Updated Monday,25September2023-00:09

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  • La Ventilla or when the north of Madrid was dangerous
  • Pedro Gómez feathers, the fetish garment that seduced bakalas in the 90s
  • The passage of terror of the Barranquillas
  • The ground floor of Argüelles, cocktail bars and the ring of urban tribes
  • The Specka, the embassy of the Bakalao Route in Madrid
  • The skins of the Plaza de los Cubos

Alexander Fleming was a Scottish physician and scientist who achieved great fame and worldwide renown as the discoverer of penicillin, an antibiotic used to cure bacterial infections, obtained from fungi of the genus Penicillium. His discovery was made in 1928, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945. His name became so famous that one of the newly built streets of late Francoist Madrid was baptized with his name: Dr Fleming.

In the early 1950s, new neighborhoods were created in the north of the city, composed of modern housing for the time, many of which were occupied by the US military, in the so-called Korea neighborhood (for the war fought by the US between 1950 and 1953). Let's say that at that time the entire northeast area of Madrid was under construction. Some of the soldiers, depending on their status in the army itself, lived in some neighborhoods or others. The Korea neighborhood area was usually occupied by high-ranking military officers, while other buildings, such as those that make up the former dormitory town of Barrio de la Concepción, were frequented by lower-level soldiers.

With the arrival of the Americans, who came from a much more modern country than ours, new customs, products and forms of leisure (music, drinks, blond tobacco, etc.) also arrived, closely linked to hedonism, drunkenness. From then on, throughout the area of the Barrio de Corea in the district of Chamartín proliferated, cabarets, American bars and local alternate. These places were designed to serve as entertainment for the American military who would live for a time in the capital.

However, many Spaniards became part of the usual clientele of such places. In this way, a whole nocturnal world arose in the area around Dr Fleming Street. Apparently, one hot afternoon in the summer of 1968, they asked the young journalist Raúl del Pozo where he summered, and he replied that on the "Fleming Coast". His words referred to this neighborhood of Corea, located on the eastern fringe of the Castellana. The success of that area, as far as night festivities are concerned, made this business model extend, both to the west of the Castellana, in Capitán Haya (which still today has American bars, strip tease clubs and street prostitutes) and east, to Príncipe de Vergara, already in the vicinity of the Berlin Park (opened in 1967). There was, in fact, a popular saying related to the western part of the Castellana, according to which, "if the night fails, we go to Capitán Haya"; implying that if one does not flirt, one can always resort to the American bars and prostitutes of the area.

The very name and concept of American bar has, most likely, its germ in the Korean Quarter (and other areas frequented by American soldiers in those years). These are places where prostitutes met to attract customers. These types of premises are not brothels per se, but operate as meeting places for whores and hookers. The owner of the bar profits from the drinks that customers consume, always encouraged by prostitutes, who demand to be invited. Of the drinks they pay, prostitutes take a percentage. Whether they then want to charge the client, or not, for sexual services, is up to them. The bar does not have rooms or rooms for sex. The girls make a claim that increases the consumption (and price) of drinks.

"There was a lot of march," Raúl del Pozo tells me. "I think the Movida was born on the Fleming Coast. That 'Madrid kills me...' Madrid started killing us on the Fleming Coast. That started when I was working at Pueblo de reportero, in '65, '66. In Madrid, if you left before half past one [in the morning], you made a fool of yourself. The march started at half past one or two." "The prostitutes had changed. Before, prostitutes were like our aunts, with carded hair, asses, with ladies' bags. And, suddenly, different prostitutes began to emerge, more modern, mini-skirts and such. [The new prostitutes of the time] were not like now, who all look like Miss World, but until that time the prostitutes of Chicote or Lara were ladies, it seemed that they went to church; very serious."

La Castellana, in the 60s, with the Bernabéu on the right.

"In Costa Fleming, on the other hand, those cabarets were more distinguished, they were for military commanders. And many married girls from the Fleming Coast. They were alternate girls, I don't know if they were prostitutes at all. People made a living as they could... The ones that alternated weren't necessarily whores, but they made you consume whiskey, you understand? They threw their cup into the pots, they didn't want to get drunk. They were girls who made a living alternating ways."

Although the name that Del Pozo invented took root, over the years that nightlife so representative of the sixties ended up disappearing, at least in what was the original core of the matter. In the neighborhood, other more familiar forms of consumption ended up predominating: there were some shops and many restaurants in the place. Naturally, as the Americans left the area and the native population aged, that nocturnal world was doomed to disappear forever, without a trace.

Iñaki Dominguez

He is the author of Macarras interseculares, edited by Melusina, [you can buy the book here], Macarrismo, edited by Akal, [you can buy the book here] and Macarras ibéricos, edited by Akal, [you can buy the book here] and La verdadera historia de la Panda del Moco. [You can buy the book here]

  • Alberto Chicote