Lavapiés ; A gentrification story by Andrea Ratto

Lavapiés is a neighborhood in Madrid and it is not just any neighborhood. Its history tells us about a place of working-class tradition, which was previously a place of reception for immigrant labor from the rest of Spain,

Lavapiés is a neighborhood in Madrid and it is not just any neighborhood. Its history tells us about a place of working-class tradition, which was previously a place of reception for immigrant labor from the rest of Spain, and then the nerve center of several foreign communities that settled there.

Its present tells us that it is one of the neighborhoods that stand out worldwide for their power of attraction in terms of tourism, culture and leisure. What has happened is called gentrification. Although at first you may think that everything is positive, there are many side effects. First and certainly the worst effect is the displacement of the most fragile social classes towards other areas with more accessible and peripheral prices leading to the breakdown of informal aid networks that are so important in the day-to-day life of communities. Lavapiés has gone from being a cheap neighborhood to having the same rental prices as the most expensive neighborhoods in the Spanish capital, also driven by the emergence in recent years of tourist flats and platforms such as Airbnb. When I made the trip for my photobook “Europa” I passed through Madrid and it was easy for me to compare what was happening in Lavapiés with the reality of other European neighborhoods. It was clear to me that if I wanted to do a work about gentrification then it was the right place to start. Walking through its streets you could see how different souls lived together, traditional bars and modern bars, shops for African, Indian, Chinese or South American products, art galleries, many theaters and cultural self-managed spaces.

So I started without much thought and spent there a week, then another two and several times more between 2018 and 2019 to get images that were able to document the process critically.

Gentrification perfectly expresses all the bad things of our western society, it is a wild speculation on some of the primary goods that should be protected like the right to decent housing, and that ends up making those who already have large capitals richer, and sacrificing who are most economically and socially fragiles. And the worst thing is that, to achieve its objective, it uses to its advantage positive values ​​such as multiculturalism and culture in general or the demand for more security and the improvement of citizen infrastructures. All the improvements that are carried out in a neighborhood in a ongoing gentrification process are not for its inhabitants but for those who will arrive when the first will be forced to leave.

All this is explained in the book / fanzine “Lavapiés” that I self-edited with the sociologist Marta Morán, author of the texts that, together with my photos, aim to create an informative set to understand the gentrification process in general and in the Madrid neighborhood in particular.

About Andrea Ratto

Andrea Ratto was born in Genoa (Italy) in 1976, but lives in A Coruña (Spain) since 2005. He has been attracted to photography since he was a kid. The camera has accompanied him on trips across the world and in recent years has been drawn to the street and documentary photography. 

In 2017 He has walked the streets of 26 European countries with his camera in a fully independent journey. His purpose was to answer two questions: Does the European society exist as a whole? And if it exist, how does it work? In April 2018 He complete a Crowdfunding in the Kickstarter platforme to rise the funds to print the photobook of this project called“Europa” . The book was released in September 2018 and was presented in A Coruña, Genoa, Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Santiago, Jerez de la Frontera and Palencia (in the Pallantia Photo festival 2019).

In November 2018 He started a new project about gentrification in Lavapiés (a Madrid’s neighborhood) with sociologist Marta Morán. In November 2019 He has exposed  “Europa” in Turin, Italy (@Spazio B Libreria Bodoni). In January 2020 He has self-published the photobook/fanzine “Lavapiés” and He has presented it in a exposition in A Coruña Spain (@Atelier de fotografía). [Official Website]

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