3 mar. 2014

LA BARCELONETA: A bit of History and two Restaurant suggestions

In the entry devoted to CAN MAÑO, I briefly referred to La Barcelona as it is nowadays. But there is a history behind this neighbourhood that is worth knowing. Let me just briefly talk a little about it.

Metro to Barceloneta: L4 (yellow),
stops Barceloneta or Ciutadella
Barcelona – Ciutat Vella has a long history behind, that dates back to the Roman times. But the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta is a newcomer. It was built in the 50s of the 18th century with plans designed by military engineer, Juan Martín Cermeño ( See related entry in Wikipedia ). The authorities said it was built to house the people who worked by the sea and whose houses were destroyed in the bombardments suffered by the Ribera neighbourhood in 1714 or little after, when a significant part of the city was destroyed to build the Ciutadella citadel.  That was a blatant lie because the people who lost their houses in 1714 had long ago established in other parts of the city where many houses remained empty but you can still read explanations as this in many city guides.

One of the original houses of that time (CASA DEL PORRÓ) can still be seen and visited in Carrer Sant Carles, 6.

La Barceloneta neighbourhood was built in a triangular spit of land that cuts into the sea, over the sediments of land and sand carried over the years by the Besòs River. The houses were humble. They were distributed in a grid plan and there was only one square, where the parish church of Sant Miquel was built. Initially the houses had only two floors and overlooked two streets, to provide better ventilation. Those plans changed over the years, more floors were added and the height of the buildings increased. The neighbourhood became more crowded and houses were so small that they are still known as “quarts de casa” (a quarter of a home).

La Barceloneta was the only neighbourhood of the city that was outside the city walls, and neighbours accessed the city by Portal de Mar.

By mid 19th century, life at the neighbourhood of the Barceloneta was focused in the sea. The neighbours worked in sea-related activities: fishermen, seamen, shipyard and harbour workers, and people providing services and materials to these activities. That situation changed by mid 19th century, when the city council forbid the establishment of new industries within the city walls. Then, many of those industries moved to Barceloneta, which was close to the port and near ESTACIÓ DE FRANÇA (the railway station connecting the textile industry in the city of Mataró to Barcelona). Very soon La Barceloneta developed a strong metal and shipbuilding industry.

But after the Spanish Civil War, many of those industries disappeared and were replaced by smaller workshops with diverse activities.

Now we still can see in Barceloneta the humble houses of the 18th century, but most of the buildings date from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. La Barceloneta has changed dramatically with the opening of the waterfront. In the 20th century, chiringuitos and baños occupied important areas of the beach. With the Olympic Games in 1992, all that changed. Chiringuitos were removed, baños were limited and the beach was open to the public. A whole new neighbourhood was built close to La Barceloneta (la Vila Olímpica). Barcelona won a new space for leisure and, with the arrival of mass tourism, La Barceloneta turn into a preferred place to enjoy the beach. Unfortunately, that boom also modified what had been the neighbourhood main characteristic: the ambiance of a closely-tight, popular neighbourhood, where everyone knew each other. Life-long residents are being replaced by tourist flats.

But you can still enjoy some of the old Barcelona in places such as Can Maño. And a stroll by the sea is always inspiring.

The video we include (in Catalan, no English version I am afraid) may help you see some of La Barceloneta history.

Here are two more restaurant suggestions, in case you don’t feel like and “ethnic lunch” in CAN MAÑO. Both are very worth the visit and had nothing to do with the tourist traps that have invaded Pg. Joan de Borbó.

It is not a cheap place, but is worth the price.
And they have a delicious and price convenient lunch menu from Monday to Friday.
Pg. Joan de Borbó, 58-59

Indian modern food. Owner Sanjay is a gentleman. Decor is fine and the situation of the restaurant is very convenient to the beach.
Pg. Joan de Borbó, 78

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