• 2021.05.20
  • Madrid, the 2nd of May
There is a saying about the weather in Madrid:
“Madrid, nueve meses de invierno y tres de infierno.”
“Madrid: Nine months of winter and nine months of hell.”

It’s a saying that exaggerates the features of Madrid’s climate with its large temperature differences due to its location in the highlands, and while indeed it is not uncommon for temperatures to exceed 50 degrees Celsius in summer, in winter you also get scenes like this.

Madrid in summer

Madrid in winter

Nevertheless, as I mentioned in my previous article, May in Madrid is a precious in-between time when you get to enjoy the short spring, the birds sing, the trees grow green, and there is a refreshing harmony in the air as if "al is right in the world.” It was Goya who captured on canvas a scene of people enjoying their picnics on the banks of the Manzanares River for the festival of St. Isidore, the patron saint of the city. This is a view of Madrid in May, about 230 years ago, with the city across the river in the background.

La Pradera de San Isidro (The Meadow of San Isidro) (Prado Museum website)

As light is usually followed by darkness, however, 14 years after this idyllic May, a heroic incident occurred in Madrid, also in May. Once again as a witness to history, Goya painted The 2nd of May 1808 in Madrid.

The 2nd of May 1808 in Madrid or “The Fight against the Mamelukes” (Prado Museum website)

It was on this day that brave citizens of Madrid became the first to rise up in the War of Independence in Spain, which had been occupied by the French army. Spaniards are night owls, but perhaps sensing the unsettled atmosphere, people began gathering in front of the royal palace early in the morning, even though it was Monday. Sure enough, the citizens attacked as the carriage carrying Prince Francisco, a member of the royal family who had remained in the royal palace in Madrid to the last, emerged to take him to France. This incident sparked guerrilla attacks in various parts of the city against French stationed troops, later spreading to the whole of Spain and setting light to the six-year-long Spanish War of Independence.

Goya painted the work after the end of the war in 1814, six years after the popular uprising, and depicts a scene near Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun), a square in the center of Madrid, although it seems such a battle did not actually take place in this square.
Perhaps enlightened by Goya's work, however, a stone plaque was fixed to the present-day entrance to the headquarters of the Government of the Community of Madrid facing the square, saying, "Dedicated to the heroes of the people. The battle against Napoleon's army was sparked here on May 2, 1808.”

Stone plaque attached to the side of the main entrance of the headquarters of the Government of the Community of Madrid.

By the way, the word “guerrilla” was used for the first time in this war. In Spanish, the word for “war” is “guerra,” and the word indicating a small war is “guerilla,” the word known in English and which has now been adopted into Japanese as “guerrilla rain” or “guerrilla live,” but whose origin can be traced back to the war against Napoleon in Spain in the early 19th century.

The date of this key event affecting the fate of the nation must surely be etched deep in the minds of the Spanish people. Many US citizens might have special feelings when they hear the words “the 4th of July.” And I’m sure that July 14th means more to the French than just the start of the vacations. The 2nd of May is a day with powerful connotations for Spaniards and especially the residents of Madrid.

Spanish law sets out 14 public holidays per year. Eight of those days, however, are holidays for the entire country and each state and city can decide on the remaining six. The autonomous community of Madrid has chosen May 2nd as a public holiday, and this year it falls on a Sunday, so the day off is Monday the 3rd. May 15th, which I mentioned before, is the feast day for San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid, and is a holiday chosen by the city of Madrid. I wrote an article on this topic five years ago, which I hope you enjoy reading, if you’re interested.

Together with the coming of spring is May Day on the first, then the anniversary of the Madrid uprising on the second, and the San Isidro feast day on the 15th, so in a normal year May in Madrid is a fun time with a lot of events, but this year it has been a spring of yet more time staying at home, completing vaccinations, and hopes of getting a Green Passport.

Vaccinations in Spain (as of April 27)
Total 15,859,772
Pfizer-BioNTech 11,009,704
Moderna 1,023,861
Oxford-AstraZeneca 3,652,049
Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) 74,158 (vaccinations started last week on April 22)

These figures show that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been used for most vaccinations and there has been a low rate of vaccination with the Moderna vaccine, which started at the same time as Pfizer-BioNTech, suggesting that the price of the Moderna vaccine may be having an impact.
o Moderna vaccine: $50 to $60 (5,400 to 6,480 yen)
o Pfizer vaccine: $39 (4,212 yen)
o AstraZeneca vaccine: $6 to $8 (648 to 864 yen)
These prices are for two injections.

By the way, the Japanese government has planned mass vaccinations through disaster relief operations by the Self-Defense Forces to try to further streamline the vaccination program, bypassing local governments, which have been providing vaccinations. The vaccine being used there is the Moderna vaccine, the most expensive one. Since procurement of additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which has already been approved, is not under contract but "a good prospect" resulting from of a high-level meeting, I wonder if this means urgent approval of a vaccine that is easy to procure but expensive. I hope the Japanese government demonstrates its financial strength and its power to mobilize to the fullest and somehow achieves its target of two doses of vaccine for the 36-million people aged 65 and over by the end of July as planned.

According to news from Japan, the likely place for a mass vaccination center in the Kanto area is Otemachi Common Government Office Building No. 3 in Tokyo. The target date for urgent approval of the Moderna vaccine is the end of the third week of May, 10,000 people will be vaccinated every day for the 69 days from May 24th to the end of July, and vaccination will be available to elderly people aged 65 and over who have been issued a vaccination coupon by the local governments of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures. Vaccination with the Moderna vaccine needs two injections, so 690,000 injections will mean 0.96% of the entire elderly population of 36 million, or 345,000 people, will have been vaccinated.

The leaders of Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures have unanimously appealed to people to refrain from traveling across the borders between Tokyo and the prefectures, and the Governor of Tokyo has even pleaded, "Please don't come to Tokyo!” When I imagine 10,000 elderly people from Tokyo as well as Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa prefectures lined up in front of the building in Otemachi, Tokyo, waiting to be vaccinated, I cannot help but feel a little sad, even though it is urgent and necessary, it does coincide with the rainy season. I wonder if this is a special measure that prioritizes increased vaccinations and suppressing spread of the infection over restricting the flow of people.

Once again, my article has turned from information about Spain to issues in Japan. As I mentioned before, I'm very concerned about the situation in my home country, even though it is so far away. I wonder when I will be able to visit Japan again.


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

View a list of Susumu Yamada's