Residents in Madrid's poorer districts said on Friday they felt abandoned and stigmatised as politicians pondered whether to put them under lockdown because of their higher COVID-19 infection rate.
The gap between poorer and richer areas is at the heart of a tense debate in Spain over how to curb an increase in new coronavirus cases.
A senior official from the Madrid region said on Wednesday authorities envisaged targeted lockdowns for the most affected areas.
Madrid's regional chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso said earlier this week that "the way of life of immigrants" was partly to blame for the surge in cases, attracting huge criticism.
"They have created like a stigma," said Nathaniel Eliot, an English teacher from Boston who has been living in Puente de Vallecas for 15 years, referring to the politicians' comments.
Vallecas, a southern district with a lower average income and higher immigrant population, has one of the highest infection rates in Madrid. It is almost six times higher than in Chamberi, one of the wealthier, northern districts.
Regional officials have said they would announce their decision later on Friday. It was not clear whether Vallecas, or nearby areas, would be locked down, but residents felt targeted.
The health system "is more paralysed here, they have us out here waiting, crowded, queues everywhere," retiree Mari Paz Gonzalez said. "We are abandoned... they left us in the hands of God."
"As soon as you cross that bridge things change. As soon as you cross it the neighbourhood changes," retiree Carmen Ibarra said, as she walked through Vallecas.
Juan Antonio, a pensioner who lives just outside Vallecas but goes there daily to help his 93-year-old mother who lives there, put it even more bluntly, saying lockdown plans were "nonsense."
Spain has the highest number of cases in Western Europe, with more than 625,000, while more than 30,000 have died. The capital city Madrid is particularly hard hit, with the inequality gap also a hot political issue in Barcelona, the second-largest city.