Since 2007 we have worked with the Barcelona City History Museum trying to focus on the recent history of the city from different perspectives. And it is that sometimes the nearest history, our city and our parents and grandparents, is what is most remote from our knowledge.

Museu d’Història de Barcelona, Institut de Cultura i Ajuntament de Barcelona. 2009
Production: Nanouk Films.

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Within the frame of the programme Barcelona Cultural Dialogue, the City History Museum of Barcelona presents the exhibition “Shanties. The informal city”. The exhibition focuses on the shantyism in the 20th-century Barcelona as an urban phenomenon and helps to reflect on the question of the informal city versus the planned city. By means of documents, images and the voices of its protagonists as a remembrance and memory of the informal city, the exhibition approaches this phenomenon and shows part of its urban and social microcosm.

Shantyism, an urban phenomenon of the first magnitude in Barcelona extending from the beginning of the 20th century to almost the time of the 1992 Summer Olympics, created a veritable “informal city” beside the old urban nuclei, the Eixample district and the various forms of growth of the urban periphery. This informal city stretched across Montjuïc hill, the seafront, some interstitial spaces of the selfsame Eixample and the hills surrounding the city. Montjuïc, Somorrostro, El Carmel, etc. became legendary names which are still alive in the city’s imaginary due to the harshness of their inhabitants’ living conditions and also because, in times of growth without democracy, they often became test benches of social and neighbourhood movements. These were movements which shifted, in the 1960s and 70s, to the large housing estates in the suburbs, where the majority of the inhabitants of the shantytowns were reaccommodated and where these people had to struggle again to obtain the facilities and services which continued to be lacking. In this long-lasting fight for the city and for the citizenry lies one of the keys to the notable significance of the urban movements in the transition to democracy in Barcelona.

Quite different was the environment of the last shantytowns, in the 1980s, which possessed a much more marginal character. There, many shanties were occupied by families from other previously evacuated shantytowns: the great social precariousness of these shantytowns’ inhabitants (and all the more so in times of economic crisis), obliged a difficult search for alternative solutions, which were not always satisfactory.

“Shanties. The informal city” is one of a series of exhibitions centred on all the historical aspects which contributed to the formation of today’s Barcelona.

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Expo Yeosu 2012
Archeological Museum of Yecla
Published on: 22 January 2018