gentrification

Gentrification (and Tourism) in Barcelona, the Case of Vallcarca

Vallcarca, #11. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #11. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017 (“Vallcarca…For the people…”)

 

I suppose every big, popular, and growing city has its gentrification issues. In New York, it looks like Brooklyn is well on its way and Harlem is next on the “shopping block” for well-off and motivated investors and retirees. 

Even small towns are not immune…Boulder (Colorado), Jackson (Wyoming), Traverse City (Michigan), Portland (Maine), to name a few. The common cadence: long-time residents being pushed out due to rising real estate prices and general cost o’ living. Some places, like our fine burg of Boulder, recognize what is happening and have attempted to ameliorate the process with “affordable housing programs” for people who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to live there–you know, poor, low income folks like firemen, policemen, school teachers, and so on.

Here in Barcelona, the barrio known as Vallcarca, uphill from Plaza Lesseps, has been the epicenter of a similar fight. Their chief complaints:

–Real estate speculation and development (much of it corrupt!?) which threatens to force out long-time residents.

–Urban growth master plans that don’t necessarily take into account the desires of the local population.

–An emphasis on tourism which also threatens to permanently alter the face of this neighborhood.

Perusing Google, I came across a doctoral thesis that examined this very topic in excruciating detail (382 pages!):  Prácticas y poéticas de un barrio en transformación: el caso de Vallcarca en Barcelona, by Marco Luca Stanchieri (November, 2015). Read through it if you would like further info, including some interesting background on the okupa movement in Barcelona, their philosophy and activities.

Some images…

Save the old nucleus of Vallcarca…Barcelona is not for sale…” implores the large mural, in Catalan. Many empty lots, from the initial phase of de-construction, can be seen in the area–eventually to be converted into large apartment buildings, unless the resistance somehow prevails. The 2008 recession stopped a lot of this development–for now–and many open spaces are currently used for sports, walking the dog, and social gatherings: 

Vallcarca, #8. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #8. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

Some impressive urban art can be found along the walls of these vacant lots:

Vallcarca, #6. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #6. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

The electric hippo-triceratops (is that what it is???) is one of my favorites–found in yet another vacant lot:

Vallcarca, #3. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #3. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

A close-up of another impressive mural. The paper poster says, in Catalan: “Together we build the neighborhood in which we live…Neighbors, wake up, Barcelona is not for sale.

Vallcarca, #10. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #10. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

Núñez, get out of this neighborhood…Enough [real estate] speculation.” So says the graffiti on this wall. José Luis Núñez was president of Barcelona’s famous football (soccer) team for 22 years but, more relevant here, he is a major real estate developer. Núñez, along with his son, were recently fined a few million Euros and then spent some time relaxing in prison–their reward for being found guilty of bribing tax collectors and of tax evasion (“Caso Hacienda“). Currently, the father-son team is back at the construction and development business.

Vallcarca, #7. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #7. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

The poster on the left says,”Núñez and Navarro…guilty of the destruction of Vallcarca…we don’t forget…we don’t forgive.”

Vallcarca, #9. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #9. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

Here and there, throughout Barcelona proper, you may run across the attractive advertising signs for ex-felons Núñez and Navarro. Their slogan: “Building Barcelona together.” Obviously, not all would agree, especially up the hill in Vallcarca.

Vallcarca, #15. Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #15. Barcelona, 2017

 

A more direct insult: “Not Núñez, nor Navarro…Capitalism Fuck Off!”

Vallcarca, #13. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #13. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

More slogans, this time the theme of tourism infiltrates and rears its cranium…”For a neighborhood for all locals…no tourists, no hostels, no excavators…Tourism kills the neighborhood…In Vallcarca we don’t forget…Don’t let Núñez and Navarro build on top of the homes that they themselves tore down!…Speculators out of the neighborhood!…Núñez and Navarro guilty of the destruction of Vallcarca…we don’t forget…we don’t forgive!

Vallcarca, #12. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #12. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

And just in case the anti-tourism message didn’t get through, here’s an especially in-your-face version. If you have walked Las Ramblas or tried to shove your way through La Boqueria market recently, you may sympathize. Barcelona can indeed appear to be inundated by gangs of red umbrella-following tourists, many coming from the parade of monster cruise ships that dock regularly at the port.

Still, don’t fret if you have travels plans to Barcelona. My experience has been that most locals you meet are actually quite friendly and accepting, and will kindly give you directions to wherever you might be headed (especially if you can toss out a few words in Catalan rather than Castellano/Spanish, or English!).

Vallcarca, #14. Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #14. Barcelona, 2017

Barrio Viejo de Tucson, Colores

Mural, Barrio Viejo. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Mural, Barrio Viejo. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

NOTE: For a little chicano visual history from the 1940s through the 1950s (zoot suits!), and some movin’ music, check out this Lalo Guerrero YouTube video. Or maybe this video of Lalo singing “Tacos for Two” at the age of 82, some seven years before his death in 2005.

 

A really nice photo walk area of Tucson is the Barrio Viejo area just south of the downtown Convention Center. Some have called this the oldest continually inhabited neighborhood in the Americas–if you discount Native American settlements such as Oraibi, that is. So, from a Euro-centric viewpoint, this might be true.

In recent years it has turned in to a very fashionable place to live and many of the old, crumbling, 19th and early 20th century adobe buildings have been completely restored and refurbished. On this particular day, I noticed a few of these now very modern homes for sale (expect to pay a premium!) as well as a handful of original adobe structures still waiting for buyers with the money, time, energy, and vision to fix them up.

I remember visiting the Barrio Viejo back in the mid-80s with an artist friend. Back then, the run down neighborhood was still sort of a marginal, perhaps even dangerous, place to live–at least from the perspective of the majority of whites living “north of the tracks” in Tucson. The folks we visited, though–artists as well–loved it there and had restored their old adobe structure beautifully. They found this multi-ethnic area of Tucson to be a rewarding place to put down roots.

Is this yet another gentrification story in the making? Perhaps. Although there is still quite a generous mix of the old and the new to be seen as you walk the streets of the area.

Here are a few color images from my photo stroll last Friday morning early (yet another “photo essay”), as the sun rose in a perfect blue Arizona sky, casting long shadows against the many-hued adobe walls…

 

This would have been the happenin’ place one hundred years ago!

Teatro Carmen, Entrada. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Teatro Carmen, Entrada. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Ripe for restoration:

Rooms To Let. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Rooms To Let. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

An elegant door portrait from the Barrio Viejo:

Elegant Doors. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Elegant Doors. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Renovations often try to retain as much of the old flavor as might be possible. In this case, root beer flavor:

Root Beer Five Cents. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Root Beer Five Cents. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Red wall and shadows:

The Blue Door. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
The Blue Door. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

The sign refers to a local immigration situation in which Rosa Robles Loreto, mother of two young children, has taken refuge in a church for the past six months to avoid deportation and, thus, separation from her family:

Stand With Rosa. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Stand With Rosa. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Neat and trim:

Green Trim. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Green Trim. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Maybe someone left in a hurry? Note the chicken wire. This is one of the first layers of preparation prior to reapplying new stucco on the exterior wall:

Ajar. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Ajar. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Absence of color, in this case:

White Door. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
White Door. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Making a statement:

Black Lives Door. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Black Lives Door. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

The poem on the mural: “Esta es mi vida. Esta es mi amor. Que pasa mi vida tranquilo. Sin tristesa y sin dolor.” (A bit TexMex-ish…One spelling and one grammar error in these opening lines.) This wonderful work was done, with much love, in 1990 by Francisco:

Private Mural. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Private Mural. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Here, they have kept the old advert paint mostly intact, despite a renovation of the stucco:

Yerbas Mexicanas. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
Yerbas Mexicanas. Tucson, Arizona, 2015

 

Just outside the Barrio Viejo, a perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis:

No Fear. Tucson, Arizona, 2015
No Fear. Tucson, Arizona, 2015