The children masturbate the way children in other countries skip rope or roller-skate. Spanish parents must consider it like teething — they take no notice whatever. It is startling to see family groups strolling in the park, dressed as if every thread had just been woven and starched, and the little ones tottering along, quite privately absorbed. In the afternoon, cafés are stuffed. Little girls, stupid with beer, slide off their chairs. They play on the street, sit and roll on the pavement, even though they die like pigeons of typhoid. Streams of urine everywhere, under café tables. Unlike Paris, where babies are held over the gutters, the parents in Madrid simply take down a child’s pants wherever it happens to be, without moving. On Mama’s feet? Mama doesn’t care. Saw a nurse with a boy-baby directing the stream (he on her lap) so that the carriage, a chair, and his toes were splashed. It is like drinking in a public urinal.
— Mavis Gallant, writing about Madrid in 1952, published as part of a set of diary exerpts in last week’s New Yorker.