Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Divides a City?

Barcelona is very much an international city, with strong influences from the rest of Europe, Africa, and South America. Yet much of what provides the differences and divides in the city is whether or not people speak Spanish (or Catalan). Any Spanish speakers, regardless of where they're from, are generally more accepted and embraced here. Argentinians have a strong influence here, with neighborhoods, bars, and restaurants all over the city. There is in general a strong Latin influence, especially Argentinian, as evidenced by some of the most famous and popular restaurants and bars being Argentinian. L'ovella Negra, or the Black Sheep, is one of the biggest bars in Barcelona, and is considered an 'Argentinian' bar, especially during the World Cup. Foc, Margarita Blue, and the Rosa Negra are all very popular Latin restaurants, in all different areas of the city. In fact, much of the city seems divided by tourist areas; some people even say that much of modern Barcelona was planned to cater to tourists.

Whether or not Barcelona was actually planned with tourism in mind, the city layout is fairly simple once you learn where a few important landmarks are. If you keep in mind where Plaza Catalunya, Las Ramblas, and the Barceloneta beach are, you'll be set for much of the city. All these areas are very different feeling from the rest of the city; they're kept cleaner and seem more tourist friendly, and give off an old meets new vibe. Especially walking down Las Ramblas, you'll find modern stores like H&M housed in an ancient looking building. Leaving the touristy areas, the city becomes much more gritty and industrial, I work in the Poblenou area, just off the Bogatell metro stop. The area is filled with garage and motorcycle shops, and small cafes populated by the working class. The whole area feels just a bit seedy, like a place you wouldn't want to be alone late at night. Yet walk just a few blocks, and you'll find a more upscale residential area fronting onto the Ciutadella Park, the Central Park of Barcelona.

Overall, Barcelona seems divided by whether the area is intended for tourists or not; the differences can become apparent even on opposite sides of the same street. Ethnicity doesn't play as big a part as other places, as far as I can tell there's no 'Little Italy' or a Chinatown anywhere. Instead, you have the big, glitzy tourist-friendly areas, from Plaza Catalunya down Las Ramblas all the way to the beach, and the gritty, working-class areas, such as along the Diagonal. Barcelona is a beautiful city, but is all that beauty contrived just for tourists, or is it natural?

Ever been to Barcelona? Let me know what you think about the city, or any other city!

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