The minivan’s loudspeaker is insistent: “Please, everyone get out, it’s an important march for La Cañada,” the recording repeats, first in Spanish, then in Arabic. At the wheel, Omar Lamrani, a resident of sector 5 of the Cañada Real, goes up and down the route of the old cattle route, organizing laggards, encouraging them to participate. It is not the first time they have demonstrated, but the residents of La Cañada see how the electricity supply has not been restored in sector 6 – sector 5 operates a shift system – and the contracts to regularize the situation of those who do have access in the light they just don’t materialize. This morning they have paraded in two marches, from the north and south of the road, from Coslada almost to Getafe, to converge in sector 5 and demand solutions under the slogan “light, contract and monitoring table”.
Moments of 16 months without light in the Cañada Real
Demonstrating in the Cañada Real shows the diverse realities of the sector. The longest stretch and in the worst conditions, the 6th, brought together just a couple of dozen neighbors who started the march along its complicated route, which had to avoid the Valencia highway junction. On the other side, as if on a flying goal, those from sector 5 were waiting. Among them, a large number of children, precisely those most affected in inclement cold winters like that of 2020: of 4,000 people with supply problems, almost the half are minors.
But not all. Jorge, 81 years old, boasts during the walk, between the noise of whistles, of being the oldest neighbor. A trucker by profession, he built a house in the late 1970s to go on weekends from Vallecas. Since the mid-90s, he lives here permanently. “Here we have gone through everything,” he says, remembering the first constructions, those that arrived and are no longer there, the divided plots: “An architect lives there, a firefighter lives there,” he says, pointing to successive houses. He manages with the solar panels that he has installed at home, but he is supportive of the situation of the rest.
If substandard housing is common in sector 6, it is less so in sector 5, where there are even chalets and an almost urban mesh, especially as the road approaches the orderly housing of Rivas-Vaciamadrid. Ángel García, president of the neighborhood association of sector 5, is very belligerent with the latest proposals from the local, autonomous and state governments, which advocate a progressive demolition and rehousing and predicts a long battle in the courts.
“La Cañada united will never be defeated”, chant children and neighbors, as well as quite a few people from Madrid who have come to support the protest. The voices are minor within the appreciable group of veiled women, who nevertheless rhythmically pound saucepans. The police helicopter flies over the area again and again, which seems unnecessary; the march advances with a calm, almost festive atmosphere.
“Let Ayuso come to see the energy of the Cañada Real”, plays with words at the end of the tour, in Rivas, Houda Akrikrez, president of the Tabadol women’s association of the Cañada Real, on a platform installed for this purpose, when the children stop screaming. “We are here showing that we are honest and hard-working people,” she adds after her. Javier Rubio intervenes, a lawyer from the Center for Counseling and Social Studies, which legally supports the neighbors. He says that the aforementioned marijuana plantations, whose excessive consumption causes the cuts, according to the distributor Naturgy, “are a smokescreen” used to pressure residents to leave and leave.
The Pact for the Cañada Real, according to which access to electricity has to be guaranteed until the fate of those affected is resolved, is a “lie”, denounces Ángel García. Meanwhile, the mobilizations take their toll. Two fines of 200 and 150 euros, respectively, were received for a recent act of protest at the Naturgy headquarters, Cristina Pozas, from the Al-Shorok Neighborhood Association, informed those present. A piggy bank circulates for donations; fills up right away. Omar Lamrani, who parked the car, also goes up to the stage, he gets emotional when he demands dignity for the Moroccans of La Cañada. We all want our children to progress.”