Sunday, July 13, 2008

Local festivals - El Raval

The great thing about Barcelona is that although it's a city, and every city is made up of neighbourhoods, Barcelona's neighbourhoods have their own style and character, and this is something I'm still impressed by. Each neighbourhood has their own special dates for celebrating their own little area, and they more than often don't co-incide, meaning that there's a festival in Barcelona (of some scale) almost every month - and I'm not talking about the Sonar, La Merce, Christmas/Kings day celebrations, San Joan, the list could go on...

Three typical "barrios" known for their local festivals are Gracia, Barceloneta and Poble Sec. I suppose this has got to do with the size of the streets, and the compact nature of the planning - especially in Barceloneta and Gracia. The Gracia festival is amazing - they decorate the streets with very ornate paper-mache-style figures and lots of decorations dangling from the buldings at either side, like a blanket of colour above you. Barceloneta is the same, with whole streets cordened off and stages set up for typical dances, childrens flamenco and the like.

However, one local barrio festival perhaps overlooked is that of the Raval. This is my neighbourhood and I have to say is given a hard time by the majority. Historically it has been a hotbed of crime, brothels, drugs and prostitution, but nowadays it is the most multicultural place on the planet (official figures released in 2006 showed the highest number of local immigrants in such a small space as any other place in the world), and although it still has it's seedy parts, and the odd few prostitutes, I know of equally as dangerous places in Barcelona when it comes to petty crime.

This weekend has celebrated the Raval local festival, and although I haven't had time to see it all, I know that there were historical photos on display (the old prison on Calle Reina Amalia, where the new apartments are being built!), there were free concerts all weekend, the local market - all local designers with clothes, bags and other accesories - was buzzing all weekend, and then today saw the ever-amazing human castles. These are usually always associated with La Merce festival, and are braodcast on TV, etc. but judging by today's crowds, not many people knew it was going on, and I like that about it - it made it more for us: the people of the neighbourhood.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the formation so up close, and saw little techniques used as well which gave me an insight. The first guy on the bottom, who hold the most weight for example, bites the end of the collar of his shirt very tightly in either side of his mouth. This seemed puzzling at the time, but then it's so that everyone else climbing up his back don't slip on the cotton of his shirt! Ingenious!!
There were a few variations, and what better backdrop than the new Barcelo Raval hotel, which seems to be finally reaching it's end of construction.

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