Sunday, August 14

The secret ingredient of humanity

For three generations they have cooked the best patatas bravas in Madrid, but it was Raúl Cabrera who perfected the sauce at the Docamar bar with a new ingredient. The Solidarity. He says that you have to give back to the neighborhood what the neighborhood gives you. Six decades ago they settled in Quintana and in April 2020, while the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, offered more than 11,000 children at risk of exclusion pizzas, hamburgers, fried chicken balls, pasta, salad and sandwiches , Raúl posted a message on the WhatsApp group of the 40 bar workers. He proposed to reopen the business during confinement and cook for those who had lost their jobs and could not take care of food at home.

Encounter with Islam in a pantry in Carabanchel Alto

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“They were families who had never been able to save and lived on the edge,” recalls Raúl, 52, who grew up in the El Batán neighborhood, who studied statistics and mathematics at the university and, against all odds, ended up in the hospitality industry and prolonging the success of the family’s patatas bravas. One of the neighbors who received one of the 70 menus that she handed out daily had just lost her clothing business to the pandemic. “He told me that he was eating like never before. It was not a ranch, it was quality food. It was not bad fried, it was balanced food,” he says. Ana Martínez, president of the Quintana neighborhood association, confirms that it was not “an apple with some lentils”, nor junk food. For half a year Raúl and his companions distributed breakfast, lunch and dinner. “He put all his capital at the service of the neighborhood, including his staff,” says Martínez.

When the Quintana neighborhood association opened the solidarity pantry in April, it received a message from the owner of Docamar. He proposed to collaborate with his meals, his kitchen and his staff. He did not even want the ingredients, he preferred to have the raw material with which he usually worked. Ana was delighted and immediately contacted the Ciudad Lineal District Board. He called Social Services and they answered that “in no way” could they open the bar to cook and distribute menus. “They said that this could only be through the catering that they had hired. But the Docamar gathered all the permits and guarantees, because they were already distributing food before the pandemic and they had a van ready. They told me ‘absolutely, no’ So I called a contact in the Participation area, in the Madrid City Council, to unblock the situation. This person solved it in one day, “says Martínez.

Good year, bad year

A good year for associations is a bad year for associations. The community has become stronger by strengthening ties of help and care among the neighbors. The aid networks have learned to organize themselves at the moment in the year of the pandemic and the storm ‘Filomena’. If masks were needed, Ana explains that a chain was organized immediately in which it was cut, sewn and distributed; if you couldn’t walk down the street, the neighbors would push the snow away. In this endless year they have been the ones who have reacted to solve the problems. But public aid has been reduced, the bureaucratic procedures of the administrations have hindered their work and the sanitary protocols have canceled the neighborhood festivals from which the income of the associations came to face the payment of the rents of their premises.

Ana Martínez has been involved in the neighborhood movement all her life. “It’s what I like the most, working with the neighborhood. This year we have seen both need and solidarity among neighbors and intransigence in the organizations,” he says. He is 65 years old and has worked forty years until he retired seven years ago. He worked in a construction company and it was very difficult to find another position. That is, he lost 24% of the amount that was due to him for his retirement. He speaks of dramatic experiences in which he prefers not to delve into and of the lack of political support, of councilors who did not deign to stop by the pantries to show their solidarity. “A total disregard. They have not been up to par,” he sums up.

The bitter experience with the administrations is forgotten when they relate what happened in those months. “It was very nice,” Raúl summarizes. There were people who wrote him a letter thanking him for what he was doing for them and their families. Others never thanked him and understood it as an obligation. The businessman has not made an account of what his solidarity has cost him. Half of the staff volunteered to participate free of charge and cook for the neighbors. They worked two shifts: on Monday they prepared meals for three days and on Thursday for the rest. Eight people cooked, others packaged, and still others delivered the large packages. There were families of seven. They started at nine in the morning and ended at six in the afternoon. “We made 30 more rations for the restaurant workers and their families, because they did not receive the ERTE. It took them more than half a year to collect it,” says Raúl, father of two girls. Once they put their famous potatoes on the menu and it has ended up rewarding the volunteers financially.

The menu with masks

From the restaurant they got in touch with Raquel Sanz and Alicia Solano, who had set up a chain to make homemade masks. They wanted to include them alongside the menus. They were about 40 people cutting, sewing and distributing. A mostly female organization, which distributed more than 18,000 masks throughout Madrid between March and October. The two of them collected the donations and distributed the ready-made copies. The material came from the Association of Hoteliers of Madrid, which gave them white sheets. The Municipal Police put the strings. The rubbers and filters came from individuals. Raquel says that when they joined they did not expect to find so much support. They immediately formed a network: they photocopied the pattern and some cut out the fabrics and others sewed. A laundry in San Sebastián de los Reyes washed and packed them.

Sewing was a hobby for Raquel, until she lost her job on March 4 and decided to make her hobby a mission. They created a very strong bond between people who did not know each other. They were old people and young people, people alone and in the family. “We are very human. We have done what it took to help each other,” says Raquel when she takes stock of this experience. “We did not know that we could help each other so much and that we wanted to help each other so much. Humanity has been what has surprised me the most. You can change so many things with so little. I have enjoyed helping others so much that it has changed my life: no longer I want to be the best financial director. I aspire to other things. Now I am dedicating myself more to sewing than to finances, “she says.

“It had to be done.” Ana Martínez says that there was no other possibility than to help each other. They did not close even for vacations, “it was a palizón”. The association has been active since 1977, when it was legalized. But this year people appeared to collaborate that they did not know. When the contributions fell they went to the doors of the supermarkets to ask for donations. “The English Court of Virgen de Sagrario did not let us get to the door. Mercadona and Saves More, either,” she assures upset. Humanity returns to his words. That of the neighbors who have reacted and solved the problems of others, of all.