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Useful Notes / Madrid

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A night view of the Madrid skyline, taken from a building at Calle de Juan de Olías. The picture features the AZCA business park; the Torre Picasso is the skyscraper with the architectural equivalent of Power Glows.

As The Other Wiki reads, Madrid is the second-largest city and metropolitan area of the European Union and also happens to be the capital city of Spain, and the largely discussed center of the Iberian Peninsula, mostly by historical tensions between France-like political centralists and both left-leaning and conservative elites mainly in Barcelona or even Lisbon.

Unlike most other European capitals, Madrid wasn't always the capital of Spain, as, although academical and political discussion about when Spain actually became Spain exists, the truth is that there wasn't a capital for Spain before the Habsburgs (namely, Charles I) who settled for Madrid as a political and economic gravity center as it was becoming custom in their native HRE (Though, political centralism in the HRE never actually existed, and was mainly both a goal and a pain in the ass for the late Charles I (V of Germany), along with religious uniformity, thus starting quite a few wars).


Before the Habsburgs reign, there was no thing as a capital city as the court moved to wherever the kings (namely, the Catholic Monarchs) were at the time, thus becoming de facto capital. Otherwise, Toledo is often regarded as a De jure capital in pre-imperial times due to it being the capital of Gothic Spain, before the moorish invasion, but was not really enforced after the fall of Granada.

So, by the 1500s, Madrid was just a castle with overgrown surroundings that was mainly born as a garrison on the Muslim-Christian border, while Toledo, Cordoba and Granada were the largest cities in Spanish-controlled Iberian Peninsula (the first for its historical significance for Christians and the latter two for being of same significance, one being former cultural and academical center under Moorish rule, eventually becoming Christian, and the other being the last city and capital of the Moorish remnants until its surrender to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492).


Valladolid (the cultural and political center of Castile) and Toledo (the cultural and political center of former visigothic Spain, and so that of the territories acquired by Castile from the Moors, aptly named New Castile) were regarded as possible settling for a capital, but Madrid was chosen because it was equally distanced to both north, south, east and west and, probably, because it allowed to build a city from scratch.

Capital was moved to Valladolid under Felipe III, which managed to cause an economic and demographical meltdown in Madrid as well as a kind of cultural-political thriving in Valladolid, which fell apart once the crown's seat was reverted to Madrid under certain political schemes and political unrest, which caused a similar meltdown in Valladolid and is regarded as a disastrous and bad move altogether.

Madrid's growth was substantially slow compared to other European capitals, and only skyrocketed after the Spanish Civil War, where it got the bulk of the industrialisation after the Eisenhower-Franco agreements of 1959.

Prior to that, Madrid had been mainly populated by societal elites, aristocrats and the military higher ranks as well as the royals, all of them getting severely broken by the time the war started, and got worse during the war.

Today, Madrid is considered an Alpha World City, one of the top ten most powerful cities in the world, and is usually regarded in Spanish media and culture in three flavors:

The Welcoming Capital
Chamartín and the Sierra, as seen from the south

In this setting, the usual saying "De Madrid al cielo" (From Madrid to heaven) applies, Madrileños are friendly and welcoming, and won't ask you uncomfortable questions about anything as long as you dont disturb anybody, there is work for everybody who wants one, and is a rich city full of opportunities to enrich yourself culturally, academically, profesionally or socially, and get a grown-up person. While Truth in Television, at least when envisioned by rural folks both in The '50s or even in the early Nineties as well as some South American media, this is deconstructed as early as the 19th Century and comes across as an Unbuilt Trope regarding media, while coplas y zarzuelas (Traditional music) very usually plays this straight.

The Frivolous Bunch

Allegedly, film director Alex de la Iglesia claimed "Madrid is the sort of place where you realize if the world doesn't come to an end today, it surely will happen tomorrow". This is where dreams go to die, the full place is a Wretched Hive populated by emptied-out nouveau rich, morally lacking CEOs, self-serving public authorities where all of them will smile and greet at you unless you fall from grace and be damned to share space with the lower classes, which are usually portrayed as poorer than dirt, sexually deviant, struggling white trash who usually are also drug addicts with AIDSnote 



The Mixed Thing

This portrayal tries to make a balanced point toning down the former two and alternating between like a darker aspects, this is the most common portrayal for more light-hearted works wich still try to make serious points from time to time.

  • Almost anything by Pedro Almodóvar that is set in Madrid will be something between a love letter to the city and its acceptance of diversity and a reflection of how harsh the city itself can really be after all.


Madrid is divided into 21 districts that are dependent of the City Council but that have each its own police department belonging to the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia (Dependent of the Ministry of the Interior on the national government) and has only one decentralized Policía Municipal (A police department dependent of the council and not the Government with chapters on each district and Policía Local, which nobody is quite sure who they respond to. Should you need security assistance (And it is rather unlikely, as Madrid is quite safe except for small pickpocketing) you should ask for the first one (Cuerpo Nacional de Policía) as Policía Municipal and Policía Local don't really have much of a say on crime prosecution.

Tourists usually don't leave the inner districts, if they do leave Centro district at all, where everything is located. The districts are fairly segregated socio-economically with a strong north-south distinction, being the northern ones typically middle-class, the southern ones tipically working-class and the inner ones typically upper class. Each of the districts are divided in Boroughs, with in and on themselves are as well socio-economically segregated.

The reason for this is historical, at the end of the 19th Century the burgeois and aristocrat upper classes left the traditional city and built large colonies with wide avenues and larger buildings around the old quarter. Then immigrants and poorer classes arriving to the city built smaller, cheaper buildings around the city, engulfing the previous upper class colonies. And then, desegregation policies built colonies targeted to middle classes inside and around the former in order to avoid guettification, which resulted in mixed results.

We'll try to summarize the 21 Districts below:

Plaza de Callao, for you all cinema lovers

This is the old town and where most of the touristic sites can be found. The Royal Palacenote , built upon the former muslim enclave, the Opera right in front of it, the Puerta del Solnote  nearby and the Golden Triangle of Artnote . The Centro district notably notably holds a large LGBT population concentrated around Chueca Metro Station in the Justicia Borough (named after the Tribunal metro station but lacking any actual courtnote ) that has decentralized a lot during The New '10s and has expanded over the nearby Universidad boroughnote  which is noted for its hipster and alternative scene and for being the place where the Movida Madrileña happenednote . Cortes Borough is also informally known as Barrio de las Letras where the likes of Cervantes used to hang out and is now a well known tapas & bistro bar stockholder. Palacio Borough holds Plaza de España and is well known for its otaku, heavy-metal, emo and far right skinhead scenes, which are some odd things to put near each other note . Embajadores Borough is well known for high Middle-Eastern immigration, extreme leftism, and so-called alternative arts as well as for not actually having any embassy within it.

Also, there's an egyptian temple

     Works set in Centro 

Retiro, Salamanca and Chamberí
Some classy folks
The original burgeois colonies. At the end of the 19th Century the upper classes where sickened from the unhealthy and overpopulated old town (read: Centro District) and begged for the king to tear down the city walls and expand the city. The project was conducted upon the orders of the Marquis of Salamanca and gave birth to these three districts. Chamberí and Salamanca are akin to the Upper West and East Side of New York, they are on opposing sides of the Paseo de la Castellana, and they hate each other's guts. Chamberi is populated mostly by old aristocracy, retired diplomats, and general old money that regard the denizens of Salamanca as obnoxious nouveau riches. The Chamberi District was utterly ravished on the Spanish Civil War and currently holds the Joaquin Sorolla Museum, located on the own painter's old manor, which is a pinnacle of spanish impressionism, as well as many embassies. The Salamanca Borough holds high executives, Media Personalities and Bankers and the USA Embassy, and regard the denizens of Chamberi as a dying chaste who has nothing to say and Upper-Class Twit galore. Both are notably economically affluent and conservative. Retiro holds the eponymous park, that used to be the King's private gardens, and is usually the odd man out, politically and otherwise.

     Works set in Retiro, Salamanca and/or Chamberí 

Tetuán and Chamartín
At world's end

Chamartín is the financial center of Madrid, home of some large companies and some Ministriesnote . This is where the top image buildings are located. Also, this is where the Chamartín Train Station is located. Tetuán is just a mostly middle class residential district. Notably, Real Madrid Stadium, Santiago Bernabeu, is located in south Chamartin (Hispanoamérica borough).

     Works set in Tetuán and/or Chamartín 

Hortaleza and Barajas
The Madrid Barajas - Adolfo Suarez International Airport T4

Mostly middle class residential districts which used to be independent towns. Hortaleza is strongly working class at its north, middle class at its middlenote  (around Mar de Cristal) and upper class at its south (Where the Lycee Français is located), thus, inverting the general trend of the city. Mostly of social-democrat leanings with a slight conservative taste. Barajas is way more working class, way more leftist and this is also where the International Madrid Barajas - Adolfo Suarez Airport is located. The Moscow scenes in Doctor Zhivago were actually filmed there, in the Canillas borough (then a barren field, now a middle class neighbourhood). Incidentally, Hortaleza has the biggest Orthodox Christianity church in Madrid.

Not to be confused with Hortaleza Street, of LGBT notoriety, which is in Centro District.

     Works set in Hortaleza and/or Barajas 

Fuecarral-El Pardo and Moncloa-Aravaca
The spiky thing is the Spanish Air Force H Qs
The first is mostly a residential district (as the two districts above) notable for its humongous size most of which is not urbanizednote . This is where the Royal Family actually livenote . Moncloa-Aravaca is notable because of the large government facilities related to the Spanish Air Force and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid main campusnote . Aravaca is mostly high class suburbia. Also, Fuencarral has a sizeable japanese population and Moncloa has a large forest mass known as Casa de Campo that used to be, well, a royalty country house.

Fuencarral is also known for its TV Studios, of which Mediaset Spain's are the more (in)famous.

Not to be confused with Fuencarral Street, of commercial notoriety, which is in Centro District.

     Works set in Fuencarral-El Pardo and/or Moncloa-Aravaca 

  • Tesis by Alejandro Amenabar. Set at UCM Campus as well as Aravaca.
  • The surroundings, urban milieu and general architecture of Mirador de Montepinar, where the cast of La Que Se Avecina live, as well as their Sitcom Archnemesis La Atalaya del Arcipreste are highly reminiscent of that of Las Tablas, in Fuencarral. Granted, that's where Telecinco studios are located and most of the exteriors for the show are filmed.

Latina, Carabanchel, Usera and Villaverde

Districts that are mostly working class residential area with a distinct "urban" bent due to the large hispanic (read: latin american) population. Usera has, also, a rather large muslim population, mostly from Morocco. Carabanchel is the setting of the popular nineties children novels Manolito Gafotas, detailing the life of the eponymous chubby kid with his struggling parents, cynical grandfather and rather marginal neighbors and friends in a comedic/satyrical tonenote 

Usera also has a notoriously conspicuous chinese colony, to the point of getting ads and signs in chinese.

     Works set in Carabanchel, Latina, Usera and/or Villaverde 

Puente de Vallecas and Villa de Vallecas

Well known traditional working class districts with distinct communist leanings, the only districts to always fall on the left in results maps. With the same urban aspects as Latina, Carabanchel, Usera or Villaverde, it is less diverse though immigration is still strong there. Has its own, underdog and proud of it, football team: Rayo Vallekano.

     Works set in Vallecas 


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