Saturday, January 15, 2011


Madrid, a buzzing metropolis, has 6.000.000 inhabitants.

Pause right there. Did you register that, or did you skim over it and keep reading?

Six million, in case you missed it.

Six million people. That's a lot of lives. A lot of stories. Realistically, it's a lot of misery, too, as well as some triumphs here and there.

Honestly, I have no idea what to do with this number.

I suppose it's the Oklahoman in me, but even the endless apartment buildings that I drive by every day, walk underneath and between and alongside, blow my mind. Most are at least 8 or 9 stories of sheer brick and uniform windows. While some are spacious, others - like the one I visited tonight, available for 375E/month - are smaller than your living room. No joke. Now then, eight or nine stories of such living rooms, at least eight wide... multiplied by thousands of such buildings... the number seems more accessible but is still incomprehensible.

There's no room for much of anything except disaster of epic proportions. With so many lives dependent on the system, there's a huge capacity for upheaval.

It's a miracle, then, that Madrid functions as well as it does. Buses and subways connect the whole city - bien comunicado is the technical term, I believe. It takes time, of course, but few places in the American Southwest can boast the same success with transportation. Think what you will about socialism, but it's working - more or less - for six million people. (There are certainly horror stories, yes, but by and large it functions as well as can be expected in such a situation; indeed few -isms can provide so much for so many people...) The majority have jobs and families and live buzzes on for them in a comfortable, predictable manner. Again, this is more than a lot of places can boast.

At the moment, Spain is facing an economic crisis of enormous proportions. Inundated with overenthusiastic Spanish news reports, most people at least have an opinion if asked, but usually they will just shrug and carry on with their normal lives. They only comment when one of their soccer teams, kneeling on the field, forfeits a match because they haven't been paid. "¡Hasta el fútbol, que crisis!" Juan Pedro cried. Even soccer... what a crisis! That said, the economic repercussions haven't seemed to affect his taxi business that much. Life goes on; after all, not too long ago, much of the country was without indoor plumbing, thanks for the Franco regime. They are, therefore, resourceful people, and so a few little news stories create a temporary, dramatic stir (for Spaniards, like Italians, are nothing if not dramatic!), but not much else.

Perhaps it is this resilience that keeps Madrid afloat, soccer or not. If that is the case, six million becomes infinitely more impressive.

1 comment:

  1. Six million people without there fútbol, sounds like a recipe for disaster.


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