On my second visit to the Catalan capital, where I was attending the FAD conference, I was able to discover a lot of it on foot. I enjoyed being able to cover most of Barcelona in this manner, something almost unheard of in London. I was impressed by many things, but I was disappointed by a whole lot more. What I often thought about was who this city did not belong to, and of course this made me think of Lefebvre’s concept of the right to the city. As Harvey (2008) states, “We live, after all, in a world in which the rights of private property and the profit rate trump all other notions of rights.”[via]
Since my research deals with this concept of locality, I thought about the absent local life in Barcelona. The city itself, as the documentary I stumbled on discussed (above), is nothing more than a theme park, a European Cancun of sorts, made entirely for the enjoyment of tourists - tourists who live as though they’ve never left home (I witnessed an American tourist buying American scratch cards at a shop and was shocked). The entertainers on La Rambla seem out of place, as if they are stopping over before completing their journey to Las Vegas. The hamburgers and frankfurters that flood the menus are also out of place. I’ll be the first to admit that I personally have never enjoyed food anywhere in Spain (in all five of my visits to different regions), but there are so many alternative cuisines around the city from all over the world it’s easy to find something affordable and good.
I wondered then, what was the appeal of such a place? Why are people flocking to come here? It’s overcrowded wherever you go, and most of the tourists (as the documentary differentiates between three types of visitors: tourists, travellers, and voyagers) have no idea what Barcelona or Catalonia is about.
On the plane over to Barcelona, I had written a whole piece on travel guides and how they only cater to the super-rich, or the typical tourist routes. After watching this documentary however, I felt that sharing this film was much more relevant and important since these are issues we are witnessing in cities worldwide.