Turning point in the future of the Plaza de la Gardunya and the Rubió i Lluch gardens in Barcelona. The government of Mayor Jaume Collboni wants these disturbing enclaves of the Raval neighborhood to be transformed into a new centrality, a focus of activities that attracts the neighbors, and that the majority of the people who pass through here do not hurry past. in order to leave them behind as soon as possible.
The municipal plan involves recovering ownership of the properties in Plaza de la Gardunya that have been squatted by a lot of alternative associations in the neighborhood for a few years and then dedicating them to community activities. In any case, these evictions will be very controversial. Some of these entities are deeply rooted in the district. We are located behind the Boqueria municipal market, a stone's throw from the Rambla, next to Plaza Catalunya.
Albert Batlle, councilor responsible for Ciutat Vella, and also deputy mayor for Security of all of Barcelona, came to tell the entities installed in the old premises of the Massana school painted pink at the last plenary session of the district that they do want to remain there. They must first hand over the keys and leave the place, and then present a project in a formal manner, like any other association interested in settling on municipal properties. The Taula de Patrimoni Ciutadà will be in charge of deciding the final uses of these dependencies.
“We will not accept any fait accompli policy,” says Deputy Mayor Batlle. Furthermore, that property is not entirely safe. This is how public goods are managed. There will be no self-management, in any case, civic co-management. “We want these spaces to become meeting points that contribute to energizing this part of the Raval.” The City Council thus retires the squatter-friendly spirit of the previous eight years, of the two terms of Mayor Ada Colau. Batlle's relations with the Raval squatters are much more tense.
The usurpation of the old premises of the Massana school took place on the night of Sant Joan 2020. A few activists took them over to expand the distribution of food among needy families in the neighborhood during the hardest times of the pandemic. Here today there are a lot of alternative entities. They also give private classes, plan how to stop evictions, offer a free gym... Then the previous councilor responsible for the Ciutat Vella district, the common Jordi Rabassa, announced that he would give them these spaces. But those negotiations went awry, they went to waste shortly before the municipal elections... At this moment, the squatters do not seem willing to hand over the keys just like that and demand that Batlle fulfill the commitments of the Colau government. Furthermore, according to its architects, the property does not present security problems.
The truth is that the squatted spaces of Gardunya have many suitors. Most of the faculty of the Massana art and design school, located opposite, want to recover the old classrooms and stop renting others located in the surroundings. This is a matter to be discussed between the center's management and the Consorci d'Educació. And a group of residents of the square are already suggesting to the City Council that these facilities and others could host a center dedicated to social, cultural and gastronomic innovation where exhibitions, conferences, debates and other projects are promoted. After all, they say, we have the Liceu, the Boqueria right here... This would attract another type of visitor while also addressing the neighborhood's problems. Other neighbors, however, also many, support the squatters. Here in the Raval, neighborhood relations are very complicated, as are any attempts at mediation.
In addition, the Ciutat Vella district has already started an administrative process to recover ownership of the other occupied property in Gardunya, La Tancada dels Immigrants. About 40 people live there. Although the conditions are not adequate, it has operated as a shelter for undocumented people since 2018. They even set up a clothing store that they make themselves. The City Council, echoing a few neighborhood complaints, clarifies that some of these people have been causing coexistence problems in the surrounding area for months. From La Tancada they respond that these problematic people are no longer in the property and warn the City Council that, given the years they have been there, it cannot evict them through administrative means, that they will report it if they try.
Here in Gardunya there are also plenty of globetrotters from the four corners of the planet who usually spend the day drinking, arguing and urinating anywhere. And also the tourists who buy already prepared dishes at the Boqueria market and turned the place into an immense picnic area full of hungry seagulls that fiercely dispute over the remains of food. Sometimes seagulls are cruel to pigeons. Those who do not find a place in this ecosystem are the residents of the neighborhood, who quicken their pace when they pass by here.
“We have to stop a few dynamics that distance citizens from this area,” continues Deputy Mayor Batlle. Social services are also very involved in this operation. "We want to make Plaça de la Gardunya and the Rubió i Lluch gardens a new centrality, in Raval, Ciutat Vella and all of Barcelona, with new uses and activities." In this way, the municipal plan also plans to enhance and multiply the facilities in the Rubió i Lluch gardens, so that people find more reasons to stay here for a while.
For some time now, many drug addicts have been looking for nooks and crannies here where they can inject the doses they buy at the surrounding points of sale. This is a tremendously annoyed population, completely on the margins. The ele drawn by the stairs offers heartbreaking scenes. One of the locals tries from time to time to manage these stairs, so that they do not abandon the syringes in any way, but his success is limited. The municipal sweepers, armed with long tweezers, approach these gardens all the time. Many times they do so escorted by agents of the Urban Police.
In this once bucolic corner, in the courtyard of the old Santa Creu hospital, there are also the libraries of Catalonia and the neighborhood, the Royal Academy of Medicine, the Institute of Catalan Studies, the Royal Academy of Pharmacy of Catalonia. Do you know that this institution keeps a valuable collection of ceramic containers, vestiges of what used to be the pharmacy of the old Santa Creu hospital? And the Consistory plans to also install the new district library and the Ciutat Vella municipal citizen service office.
“Once we have stopped the dynamics that are so undermining coexistence – adds the deputy mayor –, when the environment is different, we will consider the possibility of opening a passage from the Plaza de la Gardunya to the Rubió i Lluch gardens, and This way offer a new great citizen space. It will be seen in due course. We don't want to expand the problems. The recovery of this part of the Raval is one of the main priorities of this municipal government for the remainder of its mandate. In any case, it will be a very difficult undertaking. We cannot yet establish specific deadlines.”