I attended a recent “presentation” on the construction updates for my neighborhood of Mercat del Born. I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it given that after writing an article about it recently, I found that a great deal of things were still up in the air.
The room had upwards of 200 neighbors in it which was surprising given that I didn’t realize 200 actual neighbors still lived in my neighborhood given that, like much of the center, it is being hollowed out for hostals and illegal short term apartment rentals for the millions of tourists who visit Barcelona each year (there are 80 of them for every one of us who lives here.)
As they made their presentation, focusing more on what type of rock was being used for the new benches around the market and the new traffic routing, people started speaking up. The neighbors in my area have been very unhappy with this bumpy project for some time and this “presentation” (which was, in typical government fashion just to inform the neighbors how it’s going to be) seemed to piss off everyone in the room. The main reasons for this were twofold. First, the plans deviated wildly from plans that were again “presented” in September of last year. Secondly, as I was suspecting all along, the plans also called for making this area heavily tourist-centric with terraces for restaurants and old streets basically being turned in to pedestrian tourist boulevards.
And the concerns aren’t without merit at all. Given that it is summer and the construction is quickly winding down in a maelstrom of activity, this neighborhood (which had been an alcove of tranquility between the insanity of Passeig del Born and Parc de la Ciutadella) is already on the partying radar. Walking back home last night at 2AM after a long day out, there were cadres of people drinking in the doorways of closed shops and the drunken tourists where meandering about the streets with the ever-present “whooooo!” that people of diminished intelligence seem to insist on screaming when they get drunk. What is that by the way?
This is all of course without things truly being finished and the terraces really coming in. Tossed in to that are cars and motos who are still flying around the streets as if they weren’t closed to traffic, which they are.
Sadly, there is little recourse for neighbors other than moving out of the center, which many have. It kills me to have to think about doing that as I truly love the neighborhood, but they say that tourism is the only thing that makes money in Barcelona now and the politicians won’t let go of it to save their lives. I think those of us who live here should start giving wildly inaccurate directions to tourists as the start of a small protest that could lead to other countless actions to par back this unstoppable tide.