“Whose vanguardist city? The Barcelona model from the periphery” (2012).
Natalia NÚÑEZ BARGUEÑO
Since the 19th century Barcelona has conceived itself both as a cosmopolitan and modern city, and as the capital to the historic nation of Catalonia. With the arrival of democracy, and after “a forty-year state of emergency” imposed by Francoism (Montalbán 1992), the rejection of the dictatorial past stimulated a search for new urban models that would adequately express Barcelona’s regained status as the primary city of the Catalan nation. To distinguish the city from all other Catalan and Spanish metropolis, an emphasis was placed by city planners on its “Europeanness” (Mcdonogh 1999) and on its becoming a city of avant garde culture and technology (Balibrea 2003). It is within this conjuncture (between the global and the local) that Barcelona reinvented itself as a polis of spectacle and business, and transformed itself from being a decadent post-industrial city into an internationally acclaimed model of urbanity. However, this ideal of urbanity had an important shadow: the everyday experience of the city's immigrants. This is one of the sub-themes of the documentary "En Construcción" (José Luís Guerin, 2000), a film that encapsules the transformation of Barcelona's El Raval neighbourhood into a commodity. Guerin's film creatively illustrates the the conscious and unconscious resistance of El Raval's inhabitants (traditionally of labor and mostly non Catalan origin) to the official ideal of the postmodern sustainable city, of the Catalan nation, and of what it is to be avant-garde.