Urban renewal in Barcelona

Resisting "urban renewal" in Barcelona in the context of larger economic struggle

Submitted by Jacques Roux on March 6, 2013

Interesting overview from sociologist and activist Carlos Delclós discussing how daily confrontations over public space in Barcelona play into the larger picture of what is happening in Spain over the last couple of years and how these small struggles on a local scale can build solidarity on a city wide level.

The quote below discusses a green space created by active resistance to city plans to 'neutralise' a contested urban area in a historic working class neighbourhood.

Read the full article here on Open Democracy.

The historic Ciutat Vella district is home to a paradigmatic example of neighbourhood resistance to urban renewal in Barcelona. For years, the area in the Gothic quarter known as La Ribera was home to working class Catalan, Andaluz and foreign-born families. Yet city officials had ignored the area for decades, allowing its medieval buildings to simply crumble to the ground.

In the early 2000s, as post-Olympic gentrification began to shape the neighbourhood, an urban renewal project designated one block, known to neighbourhood residents as el Forat de la Vergonya (“the Hole of Shame”), as a private parking lot. The residents had been demanding the area be cleaned up and turned into a green zone for years. In protest, the local community planted a tree amongst the rubble, which quickly became a call to residents to simply treat the space as if it were already designated a green space. The area around the tree proceeded to be occupied daily by elderly women gossiping, children playing football, 'Okupas' making paella for neighbourhood residents, and together they started a community garden.

As construction crews, city officials and speculators visited the zone to survey the terrain, they were greeted with insults, trash and occasional violence by local residents. Police officers responded in kind, with heavy displays of force, even uprooting and poisoning the residents’ tree. Finally, a cement wall was built around the area; the neighbourhood residents and the okupas responded by tearing it down. The city eventually cancelled the plan to turn the area into a private parking lot, and today the Forat de la Vergonya is a self-managed park that belongs to the community, with benches, basketball goals, a football field and a considerably nicer garden. Where the residents had planted a pine tree, there is now a water fountain featuring the tree rendered in Catalonia’s characteristic trencadís mosaic style, proclaiming the space a liberated, self managed park belonging to the community. The city has yet to recognize the area in its index of parks and urban gardens.

Image sources
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