Sketches of Spain: A Mujer Libre

Shaking the Sun Out-side

It is all well and good to drop in on these amazing centres of art and culture. There is no discounting the value of the museums and galleries but that will give you the truest sense of what the people were, not what  and who they are. So after my Saturday questions on Easter Sunday I decided to take it outside or as a friend of mine dubs it, I decided “it was time to get amongst the people“. Oh yes, time to step on toes while crossing the street, crowd unto the platforms and hustle with absolutely no discretion to the first free seat on the Metro. Though always remembering to say “Lo Siento” loudly enough to get an understanding “de nada” in reply. And this is what I saw outside.

The first thing was a bright yellow sun hanging out my window, not pretending to generate heat like his trickster brother in London but the real old Sol. Oh yes skirt and slippers weather in April. I practically skipped down the street to Las Ventas, the Metro station right in front of the Plaza de Toros which I had foolishly failed to realise was Spain’s grand cathedral to the bullfights and was only five minutes from my hotel. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I had to. I purchased my ticket and tucked it away with my Peta principles and headed down below for my trip to El Rastro, the city’s giant street market. More on the bulls later.

Shaking the Sun Out-side

Shaking the Sun Out-side

The place is heaving with people, left or right everywhere you go more stalls selling what appears at first, second and third glance to be garbage. I will concede I have no patience at markets like these so I am not destined to find that buried treasure which will cost me a single euro but when discovered by some discerning eye will actually be a lost gem from the House of Habsburg von Heaven Knows which could earn me the fortune neither writing nor my practise of the law have yet done. Be that as it may, today’s treasure hunt is for people.

Alfonso Redondo Luque Is Not Worried

Alfonso Redondo Luque Is Not Worried

Here I meet this artist who reminds me of another artist I met four years ago in Cuba. His eyes don’t dart greedily towards passersby eager for a sale, he sits undisturbed completing his puzzles from his folded up book. He knows he needn’t worry such is the power of his work to pull people. He has lain his pieces out as if they were hanging in a gallery space and they are riveting. Mixed media and the symbolism around the use of locks and hinges is driving me crazy and so we get to talking, him with his Spanish-English dictionary, me with my pidgin Spanish and stray French words. As an aside living in Europe is turning me into the worse form of non-English speaker. “Per favor, how do you say-a Fanta, eh Grazie mille?” can happen very easily. Naturally his pieces are the most expensive on the street and I feel no compulsion to negotiate for they are worth it but I won’t buy today.

I move on deeper into Lavapies which my Lonely Planet guide tells me is the gritty, ultra way past cool, anti-glamour part of town. A wonderful tromphe l’oeil on the wall of an apartment block draws my attention and from there it is stolen by a small group playing that soothing athmospheric type music that you hear played when you are cooling down after a yoga session. Soon that same attention is wrested away by the sound of drumming coming from another street and I cannot stop myself I could never resist a drum and these sound so familiar. Ahh here it is, coming down a side street is a whole bunch of me, with gourds and drums and chanting and singing. It could be nyahbinghi  (check this link) in Kingston or in the hills of St. Ann, Jamaica. They stop long enough to get and hold your attention. But who can? Not look? Not listen? Not move? And then they are off heading down the street overwhelming the soothing New Agers, stopping just long enough to ruin that show and steal their audience.

Find me A Babylon, I Will Chant It Down

Find Me A Babylon, I Will Chant It Down

I am left to talk with Mariou from Senegal who tells me to come follow them but I am afraid. I cannot believe I am afraid and Mariou knows so he kisses me on both cheeks, gives me his number and tells me to call him later. This all happens in no more than two minutes and then they are off again and I feel like the child who got left behind after the Pied Piper enchanted the rest of them off to that fantastic place in the mountain.

I stood there for a while as the drums and chants faded, presenting and arguing the case as I always do and wondering why I never let myself go. I thought of a friend I knew who would have just gone with it and I hurried to catch up and would you believe it? They were only going into the very heart of the same market. They actually started at the foot of the market which runs up not down a hill and that is where I wanted to be. They were joyous and beautiful, there was sweat and rhythm and soul and they were here in Madrid, these people from Senegal, just like this woman from Jamaica. I sat and cried for a minute because I know when today’s masters paint Madrid the mirror will show milk and honey, caramel, coffee, ink and many shades in between.

Images of the New Masters on Calle de Mira del Sol

Images of the New Masters on Calle de Mira del Sol

Then I got up and went and bought my paella pan, surely you didn’t think I was going to come all the way here and not get one at source did you? And if third glances fail always try a fourth because on my way out I found Pilar, a neighbour from Venezuela and my brand new pocket book for 2012, the outrageously priced but aptly named Free Woman/Mujer Libre.

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  1. […] my last blog I mentioned that I bought tickets to see the bullfights, complete with Hamletlike equivocation. […]

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