Postcard from... Madrid


Click to follow
The Independent Online

This week, the last inhabitants of Madrid’s only remaining large shanty town finally left, marking the end of a chapter of urban poverty that stretches back to the 1936-39 Civil War.

The eleven families who left El Ventorro de la Puñala, a maze of shacks just south of the capital, are now to be rehoused with the 445 other families who had already abandoned the modern-day slums.

El Ventorro dates back to the 1970s, but others sprung up in the aftermath of the Civil War, inhabited by refugees from Madrid, one of the conflict’s main battlegrounds. But the real boom for the capital’s shanty towns came in the 1960s, when the predominantly rural nation mutated into a mainly industrial one.

With many cities suffering from a chronic lack of housing, provisional alternatives sprang up and, in some cases, have endured until very recently.

Since 2003, the Madrid town hall has spent €128m (£96m) in wiping out the last such makeshift settlements on its outer perimeter, but it is a slow process, and by no means complete.

Just over the city limits is the long-established Cañada Real Galiana shanty town. A mere 70m wide in most places, it stretches south-east for several kilometres on a publicly owned sheeptrack.