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July 17, 2014

Reading Madrid as text: City’s spaces speak volumes about its people, culture

Berry College multimedia journalism project finds “a society that lives in the streets”

MADRID – The 25 or so multimedia elements of this “Madrid as Text” online magazine are unified by the approach our team of 10 student journalists from Berry College took in pursuing their stories.


The Project Madrid team: (back row) Natalie Allen, left, Chris Scott, Lizzy Jones, Glenn Garrido-Olivar, Bailey Powers, and Jason Huynh, (front row) Kelsey Dedels, left, Sarah Carroll, Taylor Patterson, and Brittany Strickland.

All sought to read the public spaces of Madrid as texts in an effort to understand at least part of what makes Madrileños and their vibrant city tick. What we found is a dynamically democratic society that vibrantly, vitally expresses itself in myriad ways. From protests to street art to rallying cries at the city’s many, stadium-filled soccer matches, Madrileños live, work, play and express themselves in utterly, joyfully public spaces.

Madrid is a city that lives in the public space,” said Javier Malo de Molina, an architect in Madrid and a lifelong resident of the city. “Everybody lives in the streets. We are a society that lives in the streets. We share a tradition of living in the public space.”

Victor Gonzalez, a native of Cuba but a resident of Madrid off and on for the past 17 years, warned our group that we wouldn’t be invited into the homes of Madrileños. The Madrileño home is an intensely private space, and what American would consider the purposes of the living room and family room, Madrileños believe should occur outside the home – in tapas bars, jazz clubs, public parks and plazas, cafes and restaurants, and above all in the city’s streets and sidewalks.

“Maybe, for example, you (Americans) probably have homes or dwellings that are bigger,” de Molina explained. “People here, though not the rich of course, live in pretty small apartments, and we accept that. If we have a public space, that is worth it, because most of the time the weather is very good here in the city. So we spend it in the public space.”

 From World Cup to Crowning a King

Our group witnessed a coronation (of new King Felipe), a World Cup (in which top-ranked Spain found itself humiliated a hemisphere away in Rio de Janeiro), a series of protests and rallies both against and in favor of the monarchy, and several Corpus Christi miracles. (Corpus Christi is an important Catholic holiday here, commemorated by the religious and non-religious alike.)

The common theme in these otherwise wildly disparate public events: First Amendment-style expression and democracy like America’s founding fathers perhaps envisioned them.

Ironic? To travel so far from America to find such vibrant, unfettered expression? And to find it in a Catholic church-dominated society still shaking the shadows of dictatorship and oppression? Yes, ironic, and eye-opening.

Our “Madrid as Text” online magazine will show you how street art has been legitimized in the colorful Lavapiés neighborhood in southern Madrid, how “protest culture” parades the people’s views through Madrid’s main arteries and plazas to the tune of 4,000 protests per year, how monuments and memorials have been removed to diminish the memories of the Franco era, and how Madrileños eat, drink, live and die for their favorite “futbol” club.

You will witness the transfer of the crown from Juan Carlos to his son Felipe; learn about how a nation grapples with an unemployment rate of 26%, an eye-popping number that includes as a subset a rate of more than 50% among those 25 and younger; and discover how Madrid buried a 10-lane superhighway to make room for a sprawling urban parkland.

The project would not have been possible without the invaluable help of several people in Madrid who were very generous with their time and expertise. Berry College, its Department of Communication, and the faculty and students of “Madrid as Text” thank Victor Gonzalez, director of ACCENT Madrid, our logistics provider, and his very capable staff; professors Jonathan Snyder and Francisco Seijo; Javier Malo de Molina, lead architect on the Rio parklands project; and the friendly bartenders at the various Museo de Jamon locations throughout central Madrid.

Student journalists:
Natalie Allen
Sarah Carroll
Kelsey Dedels
Glenn Garrido-Olivar
Jason Huynh
Lizzy Jones
Taylor Patterson
Bailey Powers
Chris Scott
Brittany Strickland
Brian Carroll
Curt Hersey
Kevin Kleine



Madrid as text articles.

Victimhood in Madrid: How best to remember city’s fallen

Spain’s past is full of anguish from terrorist attacks to war.

How Madrid remembers and forgets the Franco era

Almost 40 years after Franco’s death, the dictator’s legacy is still disputed.

From Gray to Green: The Madrid Rio Project

What was once a 10-lane highway is now a park that brings inner and outer Madrid into a shared green space.

Catholic Church still a cornerstone of Spanish culture

Exploring the complex relationship Madrileños have with Catholicism and religious expression.

Partying in Madrid: In the pursuit of forgetfulness and fun

Whether it's the music, the drinks or the dancing, each aspect of partying provides freedom for Madrileños

Public Expression in Madrid: 'The streets belong to us'

For Madrileños the use of public space for expression is a basic right

Famed Madrid restaurant Sobrino de Botín relies on family

The González family has owned and run Sobrino de Botín for three generations, but will the fourth generation continue the tradition?

Madrid’s Street Art: Vandalism or civic good?

The city’s public spaces have become surfaces for expression on issues such as public policy, the economic crisis and everyday life in Spain.

La Tabacalera: Madrid´s home for legal graffiti

Once-vacant building in Lavapiés neighborhood gives city’s street art a home.

Soccer in Madrid: 3 Teams, 1 Sport, 1 People

Soccer, or futbol, in Madrid is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.

Madrid as text videos and photo slideshows.

The 3 Faces of Madrid’s Soccer

Soccer club fandom in Madrid often follows cultural and class differences.

La Tabacalera: a gallery of graffiti in Madrid

Building in Lavapiés revamped for local artists from the inside out.

Madrid street art fills the neighborhood with color

Transforming Lavapiés into a work of art.

People come together around food and the places it’s eaten

Food is more than a meal to Madrileños, it's intended to be enjoyed with those that they love

The Art of Protesting in Madrid

Economic turmoil and a royal abdication send more Madrileños to the streets to express themselves.

The Night Life of Puerta de Sol

Puerta de Sol is the beating heart of Madrid’s nightlife, serving as the central hub of activity in the city.

Corpus Christi, a central celebration for Spanish Catholics

A look into the process and celebration of the Corpus Christi holiday.

Green space as public space, the part it plays in Madrid life

Balancing the grey with the green.

Street artists add character to Madrid's center

Entertainers create a fun atmosphere in a historical setting in Madrid.

A Day in the Life of Puerta Del Sol.

A first hand look at a day in the life of one of Madrid’s most popular and visited spaces from the perspective of the plaza itself.

Forgetting to Spit

Spain finds difficulty in dealing with its past.

Republic and Monarchy: Can They Coexist?

For the first time in decades Spain has a new king while at the same time proclaiming a democratic government.
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