Main content

Cañada Real

The Cañada Real, just outside Madrid is Western Europe’s biggest shantytown. John Laurenson finds out what role religion plays for the Christians and Muslims who live there.

There is, just outside Madrid, a large, sprawling drug infested shantytown the Cañada Real, which is home to tens of thousands of the poorest people in Spain. Now, as the recession in Europe bites, its population is rising and life in one of the most miserable corners of Europe is getting harder still. John Laurenson has been to the Canada to discover the extraordinary role that religion is playing in the lives of the people who live there.

He meets people - Christian and Muslim - who live in the most desperate poverty but have placed their faith in God, despite living in their squalid, makeshift houses which stand next to a road that is the Spanish capital's centre of drug dealing and drug taking. He also meets Padre Augustin, the parish priest of the Cañada to hear how he serves God amongst the most desperate people, victims of the recession that has hit Spain.

Special thanks to Borja Robert who accompanied John as his fixer, translator, guide and friend in the Canada Real.

Available now

27 minutes