Joan PUJOLAR, UOC - Open University of Catalonia, Spain
Laura LAMAS-ABRAIRA, UOC - Open University of Catalonia, Spain
The Barceloneta neighborhood was a traditional fishing area that nowadays is integrated into the city center of Barcelona. Its big transformation came along with the Olympic Games hosted in the city in 1992, the seafront areas being key targets of public investment plans. Since then Barcelona has become a first-level international tourist spot giving rise to gentrification and touristification in the city center. Taking the neighborhood’s long-standing popular festival of the Cors Muts or Silent Choirs as the main reference, this paper explores the social tensions resulting from the changes in the neighborhood's social composition and the use of the public space. To do so, this project uses an ethnographic approach and the empirical material includes in-depth interviews, participant observation and secondary data from the city archive.
Fieldwork reveals that the neighbourhood's identity is staged through the intensive occupation of the public space, being the festival's raison d’être. It is worth noting that this festival is organized through an association that coordinates the choirs, whose members (over 1000 people in total) march and dance on Whit Saturday and Monday across the streets of the neighborhood in a parade that lasts for seven or eight hours. The choirs claim their right to appropriate much of the neighbourhood’s public space during the festival. This view often clashes with the perceptions of tourists and newcomers, who feel attracted by the festive character of the clothing and the body performances, and often try to join the parade. Growing on-site disputes have led the festival’s organization and the city council to implement security measures, thus changing the original interactive nature of the festival. This research unveils the rising issues and contradictions between the new and old uses and users of the public space of the Barceloneta neighborhood, the touristification and gentrification process being presented as sources of social conflict.
Mots clés : Public Space|Festival|Tensions|Tourism|Gentrification