Madrid was not either an important commercial or mercantile centre. Certainly, rents flow from outside allowed that its commerce was more relevant than the industry. From that receives Madrid its fame of environment predatory, of consuming more than what it produced and consuming it without creating any richness.

Although commerce was the activity to which most madrilenians dedicated to, the big style one was not the more abundant but the street one, the hallway or small shop one: up to 610 taverns and 552 generous wines shops appear on Madoz list.

On this list also stand out, with more than one hundred taxpayers, junk dealers (281), coal dealers (246), merchant selling retail clothes or fabrics (165), butchers (140) and hawkers (132). There was also a big deal of taxpayers for secret inns or pupil houses (449).

Itinerant sellers on a colossal amount during all the century, offering all possible goods, from foods to water and sugar lumps, newspapers or matches, converted city streets on "constant fair and sickening pigsty", as written on El Progreso newspaper on December 1897.

Somehow better established, the small and insignificant shops at Plaza Mayor where cups, wooden shawls and hardware store articles was sold and so much called the attention of Hans Christian Andersen on his visit to Spain on 1862.

But if what you wanted was luxury, then possibilities on ending on a French style commerce increased: regarding costumes and hairdressing, French had a real monopoly, although when trying to go further away and open big store as the ones existing in Paris, they failed.

The Villa of Madrid, open on 1846, could not go on its journey and had to shut down, as will also do almost one hundred years later, the Madrid-París.

Madrid could be judged as traffic and commerce centre, but inside its gates there wasn't a social class with enough resources so as to keep a big bazaar, as neither there was to tackle important urban reformations. Madrid was a poor city.

Poor on the most literal sense of the world, plenty of poor, as actually this weak industrial equipment and such a limited commerce drives to a class structure, distinguished during all the first half of the century by a predominance of renter owners elite.

A medium class, that receives rents from its properties, a craftsmen having enough to survive, a certain amount of day labourers which does not exceed much the craftsmen and a jumbled mass of water carriers from Asturias, calash drivers from Valencia, bullfighters from Andalucia, butlers and secretaries from Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa, pastrycooks from Galicia, servants and beggars from La Mancha,...

Madrid was not an industrial city because of objective, material conditionings, but was not either a dynamic commercial and financial centre, mainly because of a class structure which proceed from the old regime and which did not suffer drastic, profound modifications, as effect of any revolution, bourgeoisie or not, during the first half of the century.

City of old regime, monarchy court, Madrid had entered the century dominated, spatial and materially, by nobility and clergy, who possessed, together with beneficence and assistance institutions under they patronage, quite close to half its surface.

The noble palace and religious convent stamped their profound print on the city morphology, of course, but also on its social structure, its human warp.

The palace, because besides occupying wide irregular extensions, as well as convent, supported with its titular rents and impressive mass of domestic servants and their complete added families.

The convent, because besides giving shelter to a huge amount of the total population, was centre of a charity system, which supported the rest of the considerable amount of Madrid inhabitants, the poor, that remain fixed, motionless, during the whole century.

It is enough to have a look at Madrid map to perceive up to which point the city morphology and global landscape was the result of this extraordinary palace and conventual density, in front of which the Crown showed impotent, if not accomplice.

Madoz regretted that very few monuments at Madrid came from further away of Carlos III reign, and actually very few owes Madrid morphology to the two dynasties which elected Madrid as residence and court place, but who did not act on the Villa space until the illustrated generation of 18th century decided to tidy up the surroundings and entries, opening walks and gates and lifted some that another building.

It is surprising that the monarch residence changed, alternatively, between its oriental and accidental limits, as if they did not dare to settle in the middle, as if the centre would not have space at all for the king, scared of interfere on its palaces environment, closed, without external radiation

It had to be a parvenu usurper, a just arrived to Madrid and to royalty, José Bonaparte, who would quickly understand that Royal Palace could not raise over its miserable and crowded surrounding, and decided, even when times were not really propitious, to open spaces and create new perspectives.

But, in regarding the two historic dynasties, it seems that they would regret having chosen Madrid and had look for residence another places with less interfering obstacles which allow them to escape quicker from it, and even avoid and turn their back on it, to reach quickly the royal sites of their real predilection: El Escorial, La Granja, Aranjuez.

This explains that Madrid, chosen court by the monarchy, would take big extension, but this was made - on Ponz words - tumultuously, without planning nor established project, without the Crown ever thinking of its city.

And it is admirable, continues such illustrated traveller, that when Spanish founded cities in America completely symmetric, the Court streets were made with no symmetry at all.

Admirable and even more, of course, because most of Madrid streets were driven through the fortune designs or better to say, were the mass of palaces and convents allowed their way.

The wide Crown possessions to the east and west of the city determined that possible Madrid grown, from its centre, was not verified on concentric circles.


Copyright © 2002 by JLL & JRP

All rights reserved.