Madrid – Street musicians in Móstoles

City Column

Street musicians in Móstoles

Line C5 starts at Atocha, the same Madrid train station that was hit by a terrorist attack on 11 March 2004, exactly two and a half years after the attack in New York. There is nothing here to commemorate this tragedy, but that may be intentional: punishing the culprits by ignoring them.

Line C5’s final destination, 45 minutes away, is Móstoles. The train travels alongside grey concrete walls behind which increasingly tall houses and shops rise up, culminating in IKEA mega stores and flats big enough to house entire villages. Although this was not a pleasure trip – I was here to interview Y in connection with project X – it was a worthwhile detour. This too is Madrid, just not the Madrid of the Puerta del Sol, Gran Via and the Prado.

In the little shopping centre next to the underground station there is a butcher with more flies on his hams than clients in a year, a slot machine hall, at least four empty shops, and two shoe stores, just opposite one another. The most expensive pair of shoes in the shop window costs thirteen euro, the cheapest only six. Washing waves from the windows of the houses above the shops, and ‘for sale’ signs are everywhere. The morning’s newspaper headlines shouted that financial analysts and economists were predicting an end to the two years of recession in Spain. But here that news has about as much value as a story about the discovery of gold in New Zealand.

What this street needs is entertainment. Is that what the woman thought this morning when she was looking for place to set up her mobile organ? A motorbike with a 1980s Casio synthesizer strapped to its luggage rack. A cigarette in one hand, she is using the other to produce gypsy classics at full volume ‘do you want to hear?’ To make matters worse she starts to sing. Even her dog, stuck between a can of petrol and some plastic carrier bags at the bottom of the mobile organ, is unappreciative and retreats even further into the mobile organ.

Just before you enter Móstoles, Iker Casillas looks down on you from a gigantic billboard. The Real Madrid keeper, much loved for having remained true to himself in a star-studded team, proudly proclaims: ‘No soy galactico, soy de Móstoles.’