The street market in the Spanish capital was affected by the pandemic. Never before since 1740, when it was founded, have they closed their doors.
“At last!”. “We came back.” “Here we are”. It was what could be heard on Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, in Madrid, at eight in the morning this Sunday, that time in which the La Latina neighborhood gives the change of shift to night owls for early risers.
With 13 degrees and a postcard sky, those who “came back” were the vendors from El Rastro, the most famous street market in Spain, who woke up this Sunday from the anesthesia in which the coronavirus pandemic sunk him for eight months.
“Not even the bombs of the Civil War could with El Rastro, which is Madrid’s cultural heritage. This is the first time in history that it is closed, ”he told Clarion Mayka Torralbo, a market trader for more than three decades and spokesperson for the El Rastro Punto Es association.
“I didn’t even remember what I had here,” Carlos said while unwrapping the ceramics that he sells at his stall and that he hadn’t seen since they were filed away, Sunday March 8, not knowing that it would be the last day of the fair in a long time.
Because on March 14, President Pedro Sánchez decreed a state of alarm that did not let Spaniards leave their homes for almost a hundred days.
Today, with more than a million and a half Spaniards who have been infected with Covid-19 since the coronavirus made its footing here, Madrid once again celebrated the Sunday rite of walking around El Rastro to discover old finds or give a second life to objects that had already lived one.
But this version of El Rastro in the covid era houses only 500 stalls, which represent half of the total, and which can be visited by a maximum of 2,700 visitors.
Fenced and sealed by the Municipal Police of the city, the fair that has animated Sundays and holidays in Madrid since 1740 is now guarded by 150 agents and Civil Protection personnel who control the movement of people by land and air, on the sidewalk and with six drones.
“El Rastro is a safe place. It is in the open air ”, is the refrain of the open-air flea market that fought for months with the City Council to achieve this reopening. There is no post that does not have a poster with this inscription on it.
Bottles of gel alcohol glued with scotch tape to the metal posts of the posts, the irresistible recommendation of “do not touch” if it is not essential and the use of the chinstrap were fulfilled in the pilgrimage from one post to another, now more distant and smaller in size: they must not exceed two meters.
“They are smaller and we are installing El Rastro with half of their positions. It was our proposal to give security and tranquility to neighbors and visitors – said the association’s spokesperson. It will be 50 percent of jobs one Sunday and the other 50 percent the next Sunday until the health crisis is over. “
“I don’t know why it took so long to reopen it ”, said Juanma, a boy who collects antique watches and who, although he does not buy very often, usually walks through the antique shops of El Rastro “as therapy”. “It makes me good to see, search, discover,” he confessed.
Torralbo justified the delay in the reopening: “We have made 28 demonstrations in the street to preserve this emblem of the city that is the historical heritage of the people of Madrid,” he said. We initially assumed closure. But the problem has been that later the City Council has tried to use the health crisis to restructure El Rastro and take many positions out of their historic place ”.
El Rastro, the same one that appears even in Sabina’s letters, has its roots in slaughterhouses and leather tanners that, between the 15th and 17th centuries, settled on the outskirts of Madrid.
Later, manufacturers of shoes, groceries, tools, antique dealers were added and, according to legend, stolen objects even became a fleeting shop window.
Over time, El Rastro was distancing itself from its origins as a slaughterhouse to set up and dismantle its posts with a picturesque offering on Sunday mornings.