Poet Jaume Muñoz talks to the Catalunya Barcelona film team


Jaume Muñoz

Interviewed May 17, 2017 for Catalunya Barcelona docuseries.

Can you name some specific locations in the city that have changed dramatically over the past 25 years?

Places that have undergone a change in the last years after the Olympics

I would say the Born neighborhood

It was the first one I saw transforming, making an effort to attract tourists.

Local shops began adapting to appeal totourists.

European and American upper-middle class tourism increased while I was [living] next to the Picasso museum.

They started going out,

and where we [locals] used to go out for a drink at night, where we’d go for beers…

…those bars were disappearing.

And we couldn’t afford the new ones.

Price plays a key role in deciding who gets to go where.

El Born was the first place where this happened. There were some positive changes, too.

I don’t know. For example, el Raval: I believe that, despite becoming another kind of neighborhood, it turned into something very interesting.

Although tourists didn’t go there, immigrants did.

And nowadays, the English – American expats coexist with locals, and immigrants from Pakistan and Morocco.

As a result, while the neighborhood changed dramatically, it moved in an interesting direction.

How are the arts supported by the Colegios Públicos, especially Educación Primària and Educación Secundària Obligatoria, in Barcelona?

Well, I belive that art is well represented in elementary education.

Of course, I’m talking about the education I had in the 80s.
Art, like mathematics and English, was a distinctive course of study.

We had “artistic education”

And I’ve always thought that we were lucky to have good teachers, and the opportunity to take school trips to museums.

Of course, Barcelona is a city with a high concentration of art.

It was… I don’t know. I remember a powerful artistic education.

What am I supposed to say, right? I’m an artist myself.

I have no idea about how it works today because the education system has changed.

But yes, I believe that artistic tradition here has always been very strong.

Do you deal with Catalan history, Catalan identity, and Catalan politics in your art? Will you talk a little about that?

I believe I introduce elements of the Catalan identity in my art.

By being an artist born in Catalunya, you are unavoidably inspired by certain artists…

…and some of whom, I’m fascinated by.

Especially, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Antoni Tàpies, Raàfols Casamada…

Automatically, there’s a group of artists that enter your imagination. Gaudí…

Just because you’re raised in a city where you run and play [as a child], and you see it…

The playground I used to play in, which is next to “Plaça Espanya,”

has this stunning Joan Miró’ sculpture named “Woman and Bird.”

I don’t know. I used to visit la Sagrada Familia. And, obviously, all of Gaudí’s artwork, itfeeds your imagination,whether you want it to or not.

I started painting 10 years ago while living abroad.

And I recall what a friend from Sudan told me: “Your paintings evoke Miro’s art”

And I said: “wow”. Those are strong words, aren’t they?

It was the first time I thought about it.

I believe my art goes in another aesthetic direction.

But yes, whether you like it or not, that influence is there.

Tàpies, for instance, is pervasive.

There’s no need to go to a museum to see art in Barcelona.

On the front page of every Sunday paper, there was a Tàpies’ painting.

No matter where you went, there was always a Dalí wall.

So you absorb all these artists’ [works], whether you like it or not.

So yes, I believe this has a great influence over artists.

Even though I have some international art references.

I’m a fan of Jackson Pollock, Egon Schiele,

of people of other cultures, other contexts..

But the local ones, you’re influenced by them,and it comes out in your work, one way or another.

Though Barcelona is metropolitan, its Catalan residents are said to have a natural affinity for the land, that it is where the Catalan spirit lies. This is also often a talking point, when the subject of Joan Miro’s The Farm comes up. Where does this come from? Is this still true?

I can’t remember it. Can you show me a picture?

Though Barcelona is metropolitan, its Catalan residents are said to have a natural affinity for the land, that it is where the Catalan spirit lies. This is also often a talking point, when the subject of Joan Miro’s The Farm comes up. Where does this come from? Is this still true?

About this paiting of Joan Miró, of the “Granja”. It represents a farmhouse, a country house.

I agree. It illustrates very accurately what Barcelona was, not when I was a kid, but a century ago.

Barcelona, as we know it today, has existed since 1880.

I live in Sant Andreu.

Sant Andreu used to be an independent town until it was annexed by Barcelona.

So small towns were annexed to create the Barcelona we know today.

And in this Miró painting…

…you gain an appreciation for the type of building one would find today in Horta, for example.

Here, in Sant Andreu, there’s only one [farmhouse] left. When I was a kid

there were some in Les Corts.

This kind of architecture used to represent Barcelona. If Barcelona has one good thing going for it, it is that it’s not a concrete jungle.

It has green spaces.

We have two mountains, the sea and a couple of rivers. So it is nature

that defines the city limits.

That’s what it is.

It can’t grow bigger like Mexico City.

Barcelona is wonderful because of that.

I could go out now and go up Montjuïc. Well, probably Tibidabo, it’s closer to my place.

Nature is close by.

This brings us life.

How supportive is Barcelona of the arts and its artists? How does this manifest?

That’s a good question.

Well, let’s see… Barcelona supports artists…

There are organizations in place for supporting the arts.

I don’t want to criticize, because I’m not in the position to do so.

There are entities entrusted to do so, and they manage the art spaces like

MACBA, Arts Santa Mònica, Fabra i Coats…

And all of this is possible thanks to public money from the city council and the ICUB.

The only downside? It can be tricky to access the money

when you are from Barcelona.

It’s difficult for me.

I’ve spent a year looking for an art studIo,

a non-private art studio

that I wouldn’t need to rent.

I wanted it to be public, and there’s no way.

I lived a year in Berlin and it was much easier.

I would go up there and say “Hey, I want a studio.” “OK. Here you go.”

It was easy.

I lived in Egypt as well.

That country was really something else. It was a piece of cake.

“[You] want to paint? So paint.” That’s all.

It’s always been hard in Barcelona.

There’s this old saying that goes: “A prophet is not without honor—except in his hometown.”

I find it difficult. But yes, there is obviously some economic support.

Grants exist for all types of art. And now the number of studios is increasing.

I have a studio at La Escocesa, [which is] an art space in Poble Nou. That’s where my studio is.

This is managed internally with ICUB’s money.

So yes, artists are indeed supported.
Could they be better [supported]? Yes.
Could it be managed better? Probably, yes.

But there’s support.

And Barcelona’s city council facilitates the creation of music festivals, competitions, art festivals… [facilitates] an artistic atmosphere.

Even if you and your peers weren’t creating art under Franco, is there a passion, a sense of purpose, that persists as a result of decades of repression? If so, can you discuss it? Does it affect your art?

It’s difficult.

Even if you and your peers weren’t creating art under Franco, is there a passion, a sense of purpose, that persists as a result of decades of repression? If so, can you discuss it? Does it affect your art?

Let’s see. Art during the dictatorship was subjected to the same constraints that we mentioned before when we discussed cultural repression.

Not many artists from that time have influenced me because lots of them left everything behind and moved abroad when the war was over. Some of them were already living abroad.

The most prominent Catalan painters moved… Miró moved to France until the German military administration occupied the country.

He came back to Spain and settled in a small town. Or I don’t know.

Dalí left Costa Brava behind and moved to Paris, later to the USA.

I’m talking aboutartistsprevious to the dictatorship.

We, by being born during a democratic period, have not been affected by repression.

At a cultural level, the entire Spanish State emerged as a free state after the Transition [to democracy]. The chains were broken.

And one example of this is the cinema, the music, “the movida madrileña” [movement]. It was

obvious that now “we could say whatever we wanted to”. We can do whatever we want today.

I was born when repression was already behind us.

Although in Catalonia, during the 60s – 70s there was a huge conceptual art movement with Montades and Pere Noguera.

These two lived during the repression and were obviously affected by it. So yes, maybe their art work could deal with freedom of speech.

Everyone that surrounds me, creators from Barcelona,

have been educated abroad. We have a global view of art.

I, myself, am Catalan. I live in Catalonia and my paintings are sold mostly in USA and France.

You look beyond home, and expand outwards.

I believe that this repression, at an artistic level, is gone for good.

Unless the art is focused on a controversial theme. Then you can actually [experience repression].

If I, instead of what I do, decided to paint a portrait of the King of Spain, or a picture criticizing the government, I could get in trouble.

But we are talking about a very specific type of art here.

As a visual artist, as a creator, there’s no repression left.

Catalan modernism touched all of the arts. Novels and short stories by authors like Prudenci Bertrana, Solitud by Caterina Albert i Paradis. In poetry, one must acknowledge the influence of Joan Maragall. What is Catalan modernism, relative to poetry and fiction? Does it still endure in works written today?

This one is an exam question, eh? Like in theA-levels (o selectividad)

What’s Catalan modernism in fiction?

I believe Catalan modernism is the point of reference for [our] national literature.

The main influences for someone who writes fiction are Caterina Albert, Joan Maragall…

Josep Pla, Prudenci Bertrana… All of these authors

created images, Barcelonian or Catalan vignettes

Anyone who reads “Els quaderns” by Pla, for instance…

even though it takes place mostly in la Costa Brava, and not in Barcelona…

but anyone who reads “El quadern gris” by Josep Pla

will automatically be transported to those landscapes, surrounded by that coffee culture,

the feeling of talking with those neighbors,

you can actually travel back to that time.

And I believe we’re still moving in this direction, using the same principles.

There are Catalan narrators that are capable of teleporting outsiders to Barcelona. They can get a pretty accurate sense of how people live in the city.

Are there Catalan poets who serve as inspiration to you and your peers?

There are a lot of Catalan poets that inspire me.

I’m a huge fan of poetry. And I love everything that has been done in the last 20-30 years.

I like Enric Casases, Maria Mercè Marçal… There are so many people. David Castillo, a poet from Barcelona…

There’s a massive outpouring of work in Catalan and Spanish.

One of the best poets that we have here in Barcelona is Josep Pedrals.

He’s my age and he’s amazing.

These days the activity is unrelenting.

You can find really interesting places to watch live poetry performances.

When a poet comes to Barcelona, besides the compulsory poetry jams where he must perform, he can listen to other poets.

Since 2012, there’s a lively panorama of poetry jams, like the Poetry Slam. You can find jams focused on specific themes, live improvised poetry shows…

So, if a poetry lover comes to Barcelona, he will be smitten.

Today, time travel, alternate histories are a staple of sci-fi books and films. Can you speculate on how Barcelona would be different today if the Nationalists had lost the Spanish Civil War?

How would Barcelona be today if the Nationalists had lost the Spanish Civil War?
I haven’t thought about that.

How would Barcelona be if the republican faction had won?

It would be… I don’t know. It would be an interesting place to see, to begin with.

My grandfather would have been so happy if he had raised me in a republican city!

Without the monarchy, without fascism…

A priori, I would say that it [Barcelona] would boast a long history of cultural freedom, an enlightened and self-directed society.

It would take this path, right?

There are committed groups, but not really…

Even though the Republican Faction lost the war, today there are a lot of libertarian atheneums.???????

Libertarian atheneums are meeting points, focused on culture, critical thinking and communal help that operate within a republican framework.

I belive that if you extrapolate this to the entire city

This is an analog of how Barcelona would be if the Republican Faction had won.

it would be a city tuned to libertarian dynamics.

There is often talk of the Gitanos’ impact on Catalan art and culture. Is this something you can speak to?

The gipsies have always been a part of our society.

I can’t tell when the first gipsy population came to Catalonia, but I would say since the beginning of time

because the gipsies that came from India

were migrants that came from the north of Africa. They settled here since time immemorial

and their community has grown simultaneously with the non-gipsies.

They have always coexisted with us and their cultural impact is huge

Especially at a musical level. The flamenco and the Catalan rumba

The Catalan rumba is a product of the gipsy communitiesof Barcelona, from the

Gràcia neighborhood.

If one visits la plaça del Raspall, which is a small square in Gràcia

one finds a gypsy culture

that allows you to travel within your own city.

At a cultural level, I believe that gipsy’s cultural expressions,

especially music, have had a great impact on Catalan culture.

Anarchism, and the Anarchy symbol have a greater significance here than anywhere else in the world. Do you see the arts and culture as being touched by the city’s anarchistic heritage?

It is quite clear that Barcelona has a strong anarchist heritage. Inevitably one pictures the Circle-A when talking about anarchism.

There are two references points:
the historical origin is one, and the music-related is the other, with anarchist punk and so on.

The first one, at a political level…

At the end of the [1st] Republic, Catalunya was a hub of anarchist thought, trade-union organization.

This came to an end with the war, because those who were not killed had to run away.

But sure, the Barcelona people believed in utopian anarchistic socialist ideals.

It had a great deal to do with addressing how the society should organize itself.

Without the
[top down] structure … how is society organized from the bottom up? I mean at a the town level, neighborhood level…

Or company employees, how would they organize themselves? How would they live their lives?

The basis of anarchism is right there.

People were able to organize themselves through trade unions.

That’s beautiful.

Not needing to be fed because you can already feed yourself.

The anarchist ideal comes from here.

I believe this culture is still alive. Before, when we talked about the libertarian atheneums…

There’s a libertarian atheneum in every Barcelona neighborhood, developing a cultural agenda separate from the state’s agenda.

and you can find punk music.

These two sides unite here.

They let people organize themselves at a neighborhood level.

There are plenty of popular institutions in Catalonia…

…long before 15 M [the anti-austerity movement] and the appearance people’s committees.

Everybody organized themselves through neighborhood associations and cultural atheneums in small towns and neighborhoods

and everything has this background, everything comes from the anarchist movement.

At an art level, it’s hard for me to decide. But at a musical level? That’s pretty clear.

It’s hard to find a connection because when I think about visual art in Catalonia, Ilook to othercountries.

Like most international Catalan artists we already discussed.

Anarchism in Catalonia has left freedom in its wake…

and had an internationalist impact.

because within anarchist movements from the beginning of the [20th] century

there are connections with France and with the USSR. This involved some knowledge

My grandfather was a trade unionist

and he was a part of this tradition.

He read French authors that his family didn’t even know existed.

He was much more revolutionary at a cultural level.

I believe this has grounded, provided a base for a living culture,

that can now see what’s happening at an international level.

When it comes to visual art, it is hard for me to decide. I’m sure it’s affected us.

How? Well, I don’t know. But I’m sure it did.

Will you talk a little about Jocs Florals? What is it?

The Floral Games are an old tradition in Catalonia. It is basically a poetry competition.

It’s a literature contest, typically focused on poetry.

It is organized at a neighborhood level, at a small-town level, and at a city level.

I wrote poetry as a child to enter the Floral Games. It was a great honor for me to enter a poem in the Jocs Florals.

It was done in my school, in my neighborhood

It’s a beautiful tradition and I remember my mom and I, on a typewriter, long before computers existed.

We’d write a poem on the typewriter, and we’d photocopy it in order to enter it in the Floral Games.

The winner was awarded a book and a flower.

So you can see, it wasn’t that big of a deal.


When I was 9 years old, I won the floral games in my neighborhood, and it felt like winning an Oscar.

It was a very sweet and beautiful thing. Luckily, the tradition is still alive.

And now, around Sant Jordi, between April and May…

…with Sant Jordi on one side [in April] and Barcelona’s poetry week on the other, celebrated in May.

So, Floral Games are still celebrated. It’s a beautiful tradition that encourages writing and reading.

How does the Catalan language impact poetry today? Are there certain poetic forms or metre styles best expressed in Catalan?

Catalan language has had a great impact on poetry.

There’s a huge tradition of catalan poetry that dates back to the origin of Catalan,

which isn’t very clear, by the way.

The philologists can’t agree on when Latin became Catalan,

but when it started to be Catalan, it was thanks to poetry.

So yes, we’re talking here about a tradition of Catalan poetry that dates back a few centuries.

At a classical level, Catalan poetry started to develop with Petrarca’s sonnets, with the tradition that came from Italy,

and then medieval poetry as epic poetry.

I don’t know if there’s an exclusively Catalan poetic form

because all genres have been practiced in Catalan,
as in all European languages.

Catalan, Spanish, French and Italian.

Right now I can’t recall a poetic form that is exclusively Catalan

But yes.. no, I mean, you can find all of them

Conversely, are there certain poetic forms or styles best expressed in Spanish?

I don’t think you can say anything better in one language or another

Besides painting, I write poetry

I have written both in Catalan, my language, and Spanish. The only reason I started writing in Spanish is because I read a lot of South American literature.

And I believe that writing in one language or another is like painting in watercolor, acrylic or oil

Although executed through different techniques, they share the same message.

You can express whatever you want in any language you master.

I’ve read wonderful poems in German, and in Italian, French… I don’t know.

All languages can express a poetic idea.

The year is 2017. What is the role of the poet in today’s Barcelona?

In 2017, the role of a poet is to spread words and ideas, and to continue the tradition.

And somehow, reflect the reality of the world you’re living in.

There are lots of poets that write socially conscious poetry in Barcelona.

There’s this [confrontational poetry] group called the “Biolentos”, with b, bio from “vida” and “lentos” which united forms “biolentos”

They write non-conformist poetry. They use it as a way to criticize the government.

They do it through poetry.

Although poetry doesn’t need to be a social critique; it’s great when it talks about our daily lives, about everything that goes well, or wrong.

It can make us think about who rules us and about how society works. Poetry is one of the best art forms for exploring such themes.

Over the past ten years, Barcelona has been wrestling with a persistent economic downturn. On the face of it, one can easily see a shift from locally owned storefronts to internationally owned franchises. How has the city changed, from your perspective, since the economic crisis began in 2008?

Since the economical crisis started, the city has undergone a transformation. The vast majority of shops had to shut down because the sales declined.

The small businesses, like the haberdashery, or the small grocery shop owned by an old lady, started to crumble.

Probably because of a cause and effect relationship, franchises started to settle in the city.

This has spiked dramatically over the last few years.

I remember the first time I stepped inside a Starbucks… It was 2008. I didn’t like it.

I’d rather go to a cafe where a man serves me a cup of coffee, instead of a cup with my name on it.

But yes, there’s a connection.

The franchises have taken advantage of the vulnerabilities of traditional businesses, and establish themselves in the city. They’ve altered people’s attitudes about consumption.

The marketplace is dying slowly. The marketplace! You spent all your life meeting everyone there. You would buy fish and meat, but, of course, you needed to queue in every shop.

People don’t want this [wait] any longer. They prefer quantity over quality. Now they go to a supermarket, where it takes less than 5 minutes to go grocery shopping.

This obviously affected small business more than big [chains] like Mercadona or Caprabo. They can absorb economic shocks.

I think it has worsened because of the economic crisis.

The process of Barcelona’s disintegration sped up with the financial crisis.

Barcelona has been a popular tourist destination for extranjeros for decades. Today it is an enormous source of revenue and frustration for Barcelona. What are your feelings about tourism today?

Barcelona tourism changes the city, the way I live within it.

As I said before, I enjoy tourism. I, myself, am a tourist in other cities, right?

And I love it. I go to Rome and I love it. I go to Paris and I love it.

But of course, it changes how one lives in the city.

Overall, its affects is two-fold: the overcrowding and the [increased] prices.

My friends and I, when we were young, used to go on a weekend night to Montjuic to see the lighten fountains. There’s a music show, the water dances… it’s fantastic.

It was a very intimate experience. Of course you weren’t alone, you were surrounded by locals and a few tourists.

But nowadays, 50 buses pull up to show tourists the Montjuïc fountains.

As a result, there’s this weird [souvenir] economy, people selling odd stuff, like toys, in the middle of the street.

You go there and it’s an aggressive consumerist microcosm. It has nothing to do with the experience I had as a teenager.

Now, it’s like: “no, I don’t want this, I don’t want that”, “no, I don’t want a beer”.

The essence has totally changed because of tourism, and this is just an example.

After the Olympics, beach tourism increased and people started going to Barcelona’s beaches.

I’ve never gone to the Barcelona beach, never ever.

If I want to go to the beach, I take the train, and I go outside Barcelona.

The beach of Barcelona is not a beach… it’s dirty, with the harbor next to it… It’s not the best place to swim. There’s a lot of pollution… I just don’t know.

But tourists go there anyway.

Overcrowding has its negative effects, and that’s whats happening in Barcelona.

Everything is always overcrowded. Les Rambles, for instance.

My parents used to take me there every weekend when I was a kid. You sat on a chair and you paid the chair caretaker one peseta.

You sat there watching passersby.

Las Ramblas now is the lowest form of tourism.

The bachelorette parties…a 50-person group that flew in just to get drunk. They wear ridiculous costumes and stuff on their heads.

If you want to have fun in Barcelona, okay, that’s fine.

But for god’s sake, you are redefining my city’s aesthetic with your activity. So, look out.

This is my Barcelona. I don’t want to see some random guy with I don’t know… passed out.

Tourists don’t realize that.

You don’t realize how much tourism impacts a place when you travel.

But when you live it from the inside, you do.

In talking about Barcelona, one often hears the following: There are two Barcelonas: Catalan Barcelona, and everyone else’s Barcelona. Can you speak to this viewpoint?

About whether there’s a Barcelona for Catalans and another one for tourists…

I can understand why people may say that.

The experience that non-Catalan speakers have when they come here…

Cataluny is bilingual, so all of us speak Catalan and Spanish.

But families like mine, children of immigrants, are more used to speaking Catalan and Spanish at the same time.

But Catalans, born and bred Catalan, may only speak Catalan.

Consequently, a tourist entering Barcelona may encounter this behavior: people who won’t speak Spanish to them.

Anyway, I don’t live this situation because I’ve been raised in a family who speaks languages and, moreover, I’d use English or French to speak to tourists.

But I can totally understand the two Barcelonas: the one for Catalans and the one for outsiders.

The first one is a Catalan bourgeoisie with a strong Catalan culture, living in the Eixample.

And then, there’s the other one, the one that mixes with everyone.

And at the end, that’s what a big city is: a coexistence of people from god knows where.

As in New York. Have you heard the joke about New Yorkers born and bred? They live abroad.

Barcelona is pretty similar. However, I don’t actually know this ‘only-Catalans’ Barcelona because it’s not a part of my life.

Everyone that surrounds me is bilingual. I’ve never experienced situations of exclusion.

How does the mindset of Catalans differ from the rest of the world? For example, Americans are seen as loud, obnxious, aggressive, self-absorbed, but generally friendly.

There are a few stereotypes about Catalans. The most obvious is the one related to money, isn’t it? It has always been believed that Catalans work just to save money. Look at those cheapskates, right?

This cliché has some kind of truth actually. At least that’s what I see when I visit the rest of Spain.

Strangers buy me stuff in Andalusia. Kind of weird in my opinion. I get there and someone says: “It’s already paid!” and I’m like: “you don’t even know me”.

They are accustomed to spending money on strangers, but we’re not. So yeah, I believe the stereotype is somehow true.

Catalonia was shaped with textile workers, shopkeepers and small traders.

Through commerce, Catalonia is linked to Phoenicians and the Mediterranean culture. Well, I might be making this up.

Then there’s the stereotype of reserved Catalans. If you compare us to Andalusians or Madridians… they appear to be more outgoing.

That’s what outsiders have told me. They find it difficult to become friends with Catalans because we try to keep one’s distance.

But once you break through… you will always be friends!

And what adjective would you use to define the Catalans?

What adjective would I use to define Catalans? Well, there’s this saying that goes: “com cal”.

Comme il faut in French. I think it defines the Catalan personality. Things have to be done properly.

You can do it in any way, right? Everything has its own place. I believe Catalans are organized.

Do it this way, you know? I don’t know, it’s just a cliché.

We see Catalan flags flown throughout the city. But they differ from one another. Can you talk about the difference between The Senyera, the Estalda Vermella, and L’Estelada? Are there other Catalan flags that we should be aware of?

Catalan culture has experienced repression on numerous occasions over the past 500 years. Yet, the culture endures. The language endures. How have the Catalans been able to keep the culture intact for so long?

Catalan culture has endured repression for centuries. How do Catalans keep their culture intact?

How has Catalan survived? Well, all cultures endure. It’s not something you can plan.

Culture is inherited through families. Of course, there have been times of repression and persecution.

But you cannoteradicatea language or a culture. Deep inside, people are what they are. And if I ever have children, they’ll be Catalans. They’ll have their own opinions, but they will inherit what I’ve inherited from my parents. Culture is transmitted through generations.

So, if a culture and a language is not forbidden, it’s not defeated.

But after all, it depends on the national politics, and on whether they want to erase a language and a culture. But language in in the DNA. Like a root, it’s always there.

A plant will keep growing, no matter how many times you chop it down. If you chop down a rose bush, a rose will grow, not an oak.

A rose bush will always be a rose bush. It will always keep its essence.

In the United States, we’ve all seen numerous travel programs about Barcelona. What are some things about the city that Americans will not learn from travel programming?

You can not learn everything about a culture in a tourist guide.

You leave behind the tourism books, and what will a tourist find here? A lot of things.

Americans need to leave their Lonely Planets at home if they want to experience the real city.

Take a walk on the neighborhoods. I know downtown is great with all its museums and such. But please, take the subway and go anywhere.

It’s fine if you don’t see any buildings designed by Gaudí.

Just go for a walk and feel the local culture. A city is learned best by experiencing the small details.

Watch people buy bread! It’s an experience that can’t be explained.

Tourists don’t expect the local nature of its inhabitants.

Despite being a cosmopolitan city, Barcelona hasn’t lost its small-town nature.

Art holds up a mirror to society and its people. Are there certain books, poems, plays, or films that you see as holding a mirror to different periods of Barcelona history, different socially and culturally significant events?

Art is a reflection of society. There are a lots of books you can read, and some films you can watch, to catch a glimpse of the Catalan personality.

If you’re interested in the aftermath of war in Barcelona, read The Time of the Doves by Mercè Rodoreda.

It deals with the Second Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War and it pictures a young woman’s struggles in life. It give us a sense of where we come from.

My grandmother used to play in la plaça del Diamant, in Gràcia. It’s a good introduction to life in Barcelona during the 1950s.

I do not recommend Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona by Woody Allen. Instead, watch In the City. It portrays the daily lives of eight, thirty-something friends living in Barcelona.

The restaurants where they eat, the bars they frequent at night, the venues where they watch concerts…if you’re interested in seeing how middle-class educated adults lived in Barcelona in 2000, it’s your film.

Then there’s this comedy called The Spanish Hostel. I kind of lived the same situation portrayed in the film.

The film shows Barcelona through the lens of a young, French man.

When it comes to books… Again, read The diaries by Josep Pla.