These days Madrid does not seem Madrid. The city that never sleeps seems anchored in an unprecedented sleepiness in which merchants and neighbors do not want to continue.
The Spanish capital begins tomorrow, Monday, phase 1 in the reopening after the confinement by the coronavirus, in which the mythical Madrid bars will be able to open their doors although many of them assume that they will not do so for profitability.
“It opens to provide the service and not leave the customer lying, but not to do great business,” say some; Others turn to citizen support: “The tourists have disappeared, but the neighbors are turning over.”
As citizens prepare for the long-awaited first step in returning to normalcy, shops, hotels and services are struggling today to have everything ready for tomorrow.
The people of Madrid and those who live in the multicultural Madrid like the sun, the terraces and the popular festivals, but the arrival of the pandemic ended all that except for the heat that is already starting to stir up this spring.
At this point, Madrid would be full of tourists, whose visits account for 6.5% of the region’s GDP and so far this year have decreased by 62.04% compared to 2019 according to data from the City Council.
In May 2019, 962,000 visitors enjoyed the good weather, the cultural and commercial offer of Madrid, but until today silence and calm continue to reign.
The most visited museums, such as the Prado, the Thyssen Bornemisza or the Reina Sofía, which house the works of Velazquez, Goya or El Guernica by Picasso, will not open this Monday, despite the fact that the Spanish government’s de-escalation plan allows it. Everything points to its opening being held in early June and they will do so with 30 percent of its capacity.
A few streets from the museums, Julián Carranza runs El Florista: “Traditionally, this has been a neighborhood where tourists and neighbors live together, but tourists have disappeared.” Despite this, the neighbors soon came out to help their merchants: “we are supplying the absence of tourists with the people who live in the neighborhood for life.”
THE NEIGHBORS TO THE RESCUE OF TRADE
In a city of almost four million inhabitants, human relations are colder than in smaller populations. Still, one of the consequences of this pandemic was the creation of a neighborhood fabric in which neighborhood food banks or care networks sprouted, which are now mobilized to help small businesses.
“Today we are weaker but yesterday there was a queue to take flowers,” says excited Julián, who remembers when they could only do home orders, largely for people who had passed COVID-19: “they and we were excited, they have also good things happened. “
Oliver Jiménez was caught in the pandemic in the middle of moving his business to another location. Her clothing store, Pinpilinpauxa, next to the flower shop, is still getting ready.
“Tourism was what kept us going, now we are trying to do it with the neighbors,” who, he says, “these first days are more curious than they buy, but there are those who are encouraged.
Ignacio Reig, director of Furiosa Gallery, explains to Efe that 70% of the public that came to his gallery was a foreigner.
“There is not a lot of public at street level but the clients we have contacted have come to collect works and we have sold others online,” he shares.
Despite this, he acknowledges that there will be typical activities of the galleries, such as the opening of exhibitions, which may not take place in the coming months: “we have to reinvent ourselves,” he added.
Something similar happens to Juan Gómez, owner of the La Traviesa restaurant, near the Plaza Mayor, a must-see stop for tourists arriving in Madrid.
“Tourists account for 70-80% of our clientele,” says the owner of this tavern, who will not lift the blind tomorrow because “it is not profitable.”
For Gómez, the absence of tourists and the capacity restrictions on the terrace make it unfeasible to start the business again, where 16 people work who are now covered by a temporary employment regulation file (ERTE).
This businessman postpones the decision to reopen in phase 2, when the limitations are more lax, although without great expectations. “We will open because we have no choice,” he says. “We will work with the people in the neighborhood and that’s it.”
SHOPS DO NOT MAKE PROFITS BUT OPEN FOR NEIGHBORS
For three weeks, Julio Zamarrón has been opening the La Buena Pinta brewery every day in Lavapiés, a central and popular neighborhood in Madrid with great associative activity.
“Things get up very little, there is little order, for home and we are also taking it, but it is the push that is needed now,” says this young man, the only one of the five employees of the business who has returned to work.
Given the situation, the guys from La Buena Pinta, which has bottled beer sales and tasting on the premises, decided to open just a few hours a day. The bar part is not yet allowed, but when they are in a market they are also not very clear when they can do it.
“In normal conditions the market would be crowded and now we have one or two clients in the morning and a couple of deals a day, it opens to provide that service and not leave the client lying around, but not to do business,” he says.
Outside the historic and tourist center, Ketty, who is in charge of the Ecuadorian bar “Delicias y Tortazos”, located in a middle-class neighborhood, could only serve takeout food and from tomorrow it will open the terrace, even if it is only 50% of its capacity.
At this time there was very little demand for food on request and even days when they sold nothing. But, he says, this system allowed him to keep in touch with customers, hoping not to lose them until he can resume full activity.
As of tomorrow, it will not cover expenses either, although it will be able to recover one of the three workers at the establishment who are covered by an ERTE.
“It is about them not forgetting me”, to demonstrate that this business continues to be willing to offer a good service and face the sacrifices “from the positive side,” says this Ecuadorian woman hopefully, who continues to struggle after “very hard” days. , without income, and of a time “that will not recover”.
WAIT FOR NORMALITY BETWEEN MASKS, GLOVES AND DISTANCE
Cloth masks are one of the garments that arrive in boxes at Pinpilinpauxa, when all that customers try on must pass a three-day disinfection before returning to the hangers.
“When we reopened, we had to remove the entire product because it was full of dust, and disinfect it. The first few days are very rare,” says Oliver, along with one-way masks, disinfectant liquid and gloves for customers.
Religious sites are also preparing for the phase change and schedule more rites due to the impossibility of carrying them out at full capacity, now limited to one third.
The Catholic Church of San Mateo, in a working-class neighborhood, was able to resume public worship last Monday with a limited number of faithful, and they assure that today is a “key” to verify interest in returning to the temple, according to Father Ricardo.
Of the 550 parishioners who can normally attend mass, only 87 will be able to do so today, to preserve at least a meter and a half of distance. After each celebration, the banks will be disinfected “thoroughly” and the confessions may be resumed, although not in the confessionals, but in spaces that ensure distance.
“I am not in a hurry for attendance to be massive, it does not make much sense; we are learning little by little and taking routines based on experience,” says this priest, who says that the worst thing these days was not being able to hug family members who lost a loved one and increasing poverty among those who lose their jobs.
The best of what lies ahead is “the joy of seeing people again,” he celebrates.
Ahead are several phases of lack of confinement in which you cannot let your guard down in the event of a possible spike in infections if security measures are not respected.
And is that ndie wants a repeat of the pandemic, which in the Madrid region has already caused almost 68,000 infections and nearly 9,000 deaths.
“Confinement was necessary, but we have also little questioned how it could affect individually, such as older people who have to go for a walk to have good health, for example,” says Diego, a resident of Madrid.
It is clear that from tomorrow, he will take the opportunity to see friends with whom during these two months he could only speak through video calls, but also that we must be aware that the virus has not yet disappeared.
“Of course I feel like it, but I have in mind how badly we have had it and how necessary it is to be careful not to have a rebound”, ditch. Macarena Soto