El alma no tiene color

Madrid, Spain

During the 50’s began to the process of formalization of what today is the biggest illegal settlement in Europe: the Cañada Real Galiana. 8.000 neighbors living in 16 km of different stories with the same reality: the struggle to get ahead in a media-stigmatized high contrast area.

This is the story of a project that is born aiming to give voice and visibility to this self-constructed linear city which remains under the shadow of the rest of Madrid. «El alma no tiene color (soul has no color)» is a song written by Antonio Remache and performed by Antonio Carmona that reflects the ideals that the Cañada neighbors want to express towards the world: Soul, anger, soil, heart… speak about the identity this place has.

The work is framed in the «Escuela Abierta de Verano», arranged by the Proyecto de Intervención Comunitaria Intercultural (ICI), driven by Obra Social La Caixa together with Voces, Diaconía and Red Cross associations.

The context

The Cañada Real Galiana is one of the nine most important cattle ways going through the entire Iberian Peninsula. It used to be the connecting path between popular grazing areas.

During the 50s, due to the decline of these ways and its proximity to Madrid city, led to the take over of the terrain by diverse groups of incoming people, such as rural immigrants looking for a job, Madrid inhabitants who couldn’t afford living in Madrid, Spanish gypsies, Muslims, Romanian and people coming from other dismantled slums.

Configuration of the Cañada

The massive incoming residents soon shaped a true nonformal linear city that goes through Coslada, Rivas and Getafe municipalities, divided into 6 sectors.
It is composed of heterogeneous buildings resulting from a wide range of socioeconomic reality.

Despite their differences, all of them have something in common: they lack house property title and suffer the stigma of living in the Cañada Real.

The poem

We propose an acupuncture project on the public space, joining the whole area with words and verses that compose the song «El alma no tiene color» by painting linearly and chronologically the different facades from the first to the sixth sector. The intervention makes sense once we’ve roamed the 16 km of Cañada. We created a chromatic walk, assigning a color shade to every sector. Inside them, we find slight gradient variations. The changing colors speak us about the difference between sectors, houses, and people as we walk through the project. But at the same time, they are merged with the same statement, painted in white color: in the end, the soul has no color:

Don’t regard at the color of my skin because the sun looked at me.
I was born in flesh and bone, I was a boy.
I belong to my land, it is a part of me.
And if you allow me, I am a foreigner, as we all are.
I am made of flesh, not iron; I am all heart full of imperfection
As everybody, no one is perfect,
And if you hurt me, I also feel it.
Don’t put me limits,
It is unfair and cruel
It hurts, it hurts
The soul has no color and I don’t want
to judge and to paint it with anger,
with so much outdated thoughts.
Do not regard at the color of my skin because the sun looked at me.
Do not let my condition be the subject of a snub.
In my universe everything is diverse
I express it just how I feel it, I feel it.
I am made of flesh, not iron
I am all heart full of imperfection
As everybody, no one is perfect,
And if you hurt me, I also feel it.
The heart is fragile
and it costs too much to hurt it
No one knows how I feel.

Information and credits
  • Intervention of 49 walls in 16 km developed in July 2018
  • Project produced by Boa Mistura with ICI and Gypsy Secretariat Foundation
  • Funded by Boa Mistura, La Caixa Social Work Foundation and Trivergencia
  • Painting donated by PPG Industries
  • We have the collaboration and participation of Fundación Voces, Diaconía, Cruz Roja, Asociación Barró, Asociación El Fanal and the Commissioner of the Madrid City Council for the Cañada Real
  • Thanks to Susana Camacho, Adela Carrasco, Nabila Chedid, Micela Romana, Lucía, Ana, Marina, Teresa, Juan, Estefanía, Alberto, Jesús, Aura, Marcos, Rocío, Patricia a Paz Nuñez for making our work easier
  • To María Corrales, for your involvement
  • To all the neighbors who offered their facade: Francisa, Apolonio; Juan José, Manuel, Franciso, Santiago, Antonio, Damián, Alberto and Antonio, María Yolanda; Marina, Vanesa and Ángel, Fredy, María Luisa and Antonio, Laura; Carlos, Alegría, Libertad, Ángel, Rubí, Yanira, Antonio, Sara and Mari, Isabel v Franciso, Raúl, Inés, Jesús and Raúl, Ketama, Dolores, Carlos, Ramón, Manuel, Bruno, Mario, Ángel and Sara, Mariano, Noemí and Rosario, Yosana and Mohamed, Damián, Agustina; Manuel, Miloud, Fátima, Hannah, Yamina, Fátima, Samir, Abdu and Rim, Yanira, Ángel and Manuel, Ros; Marina, familia del Bar Cheito, Ayoub, Houda
  • To all the volunteers who crossed the invisible border of the Cañada Real: Leire, Ana, Marta, Lucía, Alex, Cristina, Patricia, Rocío, Pablo, Ainhoa, Diana, Patricia, Ángeles, Alicia, Andrea, Lucas, Miguel, Macarena, Elena, Carlos, Miguel, Mónica, Fran, María, Camino, Lorena, Rocío, Pedro, Andrew, Christel, Thomas, Ana, Adriana, Jari, Muskilda, Andrea, Johanny, Camila, Marina, Laura
  • And thanks to the neighbors who in one way or another supported us to enrich the public space in the Cañada Real: Yousra, Joel, Ezequiel, Manuel, Rufino, Mario, Aroa, Naiara, Rosario, Ángela, Antonio, Coral, Dori, Jesús, Adrián, Juan, Fabián and Mati
  • To Agustín Rodríguez, for his invaluable work in La Cañada
  • Thanks to Paqui Mayoral and Antonio Remache for the inspiration
  • Boa team: Diego Vicente, Pablo G. Mena, María Corrales
  • Support at the studio: Clara González
  • Photography by Dan BarreriFer Taranco and Boa Mistura
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