The last-minute beers, the chocolate at 10 p.m., the ice cubes, the sweets for the Netflix series: the neighborhood shops run by Chinese immigrants. They were the first to close, some even in February. They alerted the rest of Madrid to the coming health crisis and left the blind closed even though by law they could open. Now on a drop count, more and more Chinese groceries reopen and bring life to the dull streets of Madrid. The crutch of the de-escalation starts in the neighborhood Asian shops. “How do I pay for the house light, gas, rent?” Says Zhan Owei, 47, with two children and a mask placed behind the bar of his shop near Tirso de Molina square. He says that it opened a few days ago because he could no longer do it, but that this new normal does not help him to do the accounts: “I earn very little. It’s not like before because people don’t come. “
What has led you to open? If at the beginning of the pandemic they closed because of responsibility, now they do so because they could no longer endure the economic suffocation. The other side of the pandemic is already hitting hard in its shops. “Some have suffered robberies. Others have thrown the genre in the trash. They could no longer be closed any longer, “says Beini Qian, manager of the JC Law Firm, which advises Chinese businesses in Madrid, where nearly 50,000 live, according to the INE. “Most are still closed because there is still a lot of fear of the virus. In fact this Sunday we were scared when people went out into the streets en masse. ”
“We are more or less calm.” Dawei Ding informs the Chinese community every day through the red microphone of the China FM studios, at 92.2 of the FM in Madrid. He says that at the start of the pandemic he received hundreds of messages a day from his countrymen. Its listeners are organized into six WeChat groups – the Chinese WhatsApp – with about 500 people in each group. “They tell me now they are suffering a lot of economic pressure, like everyone else. These days they are very concerned about a new regrowth. ”
The thirty-year-old Chinese Javier, nickname he has chosen to address the Spanish, opened his grocery store in December right where the market of El Rastro de La Latina starts. The shutter was raised again this Tuesday at ten in the morning after being confined for a month. “Carrefour and Día are also open, right? I have to open because I have a lot of expenses at home ”. He calculates that he will enter about 50 or 70 euros a day. Today is back to normal: it will close at 00.00.
The one who also has a conciliation-proof schedule is Bai, owner with his wife of the Mirian food store, on Alonso Cano street, in the Chamberí neighborhood. 13 years ago the marriage came to Spain. Here they have had their two children, who before quarantine, after school and still dressed in uniforms, competed to see which of the two found the products on the shelves requested by customers. “I open for money. I couldn’t handle the situation much longer, ”explains Bai, assisted by the phone’s Google translator.
The store has less gender than when it closed, one week before the alarm. He was not one of those who went to China, but has made the confinement, very strict, in his apartment one block from the store. On the counter he has placed a plastic with a small opening where he collects and gives the change. He wears a mask. On one side, keep a bottle of gel. While serving the few customers who walk through the door, he sees a series of Chinese fiction on his mobile screen.
No more Chinese grocery dealers have opened in the block yet. The fruit bowl of the same nationality that never left remains. From the beginning, he dug himself behind some plastic and endured the worst moments of the pandemic with the open business. Its sales grew, helped by the increase in home sales. He wears a Yankees cap that drops down to almost cover his eyes. It is their way of protecting themselves from a possible route of contagion. Bai believes that in the coming weeks the rest of the Chinese community that has authorization will join public life. This is what they are agreeing in the merchant chats where all their avatars count.
A little further south, in the Trafalgar neighborhood, only two establishments had the door open this Tuesday. In one of them, near Olavide square, a woman was ordering boxes of fruit and vegetables at the entrance to a dark room with empty shelves. Prepare to open your trade for this Wednesday. “We open April 29. We serve domicile. Thank you very much! ”Indicates a sign on the door. The neighbors, for sure, will live more relaxed knowing that the Chinese grocer on the corner has returned. Carelessness when shopping at the supermarket will no longer be a sentence.
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