Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
The beloved Tío Pepe sign – Madrid's Eiffel Tower – could be doomed.
"Tío Pepe," a clothed and guitar-bearing neon sherry bottle, shone down on the city of Madrid for more than 75 years. Now, his reign may be over.
The neon sign stood atop a building near a central square, Puerta del Sol, since 1936 and had become one of the city's most iconic sights. But last year, it was removed to allow the building's retrofit as an Apple retail store. It was thought that the 10-meter-tall Tío Pepe would regain his perch when the retrofit was complete.
That is look more and more unlikely, according to this article from The Guardian.
González Byass, the company that owns the Tío Pepe brand, has claimed that the building's new owners don't want the sign to be returned, according to this translated version of an article from El Pais.
An online petition has been set up by fans of the sign who are hoping to convince the building's owners to replace Tío Pepe. "This is part of our culture," writes Elsa Muñoz. Another petition signer, Enrique Parellada, argues that "Madrid without Tío Pepe is not Madrid."
Though former mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón banned brightly-lit outdoor advertising in 2009, he spared Tío Pepe arguing that the sign is to Madrid what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.
The Eiffel Tower was originally intended as a temporary installation, but has become an icon of the Paris skyline. In Madrid, Tío Pepe could suffer a similar but inverse fate and disappear.
Photo credit: Susana Vera / Reuters