El Rastro - Fleamarket
El Rastro is located in the area starting at Plaza de Cascorro and going down to the river Manzanares.
At Plaza de Cascorro we have a statue dedicated to Eloy Gonzalo.
Eloy Gonzalo was born in 1868 in Madrid and spent his childhood in the orphan house and was later adopted by a couple from Valladolid.
In 1896, during the Cuban War in a place called Cascorro he volunteered to put a hut on fire from where the Spanish soldiers were continously bombed.
The legend says that he put a rope around his waist, so that his body could be recovered in case he died. But he suceeded in his purpose and was honoured because of it, although he died some time later due to an illness.
Eloy Gonzalo became very popular in Madrid, although his brave action had no important consequence. There is also a street dedicated to him in Madrid.
The statue in Plaza de Cascorro was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1902. It was made by Aniceto Marinas.
The statue shows Eloy Gonzalo with his rifle, the rope and a petrol can in order to start the fire.
Since the XVth century the area now known as El Rastro was a commercial area, in those days dedicated to buy and sell second-hand clothing.
At the end of mentioned century a slaughterhouse was built here and therefore the leather trade flourished. Little shops or stalls dedicated to sell bags, belts and other leather goods started with their business.
This area was considered as the lower part of Madrid referring to the steep streets that go down to the river.
Anyway, also the people that lived here were mostly poor. They lived in what is known as Corralas. This type of building consistes in small apartments, some of them of only 9 square meters, all having the entrance in a sort of open air corridor. Usually these corralas formed a square with a yard inside. Many events took place in these yards, as many people spend hours in them talking, drinking lemon juice, sewing, specially in summertime, when it was nicer to sit outside than staying at home. The apartments did not have toilets or showers. There was one toilet with a washbasin on every floor for everyody. This is why in this area there still are several public baths offering now their services mostly to homeless people.
Many zarzuelas (Spanish operettas) take place in these corralas.
Nowadays they are renovating the few corrales that still exist trying to maintain the original aspect. You can see the building with the inner corridors and usually on the opposite side is a row of lower buildings with shops which form together the square.
Probably the name El Rastro (The Trail) comes from the trail of blood from the animal that were killed in the slaughterhouse and that flowed down the street to the river. Today rastro means fleamarket, rastrillo is used for little markets put up in little villages.
After the slaughterhouse was closed, the area continued with its busy activity. It seems that the leather trade had to establish its business somewhere else in order not to pollute the river, so that little by little a new kind of trade came to this area.
In the second half of the XIXth century the first removable stalls appeared and in the last years of the century they not only opened during the week but also on Sundays, making this area very popular as many goods could be bought cheaper than anywhere else. It also offered the opportunity to find completely unbelievable things.
There was a time when it was not impossible to find real masterpieces sold for a few pesetas, but these days belong to the past. Now you can find old postcards, medical equipment, cutlery, crockery, glasses, hats, books, cds, all kinds of clothes, new and second-hand. Everything you can think of.
Be aware that not only the main streets is full of stalls, but also some of the adjoining streets.
If you look at the pavement you can see little golden dots. These are the signs that show the place hired by the different stall owners and for which they have to pay the Town Hall.
It still is very popular on Sundays and hundreds of people visit it, although it has lost part of its typical Madrilian character.
Nowadays the market opens on Sundays and Holidays. It is open from 0900 to 1500 and no traffic is permitted. It is filled in summer as well as in winter and not even the rain prevents people from going.
This area is also quite known because of the many antique shops. These are also opened during the week, like normal shops. We find some of them in what were the first malls, small areas, with a garden in the middle and surrounded by shops.