El Rastro arose around 1496 as a slaughterhouse, the “Matadero viejo de la Villa”, which was next to the Plaza de Cascorro.
In 1611, the writer Covarrubias Orozco described it like this:
“The place where the rams kill, … Trace was said because they were dragging them, from the corral to the sticks where they slaughtered them, and because of the trail that they leave this place was given this name”
The slaughterhouse-related trades workshops were set up around the Rastro, mainly tanners, who used the skins of cattle.
Over time, the Arroyo de las Tenerías, which ran down the Ribera de Curtidores, was piped and the main street of El Rastro was paved.
In addition to the tanners, the new and old shoemakers settled here. Also the candle factories, which were then made with tallow or animal fat.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, the rags or rags settled here. Then the hardware stores, the lance booksellers, and the used goods dealers. The almonedistas or antique dealers settled a little later, at the end of the 19th century.
Since the middle of the 18th century, the custom has been created, which still persists, of coming to the flea market to look for second-hand items and antiques.
The Plazuela del Rastro became a square when a small block of houses that was facing the street of Maldonadas was demolished, which they called, with good reason, “the stopper of the trail”. Along with the “stopper” the streets of El Cuervo and San Dámaso disappeared. For centuries this square was called Plaza del Rastro, except for a time when it was named after Nicolás Salmerón in homage to the illustrious politician and philosopher.
In the 20th century it was renamed Plaza de Cascorro, in memory of Eloy Gonzalo, a soldier, a native of this neighborhood (raised in La Inclusa), who became famous in the war in Cuba by blowing up a powder keg in the town of Cascorro.
In the center of the square, where a cross “la cruz del rastro” once stood, the statue of Cascorro, the work of Aniceto Marinas, was erected. The monument was inaugurated in 1902 by Alfonso XIII.
The practice of haggling still continues at this Sunday fair for old clothes and junk that is El Rastro. Among the popular types of the Rastro, there were the pimps or chulapos, the cigar makers from the Embajadores factory, the charlatans who sold hair growths and curalotodo elixirs, the soguillas or string boys, the knockers, the tacky newly arrived from the orchard, the gypsy women , the güindillas (policemen) and a long etcetera …
In the 70s, urban tribes were incorporated into its landscape.
El Rastro has been losing its essence as clothing and accessories markets have been set up here, which have nothing to do with the essence of this market, a place for the necessary recycling of the thousand and one objects that over time we stop needing.
Hopefully the trail will recover its identity and once again be the place for bargaining, recycling, and the exchange of used objects that every city needs.
Fortunately, in streets perpendicular to the Ribera, like Carlos Arniches, the traditional stalls still exist.