A Block Party at La Tabacalera in Madrid was a day full of musical performances, workshops, arts and crafts and upbeat socializing.
La Tabacalera is a spacious old building in the neighborhood of Lavapies that used to be an abandoned tobacco factory but now functions as a community center and art museum. The property is publicly owned and is used to pursue cultural interests. It is possibly the coolest venue ever to attend a social event due to its symbolism as a place for the creative expression and empowerment of its surrounding community.
For those who do not know, Lavapies is Madrid’s most prominent multiethnic neighborhood. It is best known for its concentration of ethnic food and restaurants although there is much delicious homemade Spanish food to be found here as well. It is located just a mile south of Sol, the city center, and its narrow streets create the most welcoming and cozy vibe. It has a reputation for attracting artists, anarchists, bohemians, queers and generally free-spirited, liberal types. The area is a crucial gathering site for political activists and organizations, and the buildings are often plastered with belligerent messages condemning capitalism and the patriarchy.
My favorite bar in Madrid, El Escondite de Lavapies, is located in this barrio. Historically Lavapies has had cheaper rent compared to other areas around the city center due to its high concentration of people of color and reputation for danger, but it is presently the controversial site of gentrification due to its popularity among expatriates looking to live in Spain. It feels very similar to San Francisco’s Mission District, a vibrant neighborhood full of art and people of color that is engaged in a heated battle against blatant gentrification.
Within this community context, La Tabacalera embodies the locale’s incredible spirit of artistic and political mobilization. The main objective of this space has been to defend free culture, promote democratization of managing public domains and create public access to art and knowledge. The space is organized and maintained by community groups and volunteers who adhere to the center´s rules and objectives. A myriad of intriguing events are held in the building throughout every month such as markets for handmade goods, film screenings, discussions about political and social issues, block parties, art exhibitions and workshops. There are lots of unique and fun workshops such as folk music, Japanese language, longboarding and soap making. It is a truly unique and exceptional space that serves to bring its surrounding community together and keep its distinct goals alive.
The building inside and out is covered in graffiti and boasts some of the most magnificent street art you’ll ever see. The fact that it is left largely run down which makes you feel like you’re trespassing as you enter is part of what makes the venue so cool and alluring. There is a dance hall, a community garden, classrooms, an art gallery with distinguished artist exhibitions as well as an underground gallery that shows endless graffiti. Some of the most outstanding art pieces are painted on the exterior wall of the building outside along Calle Miguel Servet.
If you would like to take a look at a bit of Madrid’s counterculture it is definitely worth checking out La Tabacalera on a day that it is open as well as the surrounding neighborhood of Lavapies. Sunday is always a good bet as that is the day that the community comes out to and play, and many of the area’s lovely inhabitants gather and hang out in terrazas along the streets all day long.
For more information about the center go to latabacalera.net and the building is located on Calle Embajadores 53, right at the Embajadores metro stop.