entrevista-eva-fuentes-foto-aldara-ZN
Eva Fuentes - Aldara ZN Fotografía

EVA FUENTES

Coordinator at the Malasaña Acompaña Food Bank

She lives in Malasaña, where she runs Älva for Kids, a childrenswear shop she opened in 2006. During the worst of lockdown, she volunteered at the makeshift soup kitchen at Casa 28, a former butcher shop turned into a restaurant, just a few days after the government declared the state of alarm. When the owner of Casa 28 was forced to close, Eva joined the group managing Malasaña Acompaña’s food bank. For three months, she coordinated the distribution of food parcels on Thursday mornings. She is still actively participating in this neighbourhood initiative.

Maybe because Eva Fuente’s shop is located just a few steps from Plaza del Dos de Mayo, where a group of homeless people has been gathering every day for years, every time she heard people say “stay home”, she couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to them: “If you are homeless, what are you supposed to do?” She wasn’t the only one asking this same question. Many others like her decided to do something to help the destitute, people the local government had forgotten about when homeless shelters and soup kitchens suddenly closed on 14 March.

She says before the pandemic she was just a shopkeeper, meaning that she was not involved in any movement nor was she a member of any association. However, a newspaper article about Casa 28 changed her mind. She dropped by the soup kitchen Adrián Rojas had improvised in his restaurant at 28 Espiritu Santo to help him out — cooking, making inventories, managing the people queuing up outside waiting for a plate of warm food… Whatever was necessary.

After a few days of giving food to whoever needed it, lines of over 200 people would form outside Casa 28, a remarkable situation amid the neighborhood’s deserted streets. For Eva, however, there was something that was even more shocking: “There were many mothers coming for food, carrying the Telepizza menus paid for by the Madrid government. Right there you realized what the authorities were doing to help the most vulnerable families was useless. Those women had got up early in the morning to get their Telepizza menus. However, they would come here afterward despite this being very hard for them — they had to queue along with people living in the margins of society who usually behave differently — they yell at each other, they get into fights. They came here because their situation was critical. Otherwise, they would have never queued up outside Casa 28,” she emphasizes.

Most likely these mothers weren’t the ones who caused the incomprehension of residents, who complained about what was going on at 28 Espiritu Santo, calling the police and telling off both users and volunteers. At the same time, the economic support promised by the Madrid City Hall proved hard to come by and the legal and bureaucratic obstacles multiplied. All this made things unmanageable and exhausting, and Adrián Rojas decided to close. Eva says she felt on tenterhooks, anguished for the future of all the people who depended on Casa 28 to get a meal.

 

MALASAÑA ACOMPAÑA

A few days later, a friend told her about a group of locals who were setting up a food bank and sent her a WhatsApp link to the Malasaña Acompaña caring network. “I joined the warehouse group and here I am still,” says Eva, adding that Casa 28 y Malasaña Acompaña have many things in common — both were created by people who rebelled against the social emergency that was unfolding before their eyes. They started working together spontaneously and built a structure along the way to appease the suffering of people in need in the most efficient and respectful way possible.

In Malasaña we know we’re fortunate. It’s never been easy to live on the cheap in this neighborhood because rental prices are high. However, the pandemic has revealed the fact that many residents live hand to mouth — shop assistants, cooks, wait staff and cleaning staff in bars and restaurants who, in normal circumstances, live on more or less acceptable wages. The problem is that many of them were on 10-hour-a-week contracts but worked sixty hours. Receiving 75 percent of their 10-hour-a-week contracts granted by the ERTE furlough scheme wouldn’t have been of great help even if they’d gotten it right away. The problem is, that money took two or three months to arrive. And even if they’d contributed on 60 hours, they had no savings because the previous economic crisis had eaten them up. So, they suddenly found themselves unable to pay the rent and, even worse, without money to buy a loaf of bread”.

She says she has been living in Malasaña for 17 years, where she set up her business, Älva for Kids, in 2006. Back then, the hipster culture was unheard of, the gentrification process was unfolding and a neighborhood atmosphere still pervaded the streets. But “the wonderful world of Airbnb” landed on Malasaña in 2010, and ever since then residents have been moving out and tourists have taken over. “I’ve had tourists buying from my shop, which is great, but that feeling of living in a small town was lost. Malasaña Acompaña has brought that feeling back. We all feel closer to each other, we know Pepita lives on that street and Manolito on that square; when I go to the supermarket, I greet like 12 people. Before all this, I wouldn’t talk to anyone. All this has made me fall in love with my neighborhood again. For the record, I’ve always liked Malasaña, but sometimes it’s made me upset. I even like all the hustle and bustle, which is why I don’t like the new movements against bars and terraces.”.

 

«Thanks to Malasaña Acompaña, the news didn’t feel so bleak, aseptic and data driven, but we can’t forget the social emergency is still here»

 

Eva says the network of solidarity and mutual support weaved over the past few months is the reason why she hasn’t felt the news so bleak, aseptic and data-driven. “Knowing that there are actual people behind the news has made this situation more real, but it has also made me see that the coronavirus is there and that the social emergency has never subsided. When you’re working in a food bank like ours and see firsthand what is happening, you know things haven’t been solved yet at all.”

 

MY OWN PERSONAL PANDEMIC

“We started to realize something really serious was happening when schools in Madrid closed on 11 March. I distinctly remember that feeling of great uncertainty. That feeling was shared by all the businesses in the neighborhood, and it was so overwhelming we decided to make important decisions together. On 12 March, we met on Calle San Andrés to decide whether to close our businesses. We were so lost! I finally closed my shop on 13 March at 1 pm. That was hard. I didn’t know when I would be back or what would I have to deal with if I ever came back. I even thought I might be closing the shop forever! I felt a huge, black cloud hovering over my head.”

But that cloud lifted, despite the fact that for Eva, who lives alone and works about 11 hours a day, Monday to Saturday, being confined at home for several days in a row was a really strange experience and the first days were hard. However, she soon realized it was not in her power to change things and that she would have time to worry about herself in the future. “I focused on applying for government subsidies. Then some of my customers sent me messages and I felt much better. I published a very sad post on the shop’s blog about the feeling of uncertainty that we felt during the first days and they answered. They sent messages of affection, telling me that the moment I opened the shop again, they would come, that they would be waiting for me… That was so cool. Then I started to post photos on my Instagram in a different spirit and with a different vision, thinking about them. Almost all my customers are women. You know, maternity and the patriarchy…”.

 

*

entrevista-eva-fuentes-foto-aldara-ZN
Eva Fuentes en Älva for Kids, la tienda que regenta en Malasaña. // Imagen: Aldara ZN Fotografía.

EVA FUENTES

Coordinator at the Malasaña Acompaña Food Bank

She lives in Malasaña, where she runs Älva for Kids, a childrenswear shop she opened in 2006. During the worst of lockdown, she volunteered at the makeshift soup kitchen at Casa 28, a former butcher shop turned into a restaurant, just a few days after the government declared the state of alarm. When the owner of Casa 28 was forced to close, Eva joined the group managing Malasaña Acompaña’s food bank. For three months, she coordinated the distribution of food parcels on Thursday mornings. She is still actively participating in this neighbourhood initiative.

Maybe because Eva Fuente’s shop is located just a few steps from Plaza del Dos de Mayo, where a group of homeless people has been gathering every day for years, every time she heard people say “stay home”, she couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to them: “If you are homeless, what are you supposed to do?” She wasn’t the only one asking this same question. Many others like her decided to do something to help the destitute, people the local government had forgotten about when homeless shelters and soup kitchens suddenly closed on 14 March.

 

She says before the pandemic she was just a shopkeeper, meaning that she was not involved in any movement nor was she a member of any association. However, a newspaper article about Casa 28 changed her mind. She dropped by the soup kitchen Adrián Rojas had improvised in his restaurant at 28 Espiritu Santo to help him out — cooking, making inventories, managing the people queuing up outside waiting for a plate of warm food… Whatever was necessary.

 

After a few days of giving food to whoever needed it, lines of over 200 people would form outside Casa 28, a remarkable situation amid the neighborhood’s deserted streets. For Eva, however, there was something that was even more shocking: “There were many mothers coming for food, carrying the Telepizza menus paid for by the Madrid government. Right there you realized what the authorities were doing to help the most vulnerable families was useless. Those women had got up early in the morning to get their Telepizza menus. However, they would come here afterward despite this being very hard for them — they had to queue along with people living in the margins of society who usually behave differently — they yell at each other, they get into fights. They came here because their situation was critical. Otherwise, they would have never queued up outside Casa 28,” she emphasizes.

 

Most likely these mothers weren’t the ones who caused the incomprehension of residents, who complained about what was going on at 28 Espiritu Santo, calling the police and telling off both users and volunteers. At the same time, the economic support promised by the Madrid City Hall proved hard to come by and the legal and bureaucratic obstacles multiplied. All this made things unmanageable and exhausting, and Adrián Rojas decided to close. Eva says she felt on tenterhooks, anguished for the future of all the people who depended on Casa 28 to get a meal.

 

MALASAÑA ACOMPAÑA

A few days later, a friend told her about a group of locals who were setting up a food bank and sent her a WhatsApp link to the Malasaña Acompaña caring network. “I joined the warehouse group and here I am still,” says Eva, adding that Casa 28 y Malasaña Acompaña have many things in common — both were created by people who rebelled against the social emergency that was unfolding before their eyes. They started working together spontaneously and built a structure along the way to appease the suffering of people in need in the most efficient and respectful way possible.

 

“In Malasaña we know we’re fortunate. It’s never been easy to live on the cheap in this neighborhood because rental prices are high. However, the pandemic has revealed the fact that many residents live hand to mouth — shop assistants, cooks, wait staff and cleaning staff in bars and restaurants who, in normal circumstances, live on more or less acceptable wages. The problem is that many of them were on 10-hour-a-week contracts but worked sixty hours. Receiving 75 percent of their 10-hour-a-week contracts granted by the ERTE furlough scheme wouldn’t have been of great help even if they’d gotten it right away. The problem is, that money took two or three months to arrive. And even if they’d contributed on 60 hours, they had no savings because the previous economic crisis had eaten them up. So, they suddenly found themselves unable to pay the rent and, even worse, without money to buy a loaf of bread”.

 

She says she has been living in Malasaña for 17 years, where she set up her business, Älva for Kids, in 2006. Back then, the hipster culture was unheard of, the gentrification process was unfolding and a neighborhood atmosphere still pervaded the streets. But “the wonderful world of Airbnb” landed on Malasaña in 2010, and ever since then residents have been moving out and tourists have taken over. “I’ve had tourists buying from my shop, which is great, but that feeling of living in a small town was lost. Malasaña Acompaña has brought that feeling back. We all feel closer to each other, we know Pepita lives on that street and Manolito on that square; when I go to the supermarket, I greet like 12 people. Before all this, I wouldn’t talk to anyone. All this has made me fall in love with my neighborhood again. For the record, I’ve always liked Malasaña, but sometimes it’s made me upset. I even like all the hustle and bustle, which is why I don’t like the new movements against bars and terraces.”.

 

«Thanks to Malasaña Acompaña, the news didn’t feel so bleak, aseptic and data driven, but we can’t forget the social emergency is still here»

 

Eva says the network of solidarity and mutual support weaved over the past few months is the reason why she hasn’t felt the news so bleak, aseptic and data-driven. “Knowing that there are actual people behind the news has made this situation more real, but it has also made me see that the coronavirus is there and that the social emergency has never subsided. When you’re working in a food bank like ours and see firsthand what is happening, you know things haven’t been solved yet at all.”

 

MY OWN PERSONAL PANDEMIC

“We started to realize something really serious was happening when schools in Madrid closed on 11 March. I distinctly remember that feeling of great uncertainty. That feeling was shared by all the businesses in the neighborhood, and it was so overwhelming we decided to make important decisions together. On 12 March, we met on Calle San Andrés to decide whether to close our businesses. We were so lost! I finally closed my shop on 13 March at 1 pm. That was hard. I didn’t know when I would be back or what would I have to deal with if I ever came back. I even thought I might be closing the shop forever! I felt a huge, black cloud hovering over my head.”

 

But that cloud lifted, despite the fact that for Eva, who lives alone and works about 11 hours a day, Monday to Saturday, being confined at home for several days in a row was a really strange experience and the first days were hard. However, she soon realized it was not in her power to change things and that she would have time to worry about herself in the future. “I focused on applying for government subsidies. Then some of my customers sent me messages and I felt much better. I published a very sad post on the shop’s blog about the feeling of uncertainty that we felt during the first days and they answered. They sent messages of affection, telling me that the moment I opened the shop again, they would come, that they would be waiting for me… That was so cool. Then I started to post photos on my Instagram in a different spirit and with a different vision, thinking about them. Almost all my customers are women. You know, maternity and the patriarchy…”.

*

entrevista-eva-fuentes-foto-aldara-ZN
Eva Fuentes, at her Malasaña shop, Älva for Kids // Image: Aldara ZN Fotografía.

EVA FUENTES

Coordinator at the Malañasa Acompaña Food Bank

«In Malasaña, I feel a sense of community again»

She lives in Malasaña, where she runs Älva for Kids, a childrenswear shop she opened in 2006. During the worst of lockdown, she volunteered at the makeshift soup kitchen at Casa 28, a former butcher shop turned into a restaurant, just a few days after the government declared the state of alarm. When the owner of Casa 28 was forced to close, Eva joined the group managing Malasaña Acompaña’s food bank. For three months, she coordinated the distribution of food parcels on Thursday mornings. She is still actively participating in this neighbourhood initiative.

Maybe because Eva Fuente’s shop is located just a few steps from Plaza del Dos de Mayo, where a group of homeless people has been gathering every day for years, every time she heard people say “stay home”, she couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to them: “If you are homeless, what are you supposed to do?” She wasn’t the only one asking this same question. Many others like her decided to do something to help the destitute, people the local government had forgotten about when homeless shelters and soup kitchens suddenly closed on 14 March.

She says before the pandemic she was just a shopkeeper, meaning that she was not involved in any movement nor was she a member of any association. However, a newspaper article about Casa 28 changed her mind. She dropped by the soup kitchen Adrián Rojas had improvised in his restaurant at 28 Espiritu Santo to help him out — cooking, making inventories, managing the people queuing up outside waiting for a plate of warm food… Whatever was necessary.

After a few days of giving food to whoever needed it, lines of over 200 people would form outside Casa 28, a remarkable situation amid the neighborhood’s deserted streets. For Eva, however, there was something that was even more shocking: “There were many mothers coming for food, carrying the Telepizza menus paid for by the Madrid government. Right there you realized what the authorities were doing to help the most vulnerable families was useless. Those women had got up early in the morning to get their Telepizza menus. However, they would come here afterward despite this being very hard for them — they had to queue along with people living in the margins of society who usually behave differently — they yell at each other, they get into fights. They came here because their situation was critical. Otherwise, they would have never queued up outside Casa 28,” she emphasizes.

Most likely these mothers weren’t the ones who caused the incomprehension of residents, who complained about what was going on at 28 Espiritu Santo, calling the police and telling off both users and volunteers. At the same time, the economic support promised by the Madrid City Hall proved hard to come by and the legal and bureaucratic obstacles multiplied. All this made things unmanageable and exhausting, and Adrián Rojas decided to close. Eva says she felt on tenterhooks, anguished for the future of all the people who depended on Casa 28 to get a meal.

 

MALASAÑA ACOMPAÑA

A few days later, a friend told her about a group of locals who were setting up a food bank and sent her a WhatsApp link to the Malasaña Acompaña caring network. “I joined the warehouse group and here I am still,” says Eva, adding that Casa 28 y Malasaña Acompaña have many things in common — both were created by people who rebelled against the social emergency that was unfolding before their eyes. They started working together spontaneously and built a structure along the way to appease the suffering of people in need in the most efficient and respectful way possible.

 

“In Malasaña we know we’re fortunate. It’s never been easy to live on the cheap in this neighborhood because rental prices are high. However, the pandemic has revealed the fact that many residents live hand to mouth — shop assistants, cooks, wait staff and cleaning staff in bars and restaurants who, in normal circumstances, live on more or less acceptable wages. The problem is that many of them were on 10-hour-a-week contracts but worked sixty hours. Receiving 75 percent of their 10-hour-a-week contracts granted by the ERTE furlough scheme wouldn’t have been of great help even if they’d gotten it right away. The problem is, that money took two or three months to arrive. And even if they’d contributed on 60 hours, they had no savings because the previous economic crisis had eaten them up. So, they suddenly found themselves unable to pay the rent and, even worse, without money to buy a loaf of bread”.

She says she has been living in Malasaña for 17 years, where she set up her business, Älva for Kids, in 2006. Back then, the hipster culture was unheard of, the gentrification process was unfolding and a neighborhood atmosphere still pervaded the streets. But “the wonderful world of Airbnb” landed on Malasaña in 2010, and ever since then residents have been moving out and tourists have taken over. “I’ve had tourists buying from my shop, which is great, but that feeling of living in a small town was lost. Malasaña Acompaña has brought that feeling back. We all feel closer to each other, we know Pepita lives on that street and Manolito on that square; when I go to the supermarket, I greet like 12 people. Before all this, I wouldn’t talk to anyone. All this has made me fall in love with my neighborhood again. For the record, I’ve always liked Malasaña, but sometimes it’s made me upset. I even like all the hustle and bustle, which is why I don’t like the new movements against bars and terraces.”

 

«Thanks to Malasaña Acompaña, the news didn’t feel so bleak, aseptic and data driven, but we can’t forget the social emergency is still here»

 

Eva says the network of solidarity and mutual support weaved over the past few months is the reason why she hasn’t felt the news so bleak, aseptic and data-driven. “Knowing that there are actual people behind the news has made this situation more real, but it has also made me see that the coronavirus is there and that the social emergency has never subsided. When you’re working in a food bank like ours and see firsthand what is happening, you know things haven’t been solved yet at all.”

 

MY OWN PERSONAL PANDEMIC

“We started to realize something really serious was happening when schools in Madrid closed on 11 March. I distinctly remember that feeling of great uncertainty. That feeling was shared by all the businesses in the neighborhood, and it was so overwhelming we decided to make important decisions together. On 12 March, we met on Calle San Andrés to decide whether to close our businesses. We were so lost! I finally closed my shop on 13 March at 1 pm. That was hard. I didn’t know when I would be back or what would I have to deal with if I ever came back. I even thought I might be closing the shop forever! I felt a huge, black cloud hovering over my head.”

But that cloud lifted, despite the fact that for Eva, who lives alone and works about 11 hours a day, Monday to Saturday, being confined at home for several days in a row was a really strange experience and the first days were hard. However, she soon realized it was not in her power to change things and that she would have time to worry about herself in the future. “I focused on applying for government subsidies. Then some of my customers sent me messages and I felt much better. I published a very sad post on the shop’s blog about the feeling of uncertainty that we felt during the first days and they answered. They sent messages of affection, telling me that the moment I opened the shop again, they would come, that they would be waiting for me… That was so cool. Then I started to post photos on my Instagram in a different spirit and with a different vision, thinking about them. Almost all my customers are women. You know, maternity and the patriarchy…”

*