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entrevista-rodrigo-dominguez-malasana-acompana
Rodrigo Domínguez, from the Malasaña Acompaña Caring Network / Image by Aldara Zn Fotografía.

RODRIGO DOMÍNGUEZ

Member of the Malasaña Acompaña Caring Network

This is the second interview of the series dedicated to the people making up the Malasaña Acompaña caring network, born during lockdown to tackle the social emergency caused by the Covid-19. “I studied Journalism, a degree that doesn’t really make you into a journalist. I worked in local radio stations for seven years, but due to the 2008 economic crisis, I lost my job in 2012 and decided to change careers.” Now working on digital marketing, he isn’t the first journalist who goes into the dark side and claims life is much brighter there. “I lost interest in journalism as a career because, generally speaking, I wasn’t able to work as a journalist — I was just a channel to express the ideas of the company I was working for, telling things from their point of view, or whatever they saw fit. I clashed several times with my bosses, and the whole thing just didn’t feel right. That’s why I’ve ended up in digital marketing — you know what’s expected from you and it’s about achieving clear, quantifiable objectives. You’re not that compromised at a personal level, you don’t feel bad, and although we’re now living in very strange circumstances, you make more money.” Rodrigo’s clients belong to HORECA (Hospitality, Restaurants and Catering) and lives in Malasaña, a neighbourhood packed with bars and restaurants, so he is witnessing firsthand the problems of a sector that is being hardly damaged by the Covid-19.

“I’m from Colmenar Viejo (Madrid), but I’ve been living in Malasaña for four years now. Before the pandemic hit, I used to go about my business. But the crisis helped me see the neighbourhood from a different perspective,” says Rodrigo Domínguez, a member of Malasaña Acompaña since the beginning of the de-escalation phases.

“Since I’m not from Madrid proper, I had always seen Malasaña as that cool place you go to for drinks. When I first moved here, it seemed the same old idiosyncratic place to me, with all the hustle and bustle —whether you liked it or not—, all the tourists and the fact that you can easily bump into friends in bars. It was all the same but lived from within. The coronavirus changed everything overnight. Something that had always been there but that I somehow couldn’t see revealed itself more clearly and caught my attention. I discovered Malasaña Acompaña and joined the group. I suddenly saw the neighbourhood from a different perspective and got to know the people living in it. Before that, I only knew the people in my building and some friends.”

 

That feeling of belonging to a neighbourhood that is almost like a small town is quite strong. Was that the reason for your involvement in Malasaña Acompaña?

Not only. In my case, the deciding factor was the social aspect of the crisis. I wasn’t fully aware of it at first because of my personal circumstances, or maybe it was the initial shock. It took me longer to react than I would have liked, but I finally understood the true extent of the terrible social consequences caused by the drop in the economic activity, both formal and informal, and I thought it important to lend a hand to mitigate the effects, since the social services in theory responsible for taking care of the situation were nowhere to be seen.

I’ve always been aware of the fact that for both public and private services it’s hard to reach people that most need their help and to provide them with the right kind of response beyond charity, and I thought this was an ideal time to increase class awareness. Crisis as deep as this one mostly affect working-class people, people who aren’t set for life, who haven’t been born into good families and don’t have a guaranteed income.

 

In Malasaña Acompaña, you are in a group of people dealing directly with users of the food bank. You check on them on a weekly basis, so you have firsthand knowledge of what they are going through, although not all families are in the same situation.

Yes, in fact, the first two families I worked with have marked me the most. I’ve witnessed a tremendous social injustice. Things are being very badly managed. Some people are deceiving others, which means many people haven’t benefited from the ERTE furloughing scheme when in fact they deserved it. But beyond these bureaucratic failures, many workers are putting in more hours than what is reflected on their legal contracts, so they make ends meet via informal agreements or by working without a contract, which is the case of many household assistants.

One of the first two families I was assigned was a single-parent family — a mother with two sons aged 17 and 18. She was a household assistant without a contract and no other sources of income. She lost her job and wasn’t entitled to severance pay or unemployment benefits. It was all quite devastating. There were people who hadn’t had any money to their name in weeks and didn’t know when they would work again. To me, these aren’t merely individual cases — they affect us as a society. What have we been doing to create this situation? Do we need a pandemic to realize many people —mainly women with children— are living hand to mouth and that they run the risk of ending up on the street and starving in a matter of weeks?

 

In the midst of the disaster, however, I understand that being part of initiatives like Malasaña Acompaña has a certain soothing effect.

Yes, I’ve found a positive part in all this, the fact that we’ve been able to create a sort of parallel State. Despite the logical limitations, we’ve successfully replaced institutions as big as the Madrid City Council, with a budget of millions of euros and thousands of officials and employees. Collectively, with a lot of work and to the best of our strength, we’ve managed to reach people in need.

This is one of the realities that have emerged during lockdown, which has been quite a lesson for me. I’ve verified that society is capable of self-management, I myself have been part of it. I’ve helped people according to my possibilities and I’ve experienced something that I’m sure will be valuable for all of us in the future. Before the summer, we sensed bad times were coming, even worse than what we had lived in the spring, and everything seems to confirm that hypothesis. The longer the pandemic lasts, the deeper the economic and social crisis will be, and more people will fall into poverty.

 

In fact, the ERTEs have been extended because it is obvious that, once the legal period preventing companies from laying off workers finishes, EREs and bankruptcies will follow.

That’s right. We have to be prepared and continue to build and expand this citizen alternative to public institutions. For several months, many people survived thanks to what people like you and I did. It has been essential work. We’ve managed to get many things done. It’s true that everything has a limit and that we need to evolve, but I think we must spread this message so that all moderately aware people understand the importance of weaving networks of mutual support. If we don’t, many of us are bound to suffer. I include myself in this group because I’m not safe at all from this social pandemic.

 

Some food banks closed before the summer and the local networks that managed them have now become social-work groups. Other networks were already active before the pandemic and are now acting independently. But Malasaña Acompaña wants to evolve without neglecting the food bank that is still supporting more than 70 families.

In Madrid, there’re still serious social problems that aren’t being tackled by social services. This is, broadly speaking, our starting point and the reason why we want to keep the food bank working. After everything we’ve learned and experienced over the past few months, my goal —and that of the people involved in this initiative, I think— is to manage the food bank horizontally and involve both users and non-users so we can address the needs and conflicts that arise together. I wish we could break with hierarchies, which are already too many at all levels, and overcome any resemblance to Christian charity, which doesn’t solve problems but perpetuates them.

That’s why I’ve been deeply involved in the transformation process that we are starting now, urging users to take part in the decision-making process and in the daily management of the group to the best of their ability. It’s a necessary leap, coherent with the ideas of mutual support and self-management, as opposed to the paternalism of charity. In addition, I think that we all want to have the opportunity to join our forces, which are many, to do other things and take advantage of the fact that we have formed a group that works and that we would like to remain together. We don’t want to be a patch, but a tool for change.

In short, I’d say that having had the opportunity to get to know the people living in my neighborhood, to be part of a citizen initiative that has been able to provide such a basic service to others that I or any of us might need in the future, has been very important to me. That’s what’s all about. Now that there is so much talk about caring, I have to say that we’ve verified on the spot that caring for one another is possible and that is something of paramount importance. Our lives may depend on it.

*

entrevista-rodrigo-dominguez-malasana-acompana
Rodrigo Domínguez / Imagen de Aldara Zn Fotografía.

RODRIGO DOMÍNGUEZ

Member of the Malasaña Acompaña Caring Network

«We have been able to build a small parallel State, successfully replacing the City Council of Madrid»

This is the second interview of the series dedicated to the people making up the Malasaña Acompaña caring network, born during lockdown to tackle the social emergency caused by the Covid-19. “I studied Journalism, a degree that doesn’t really make you into a journalist. I worked in local radio stations for seven years, but due to the 2008 economic crisis, I lost my job in 2012 and decided to change careers.” Now working on digital marketing, he isn’t the first journalist who goes into the dark side and claims life is much brighter there. “I lost interest in journalism as a career because, generally speaking, I wasn’t able to work as a journalist — I was just a channel to express the ideas of the company I was working for, telling things from their point of view, or whatever they saw fit. I clashed several times with my bosses, and the whole thing just didn’t feel right. That’s why I’ve ended up in digital marketing — you know what’s expected from you and it’s about achieving clear, quantifiable objectives. You’re not that compromised at a personal level, you don’t feel bad, and although we’re now living in very strange circumstances, you make more money.” Rodrigo’s clients belong to HORECA (Hospitality, Restaurants and Catering) and lives in Malasaña, a neighbourhood packed with bars and restaurants, so he is witnessing firsthand the problems of a sector that is being hardly damaged by the Covid-19.

“I’m from Colmenar Viejo (Madrid), but I’ve been living in Malasaña for four years now. Before the pandemic hit, I used to go about my business. But the crisis helped me see the neighbourhood from a different perspective,” says Rodrigo Domínguez, a member of Malasaña Acompaña since the beginning of the de-escalation phases.

“Since I’m not from Madrid proper, I had always seen Malasaña as that cool place you go to for drinks. When I first moved here, it seemed the same old idiosyncratic place to me, with all the hustle and bustle —whether you liked it or not—, many tourists and the fact that you can easily bump into friends in bars. It was all the same but lived from within. The coronavirus changed everything overnight. Something that had always been there but that I somehow couldn’t see revealed itself more clearly and caught my attention. I discovered Malasaña Acompaña and joined the group. I suddenly saw the neighbourhood from a different perspective and got to know the people living in it. Before that, I only knew the people in my building and some friends.”

 

That feeling of belonging to a neighbourhood that is almost like a small town is quite strong. Was that the reason for your involvement in Malasaña Acompaña?

Not only. In my case, the deciding factor was the social aspect of the crisis. I wasn’t fully aware of it at first because of my personal circumstances, or maybe it was the initial shock. It took me longer to react than I would have liked, but I finally understood the true extent of the terrible social consequences caused by the drop in the economic activity, both formal and informal, and I thought it important to lend a hand to mitigate the effects, since the social services in theory responsible for taking care of the situation were nowhere to be seen.

I’ve always been aware of the fact that for both public and private services it’s hard to reach people that most need their help and to provide them with the right kind of response beyond charity, and I thought this was an ideal time to increase class awareness. Crisis as deep as this one mostly affect working-class people, people who aren’t set for life, who haven’t been born into good families and don’t have a guaranteed income.

 

In Malasaña Acompaña, you are in a group of people dealing directly with users of the food bank. You check on them on a weekly basis, so you have firsthand knowledge of what they are going through, although not all families are in the same situation.

Yes, in fact, the first two families I worked with have marked me the most. I’ve witnessed a tremendous social injustice. Things are being very badly managed. Some people are deceiving others, which means many people haven’t benefited from the ERTE furloughing scheme when in fact they deserved it. But beyond these bureaucratic failures, many workers are putting in more hours than what is reflected on their legal contracts, so they make ends meet via informal agreements or by working without a contract, which is the case of many household assistants.

One of the first two families I was assigned was a single-parent family — a mother with two sons aged 17 and 18. She was a household assistant without a contract and no other sources of income. She lost her job and wasn’t entitled to severance pay or unemployment benefits. It was all quite devastating. There were people who hadn’t had any money to their name in weeks and didn’t know when they would work again. To me, these aren’t merely individual cases — they affect us as a society. What have we been doing to create this situation? Do we need a pandemic to realize many people —mainly women with children— are living hand to mouth and that they run the risk of ending up on the street and starving in a matter of weeks?

 

In the midst of the disaster, however, I understand that being part of initiatives like Malasaña Acompaña has a certain soothing effect.

Yes, I’ve found a positive part in all this, the fact that we’ve been able to create a sort of parallel State. Despite the logical limitations, we’ve successfully replaced institutions as big as the Madrid City Council, with a budget of millions of euros and thousands of officials and employees. Collectively, with a lot of work and to the best of our strength, we’ve managed to reach people in need.

This is one of the realities that have emerged during lockdown, which has been quite a lesson for me. I’ve verified that society is capable of self-management, I myself have been part of it. I’ve helped people according to my possibilities and I’ve experienced something that I’m sure will be valuable for all of us in the future. Before the summer, we sensed bad times were coming, even worse than what we had lived in the spring, and everything seems to confirm that hypothesis. The longer the pandemic lasts, the deeper the economic and social crisis will be, and more people will fall into poverty.

 

In fact, the ERTEs have been extended because it is obvious that, once the legal period preventing companies from laying off workers finishes, EREs and bankruptcies will follow.

That’s right. We have to be prepared and continue to build and expand this citizen alternative to public institutions. For several months, many people survived thanks to what people like you and I did. It has been essential work. We’ve managed to get many things done. It’s true that everything has a limit and that we need to evolve, but I think we must spread this message so that all moderately aware people understand the importance of weaving networks of mutual support. If we don’t, many of us are bound to suffer. I include myself in this group because I’m not safe at all from this social pandemic.

 

Some food banks closed before the summer and the local networks that managed them have now become social-work groups. Other networks were already active before the pandemic and are now acting independently. But Malasaña Acompaña wants to evolve without neglecting the food bank that is still supporting more than 70 families.

In Madrid, there’re still serious social problems that aren’t being tackled by social services. This is, broadly speaking, our starting point and the reason why we want to keep the food bank working. After everything we’ve learned and experienced over the past few months, my goal —and that of the people involved in this initiative, I think— is to manage the food bank horizontally and involve both users and non-users so we can address the needs and conflicts that arise together. I wish we could break with hierarchies, which are already too many at all levels, and overcome any resemblance to Christian charity, which doesn’t solve problems but perpetuates them.

That’s why I’ve been deeply involved in the transformation process that we are starting now, urging users to take part in the decision-making process and in the daily management of the group to the best of their ability. It’s a necessary leap, coherent with the ideas of mutual support and self-management, as opposed to the paternalism of charity. In addition, I think that we all want to have the opportunity to join our forces, which are many, to do other things and take advantage of the fact that we have formed a group that works and that we would like to remain together. We don’t want to be a patch, but a tool for change.

In short, I’d say that having had the opportunity to get to know the people living in my neighborhood, to be part of a citizen initiative that has been able to provide such a basic service to others that I or any of us might need in the future, has been very important to me. That’s what’s all about. Now that there is so much talk about caring, I have to say that we’ve verified on the spot that caring for one another is possible and that is something of paramount importance. Our lives may depend on it.

*

entrevista-rodrigo-dominguez-malasana-acompana
Rodrigo Domínguez / Imagen de Aldara Zn Fotografía.

RODRIGO DOMÍNGUEZ

Member of the Malasaña Acompaña Caring Network

«We have been able to build a small parallel State, successfully replacing the City Council of Madrid»

This is the second interview of the series dedicated to the people making up the Malasaña Acompaña caring network, born during lockdown to tackle the social emergency caused by the Covid-19. “I studied Journalism, a degree that doesn’t really make you into a journalist. I worked in local radio stations for seven years, but due to the 2008 economic crisis, I lost my job in 2012 and decided to change careers.” Now working on digital marketing, he isn’t the first journalist who goes into the dark side and claims life is much brighter there. “I lost interest in journalism as a career because, generally speaking, I wasn’t able to work as a journalist — I was just a channel to express the ideas of the company I was working for, telling things from their point of view, or whatever they saw fit. I clashed several times with my bosses, and the whole thing just didn’t feel right. That’s why I’ve ended up in digital marketing — you know what’s expected from you and it’s about achieving clear, quantifiable objectives. You’re not that compromised at a personal level, you don’t feel bad, and although we’re now living in very strange circumstances, you make more money.” Rodrigo’s clients belong to HORECA (Hospitality, Restaurants and Catering) and lives in Malasaña, a neighbourhood packed with bars and restaurants, so he is witnessing firsthand the problems of a sector that is being hardly damaged by the Covid-19.

“I’m from Colmenar Viejo (Madrid), but I’ve been living in Malasaña for four years now. Before the pandemic hit, I used to go about my business. But the crisis helped me see the neighbourhood from a different perspective,” says Rodrigo Domínguez, a member of Malasaña Acompaña since the beginning of the de-escalation phases.

“Since I’m not from Madrid proper, I had always seen Malasaña as that cool place you go to for drinks. When I first moved here, it seemed the same old idiosyncratic place to me, with all the hustle and bustle —whether you liked it or not—, lots of tourists and the fact that you can easily bump into friends in bars. It was all the same but lived from within. The coronavirus changed everything overnight. Something that had always been there but that I somehow couldn’t see revealed itself more clearly and caught my attention. I discovered Malasaña Acompaña and joined the group. I suddenly saw the neighbourhood from a different perspective and got to know the people living in it. Before that, I only knew the people in my building and some friends.”

 

That feeling of belonging to a neighbourhood that is almost like a small town is quite strong. Was that the reason for your involvement in Malasaña Acompaña?

Not only. In my case, the deciding factor was the social aspect of the crisis. I wasn’t fully aware of it at first because of my personal circumstances, or maybe it was the initial shock. It took me longer to react than I would have liked, but I finally understood the true extent of the terrible social consequences caused by the drop in the economic activity, both formal and informal, and I thought it important to lend a hand to mitigate the effects, since the social services in theory responsible for taking care of the situation were nowhere to be seen.

I’ve always been aware of the fact that for both public and private services it’s hard to reach people that most need their help and to provide them with the right kind of response beyond charity, and I thought this was an ideal time to increase class awareness. Crisis as deep as this one mostly affect working-class people, people who aren’t set for life, who haven’t been born into good families and don’t have a guaranteed income.

 

In Malasaña Acompaña, you are in a group of people dealing directly with users of the food bank. You check on them on a weekly basis, so you have firsthand knowledge of what they are going through, although not all families are in the same situation.

Yes, in fact, the first two families I worked with have marked me the most. I’ve witnessed a tremendous social injustice. Things are being very badly managed. Some people are deceiving others, which means many people haven’t benefited from the ERTE furloughing scheme when in fact they deserved it. But beyond these bureaucratic failures, many workers are putting in more hours than what is reflected on their legal contracts, so they make ends meet via informal agreements or by working without a contract, which is the case of many household assistants.

One of the first two families I was assigned was a single-parent family — a mother with two sons aged 17 and 18. She was a household assistant without a contract and no other sources of income. She lost her job and wasn’t entitled to severance pay or unemployment benefits. It was all quite devastating. There were people who hadn’t had any money to their name in weeks and didn’t know when they would work again. To me, these aren’t merely individual cases — they affect us as a society. What have we been doing to create this situation? Do we need a pandemic to realize many people —mainly women with children— are living hand to mouth and that they run the risk of ending up on the street and starving in a matter of weeks?

 

In the midst of the disaster, however, I understand that being part of initiatives like Malasaña Acompaña has a certain soothing effect.

Yes, I’ve found a positive part in all this, the fact that we’ve been able to create a sort of parallel State. Despite the logical limitations, we’ve successfully replaced institutions as big as the Madrid City Council, with a budget of millions of euros and thousands of officials and employees. Collectively, with a lot of work and to the best of our strength, we’ve managed to reach people in need.

This is one of the realities that have emerged during lockdown, which has been quite a lesson for me. I’ve verified that society is capable of self-management, I myself have been part of it. I’ve helped people according to my possibilities and I’ve experienced something that I’m sure will be valuable for all of us in the future. Before the summer, we sensed bad times were coming, even worse than what we had lived in the spring, and everything seems to confirm that hypothesis. The longer the pandemic lasts, the deeper the economic and social crisis will be, and more people will fall into poverty.

 

In fact, the ERTEs have been extended because it is obvious that, once the legal period preventing companies from laying off workers finishes, EREs and bankruptcies will follow.

That’s right. We have to be prepared and continue to build and expand this citizen alternative to public institutions. For several months, many people survived thanks to what people like you and I did. It has been essential work. We’ve managed to get many things done. It’s true that everything has a limit and that we need to evolve, but I think we must spread this message so that all moderately aware people understand the importance of weaving networks of mutual support. If we don’t, many of us are bound to suffer. I include myself in this group because I’m not safe at all from this social pandemic.

 

Some food banks closed before the summer and the local networks that managed them have now become social-work groups. Other networks were already active before the pandemic and are now acting independently. But Malasaña Acompaña wants to evolve without neglecting the food bank that is still supporting more than 70 families.

In Madrid, there’re still serious social problems that aren’t being tackled by social services. This is, broadly speaking, our starting point and the reason why we want to keep the food bank working. After everything we’ve learned and experienced over the past few months, my goal —and that of the people involved in this initiative, I think— is to manage the food bank horizontally and involve both users and non-users so we can address the needs and conflicts that arise together. I wish we could break with hierarchies, which are already too many at all levels, and overcome any resemblance to Christian charity, which doesn’t solve problems but perpetuates them.

That’s why I’ve been deeply involved in the transformation process that we are starting now, urging users to take part in the decision-making process and in the daily management of the group to the best of their ability. It’s a necessary leap, coherent with the ideas of mutual support and self-management, as opposed to the paternalism of charity. In addition, I think that we all want to have the opportunity to join our forces, which are many, to do other things and take advantage of the fact that we have formed a group that works and that we would like to remain together. We don’t want to be a patch, but a tool for change.

In short, I’d say that having had the opportunity to get to know the people living in my neighborhood, to be part of a citizen initiative that has been able to provide such a basic service to others that I or any of us might need in the future, has been very important to me. That’s what’s all about. Now that there is so much talk about caring, I have to say that we’ve verified on the spot that caring for one another is possible and that is something of paramount importance. Our lives may depend on it.

*