Flamenco in danger in Madrid

A monument of flamenco art has already paid the price for the coronavirus: “Casa Patas”, a tablao emblematic of central Madrid, Cañizares street; without a doubt, also, the best place in the capital to listen to flamenco, to admire the game of tocaores (guitarists), the flights of bailaores (dancers) and the lamentations of cantaores (singers). Last weekend, the owners of “Casa Patas” announced its permanent closure. The reason is simple: foreign visitors constituting 90% of their clientele, including many Japanese, there is no longer any economic viability. Indeed, even if in the middle of the pandemic which ferociously affected Spain (some 27,000 dead and 240,000 cases of contagion) foreign tourism will timidly reappear in early July, it will be mainly on the beaches, very few in the capital. Given the sanitary measures which provide for a maximum of 50% of attendance in theaters, bars and night clubs, the flamenco reference room quickly made up its minds and concluded that its survival was no longer assured.

The disappearance of the “Casa Patas” could be the start of a serial fall. In Madrid, historically one of the Mecca of flamenco just like the “Golden Triangle” in Andalusia (Seville-Jérez-Cadiz), a number of cinemas fear the same fate. Unless, say professionals in the sector, the authorities granted public aid in order to save an inheritance which risks being damaged. Flamenco is listed as an intangible heritage of humanity by Unesco and, in certain regions such as Andalusia, it is considered a national asset of public interest. In Madrid, in particular, the bosses of tablaos are trembling. This is particularly the case of Juan Manuel del Rey, responsible for the “Corral de la Moreria”, in the Latina district, a legendary place since its creation in 1956: “If municipal, regional and national institutions do not come to us powerfully helping in the months to come, the vast majority of us will not be able to survive. In practice, it is a matter of staying until the second half of next year, when, hopefully, the flow of foreign visitors will return to normal. ”

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The speech is not very different in the other important rooms of Madrid, “Le Candela”, “Le Villa Rosa”, “Le Burladero” … At “Cardamomo”, especially frequented by gypsies – besides the tourist clientele -, we survive thanks to the implementation of technical unemployment for the 26 employees, or 85% of the emoluments. “But, says owner Ivana Portolés, if the room only works with 50% of authorized traffic and foreign visitors do not appear, we can close the shop. So far, local authorities have not announced any financial support for these rooms. However, the situation is critical for an entire sector, because the vast majority of flamenco artists – dancers, guitarists or singers – live shows in tablaos. Hence the great fear expressed by Juan Manuel del Rey: “It is not only hundreds of jobs that are at stake, it is the immediate future of flamenco as a live performance that is at stake. Without the massive support of administrations, says the majority, one of the main attributes of Spanish culture would not be able to resist it.

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