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Ancient and modern, traditional and exotic, multicultural and cañí. This is Lavapiés, the neighborhood of Rita Maestre, candidate of Más Madrid to the Mayor's Office in the face of the elections in Madrid of 28-M, where she moves like a fish in water.
Here he has been renting for six years because buying a house to live in this downtown area "is impossible". Rita is in love with her neighborhood, "the best in all of Madrid".
"There are different smells, colors, textures and accents. You can buy in traditional shops and in stores with products from all over the world. Children of all nationalities go to school together and play in the playground. In August, we have the coolest popular festivals. It is a very cheerful neighborhood that represents the best of the city," she says proudly over a coffee at the La Central bar.
If she loves her neighborhood, it is a love reciprocated because the neighbors also turned to her previous formation Ahora Madrid and with the current one, Más Madrid, in the electoral appointments.
Manuela Carmena swept through these streets of the Centro district in the municipal elections of 2015 and 2019. Even in the regional elections of 2021, when the Community was dyed blue with the triumph of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Lavapiés remained faithful to Más Madrid.
Rita goes to buy peaches at the fruit shop in Plaza de Lavapiés, run since 2012 by Md Snah Alam, a merchant from Bangladesh, who has been in Spain for more than 20 years.
The greengrocer tells Rita about the problems that haunt her, which perfectly reflect the threats that the area suffers. "They want to kick me out of my apartment because they are going to make tourist apartments. There are fewer and fewer neighbors in the neighborhood and more tourists and that is noticeable because they do not buy anything. I earn 300 euros less per day. And in summer I raise 500 euros to rent. That's why I want Rita to win so that she lowers them," he says.
The proliferation of tourist flats that has already been experienced in Malasaña, Huertas and Chueca is also spreading through Lavapiés, which causes the rise in rents and generates problems of coexistence.
"Touristification is putting more and more pressure. A hosting plan was approved but does not apply. There are more and more illegal flats on the ground floor of the houses, "criticizes the candidate.
The campaign, with a baby
The Bangladeshi traders continue their complaints, while Rita buys the pieces of fruit.
-At home I am only getting the electoral propaganda of the PP and Vox. Let's see when we organize a meal - says one of them.
"You have to talk about that with Vicky. I don't keep my agenda. I don't have a life anymore. It doesn't belong to me," jokes the candidate about the electoral frenzy.
Rita not only has an impossible agenda with many events before the 28-M, but she gave birth in February and has a newborn daughter.
How do you survive an election campaign with a baby?
-I have a lot of support. His father does his part and the grandparents are being very helpful. I don't want to part with her, so I go back and forth a lot to feed her or carry her on my back to the acts.
Rita at the bar La Central de Lavapiés.Á. NAVARRETE
With a newborn baby, the pharmacy is another of the obligatory stops for the leader of Más Madrid. But the Lavapiés pharmacy, located in the square of the same name, is not just any business, but a social institution, which organizes many solidarity initiatives.
This pharmacy has created the five-euro checks with which treatments for vulnerable people are then financed that are not covered by Social Security.
The pharmacist María Esteban complains that the City Council disdains citizen participation and in Lavapiés there is still a strong neighborhood movement. "We need more investments for the neighborhood and that the commercial fabric is not lost. We want someone committed. For example, I do not understand that the district councilor of Lavapiés is the same as that of the Salamanca neighborhood, "says Esteban, while chatting with the leader of Más Madrid.
"Are you a councilman or something?" a neighbor interrupts them. I am from Lavapiés all my life and the neighborhood is very bad. There are a lot of fights and a lot of drunkenness.
The problem of crime
Insecurity and shenanigans are other problems plaguing this area. In fact, the mayoral candidate says that it has been a long time since so many drugs were seen on the street.
All traders complain about the same thing. "There are many robberies and drugs because there are more and more narcopisos. The policemen risk their lives, because when they start to search they take out their knives. You call them and they come in five minutes. You can't imagine the work the police do! The normal and the secret. I already know everyone secret. They should pay them double," says Amina, a woman of Moroccan origin who runs an ethnic clothing store.
Despite being Muslim, her children study in a school of nuns and she is delighted with Christian education and politicians in this country: "They all seem good to me. Some complement each other. Compared to Morocco they are better."
Undoubtedly, his testimony is the exception to the widespread discontent that exists towards the political class in the face of the elections in Madrid. "They're all the same dog with different collars. When they come to power they do nothing of what they promised. With Carmena we were better off because she came through the neighborhood. We have never seen Almeida around here," criticizes Raquel at the La Central bar.
This waitress says that her son has tried to steal his wallet twice and that rare is the day when there is not an attempt to rob in the street.
The sellers have located the focus of crime in specific areas. "This is not fixed until they clean Tribulete and Mesón de Paredes streets. Look, it's not racism, but there are some menas [unaccompanied minors] who are engaged in stealing. I believe that they should be given a chance, but if they do not take advantage of it, let them be returned to their country. You have to change the laws," explains Javi, who owns a drugstore.
For some residents, their biggest concern is that Lavapiés will end up losing its essence. "I don't buy the discourse of insecurity. The problem is that the neighborhood has to be livable. All my friends have left because they have been expelled. We are left with a center that is only for tourists, in which you can not live. In the end, we are just a set," concludes Mario, a neighbor.
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