Trader's tax squeezes Madrid's flea market

Traders of the Rastro, the best known flea-market in Spain, are up in arms over plans by Madrid's regional government that they fear will choke off their livelihood. They say proposals to regulate street selling will slash their number from 1,745 to 300 and transform the face of the capital's much loved landmark.

The draft law would oblige street sellers to pay an "economic activities" tax plus insurance and social security contributions that traders fear could amount to pounds 180 a month. But many make so little from their stalls that they would be driven away, according to the Independent Association of Rastro Traders that represents the majority of the stallholders.

"We work only on Sundays and for most of us it is the only income we have. Some people have been coming for 30 or 40 years, artisans selling their own handicrafts, and we can't afford to pay extra taxes. The authorities are treating us as professional traders, but most of us are not," says the traders' president, Mario Agreda.

Mr Agreda believes the regulations would break a traditional bond between the people of Madrid, international visitors for whom the Rastro is as essential a port of call as the Prado, and the workers of the area. "They are squeezing us with a vile garotte, so that we will disappear, trying to make us into dinosaurs, an extinct species," Mr Agreda said yesterday.

At present, Rastro traders pay only an annual fee for the right to occupy a spot on the street. There is no actual street called the Rastro. The area, a focus of informal trading for centuries, covers a vast sprawl of streets in what used to be known as the "low quarters", a nod to the area's working class origins and its low-lying situation.

It fans out from the Plaza Cascorro, dominated by a monument honouring a soldier from a nearby orphanage who volunteered for a suicide mission against Cuban rebels in 1890. Up to half a million people cram through on a summer Sunday. The area is studded with tapas bars, which as lunch time approaches become filled with those seeking wine, prawns and respite from the sun that spears you in the face. These bars "would all die" warns Mr Agreda.

The head of the UGT union's trade and restaurants division, Daniel Prieto, says the regulations are inspired by business interests. "Street trading accounts for huge sums of money, and big companies want to push the little antique dealers or jewellery makers or quill pen collectors out of this traditional centre, so that they can move in themselves," he said yesterday.

Eugenio Morales, a Socialist on Madrid's city council, which is run by the conservative Popular Party, said his group would propose the opening of a consultation process at the council meeting next Tuesday. "Any new regulation must arise from discussions among those affected, the traders and neighbourhood associations, everyone involved in the Rastro. You can't impose a law that no one wants, or you'll have trouble," he warned yesterday.

Those responsible for the proposals say the Rastro would have to comply, but amendments will be considered. Carmen Caballero, head of trade and consumer affairs for the regional government, said yesterday:

"We are preparing a law that will regulate street trading in general, and the Rastro is one of many street markets. Our aim is to dignify the profession of street trader and protect the consumer. But if the Town Hall asks us to make an exception for the Rastro we are prepared to consider their request."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower