Es association. ” [la plaza de] Vara del Rey there is practically no signposted area, in Campillo there is only one access and free transit inside, in Ribera de Curtidores they do not allow people to go down, but there are no signs that divert people … ” We do not understand how after so many months [en el ayuntamiento] They did not have an adequate plan that they had communicated to us, as our objective has always been to collaborate. It was a day to reopen with joy, but we have found a day of protest for the poor organization of the City Council “.

The candidate to lead Podemos in Madrid, Luis Nieto, was heard among the public, accompanied by the regional deputy Carolina Alonso and the founder of the party Juan Carlos Monedero, who intervened: “I see few positions and a lot of police.” Torralbo assured, in any case, that sellers will continue fighting to improve conditions, but they will not paralyze the market. “We are not going to stop. Any protest will be made from the posts, we have never gone on strike,” he recalled.

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