Patio de Maravillas

Published by Bo Ko — 7 years ago

Blog: Madrid + Spain
Tags: Erasmus blog Madrid, Madrid, Spain

El Patio de Maravillas is an independent social center. What does that mean? It is a so-called casa okupada or okupa. The translation in English would be "squat". In most places squats are old, abandoned buildings, occupied by people who live there illegaly. The buildings have other owners who do not care about them. There is a whole occupy movement in Spain. Due to the crisis, many citizens have lost their homes. It is usually due to the fact that these individuals have taken a loan from a bank in order to pay for their flats or houses. After 2008 when the crisis started, many people lost their jobs and were unable to pay their loans anymore. The banks took their homes away. This is only one of the many problems Spanish citizens are experiencing on a social level. That is how social activities started appearing, along with many protests and strikes. Braver individuals created the occupy movement and started living in empty houses that banks have taken away from people. There are several more developped places, where social activities take place. El Patio de Maravillas, la Tabacalera, and many others are good examples. El Patio de maravillas exists for a long time now. It is situated in the central part of Madrid, in calle del Pez 21 and it is inside a big old building. There is a bar on the first floor, along with a small hall where certain activities take place. On the second and the third floor you can find more halls and more activities. There are salsa classes on the first floor, yoga and tango, on the second, bicycle workshop on the first floor again, etc. The Patio de maravillas has its own web page and a Facebook page where you can see all of the activities and workshops that take place at the center. Since it a social place, it offers all of its activities for free. The idea is that if you want to attend salsa or yoga classes you can then help in return. You can clean some part of the building or take a turn behind the bar. In other words, you can enjoy the great stuff they offer and give them a hand when they need it. You are not obliged to do anything, it is on voluntary bases but it would be only fair that all of the students of all of the workshops contribuite one way or another. There is a small room where you can consult on some legal matters or get to know more about your rights. From time to time there are discussions on social topics, such as the changes that take place in the Spanish educational system. The Patio de maravillas promotes other social ideas, such as the option to buy ecological products from local farmers near Madrid.

I, personally, have been to two workshops in the Patio de maravillas. One of them is the salsa workshop. It takes place every Tuesday at eight forty five until nine thirty in the evening, beginners level and between nine thirty and ten fifteen, advanced level. The tutors are two volunteers, a Spanish girl and a guy from South America, who explain and show the steps. It is a normal class, actually. The good thing about the salsa class is that you always meet great people. There are some Spanish, along with many foreigners. You usually meet some of the people before the class, while waiting for it to start. After the end of the class you can stay in the bar and talk to more interesting individuals. The bad thing about this class is the fact that many people come one time and never come back, so it could be complicated to start friendships there. Another problem is that there are many people coming to this workshop and there is not enough space. It is difficult to see all the steps the teachers are showing. Still, it is a very nice class and I would definitely recommended to anyone who is interested in learning some salsa.

The yoga class is another class I have attended. I really liked it. It takes place on the second floor of the Patio de Maravillas building from eight to ten o'clock in the evening. Unfortunatelly, there are limited places available and if you want to try that workshop you have to go there a bit earlier (fifteen minutes in advance or so). Bring comfortable clothes and a yoga mat. There is no heating, so bring a sweater in the winter. It is not too cold in the hall but you should be prepared. The class is for beginners but unlike the salsa one, there are more participants that come often and know what they have to do. It starts with some easier exercises and continues with harder ones. You need to be a bit flexible in order to do the excersises and the postures. The teacher tells the new participants that they can take it easy and should not force their bodies in any way. If you are new you have to be careful not to hurt yourself. There are more advanced classes. I believe one of them is on the same day (Monday) and the other one is on Wednesdays. I have only been to the beginners class because I have not done yoga before, so I cannot comment on the other two classes. If you are not a beginner you can probably go directly to the more advanced levels. The beginners class finishes with twenty minute relaxation. Everybody lies down quietly and relaxes their bodies. The teacher tells you to start from the toes of your feet, continue with your legs, stomach, upper body, arms and hands. At the end you relax your inner organs and your brain. It is a great exercise and I felt much better after doing it. You have to forget about your problems and worries. At the end of the class you can go to the bar and get to know other students as well.

The classes I have attended in the Patio de maravillas do not require any previous inscription. You do not have to sign up in advance, you just go and enjoy them. As with the salsa class, the participants in the yoga class have to take turns behind the bar, clean, or help in any other way. That is the whole purpose of the Patio de Maravillas: you participate, enjoy, and help in return. Believe me, it is nicer than going to a regular class and paying for it.

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