Archives for category: gràcia

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.

 

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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.

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.

In the heart of Gràcia, on the corner of Verdi and Asturies streets, you can find the Pastisseria Verdi, a pastry shop which is quite popular with locals, known for its red exteriors and delicious, sweet baked goods.

Recently, the Catalan artist Rice has installed a new project on the red exterior of the corner bakery. All of the work are portraits on which there is a baked good somewhere on the faces of the subjects. Interestingly, there is also a QR code which takes you to a site where each work is accompanied by a text. Here is the link, in case your QR code readers are not cooperating.

As the title suggests, my featured shot for this entry is a work in progress which is being painted on the doors of a street-level parking facility on Ros de Olano street just a few blocks from my home. The artist has also painted another gate on my street, but I’m including this one, as the subject is more exciting to me: the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

The other shots are from various gates, a large mural of a baby from the Vallcarca neighbourhood, a pasteup criticizing the selfie culture, and two large pasted up murals which I think come from the same artist, and can also be found here in Gràcia.

While the political chaos swirls around me, and daily life gets into the mix, it’s easy to forget that the show most certainly does go one. And street art is no exception.

I was reminded of this just a few days ago when I received, via twitter, the news that Spotted by locals, a website and app that serves as a guide to more than 65 cities worldwide, had chosen this blog to be on their list of the best of Barcelona. Be sure to take a look at the list here, as I’m in some excellent company.

As for the photos in this post, they range pretty much from the middle of July to just last week, and are from various locations, hence the title of this post. Many of them are from the murs lliures project in Poblenou, and have probably been replaced a few times over. Others are small shots from here in Gràcia, or the old city center. I have a small hunting expedition planned for the bank holiday coming up this week, so expect more in the next week or two!

The last few months have been turbulent ones here in Catalonia, and it’s been nearly impossible not to get caught up in the action, hence the lack of publications during this time.

While the independence issue has been at the forefront for the last 7 years or so, since the Spanish government moved to decimate the “estatut” agreement which gave the Catalans more autonomy, and recognition of their cultural identity, it’s only this summer that things really began to heat up.

The president of Catalonia since 2015, Carles Puigdemont is a lifelong believer in the independence movement, in contrast to his predecessor Artur Mas, who was a fairly recent convert. In June, Puigdemont and the independence-minded majority of the Parliament decided to fulfill their election promise and call a binding referendum on the declaration of an independent Catalan Republic. There had been a vote in November of 2014, but it was largely symbolic, and mostly ignored by Madrid. This time, however, Madrid started using every weapon in its arsenal to prevent the referendum, which was slated for the 1st of October.

Over the summer, there was much back-and-forth between Madrid and Barcelona, which culminated in Spanish Civil Guard (paramilitary police, which evoke images for the Franco dictatorship for many) forcing their way into various Catalan government offices, in search of referendum-related materials. This was accompanied by the takedown (and re-birth) of referendum websites, the prohibition of referendum advertising on Catalan public media. There was also police intervention in public meetings to discuss the referendum. Needless to say, none of this sat well with the Catalan people, and massive street demonstrations, beginning on the 20th of September resulted in the imprisonment, without bail or trial, of two leading independence activists known as the “Jordis” for their share first name, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the Spanish government decided to deploy 18,000 National riot police officers and Civil Guard, who were put up in cruise ships near the port.

The days leading up to the referendum were about as tense as I can remember having experienced since coming to live here, with all manner of threats being lobbed from Madrid toward Catalan leaders, citizens and media. The evening before the vote, people occupied the schools where the voting was to take place, organizing games, classes, workshops, and other activities to pass the time, and protect their polling places. The morning of the 1st was a rainy one, but people began to gather outside polling stations before sunrise, waiting to cast their votes, under the constant threat that the police moored at the port could appear at any time. The police did appear at some polling places, and exercised the restraint one would expect from a saber-rattling Madrid–some reports cite nearly 1000 injured, while others claim numbers in the single digits. The photo and video evidence which is abundant online seems to support the former numbers.

During these last few months, the citizen mobilization in the streets has been an impressive exercise in democracy which, whatever one’s feelings might be on the independence issue, has been unique for its lack of violence. A big part of those mobilizations has been the amount of postering and wheatpasting that has been done all over the city. As a street art blog, I felt it necessary to document some of it for you.

The annual Festa Major de Gràcia, which takes place in mid-August, began as all the others I’ve witnessed here over the years: the week or two of frenetic preparations, the blocking of streets, the quiet buzz before the tsunami of tourists and locals that would descend upon our normally tranquil little village. However, on the 17th, which was the third day of festivities, the Rambla attacks took place, and cast a shadow on the remaining days of the festival. The Spanish president declared three days of mourning, and all the more raucous night time activities, such as concerts, were cancelled. The decorations stayed up, and the daytime, family-oriented activities continued as usual, but from Thursday evening on, there was an eerie calm in the crowds.

People still came, but the crowds were noticeably thinner, though as the initial shock wore off, more people began to make their way up.

The themes this year were varied, from the Petit Principe, to demons and devils, to rock and roll, to The Neverending Story, Ghostbusters, and the Bolshevik Revolution, to my personal favorite of any theme so far, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, complete with a giant figure of Divine as herself, the “Filthiest Person Alive”.

This year’s winning entry was themed after a ski resort in the Pyrenees, complete with falling snow.

 

Italian artist TVBoy, who has gained notoriety for portraits of the Pope and Donald Trump, Messi and Cristiano, and just yesterday an embrace between deadlocked politicians Mariano Rajoy and Carles Puigdemont. My shots are decidedly less contraversial in nature, portraits of modernized masters Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, reimagined as street artists. I’ve also decided to include two photos of myself with the masters. This dynamic duo (minus me) can be found on the Carrer de Santa Tecla, near Corsega, in Gràcia.