Walk from the clean air and clean living of the bourgeoisie on the Rambla into the air of its neighbour the air becomes sticky, intrusive and intimidating. You know you are walking into a Wicked Place.
For those who can see, as well as smell, hear and feel, after the clean building along the Rambla it is the style and the meanness of the graffiti which pulls the sights in El Raval. Banksky is on every corner wall, on ever bin and seems to be on every van.
Little of the graffiti is rich in art, much just vandalism. However the work sets the place apart.
It is an interesting place here in El Raval.
And what of the history of El Ravel? What of its people?
Originally Barri Xinès or Barrio Chino, Chinatown of Barcelona was built to house the dock workers in mass housing. Cheap dock workers from the east to work the port. The docks are still worked and turn by the economics of big world. Times are good, workers work, times bad, many workers turn to crime, prostitution and reputations are born and then it’s hard for an area to a shake a reputation away.
Port life is dark and smelly, usually sordid places strong on sleazy nightlife and cabarets, as well as prostitution and crime; a powerful mix to bring to an area to life, also death, and become notorious and infamous all at the same time.
Walking the streets is only a step away from the cushioned life of Barcelona. El Raval has no cushions. Her streets are narrow, working and lived in streets. Neighbourhoods where families spread into the street, for the homes are small. El Raval is short on cars because of money and slender winding streets for men with artful airs and women with devious graces.
A playground still for children to skip and jump, play games of football and for lovers to walk or for a walk with a client.
El Raval community of 50,000 inhabitants has a raw feel to their lives; they live and work, play and make love within El Rava, for the land outside is to clean and bourgeoisie and not to the liking of the individualist habitants of El Raval.
None are fouler as the Vampire of Barcelona. Wow she will make you sit up. The blood sucking evil of Enriqueta Marti took her supply of young impoverished children for her brothels in destitute El Raval. Marti clients, the rich and influential of Barcelona, kept her in business, enjoying her child prostitutes, and protecting her numerous brothels from the law and society. The children died in her brothels for Marti to create an Elixir of Life from their body fat, blood and ground bones. Produced to supply the rich women of Barcelona high society.
The writers from El Raval are always controversial. El Raval makes you that way. The openly homosexual writer Terenci Moix broke the taboos of his time, judged the values of his time. Maruja Torres and Manuel Vazquex Montalban have a lot to say, a lot very uncomfortable.
The gypsy singer Peret found his fame in in the cheap bars of El Raval. And the bars of El Raval sparkle with life, immigrants, dock workers, pimps and tourists; the old men of Spanish bars and the students who can afford nothing more, find themselves accidentally and fortunately close to the city centre.
May be each day El Raval draws more people in than leave to work.
Many to buy a girl or visit a bar. Enjoy serrano ham with beer and watch Barca win.
After many years tied to the working life of the docks, El Raval is changing. The docks have declined, El Raval strength is its central location and has for this reason become a minor tourist attraction of Barcelona. Rather than dock works it is young bohemian artist who work in the area and are enticed to open art studios and galleries and aspire to show their works at the imposing Museum of Modern Art.
However the docks still bring a diverse immigrant community from South America, Pakistan, Indonesians and in recent years new communities formed from the immigrants of Easter Europe. Immigrants come as easily as they go, a few will put down roots in El Raval most will hope to make money and quickly move on.
El Raval is vibrant; it has a dark side and a seedy side. El Raval is not clean or safe. All sides of El Raval are easy to see with little imagination. Whichever side you want to see in El Raval it does have a special personality and character all of its own. It makes for a compelling visit.
Home to the whore houses of Enriqueta Marti who sucked blood in El Raval to become notorious as the Vampire of Barcelona.——–
RAVAL. It is the neighbourhood with multiple names: ‘ditricto 5’ or ‘Barrio Chino’, and now that they’ve made it respectable, its called El Raval, which is a return to its old name, the real one. But what’s is that at the time it was a defeated neighbourhood, more dominated by Francoism than others, a neighbourhood which was too much for the city’s middle class………….Manuel Vazquez Montalban
A tiny area which took on such immense proportions for Francoism: a place where intimacy was negotiated in public and where the streets were a refuge for wandering bodies and souls in search of one another.
Petty bourgeois’ Christian vision of hell: a dark, smelly, sordid place inhabited by pimps, thieves and prostitutes: in short a bonfire of the syphilitic.
When I entered El Raval, I understood it was the place for me, that, unconsciously I had already had it inside me. It was like a revolution, something amazing, to see how those people spontaneously expressed their way of being. Joan Colom
‘the Raval neighbourhood was like a stage on which very different people were parading by.’ ? Colom
‘Cities, like people, can be recognised by their walk.’ Declared phiosopher and writer Robert Musil.
The street is where the boundaries between public and private disappear.
‘In all the places i’ve been, I’ve never seen as many things as when I used to go to the rooftops of these houses where I had the private lives of each and every one of us at my disposal. In the far distance there was Montjuric or the sea or the Tibidabo mountainside. What more could anyone want?’ Pepe Carvalho on El Raval.