Barefoot in Barcelona
Anna Katarina Gieth Castellano, Barcelona, Spain
In Spain there is an idiom that goes "estar más contento que un niño con zapatos nuevo" -"to be happier than a boy with new shoes". In these days of crisis no one is happier that that boy, because there is going to be a long time before the Spaniards can buy new shoes. Spain has been on a general economic upswing since the Olympics 1992. New architectural projects saw no ends in the New Spain. After 40 years of dictatorship of Franco, the Spanish were ready for some well deserved raised living standard. This was especially noticeable in Barcelona a city full of energy. A melting pot of diversity with Catalans, Spanish, Moroccans, Colombians and many other nationalities. Barcelona is a beautiful city situated on the Mediterranean coast and here there is an outlet for Arts and craft.
But today there is a different picture. The world wide economic crisis has hit Spain hard. Probably, one of the countries to suffer the most in the whole of Europe. The unemployment in the end of March reached a record 3 and a half million. Spaniards remember living in poverty during the Franco regime and for those that don't remember memories are past down by older generations, their memories still being fresh. Because of this the Spanish people tend to look at the crisis with a very dark outlook. They are negative and don't take any comfort in their government. The recently reelected Zapatero has a heavy burden. Spain has a lot of work ahead. Because of the dictatorship they fell behind the rest of Europe. Still gas for some apartment has to be bought on bottles by a street vendor.
In Spain the dream is to be self employed, no boss to answer to. May it only be a small shoes shop, this is the dream. The self employed (autonom) are taking a heavy blow because of the crisis. Now they find that the banks will not give them credit they turn to the government to help them.
In Spain in difference to America the banks are not (yet) in a trouble. Still they are cautious to lend money to clients who can not show them their incomes. In fact many Spanish banks are sponsors' of Art and Design projects. For example La Caixa has its own Forums in Barcelona and Madrid where they put on contemporary and historical art projects.
In the past week Barcelona's recognized music festival Sónar presented their program for the summer. Sonar presented a program affected by the crisis. This year the will be one stage less.
In January and in June every year the fair for fashionistas, Bread and Butter, takes place in Barcelona. The last one in January saw people from all over the world gathering in Fira Montjuic to showcase their creations. The sad thing about Bread and Butter is that it is not open to the public. You have to have an invitation. For an everdayman with an interest in fashion it is impossible to attend. And after all the fair is called United Nations Of Bread and Butter but apparently only for some.
Spain is internationally renowned for being a nation of creativity, a country that produced artists such as Dali, Picasso and Miro, and not to mention here in Barcelona, Gaudi. These artists are famous for their free thinking and innovating ideas. Dedicated and passionate about their art. In today's Spain this is reflected in well-known brands such as Mango, Desigual and Custo. The unfortunate thing though is that in for example Mango rather than giving local Spanish talents a chance to design, The latest collection design of Mango went to Penelope Cruz and her sister!
Spanish young designer tend to try to relocate abroad because they don´t find the support in their own government.
The new Spanish designers are relocated to the local squares to sell their creations.
But there is hope in Spain. Around the corner from Sants where I live the old Bullring is being rebuilt into a shopping centre signed Richard Rogers (the mastermind behind Millennium dome). Old meets new, the soft shapes of moric traditions meets the futuristic pointy shapes, the closed almost secretive architecture of the bullring and Rogers idea of making the activities of the buildings visible. The lightweight structures an the heavy brick building should make a beautiful mix. Marking a new Spain where people try to mix old with the new.
Catalonia is the autonom community least affected by the crisis. Still it is noticeable that people are worried and rightly so. People are being laid off at an immense speed. And many bosses are using this moment to get rid off unwanted staff.
And they wont go quietly Spanish people will form a demonstration about whatever problem they have. Lately it has been the Bolonia plan which ended up in police brutalities. But the Spanish have reason to rebel they are becoming the cheap country where big companies open call centres and people work for less money.
Another thing that doesn't help the Catalans is their idea of if they were only independent things would change. Like their literary hero Don Quixote they fight against windmills who they perceive as giants. Of course the government in Madrid with its control is far away and makes decisions that don't favour Catalonia. The Spanish clothes company Zara was one of the few companies to grow this last year, showing that Spaniards support their products and also are looking for cheaper alternatives. Also IKEA showed an economical growth.
The publicly owned museums will from the first of April be free every Sunday.
Food prices are low at the moment in Spain. Also the house market has sunken with up to 40 percent in some places. Local vendors are trying everything to live through the crisis. People had taken too much on as the times were high and people saw opportunities.
Spaniards by nature are traditionalist and they like their traditions. They also like to use locally produced products .Be it be vegetables or wine or clothes. The same goes for clothes and design. The Spaniards are not very happy right now and there for sure won't be any shoes to be bought anytime soon.
Länktips till Barcelona:
Bracelona gratis http://www.barcelonagratis.com
Le Cool i Barcelona http://lecool.com/cities/barcelona/subscriptions/new
Bread and Butter http://www.breadandbutter.com/summer2009/en/
Anna Katarina Gietrh Castellano is a writer and a schollar in literature she also teaches obnoxous catalan kids and lives in Sants, Barcelona.