As the winter weather sets in, I took a look back to my holidays in September, which took me to the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula, the seaside town of Tarifa. It is indeed a special place, where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. In the midst of such beauty and tranquility, it would be easy to miss the murals and street art that punctuate the walls along the sea walk. Most of my walks were around sunset, and admittedly, most of my gaze was consumed by each evening’s unique sunset. Below are the shots that managed to distract me from the setting sun.

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Barcelona-based Italian artist TVBoy has struck again, this time in three different locations in the center of Barcelona, for his paste-up series entitled “The Monsters of Politics”. The three “monsters” include three of the biggest names in Spanish politics: President and leader of the PSOE (socialist) party Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Ciudadanos (Citizen’s) party Albert Rivera, and leader of the Partido Popular (People’s Party) Pablo Casado. All three are relatively young, charming, and eager to lead Spain out of the current constitutional conflict with Catalonia. All three are also plagued with their own problems, which are depicted in TVBoy’s portraits.

Pedro Sanchez, who became president after a no-confidence vote ousted previous president Mariano Rajoy due to rampant corruption within his Partido Popular, is depicted as a superman, who has the flag of the Second Spanish Republic, rather than the normal “S” for superman. It seems to suggest that while Sanchez is ostensibly a strong figure, he also represents the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), which is traditionally anti-monarchist. Sanchez, however, much to the chagrin of many party fundamentalists, and many Catalans, seems to be quite comfortable with the current status quo of the constitutional monarchy. He’s also a superhero whose strength depends on some very tenuous coalitions, especially those with Catalan parties in favor of self-determination, a red line that if crossed would be political suicide.

Albert Rivera is the leader of the C’s party, which is the youngest of the three political formations. The C’s party started in Barcelona around 2006-7 and seemed to me as a newcomer to be an answer to the rising tide of self-determination sentiments among the population of Catalonia. The party represents itself neither left nor right, and is a member of the neo-liberal ALDE alliance. So, on the surface, they would most likely be considered center-right. However, they are also one of the parties who have come out strongest against the idea of Catalan independence, and as a result have attracted many followers who could best be compared with the alt-right ideology in the US. They have organized several pro-unity rallies in Barcelona, and while the majority of attendees are peaceful, there is almost always a notable presence of alt-right and pro-Franco groups, complete with flags from the Franco dictatorship. Cs have also encouraged followers to “clean” the public space of symbols such as the yellow ribbon, which has become the emblem for freedom for the Catalan leaders who remain in prison without a trial for having organized last October’s independence referendum. Many of the clean up squads have been prone toward violence and confrontation, hence the portrayal of Rivera with the aviator jacket and black boots which is common apparel for the far-right in Spain and other places.

The other character is Pablo Casado, who was recently elected the leader of the People’s Party, which is the establishment center-right party which has formed a part of the two-party system with the socialists since the restoration of democracy after the death of Franco. Casado has inherited a party in crisis, which has been plagued by corruption scandals and is often seen by many as having been too soft on Catalonia during the aforementioned crisis. Casado rose to power by taking a much harder line against Catalonia, a contrast to the softer tone of his predecessor, the ousted Rajoy. However, Casado has two big problems: the PP holds only four seats in the Catalan Parliament, which is not enough to even form their own group, and looks set to lose even more, as conservative voters flee to the “clean” Cs party. The other problem is that Casado has been embroiled in a wider scandal which saw a major Spanish public university “gifting” Master’s degrees to various politicians, and others (including current president Pedro Sanchez) inflating their CVs with weekend seminars which turned into Phds. Casado seems to be in the clear for the moment, but the stain on his image remains, hence TVBoy’s having dressed him in the cap and gown. The fistful of cash would be a nod to the millions in dark money the party is rumored to have paid leaders under the table over the last forty years.

No one really knows how the current crisis will play out, but with the trials of the imprisoned leaders set to start early next year, tensions promise to escalate once again. My personal opinion is that the EU should get involved and mediate a solution, however I doubt that will happen unless things come to a critical boiling point, which is still pretty far off.

It’s unlikely that the paste-ups will last too long. In fact, someone had already attempted to remove the image of Albert Rivera, only hours after being pasted up. But just in case you’re curious:

Pedro Sanchez as Superman is at the intersection of Gran Via and Passeig de Gràcia.

Pablo Casado is on a doorway at Carrer d’en Perot lo Lladre.

Albert Rivera (most likely gone) is on Carrer Canuda.

 

 

In honor of the Halloween holiday, I thought I’d post this recent image I found on the way to a meeting in Poble Nou back in early September. It’s a dragon, monstrous, but not particularly terrifying, perhaps due to its color scheme and perhaps because it enjoys taking passengers. It is a creation of the artist derz, who has quite a few murals around the street art hotspots in Barcelona. I hope to be able to return to my normal postings come November, when I retake my finances, and purchase a bit more storage space from the WordPress warehouse.

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A few weeks back I took a walk through the old city centre and found some pieces by the French artist Guaté Mao, whose instagram is @guate.mao. As mentioned in my last post, my data allotment is quickly running out, so there will only be a small number of photos. These pieces were found in the Born neighbourhood, near the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar.

On another note, as I mentioned earlier, an ex-colleague of mine has started a Youtube channel James Waylon, and on the same day when I took the photos in this entry, we went to the Hotel Brummel in the Poble Sec area, and had a chat about street art and some other experiences we’ve had over the years living in Barcelona. You can find a link to the video here. Comments and feedback are welcome!

I am rapidly exhausting the 13 gb which I purchased from WordPress a few years back, so while I debate my different plan options, I’m going to be keeping the media to a minimum, at least for my September posts.

This image comes from my 9-day trip to the Southern Spanish region of Andalusia, specifically the town of Tarifa, which is the southernmost point on the Iberian peninsula. From certain points, it’s possible to see Morocco, which is just over 10 miles away. Indeed, when starting the car, I often picked up Moroccan radio, and on some beaches, I needed to disable my mobile data, as I had been picked up by Moroccan mobile networks.

Tarifa is also where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet, and if you take the short man-made pathway to the Isla de Paloma, you have the Mediterranean on one side, and the Atlantic on the other, which you can see in the other photo I’ve included.

As for the street art, this was found on a small shed during one of my daily walks along the beach to check out the stunning sunsets, which are slightly different each day.

For my second entry this month of August, I present the annual coverage of the Festa Major de Gràcia, in which my neighbors decorate various streets around the “vila” and the nights are punctuated with the noise of concerts, correfocs (fire runners), drumming groups, and masses of tourists. The event is considered the biggest of the year in Barcelona, perhaps a bit too big for the narrow streets that make this area so special.

Despite the crowds, which are normally fairly well-behaved, I do love to get out and see the creativity and resourcefulness (decorations are recycled, and as a rule, sustainable) of the Barcelonins. As the not-so-beloved ex-Spanish President Rajoy once said, while trying to seduce the independence-minded: “Los catalanes hacen cosas”. (Catalans do stuff). Certainly has a way with words.

On a final note, an ex-colleague of mine has started producing some very clever insider travel videos about Barcelona. Be sure to check out his channel here.

 

This morning, at 8 am sharp, a number of loud explosions marked, as they do every year, the beginning of the week-long Festa Major de Gràcia, which is the neighborhood bash in which streets are decorated and crowds come to drink, dance, and celebrate the summer. It’s a noisy departure from the quiet which usually reigns in Barcelona in August, which is traditionally the time when many Europeans take their legally-mandated month of vacation, and the Catalans are no exception.

Because my next entry (or two) will very likely be dominated by shots of the decorated streets, I’ve decided to post what I’ve taken around the city so far this summer, starting from mid-June, to now. Most of the pics are from the Poblenou area, as well as the “three chimneys” park near Paral.lel.

As the title suggests, I’m also including a link below to a podcast interview which I did earlier this spring as a part of a project called “All the Brians”, where Brian Alexander travels around the world interviewing all the Brians he can find. In my interview I talk about life in Barcelona, street art, the ongoing conflict between Catalonia and the Spanish State, as well as what it’s like to live as a Brian in Barcelona. It’s long, but I think it’s worth the listen. Here is the link.

This past May, I made my now-annual mid-year trip to the US, I decided to take a short train trip under the Hudson to Jersey City, a place I called home from 1999-early 2001. This was then, a trip back to the past, along with a street art safari. And I wasn’t disappointed. A long walk on Newark Avenue yielded some fantastic results, as you’ll see. The murals are part of the Jersey City Mural Arts project, which is an initiative of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. It’s a good idea to check the website or do a bit of Google research to find out where some of the interesting pieces are located. I was happy to see a mural by one of my favorites, Italian artist Alice Pasquini.

Jersey City has gentrified quite a bit over the last 20 years, and there is a decent offering of restaurants and cafes in case you get hungry or thirsty on your way from the Newport PATH station to the Journal Square station. Especially interesting is the row of Indian restaurants just off the Journal Square station.

The artist Joel Arroyo has been decorating surfaces around my neighborhood of Gràcia (see the Frida Kahlo entry below) for nearly a year now, and just a few weeks back he painted the shutters of the “co-working” which is on the bottom floor of my building, and occupies the corner of Bruniquer and Montmany streets. The portraits are of Mandela, and two women, and appears to be a nod to activism, refugees and first nations/indigenous peoples. The other image is a bit more satirical in nature and is of ousted, disgraced Spanish president Mariano Rajoy with a clown nose, which was also found here in Gràcia, on Llibertat street. This one appeared not even a week after Rajoy lost a no-confidence vote provoked by innumerable corruption scandals and was forced to leave office by opposition parties in Congress, much to the delight of probably my entire neighborhood, which is decidedly left-leaning.

On another note, this blog was once again listed by the travel website Spotted by Locals as one of the best Barcelona blogs for 2018. Here is a link to the article.

In addition, Spotted by Locals has also developed an app, which puts their fantastic, tourist-trap free travel guides to various cities in your pocket. Here’s how to get hold of them.

These shots come from my (now) annual trip to the US just before and after Memorial Day, in which I spend about 7 of those days roaming NYC in search of anything interesting that may have popped up since my last visit during the subzero cold snap at the end of December. New York never disappoints, and I found some fantastic street art. In fact, I’ll have to divide the post into three parts: Manhattan, Jersey City, and Brooklyn.

The photos in this entry come mostly from the Lower East Side and East Village, though there are a few shots from Harlem as well.