Barcelona & Catalunya

The Ghost Women Return

Here in Barcelona, I have found a few more for the collection.

As in previous such photographs, it’s about juxtaposition of odd, found elements (in the detritus of old posters) that seem to work together (at least for me) to carry a story or message about women and their experiences.

 

The Queen sticks out her tongue in zombie-like psychedelic irony at the many class and testosterone-fueled revolutions of history:

Ghost Women, #101, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #101, Barcelona, 2017

 

Woe to she who takes one step beyond, striving upwards, bumping against the glass ceiling, or (surprise!) even cracking through it. “How do you sleep at night?” (“¿Duermes?”), asks the threatening bearded Neanderthal caveman:

Ghost Women, #103, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #103, Barcelona, 2017

 

“Dad’, screams the daughter, “put down your stupid phone and come to dinner!”, as her goofy older brother and no-longer-caring-and-blacked-out mother look on:

Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017

 

The flower girl, pursued by five small fish (or, perhaps, large whales writ small), says, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows…not the flower.”

Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017

La Model (La Modelo) Prison, Barcelona

La Modelo, #23. Barcelona, 2017
La Modelo, #23. Barcelona, 2017

 

I would call La Modelo sort of the Alcatraz of Barcelona, and free public visits were recently offered as it is now out-of-date, closed, empty, eerie, haunted, and scheduled for a major gutting and/or demolition. So off we went.

Both Alcatraz and La Modelo (la Model in Catalan) are islands of a sort…the first surrounded by water, the latter surrounded by city. And both are historical icons for their respective cultures.

Alcatraz, however, only lasted 29 years or so and proved to be too expensive to operate for the relatively few number of convicts. La Modelo, on the other hand, was an enlightened (for the time) attempt to treat prisioners in a way that might lead to rehabilitation (imagine that!) and it stayed in business for 113 years. Despite the intentions, the Barcelona facility was certainly not always used in the most enlightened of ways as political prisoners were frequent guests.

And then there was the one in-house execution by garrote vil with which I now have a sort of personal connection. More on that with the images that follow below the break.

 

La Modelo, #25, Barcelona, 2017 (From an early 20th century exhibit photo.)
La Modelo, #25, Barcelona, 2017 (From an early 20th century exhibit photo.)

 

But, for all that, it really was supposed to be a “model prison”, thus the name. Take a look at the design in the picture-of-a-picture above and note the six radiating wings which held prisoners, each wing dedicated to certain types of cons based on their characteristics and behavior. Especially note the tall tower in the middle. This was Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon concept (late 18th centiry) brought to life. It was all about control, observation, and subjugation of all prisoners from that one central, elevated, point–the all-seeing eye.

La Modelo ceased operations just this past June and the air was still heavy with history and tragedy.

Here are a few photographs from our visit, along with commentary–including the story of my personal connection to that execution I mentioned. For the curious photog, all of these were handheld shots captured by the small Sony RX100iv, often at ISO 1600 when indoors… Click here if you would like to read on and see the prison images.

The Long Shadows of Autumn

Shadows of Autumn. Montjuic, Barcelona, 2017 (iPhone 6)
Shadows of Autumn. Montjuic, Barcelona, 2017 (iPhone 6)

 

Yes, fall has been felled. But, in my view that gives us outdoor photographers yet more opportunities to create. You really have to love the quality of light with the sun so much lower in the sky. (Well, for many of us–apologies to my Southern Hemisphere friends!)

And, the bonus: We don’t have to get up so early to be there and square with our tripods for sunrise!

The Top Ten (Alternative) Best of Barcelona!

Barcelona Port Dawn, #1. Barcelona, 2015
Barcelona Port Dawn, #1. Barcelona, 2015

 

A caveat…What this is NOT: A list of must-see tourist sights as you pass through town on your way to your 3,000 passenger Mediterranean cruise ship. No…Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, and Park Güell will not be mentioned here.

You can get plenty of information about these and other popular and well-known sites and sights in Barcelona simply by asking la Sra. Google.

Instead, what follows are places you could visit once you have ticked off the standard tourist attractions–or, if you are simply interested in seeing Barcelona one layer down, a bit below the obvious and well-trammeled.

These are some of the unusual little places, most not-so-well-known that, for me, give Barcelona such depth of personality. Most will not be seen by your average tourist unless they happen to serendipitously bumble upon them…

In no particular order, we have:

Pastisseria Barcelona, Aragó, 228 (original) and a new locale at Via Augusta, 166 – The desserts here are authentic works o’ fine art which you will definitely want to photograph before you bite into them. You might even find yourself getting a little teary-eyed and emotional as you watch the running videos above the counter of the talented Josep Maria Rodríguez Guerola as he creates them, so delicate and sensitive is he with his myriad specialty tools and delicious materials. He won the World Cup Pastry Competition in 2011 with his dessert art–the first time anyone in Spain had ever earned that award–and he was a mere 25-years-old or so when he did it. He is now a new and proud father.

El Ingenio, Carrer d’en Rauric, 6 – This unique place was almost no more in 2015/2016, but managed to survive thanks to last-minute efforts by a family member. Their website says: “El Ingenio (the “Creative Genius” maybe?) is an icon of popular culture. It is an establishment with 179 years of uninterrupted history in the heart of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona dedicated to creating and selling giant heads, masks, stage props, circus articles, and a long list of products related to play, games, and the dramatic arts.” Go there and buy something–keep them in business and revel in the Catalan “Big Head” tradition! 

Casa Beethoven, La Rambla, 97 – This small store has been selling sheet music, musical scores, musical instruments, and other related gift items since 1880. A must-visit for the musician in the family. You’ll find it right next to the Palau de la Virreina / Centre de la Imatge (worth visiting in its own right), between Metro stops Plaça de Catalunya and Liceu as you stroll back and forth among the hordes, flowers, and human statues along La Rambla.

Granja La Pallaresa, Carrer de Petritxol, 11 – Established in 1947, they have the best chocolate and churros in town! On a chilly winter’s eve, this is mo-definitely the place to warm up! The chocolate they give you for dipping your churros into is so luscious and creamy-thick the spoon darn near stands up vertical in the cup all by itself…and whipped cream on top o’ that…aaahhhh, this is definitely the place for the choco-cream addict! There is another, similar, place just down the alley at Petrixol, 2. It’s called Granja Dulcinea, established in 1941. It is probably just as good but I can’t personally vouch for it. So, hey…maybe try them both!?

Gavineteria Roca, Plaça del Pi, 3 – Since 1911, this shop has offered up all manner of cutting tools, knives, scissors, shaving gear, and so on, as well as other kitchen gadgets. If it cuts, they have it. If they don’t, it doesn’t exist. Their storefront catches the eye of nearly every passerby and this facade alone is certainly worth a long pause, perusal, and photograph or two.

La Basílica Galería, Passeig de Gràcia, 26 – A new location–they were in the Gothic Quarter until recently. This shop is basically a museum of contemporary art. As their website says: “The Basílica Galería is a cabinet of curiosities. In addition to contemporary jewelry, photography, art, and accessories…it is also the largest perfume exhibit in the world with more than a thousand fragrances.” A unique and sometimes bizarre display of pretty things that is worth a long browse.

Museu de l’Eròtica, La Rambla, 96 bis – This one is actually fairly well-known, so maybe it should be on some mainstream tourist list rather than on my “alternative” list? That is, unless you are a frigid and guilt-ridden Puritan…or Catholic…or Jew…or Muslim…or adherent to any number of the world’s guilt-inducing philosophies or religions. OK, rant over. Since you will likely visit the wonderful and way over-crowded market, La Boqueria, along La Rambla anyway you might as well stop in here, too, as it is just across the street. From their website, the museum is… “a passionate voyage through the world of eroticism and its representation in art, as seen in the 800 plus pieces which make up our collection. Sensuality, sexuality, provocation… Fun! The museum you can’t miss.” 

The Ice Bar, Paseo Marítimo, 38 A – This is right on the beach. Take the Metro, yellow Line 4, and climb out at Ciutadella/Vila Olimpica, then walk 5-10 minutes toward the sea. Bring your jacket–or they will hand you one! It’s like walking into the guts of a glacier, but with bartenders and lots of the beautiful people. Currently, it will cost an adult 17.50 Euros to get in, kids between 5 and 12 are 8 Euros, and tots under 5 are free. This price includes jacket and gloves. Check out some of the pics and their FAQs at their website: Icebarcelona.

Montjuic Cemetary, on the SW side of Montjuic, the hill by the port – A most interesting place to stroll and pensively peruse the tombstones and plaques. There is no cost to enter. Photography is technically not allowed, but it is hard to resist when no one is about and you come across a gloriously ornate and decorated gypsy tomb. Some famous folks are buried here, like the artist Joan Miró, the urban planner (Eixempla) Ildefons Cerdà, and the politicians Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys (and my mother-in-law, Carme Fusté). Check in at the information station at the entrance for advice on what to see. You can peruse more info, cemetery hours, and so an at their website HERE

The Bunkers of Carmel, in the hills above Barcelona – Dating from the Spanish Civil War, this is the place to go to see the remains of an anti-aircraft site and troop barracks, as well as to get a wonderful and romantic panoramic view of the city and the sea. Movie scenes and commercials have been filmed here (Tengo Ganas de Ti). It certainly won’t be as crowded as Park Guell. In fact, you might find yourself surrounded by more locals than tourists. Bring a sandwich (entrepà), a camera, and have yourself a sunset picnic with your significant lover. To get there, you’ll need to hike uphill a few minutes in the vicinity of the Parc del Guinardó. Let Google Maps be your guide and search for “Búnquers del Carmel Barcelona“.  There is no fee or entrance station of any kind–it is always accessible.

Two bonus sites to make this an even dozen, if you have the time: the Chocolate Museum/Museu de la Xocolata and the Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum. For lovers of these kinds o’ things, or the merely curious.

Ghost Women – A Few More

Here are a few additional photographs for my “Ghost Women” porfolio. They were made earlier this summer, in Barcelona, but I apparently never got around to posting them.

Perhaps you can think of other, more suitable, captions?

 

I am watching you, here from my secure hiding place. I know what you do…

Ghost Women, #61. Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #61. Barcelona, 2017

 

The obvious escape route is blocked by iron bars. But there are other paths to freedom, less obvious and more devious, almost certainly…

Trapped by Trauma. Barcelona, 2017
Trapped by Trauma. Barcelona, 2017

 

“Think Less, Live More”…is that really a way to live? Or is it merely a stereotype for the butt of many jokes? Or maybe there is, perhaps, just a hint of philosophical wisdom in those words? Or…?

Ghost Women, #63. Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #63. Barcelona, 2017

 

The girl from the Cala Vera Club…and the indigenous woman, coexisting on the same vertical plane–but one very much above the other…

Ghost Women, #64. Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #64. Barcelona, 2017

 

For the dignity of all persons, yes, including her…

Ghost Women, #66. Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #66. Barcelona, 2017

 

A man with a horse directs a blinded fashion model to her timely escape…

Ghost Women, #67. Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #67. Barcelona, 2017

 

Memories of the mysterious Mr. BT62…

Ghost Women, #68. Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #68. Barcelona, 2017

Catalan Independence Declared

La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona, 2015
La Senyera Catalana. Barcelona

 

Yep, they did it. The Catalan government voted to declare independence.  

No one knows where this goes now. It’s all uncharted territory, as everyone is saying.

We could hear the sounds of the police helicopter overhead last night as enthusiastic Catalans gathered outside the Generalitat at the city’s center. The chopper was just keeping an eye in the sky on things, I guess.

Here are the likely key moves now from Madrid as Rajoy invokes Article 155:

–Dissolve the Catalan Parliament

–Remove and replace the Catalan President, Vice President, Chief of Police, Ministers, and perhaps other high officials of the Catalan government

–Call new elections for December 21st, 2017

As far as life on the street goes, it all seems pretty normal. I can still get my chocolate-filled croissants from the corner bakery, and I still plan on climbing at Montserrat on Sunday. It does look like there will be an anti-independence protest today and I am sure we will see more pro-independence protests at some point as well.

But, I wouldn’t expect any serious violence at all. Both the European Union and the Catalans don’t want that. The latter have always tried to keep this movement tranquil and peaceful over these past years, albeit with constant vocal and popular pressure against the central Spanish government.

There are really no guns around, so its not like there will be an armed insurrection any time soon and no one really expects anything like that. If you have plans to travel to Barcelona, I wouldn’t change them–just don’t step in between the police in riot gear and a crowd wrapped in Catalan flags if you happen upon such an unusual scene. Most anywhere you go you should be fine.

(Not-so-random factoid and violence comparison: Somewhere around 11,000 Americans are killed by guns every year–and there isn’t even a revolution going on there. Folks here cannot even begin to wrap their Mediterranean heads around that statistic and they figure America to be a way more dangerous place to visit.)

From One Divided Country To Another…

At least, that is what I have taken to saying to my friends.

From Trump’s Great and Wonderful America, we have moved to Barcelona for the foreseeable future. And the times…well…they are interesting here, too.

Two Catalan officials have been jailed for sedition, the Spanish Police came down somewhat excessively during the recent non-binding (and illegal, according to the Madrid government) independence referendum, and now Rajoy & Co. are invoking the never-yet-exercised Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in order to take control of the Catalan regional government.

Where this ends is anyone’s guess.

It seems to me that the only way to really put this whole thing to bed for a siesta would be to hold a real and binding Scottish-style independence referendum in Catalunya (something Madrid so far has absolutely refused to do). Yes, it would be a risk for Madrid…yes, it might prompt other European regions to ask for the same thing, causing a cascade effect…but it is not entirely clear that the result would be “Sí!”. Polls seem to indicate a fairly even split between those opposed and those in favor of Catalunya as a separate nation. 

The debate would almost certainly be harsh with all kinds of rhetoric, including outright lies, emotional appeals, wringing of hands, twitching of eyebrows, and so on.

At the same time, Catalunya would need to carry out some serious preparation with the European Union to assure a smooth and quick transition into that community in the case of a “Sí!” vote. This, in order to avoid a huge disruption in the financial sector (to date, some 1,000 businesses have apparently re-registered their headquarters outside of Catalunya due to the recent unrest–although some Catalans say, at least in part, at the urging of Madrid).

 

So, we had yet another massive (450,000 people) protest today. Here are a few images from the tiny Sony RX100iv point-and shoot…

Note the symbols here–the unofficial Catalan flag of independence with its solitary star, the yellow ribbons, the Tweety Bird (symbol of pacifism against agression?). The political prisoners referred to in the signs are the “two Jordis”, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez (Jordi is George, or Jorge in Spanish), who were both apparently involved in organizing these large independence protests. They are being held without bail by the Spanish government and are accused of the crime of sedition:

Manifestacion, #1, Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017
Manifestació, #1, Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017

 

These protests are often a family affair, with grandparents, kids, folks of all ages out on the street dressed in the Catalan colors. What I don’t see a lot of? People of color, recent immigrants, etc., of which there are a high number in the region. Perhaps they don’t feel like this is their fight? Or perhaps they are simply content to be part of Spain?

Manifestacion, #2. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017
Manifestació, #2. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya, 2017

 

Sometimes the crowd would grow hush and everyone would raise their hands–’twas amazing to “hear” the silence of thousands of protesters–then the clapping and slogan-shouting would begin anew. A “Llibertat Jordis” (Freedom Jordis) sign is just visible left of center:

Manifestación, #3. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #3. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

There were odd juxtapositions at times…here, modern consumer society and a street protest merge on Passeig de Gràcia:

Manifestació, #5. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #5. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Those big white rings are handcuffs basically asking, ‘Is this Really a Spanish Democracy?’ The poster depicts Franco, the Spanish dictator from 1936 to his death in 1975 (a fellow fascist chum of Hitler) and it reads, “This dead man is very alive”, a reference to what the Catalans view as fascist tendencies on the part of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the national government. Indeed, Rajoy’s center-right political party, the Partido Popular (PP), can trace its lineage back to former members of the Franco regime:

Manifestació, #6. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #6. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Many very young folks were at the protest. Are they being sold a costly bill of excessive and unrealistic expectations, without understanding the huge list of technical and economic details such independence would necessarily imply?

Manifestació, #7. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #7. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Whenever the chopper from the Spanish police would fly over, everyone would flip the bird toward the heavens and shout (as if the helicopter pilot could hear!): 

Manifestació, #8. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #8. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

A giant “senyera”, or Catalan independence flag is unfurled, then furled:

Manifestació, #9. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #9. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

Here is a close-up of the handcuffs (esposos). The small sign reads, “Europe, when will you apply Article 7 to Spain to avoid abuses of power against Catalonia?” Article 7 is a European Union provision designed to curb human rights abuses by EU member countries, the threat being sanctions and loss of EU voting rights. So far, the EU has the official position that the Catalonia crisis is an internal issue for Spain to resolve:

Manifestació, #10. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #10. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

That is Mariano Rajoy, the Prime Minister, dressed up as the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. There is certainly no doubt how these folks feel:

Manifestació, #11. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #11. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

 

A father and daughter review the day’s photos and videos:

Manifestació, #12. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya
Manifestació, #12. Barcelona, Catalunya, Espanya

Barcelona Peace Rally, August 26, 2017

 

More than a half million Barcelonans, many carrying a single long-stemmed rose, filled the streets this afternoon for a peace rally in the aftermath of the senseless terrorist attack on Las Ramblas. There were people of all kinds–Catalans, tourists, recent immigrants, even a large number of Muslims.

The above short video will give you some flavor of the event.

Some of the signs:

“We are not afraid”

“No, to Islamophobia”

“Your wars, our dead”

“Felipe [the King], if you want peace, don’t traffic in weapons”

“The best answer is peace”

 

Here are a handful of images with my commentary:

The crowd moving down Passeig de Gràcia on their way to Plaça de Catalunya:

Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

The idea is to have the Muslim world together with us (as just about all already are) in this battle against extremism:

Protest for Peace, #2. Barcelona, 2017

 

The sign that is being dismantled said, “Spain against terrorism…Thanks, Your Majesty! [the King]” and was accompanied by a number of Spanish national flags being waved about on tall poles. The message sounds good, except that it was really pissing off the local Catalans and the police siphoned them away from the main march and had them disband as they were being bombarded by jeers, whistles, and shouts from the home crowd. Why? Well, these protesters were Madrid loyalists (Spanish flags) and, from the Catalan point-of-view, Madrid is essentially in bed with the terrorists and the root cause of the various terrorist attacks in Spain due to Madrid’s support of the Iraq wars and ongoing international arms sales. Then, of course, there is the Catalan tendency to dislike all that is Madrid and anything related to the Bourbon royal dynasty (see especially the Siege of Barcelona, 1713-1714):

Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017

 

Red Cross and police vehicles were soon decorated with roses in thanks for their service during and immediately after the attacks:

Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017

 

Much of the crowd continued on past the Plaça de Catalunya and visited the various memorials along Las Ramblas:

Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017

 

Muslim marchers rest in front of the Las Ramblas Burger King after the rally. The messages: “Love wins over hate”, “We want peace”, “Barcelona embraces peace”, “We want peace…end terrorism”:

Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017