What happens in the Cañada Real Galiana has historically remained within those invisible walls of a shanty town 15 kilometers from the Puerta del Sol. Neighbors in sector 5 and 6 have gathered this Tuesday in front of the Madrid City Council to break that isolation and claim a solution. They have been without electricity for more than a month and are “psychologically exhausted”.
The town has had supply problems for years because the houses are precarious, there are no meters – most of the people are “hooked” irregularly – and the lamps of the marijuana plantations that exist in some areas suck the light and overload the network until it jumps.
But this time the cuts have gone further. They began the first week of October, according to several neighbors; then the light came back a few days but again the situation is unlivable. It has never lasted for so long, and the authorities do not provide a short-term solution for these thousands of people who have been living in the dark since early October. In the middle of last month a group of neighbors blocked streets and the A-3. There were some riots.
“We have the fridge empty because everything gets bad. We can’t put washing machines. My two-year-old baby is freezing cold. It’s hard for me to put him to sleep. He’s disoriented,” Sara Benayad, 25, complains tearfully, sunk in despair. He does not know if “the problem is the plantations or something else” because “the light comes momentarily always at the same time”. The saturation of the electrical network, in addition to depriving of light, is rendering electrical appliances unusable due to highs and lows.
Hajaz Ezzerouali studies a higher Pharmacy module and, without Wi-Fi, he cannot connect to the streets online. He considers “a shame that this is happening in Madrid, in Spain, in Europe.” “There is no right to live as we are living.” In recent weeks he has chosen to climb a mountain next to his house and sit up there to try to get some coverage with his mobile and follow the classes. “I do not find out about anything because there is a lot of traffic. The truth is that the desire to continue studying is taken away. This is not school. If I do not go, I fail and nobody will do anyone for me,” he laments.
He is holding a banner that says: “There is no marijuana in my house.” This situation has generated anger on the part of some residents of La Cañada, who suffer from the excesses of the plantations. “I feel very little social support for a desperate situation like the one we live in. We feel abandoned. La Cañada is still invisible,” denounces Hajaz, who assures that her wish is to leave the town “soon”, where she has lived with her family for 10 years, when he came from Tangier. His grandmother lives here too. “You know, they came and sold them a piece of land,” he adds at the bottom.
Saida has brought a sign painted by her eight-year-old daughter, who has asked the wise men to give her back the light, according to her mother. “He painted this for me yesterday with a crying face,” he says. Fatima Dirai has come to demonstrate with her seven-month-old baby. The child has been vomiting for days and is in the car very covered. “Without light, life is fatal. You cannot imagine. It comes five minutes and it leaves. You don’t even have time to put a washing machine. We have bought a diesel generator but it is very expensive to start it, 20 or 25 euros a day” .
They all emphasize that they want to “pay” for the supply, but slide that neither the electricity company (Naturgy) nor the administrations know how to provide a quick solution with a view to progressively evicting the area, as agreed in 2018 by the Community and the Madrid City Council, guaranteeing a relocation worthy for families. The neighbors fear the consequences also in the long term. Several professionals from the health center that serves this area have written a letter, advanced by Cadena Ser, that warns of the psychological and physical consequences that a situation thus sustained over time can leave the population.
“A lot has happened in La Cañada, but now Cañaveral is looming around here”
For two hours, the neighbors clamored not to be judged when they claimed their right to basic supplies. “In La Cañada, a lot has happened. It is illegal since Franco and here many things have been allowed to happen. Now El Cañaveral -one of the new urban developments promoted by the Madrid City Council- and of course …”, jokes Adelaida Carrasco, social educator and mediator of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano. “I really don’t know what an emergency is for our administrations if this is not,” he adds. The Fanal association, which also works in the field, has been working in the dark for weeks. “Families cannot do day-to-day things. Psychosocial stress is very strong,” says Rocío Díaz, one of the educators.
The Community and the Madrid City Council signed the relocation agreement more than two years ago. During this time, a new home has been given to 150 families who lived in the area of the old unpaved cattle track. The process is being very slow. The area of Families, Equality and Social Welfare assures that “the dignity of living conditions is a priority and that happens to reestablish the light”, although 37 days after the first massive cuts there is still no way out.
The plenary session approved at the end of October the creation of an emergency table, proposed by Más Madrid, to address the situation immediately with social entities and residents. The general director of Primary Care, Community Intervention and Social Emergency, Alejandro López Pérez, has assured in the commission of the branch the agreement of a shock plan to “speed up the police interventions necessary for the reestablishment of the supply.”
For Más Madrid, the City Council is not complying with what was agreed in the regional pact signed in 2017. “There are no generator trucks, there are no photovoltaic panels. The access of lack of light threatens life”, has snapped the mayor Pilar Sánchez in the same commission. One of the priority measures of the pact is a plan for the rehabilitation of the electrical network that has only been fulfilled in the first phase: conducting a data survey to find out the technical situation of the installation. Meanwhile, life continues in the dark in the Cañada Real.