Save Tio Pepe! More than 4,000 signatures were collected in an hour to keep Madrid’s emblematic neon sign above the city’s central square, la Puerta del Sol. The petition was created by a Madrid resident Víctor García-Hoz Bañares, on an online activist site, change.org. The original aim was to gather 5,000 signatures.
The white and red bottle figure, dressed in red jacket and sombrero, carrying a guitar, had crowned the building of Hotel Paris since 1936. It was a light that never went out, looming over New Year celebrations, processions, ‘occupy’ protests and other gatherings.
But then, Apple has entered the scene, taking over the building. After renovating the historic hotel, the technology giant will move in to open its main city store.
In this time of severe financial crisis and harsh budget cuts in Spain, news that one of the capital’s iconic symbols was being removed for commercial reasons provoked an emotional reaction from the people.
The petition on change.org,“Apple: mantén el luminoso de Tío Pepe en la Puerta del Sol” (Apple: keep the Tio Pepe neon sign at Puerta del Sol) explained that “Tio Pepe had been a part of Madrid’s urban landscape for more than 75 years”. Moreover, it argues that “Apple wants to open its store in the centre, under the condition that the neon sign is removed once and for all after the works finish”.
Spaniards mobilized through social media, creating a Twitter account and a Facebook group that quickly gained more than 3000 members. The story has also interested the prestigious British newspaper, The Guardian.
Some of the internet users added a bit of humour to the story, baptizing Tip Pepe to – Tio Apel.