Dancing and music fill the streets - everyone loves it, everyone does it; MADRID DAYS

They were having a little celebration down in Carabanchel the other day. Straddling the south-west fringes of the capital, this is not a beautiful part of town. Down-at-heel with shoddy higgledy-piggledy apartments, it is just a bus stop from dusty frontier territory beyond the ring-road, reminiscent of a scene from Paris, Texas.

But Carabanchel is perhaps the proudest of Madrid's working-class suburbs. In Franco's day it was notorious for its prison, where a number of today's illustrious citizens spent time at the Generalissimo's pleasure. The prison is still there,and so is the barracks, from which soldiers kept tabs on red-belt agitators.

The barracks is a community centre now, and the women from the province of Extremadura, vibrant in scarlet and emerald embroidered frocks, with broad brocade ribbons cascading down their backs, were heading up to the former military chapel to mark the first anniversary of Carabanchel's Extremaduran bar and clubhouse.

Most working-class Mad-rilenos come from somewhere else, fleeing rural poverty to seek a livelihood in the capital, and Extremadura is one of the poorest regions. But the 30 or so women and young girls getting ready in the back of their clubhouse, primping and preening and fluffing up each other's petticoats, were revelling in the prospect of celebrating their origins.

Sturdy, matronly Joaqui, a steely glint in her eye and makeup as startling as her sequinned bodice, came to Carabanchel 30 years ago from Badajoz. "We don't wear costumes like this at home," she confessed, "but being so far from home we feel the need to express our identity. It's an emotional feeling, and we like to pass it on to our daughters."

Their banter and raucous laughter ricocheted off the tiled walls, while Carmen behind the bar served up beer after frothy beer to the more sheepish menfolk, outdazzled by their resplendent wives. Loli, a shrunken nervy woman in normal life, glowed like a princess with her long gold earrings and a scarlet rose pinned above her ear, her bright shawl clutched round her skinny shoulders.

Carmen's crumpled husband, Manuel Calvo was European boxing champion in 1969. Their son Manuel, 29, with a beautiful fragile face and squashed nose, inherited his father's talent and is Spain's reigning featherweight champion. Manuel jnr is talking to Lourdes, 20, one of a handful of young women training to be a matador, who rents a room in Loli's cramped flat. Lourdes and young Manuel share the pinched, serious look of those striving to spring from their humble origins.

The Estremaduran women erupted on to the street, shoulder pads bumping, the young girls giggling and darting in their finery. And then, suddenly, the women started to sing, and the girls to dance, lifting their arms and swirling their bright skirts in the golden afternoon. They sang their hearts out on that dusty pavement, with the buses and lorries thundering by, in praise of their homeland.

Later that evening, I was eating dinner with friends in a good restaurant in Salamanca, which is a smart - what they call "pijo" - district. The place was unusually quiet and empty, and the waiters became more and more lugubrious as diners failed to materialise. We all knew why. Real Madrid, the "pijo" team, were playing their prolier local rivals Atletico in the deciding football match of the league.

Only ignorant foreigners would spurn their television sets on a night like this. Finally the waiter murmured with satisfaction: "Three-one victory to Real". But by then we already knew. A human tide was roaring through this prosperous Real heartland. Armies of fans, men carrying their young sons and daughters on their shoulders, trailing purple and white flags, some embellished with the scarlet-and-gold for Spain, chanted and surged along pavements where little old ladies usually walk their poodles, past wrought-iron portals and shop windows of designer textiles and soft leather handbags.

Scooters and cars created a city-wide traffic jam, filling the night with a deafening clangour of hooters. Young girls with velvet headbands leaned excitedly out of BMWs, their glossy, blazered boyfriends flushed with joy.

The sound of trumpets and kazoos floated through my bedroom window intermittently all night. A fanfare of car horns shattered the dawn lull, startling the swallows, as revellers ejected from all-night bars protested at finding themselves double-parked. Madrilenos of all classes love to celebrate, out on the street, at full volume.

Elizabeth Nash

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