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.
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.