An illustrated cultural map: El Rastro

  • Mapa cultural ilustrado El Rastro (PDF). Ilustraciones: Daniel Diosdado
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Mapa cultural ilustrado El Rastro (PDF). Ilustración: Daniel Diosdado El Rastro is much more than a flea market; it is a philosophy, a way of being, a way of living in the world that transcends trends and the passing of time. El Rastro is where, among the hustle and bustle of passers-by, a myriad of strange knickknacks and forgotten curios are resurrected, once again becoming of use to someone, somewhere. As though this part of Madrid was none other than a purgatory for objects. And it is not only the brica-brac that undergoes metamorphosis. Those who walk down Ribera de Curtidores and the surrounding streets become, almost completely unaware of their transformation, intrepid explorers hunting for bargains and treasure. 

Ramón Gómez de la Serna captured the ever-thriving personality of El Rastro in his book of the same name, where he wrote that cities could only be compared to the trinkets sold by their second-hand dealers.

Much has changed since 1567, the year in which the Matadero del Cerrillo abattoir was erected close to the Plaza del General Vara de Rey. No traces of this former slaughterhouse remain today. Nor does the trail, or rastro, of blood left by the slaughtered cattle, which gave the flea market we know its name. Yet generation after generation, this market of dreams between Calle de Toledo and Calle de Embajadores continues to be one of the most authentic spots in the city to discover what Madrid once was and what it will go on to be. It’s said that if you think of something – absolutely anything – and it doesn’t turn up at El Rastro flea market, then it simply doesn’t exist.

Illustrations: Daniel Diosdado

Texts: Ignacio Vleming (Madrid, 1981). In 2018 he published Fisura, an essay on the city’s unused spaces (Rua Ediciones).

Download the illustrated cultural map (2,3 MB) (Spanish / English) 

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