I love outdoor markets. I love Haymarket and SoWa in Boston, and Bryant Park in NYC is my favorite during the summer. I love seeing all the vendors and the way diverse people from all over the city can congregate in one place on a beautiful day. So it is no surprise that I absolutely love going to El Rastro here in Madrid on Sunday mornings. It’s a few blocks of the city where the streets are essentially closed off and thousands of people wander around through different stands and shop. They have everything from food to clothes to flowers to toys. It is jammed pack with people. It’s impossible to walk five feet without bumping into someone who’s trying to decide which belt to by. I love watching the crowd as they bustle about and do their shopping. But when I concentrate, I begin to notice individuals and I’m amazed to recognize that each person there is unique and has their own story and their own reason for being there. Whether they are a little old lady walking their dog, a young father with his screaming children, or a college student from the United States looking for a cheap Real Madrid jersey. No other place in this city have I seen the extent of Madrid’s diversity like at El Rastro. Some neighborhoods are full of college students, or gay couples, or immigrants. But everyone goes to El Rastro. The market is full of families, and people walking their dogs, and musicians, and tourists, and protestors, and pick pockets, and hipsters, and punks, and florists, and artists. All side by side. Living life.
Since I came to Madrid, I have been painfully aware of the fact that I am a foreigner. As much as I love this city and this country, it’s not mine. But at El Rastro, I don’t feel like that. I feel like I have as much a place in this city as any one of the other thousands of people swarming around me. And I like it.
Opposing political parties right next to each other
Another place where I was able to embrace my inner Madrileña yesterday was at the Real Madrid v. Rayo Vallecano football (soccer) game! The Spanish don’t care about anything quite as much as their football (well, maybe their olive oil). We had amazing seats in the 3rd row, so we were super close to the field! This made it incredibly easy to stalk Ronaldo, Kaka, and the love of my life Ángel di Maria! The game was amazing and Real Madrid won 2-0. (HALA MADRID!!!) It was such an amazing experience being surrounded by tens of thousands of fans all screaming the same cheers, singing and chanting while waving flags, booing and whistling at the same bad calls, and feeling totally united over the love for 11 grown men running around in the grass. It was so fun, and I’m glad I went.
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
Ángel di Maria. I love him 🙂
Cheering on my boys