La movida madrileña

The chapter “M is for Movida” in The A to Z of Spanish Culture describes the Movida in Spain in the 80s. We’ve used this extract as inspiration for the teacher’s pack. The extract is narrated in first person, by Pilar Orti. Please note the book does not contain the images below, we’ve added these for this online teacher’s pack.

M is for Movida

I was born in the early 70s and can just about remember the day Franco died. I was playing in the sitting room, on the floor, looking up to the small (or extremely small by today’s standards) black and white T.V. where they were showing his funeral.

After almost 40 years under a dictatorship, the Spanish finally recovered their freedom of speech in 1975. The 60s had been tame in Spain (maybe Lerner and Lowe should have used this phrase in ‘My Fair Lady’) as the young people were unable to dip their toes in free love under a very Catholic, right-winged regime. So you can imagine the jubilation when the lid finally came off.


Madrid became the hub of entertainment in the 80s as millions of bars opened in different districts of Madrid. Malasaña became one of the most frequented neighbourhoods – and continues to be one of the most popular areas to go out at night in the capital, with bars such as ‘La via láctea’ (The Milky Way) still standing.
via_lactea_madridThe artists took to the streets (in a manner of speaking). It was okay to produce popular art, through which you could say anything you wanted. Pop became less polite and less tamed. Punk bands emerged; rockabillies; a whole range of new bands and artists who just wanted to celebrate their freedom by making music – even though many of them couldn’t even sing. As almost anything went, bands became very creative with their names, such as Kaka de Luxe (caca meaning poo) and La Polla Records (polla meaning penis). It was also during the 80s that Pedro Almodóvar joined artistic forces with McNamara to form a glam-punk duo. And it wasn’t long before he became a recognised film director and revolutionary of worldwide fame.

Bars remaining open until 6am. Discos opened until later. Alcohol being openly consumed. Joints and needles passing from hand to hand. Drugs available everywhere.

This was “la movida”.

Although it feels like “la movida” happened a long time ago, the word has remained part of the Spanish language. “Qué movida” is used when something goes terribly wrong or when an uncomfortable situation arises, similar to “qué marrón” (see J is for Joder). “Qué movida” gives the impression that trouble is brewing, that, indeed, there’s going to be a lot of (emotional) movement.

Whether you liked its outcomes or not, there is no doubt that creativity exploded during the movida in the arts. It was now legal to show naked bodies on the screen, which gave rise to “el destape” (the “uncovering”). Tall, blonde, topless ladies (and usually Swedish or some other foreign nationality) became the most popular ingredients of Spanish comedies.

Crystal Balls

The early 80s also gave rise to the incredibly popular TV show ‘La bola de cristal’ (The Crystal Ball). This programme was aimed at children, teenagers and young adults, targeting each age group by segments. Assuming that the older the person, the later they would be getting up in the morning, ‘La bola de cristal’ structured its content to appeal to an older age group as the programme progressed.

The electroduendes (electric elves), were irreverent creatures who artistically portrayed their creators’ political views. For example, the Bruja Avería (The Fault Witch) had a range of slogans including “¡Viva el mal, viva el capital!” (“Hoorah for Evil; Hoorah for Capital”). Although the form seemed to be aimed at young children, the high quality of the electroduendes (whose puppeteers had trained with Muppets creator Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets) together with their underlying themes were definitely of interest to older viewers.

‘La bola de cristal’ ended with a segment hosting the most popular pop bands of the time. In fact, the second half of the programme was hosted by Alaska, who with Kaka de Luxe and Alaska y los Pegamoides (pegamoides has no translation, sorry!) became one of the most famous punk stars in the 80s. (She is still going by the way, still featuring in Spanish culture). Nostalgia for what was an exciting era in Spain can now be satiated through the purchase of DVDs of the series or many You Tube viewings.
(In this online teacher´s pack, we are using one of Alaska’s songs as the springboard for many a fun exercise!)

With the end of censorship on T.V., came los rombos, the rhombuses. To indicate whether programmes contained violence or sex (or both), the two only channels labeled the programmes with either one or two rhombuses, depending on the “severity” of the content.

As Spain opened its frontiers to Europe once again, Europe’s customs and American products entered the country, including many more T.V. series and uncensored films.

(For what the Spanish movida might look like today, read the rest of the chapter M is for Movida by clicking here: M is for Movida. And don’t forget to check out the rest of The A to Z of Spanish Culture, if you haven’t read it yet.)

Bueno, ya no os hablamos más en inglés. ¿Pasamos a la primera actividad?