Madrid, the African

Audio 48:30

Vanessa Cadena, Afro-Colombian activist from Madrid in the multicultural neighborhood of Lavapiés.

© Inès Edel-Garcia

By: Céline Develay Mazurelle Follow

5 mins

New episode of our series of travels through the past and the black present of the great cities of the world.

Direction Madrid, the capital of a country located only 14 km from the African coast but which still largely ignores its Africanness. 


To say that Spain is close to Africa is obvious. Geographical first, Spain being the only country in Europe to keep territories (Ceuta and Melilla) on African soil. Historical too. The Muslim period of the Iberian Peninsula (711-1492) where many North Africans set foot on Al Andalus soil, is an important page in the long history of miscegenation in the peninsula, made up of crossed legacies between the Arab world, Greek, Latin, Jewish but also African. So much so that it was said that Africa began at the foot of the Pyrenees. 

Today in Madrid, a conservative and Castilian capital with more than 3 million inhabitants, as elsewhere in the country, this heritage is largely unknown or even ignored.

The same goes for the history of slavery and colonialism, the Spaniards not having done much publicity, unlike the Portuguese, for their colonial enterprise in Africa, especially in Equatorial Guinea. 

“Afro-Spanish” born in Spain, Africans from the continent who arrived more recently or “Afro-Latinos” from South America, the country's black people would number 1 to 2 million.

And among them, 700,000 are said to be of Spanish nationality.

Very little official data exists on this subject and the African and Afro-descendant community in Spain, aware of its invisibility, is now seeking to be counted and to come together.  

In Madrid, it is in Lavapiés that one can find the multicultural face of the city.

There are Spaniards, Senegalese and Bangladeshi immigrants, international tourists ... Anti-racist activists gather there and make common cause, in particular to defend the city's undocumented Africans.

In the great cultural institutions of Madrid, on the other hand, faces and black history remain invisible, as if kept in a blind spot of the Spanish national narrative.

We must then go and find them.

This is what our reporter did in the discovery of Afro-Madrilenians who move the city and the lines of a country which has difficulty in looking its Africanness in the face.  

A report by Inès Edel-Garcia.

This report is part of our series of trips to meet African diasporas, whether in 






, etc.

To discover : 

- The Museo de America offers until February 2022

a temporary exhibition on slavery and the cultural heritage of Africa in the Caribbean

- Some unmissable places in Madrid are intimately linked to the slavery and colonial history of Spain.

For example, auctions of people enslaved were held in the Plaza Mayor and “human zoos” were organized in Retiro Park.

As for the luxurious district of Salamanca, it is closely linked to the Marquis de Vinent, a slave owner who was enriched by the transatlantic slave trade.

- At

the Prado Museum

, discover the work of Juan de Pareja, in particular

La Vocación de San Mateo

 on which this former black slave and member of Velázquez's workshop was self-represented.

- A stone's throw from Atocha station, the basílica-parroquia Nuestra Señora de Atocha houses a

black virgin

very similar to the Moreneta that can also be found in Catalonia. Until the 17th century, within the Catholic Church, black people were represented as figures close to power.


 is the multicultural district of Madrid. Calle Esgrima, you will meet

Becha Sita Kumbu

 who has made her BeshaWear sewing workshop into a solidarity and anti-racist boutique. Further down Calle Mesón de Paredes, the Sindicato de Manteros recently opened a store called “


” to financially support undocumented street vendors. Going down on Calle Embajadores, in front of the Mercado de San Fernando, you will discover the fresco "

In memory of Mame Mbaye

 and our brothers and sisters who are migrant victims ... who are struggling to obtain their papers" - this street vendor is deceased in 2018 after a chase with the police.

- In Madrid, the

 Equatorial Guinean diaspora

 is more concentrated in the southern suburbs, in the municipalities of Léganès, Móstoles, Alcorcón, Fuenlabrada, Getafe, Parla or even Torrejón de Ardoz where Spanish hip-hop was born.

Every August 15, the Bubi community celebrates the Madre Bisila, the patron saint of the Guinean island of Bioko.

- The former slaughterhouses of

Matadero Madrid

have long hosted the

Conciencia Afro festival

 and the editorial staff of the online review



The collective has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an “

Espacio Afro

” in complete independence.

To read :

- Rogelio López Cuenca,

Los Bárbaros, lugares de memoria del colonialismo español en Madrid

, 2016

- Observatorio Español del Racismo y la Xenofobia,

Seminario sobre el legado de las personas africanas y afrodescendientes a España

, 2020

- Lucía Asué Mbomio Rubio,

Las que se atrevieron

, Sial / Casa de África, 2017

- Rubén H. Bermúdez,

Y tú, ¿Por qué eres negro?,

Encuadernación Rústica, 2018

- Moha Gerehou,

Qué hace un negro como tú en un sitio como este

, Península, 2021.

To have :

- Miguel Ángel Rosales,

Gurumbé, canciones de tu memoria negra

, 2016, 75 '

- Telemadrid,

Eso no se pregunta: Negros

, 2018, 40 '

- Javier Fernández Vázquez,

Anunciaron Tormenta

, 2020, 88 '

- Rubén H. Bermúdez,

A todos nos gusta el plátano

, 2021, 61 '.


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