Catholicism is becoming less popular in borough Malasaña in Madrid

By Anneroos van Eijk

When you ask people what they think of when you say Spain, it is very likely that they would say something like ´Nice weather´, ´Barcelona´ and ´Catholicism´. Nice weather and Barcelona may be true, but there is something changing in the Catholicism. While the stereotype of the Spanish is that they are still strict believers in God, this is getting less and less with the younger generation. In the borough Malasaña in Madrid, the bars and churches are so close to each other that you could go straight from partying Saturday night into church Sunday morning.

Malasaña is one of the most popular neighborhoods of Madrid for youngsters. The neighborhood is situated near borough Chueca and the city centre. The historic architecture contrasts with some of the clean-looking concept-shops, like Amen Concept Store at Calle de San Vicente Ferrer. The borough has a sorrowful story. In the 19th century, the neighborhood suffered a lot from the French occupation. Centuries later, after Spain became a democracy, the borough was known for its sex, drugs and rock & roll. At that time, many died from their drugs addiction. The borough is now known for its hipster-culture and nightlife. With the many bars, (vintage/concept) shops and restaurants, daily life in Malasaña is quiet, but the nights are noisy. With the catholic history of Spain, you could think that the party life of Malasaña could clash, but this is not the case.

“That´s why there are so many still going to church in Venezuela. To keep hope,” says Humberto (28). Humberto works in the small kitchen of vegan restaurant Sanissimo in Calle de San Vicente Ferrer in Malasaña. Last month he moved from Venezuela to Madrid, without a passport. “I made two appointments to pick up my passport,” tells Humberto. “The government approved this and so I went. When I came there, my passport was nowhere to be found. The government in Venezuela does everything to keep you in the country, but everyone wants to leave. It´s so expensive, people can´t afford anything.

Humberto says that he could come to Madrid, because of the fact that he studied in Italy, which allowed him to travel to Madrid. But without a passport, he has nowhere to go. “I don´t know what the future will bring, but for now I´m OK.” Humberto goes to church every Sunday. “I like to read the words of God and be in a place where His spirit is.” In church, he notices differences between Venezuela and Madrid. “In Venezuela it´s very common to go to church with your family every Sunday. Here in Madrid, I only see people from Latin-America. There are almost no Spanish or young people.”

The little streets with the beautiful balconies hide the sad story of Humberto. There are a lot of people from Latin-America who seek for happiness in Spain. Church is important for them, to connect with others and hope for a better future. That´s also what Sister Martha (61) from the San Antón Church at Calle Hortaleza in Madrid notices. “We are open 24 hours, so we see a lot of people coming in and out,” says she. “There are a lot of Latin-Americans who visit us. Some are homeless and come for breakfast in the morning; others come to pray or to confess.” She notices the same as Humberto. “I don´t see a lot of young people coming. Most of them are older or foreigners from for example, Latin-America countries.” Sister Martha thinks this is not a good development, because she thinks it’s important that the word of God is passed on. Nevertheless, she accepts everyone´s decision and says that everyone is welcome if they want to come to church.

Photo essay

Catholicism in Malasaña

The streets in Malasaña. You can see the typical balconies and architecture. The area is known for these types of buildings. The hipster bars, shops and restaurants are right under the apartments. For the interior of these shops and restaurants, the people used the furniture of the old people who used to live there. Now they use the furniture as vintage.


Vegetarian restaurant Sanissimo in Malasaña. It is a very small restaurant, but very cozy. You can buy burgers, bagels, cakes, fruit, juices and other drinks, also to take away. The food and drinks are vegan and vegetarian. It is a very popular place for people around the neighborhood and tourists to go to.


San Antón Church from the outside. The church was built in 1742. The priest of the church is Father Angel. The church is open 24 hours and gives homeless people breakfast for free, money (for example, if they have to take the metro) and helps them with everything they can.