This year’s Festa Major de Gràcia featured a new entry into the decorated streets: la Plaza del Poble Rumaní, the theme of which was one of the biggest cultural contributions from Gràcia’s vibrant gypsy community: la Rumba Catalana. While the decorations themselves had a difficult time competing with the more experienced streets, one feature which stood out from the rest was a huge mural which was painted on the wall of a neighboring school.
The mural is a collaboration between local schools, the local gypsy community, and the organization acidH (Catalan Association for Integration and Human Development). The three artists who participated are well-known in the Barcelona street art scene and this blog: Xupet Negre, Caesar Baetulo (sm172), and konair.
The images on the mural are a mix of the artists’ trademark characters and icons of Catalan culture.
The phrase “operación retorno” refers to the slow, but steady reverse exodus back to the cities (and reality) after the August holidays. I’m fortunate to start off with a fairly abbreviated schedule in order to ease myself back into the routine. To close off the month of August, and the lazy, hazy summer of 2016, I present to you the second installment of the photo highlights from the Festa Major of Gràcia.
Just yesterday, the annual Festa Major of Gràcia came to a fiery end with the Correfocs (fire runners) spreading sparks through the narrow streets of the neighborhood. The sea (including lots and lots of my favorite animal, the jellyfish) was a recurring theme in the decorated streets this year. Indeed, this year’s first prize winner was a brilliant under-the-sea motif featuring a giant fisherman, whose feet became the victims of vandals later in the week. In case you’re curious, here is a list of this year’s winners (in Catalan). Worth noting is that habitual winner Verdi has fallen to 7th position, with a California/Holywood-themed decor. Other themes included theatre, birthday party, a fantasy plant world, a commemoration of 20 years of participation, and women’s history.
Without further ado, here is the first installment of shots from this year’s grand festival.
Having a dog is a great excuse to get out and explore new areas of the city. My latest trips have taken me uphill, where the views of the city and the sea are marvelous, and there is also some nice street art hiding in the steep hills above the city.
The first few pictures come from the area near the Bunkers del Carmel, which served as the city’s defenses from fascist aerial attacks during the Spanish Civil War. The views are spectacular, and if you go during the week, you might be able to recapture some of the secluded off-the-beaten-track appeal. At the top of the hill you can find some walls which are painted with some murals, including one of the famous literary figure Don Quixote.
The rest of the photos are from the Vallcarca neighbourhood, which lies just next to Park Güell. This area is worth exploring as there are some interesting buildings and plazas, as well as some spectacular views of Barcelona spreading out toward the Mediterranean.
The dog days of summer are probably not the best time to explore this area as the sun seems to beat down a bit harder the higher you get, but a cloudy day in early autumn would be perfect for a climb, and besides, the pictures come out shadow-free on cloudy days.
For my second May post (which is actually hitting in June) I’ve decided to return to Gràcia, as I haven’t posted much from the surrounding area lately. Most of these shots come from strolls around the vila over the last three or four weeks. As suggested in the title, one of the more interesting ones is a portrait of tourists as paella-wielding, selfie-sticked zombie hordes who come to invade our quiet little neighbourhood nearly year-round. This sentiment can be seen in occasional graffiti which read “tourists go home”. As a foreigner who first came as a tourist, I’m a bit torn; while I recognize that tourism is vital to our local economy, and that a good majority of tourists are well-behaved and civilized, I also know as a resident what a putada it can be having the area so constantly crowded. On balance, I’m in favour of tourism, but I think that we need to start moving toward a more sustainable model. This is what the current city administration (in theory) is going for–a city planned and built for its residents, but also welcoming for tourists. A difficult happy medium to achieve, but a noble objective, in my humble opinion.
The other shots are rather random and generally political in nature, along with some anthropomorphized popsicles from konair, and some paste ups which have been appearing with increasing frequency.
Of these two images, the rooster was the first. In the beginning, he stood silent, without the speech bubble, perhaps in deference to the anti-fascist message behind. Then someone added the message, I’m not sure if it was the original artist.
Around the same time, just around the corner near the Plaça Virreina, there appeared the second image of the young space soldier, dressed for a trans-living room intergalactic mission, complete with the phaser rifle.
Question is, who will end up saving the world, the humble rooster or the tinfoil trooper?
Yesterday afternoon, I passed by the L’Abaceria Market just as the morning shift was wrapping up and was able to capture some of the finished products which were in progress when I stopped by on Sunday. I got into a short conversation with an old woman who was carrying a bag of carrots and artichokes. After a short discussion on which veggie stall had the best price/quality ratio, we got onto the topic of the shutter art. While she admitted to being no great fan of urban art, she did say that these new pieces were a definite improvement to the rusty shutters which had greeted us only a few days before. She also expressed her fear that these new pieces wouldn’t last long without being damaged. I tried to explain my “philosophy” on the impermanence and ever-evolving nature of urban art, and how, for better or worse, this is one of the things that attracts me to this art form. It might have been my limited language skills, but as she walked away she seemed both confused and unconvinced.
You may remember a previous entry dedicated to the Casal Popular de Gràcia, a youth-run social centre and squat that occupied one of the more visible corners of the neighborhood, Torrent de l’Olla and Ros de Olano. After over 10 years, the city executed an eviction order, and of course faced heavy protest. There have been a handful of small protests since the initial eviction, most notably on the 30th of April, when the city sent an army of 300 gas-masked riot police to secure the neighborhood against the threat of a group of about 100 protestors. The protestors did manage to get some messages onto the grey-painted shutters which once served as the canvas for the pictures I featured on the other “resistance” entries. Translated, the first message reads “An eviction can’t erase dreams. Up with the youth!”
The second and third panels come from a small protest this past Saturday night, the 11th of May, which was also a response to the heavy-handed police reactions to peaceful protest on the 30th. These stencils were painted on one of the common neighborhood targets for the crisis and corruption provoked-ire on the streets: the branch of “La Caixa” in Plaça Diamant. The message reads “Mossos out!” For those unfamiliar, the Mossos d’Esquadra are the autonomous police force here in Catalonia, and the BRIMO, or Mobile Brigade are the riot force which has gained notoriety for several instances of heavy-handed brutality. the BRIMO are the images you see stenciled on the bank windows. The final panel is a message sprayed on the shutter which once had the fiery cat image featured here. The message simply reads, “We’ll be back”
This one I found one morning walking home on my normal route from French class and the gym. It’s on a small side street off the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, which carries a lot of foot traffic for its small size. I took the original photo about a week ago, and already the better part of the head has been scraped away. It feels to me like a work inspired by recent events in a person’s life. Translated (roughly) the passage reads: My mind is a beautiful place because you’re still there, inside. My heart is dark because I still keep your shadow there. And my day is fucked because I know you were never mine.” Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for the beautiful mind, darkened heart, and ruined day…
This image from Alice Pasquini can be found in the Plaça de la Revolució near the center of Gràcia. Walking through the square, if you don’t know what to look for, you’re likely to miss it. To find the blue-eyed woman, you need to look at the doors of the elevator that goes to the underground parking garage below the plaza. I nearly missed it myself.