Manel Nadal

Interviewed June 6, 2017 for Catalunya Barcelona docuseries.

What’s your name?

Manel, Manel Nadal.

Are there stories from the past that friends or relatives have told you about the Second Republic?

Yes, regarding the second Republic I’ve Heard stories related more to my family, my grandparents. Those stories are very far from me.

It’s actually a bit nostalgia from an era. Before Francoism, that it was all a freer, there was the Catalan culture was something normal, there was a more democratic society. What I know comes from far, let’s say.

About anarcho-syndicalism and the CNT?

Well, about the CNT and anarcho-syndicalism I know things I’ve read. I know in Barcelona there was a very important movement during war, it was almost, I think there was an anarchist government for a time.

About anarcho-syndicalism and the CNT?

About anarchism and syndicalism I know things I’ve read or they explained me. I know in Barcelona there was a great anarchist movement during the war. And due to familiar issues I know there were persecutions of chaplains and bourgeoisies or people who had… Yes, some of that rings a bell, yes.

The bombing of Barcelona by fascist Italy?

About the fascist bombings I have an anecdote of the place I lived before in the Goth neighborhood. An old man, a neighbor that is now ninety explained me that there was a blast just in the building and the neighborhood. One of the bombs fell in the Sant Felip Neri square, where there were kids, an orphanage and died I think about forty kids or so. I think there’s a documentary about this story.

I also know from documentaries, books I’ve read. Those were continuous bombings, deaths as in every war I suppose.

The Spanish civil war?

The Spanish civil war… Yes, it’s a brutal split. What I’ve got, let’s say that all families are fulll of stories, and so is mine.

On my mother’s side, my grandfather was persecuted by boh sides. Because on one side he was, let’s say, a so-called bourgeoise and protected some chaplains they wanted to kill. On the other side he was a Catalan nationalist and the francoist prosecuted him too, so he had to leave to Bordeaux for two years, then he came back and nothing happened.

Life under Franco’s regime?

Well, what I know is that it’s a dark time. What my parents told me is that there was much repression. Catalan, our language, could only be spoken in the private sphere. And then it’s a time of great cultural repression, sadness, lack of freedom, all kinds of repression, sexual, religious, everything.

All my parents’ generation spent all their life fighting against this Francoist regime.

You’ve experienced childhood in a time of great change. When you were born Franco was still in power. He died when you were ten. And by the time you were a teenager, the constitution was signed. What memories do you have of those important times?

When Franco died, yes, I remember when he died and I’m fully conscious. A lot of happiness when he died, a lot of happiness because we had lived many years of…

That period I remember it as having a lot of freedom. My mother was active in the socialist party. She painted, so we did murals on the street, I went with her. Then we went to demonstrations all the time. There was a lot of life, a lot of happiness.

After 40 years, it was like a pressure cooker, people needed to express themselves. It was a nice time, I remember it as very beautiful. But I’m not that conscious, I was ten… It’s so long ago, but yes, it was pretty.

How did school change in that time?

In my case, I went to a cataln school since I was little because my parents took care to take us to a school where Catalan was the language…

It was one of those schools that started in the 60s in Catalan so I didn’t feel many changes, because I continued studying in Catalan.

Durin the end of the regime, the 60s and 70s, it didn’t have so much control. And I lived it naturally, for me it wasn’t a big change.

Did they start teaching you Catalan and history in school? If so, how was it?

As I said, I studied in a Catalan school and Catalanist to top it, I learned many Catalan as a kid and then the history of Catalonia too.

They didn’t explain it at length but it was an approximately different version than the one the regime had.

So it’s a minority vision of what… actually, nowadays it still happens that this vision of history is only seen here, elsewhere in Spain it isn’t… they think it’s a manipulation we made up. A history made fit to justify that we want independence or something of htat, but I think it’s rather… very rigorous, what they taught us.

So where did you live?

I lived in Mandri street.

The thing is that my story is curious. I came from a bourgeoisie family, but my parents weren’t, but that would be a different topic.

[back to former question]

At my school Catalan was the usual language and furthermore there were the “Jocs Florals” and all the Catalan celebrations, it was a very Catalanist school actually. One of the reasons to belong to that school was that.

And history… truth is that I don’t remember being taught Catalan history, it was universal history and… Maybe it’s that as a student I wasn’t… I don’t remember it ver well.

Was Franco’s regime discussed at school?

Franco’s regime at school… It wasn’t something that I remember as… it was like the thing there was… the reality there was, but in a way we pretended it wasn’t there.

At the school I attended we were rather educated for the future. They didn’t think so much abobut Francoism, because Francoism was a reality that was there but, in a way, psychologically we all knew it we’d get over it, that it would pass. We weren’t very conditioned by Francoism. In those years, the seventies approximately.

How did you and your family see the amnesty of the 77, the famous ‘Pacto del Olvido’ [lit. pact of oblivion]?

The amnesty of the 77… The amnesty of who, the anarchists? I don’t exactly know what you mean.

Well, my family was very compromised with democracy and the left-wing. I lived it as something positive, very positive. If it was enough or not I wouldn’t know. We didn’t talk about to which point…

Surely there were people who weren’t able to come back then and had to come later, I don’t know.

I remember when they legalized the communist party and that was all happiness… it was part of that return to normality. It was all very natural. I don’t remember any surprise, things were recovered slowly and…

The thing is that there was a balance between the regime… between Francoism and all post-Francoist society with the new… It was all mixed up and it was hard. But I can’t tell if it was enough or not, I don’t know.

Do you have any member of your family that was imprisoned for political motives under Franco?

During Franco’s regime, my grandfather, who had been part of a political party, was prosecuted because it was a Catalan nationalist party. On the year thirty, no, I think it was forty, I think he had to leave for Bordeaux.

He left and came back two years later when the war was over, the year 42 or so. He was on the list of people, let’s say, prosecuted by the regime.

[answer again]

My grandfather was prosecuted during the war because he was part of a Catalan nationalist political party. He was prosecuted so he decided to leave the year 40, I think he left the year 40, and came back, he spent two years in Bordeaux and came back after the war, around the 42 or so.

How was Barcelona in the 80s?

Barcelona in the 80s? It was a society that was still… It was still halfway between… Let’s say that we had got over Francoism, we had recovered freedom, a certain…

But I remember it as a time… Of course, I must have been in my early 20s, a time… of much freedom, lots of partying, of course, I’m talking of what I lived myself.

I remember that it was a time where there wasn’t still full freedom like now, but it was more like… I suppose the fact that there were together people who had lived Francoism from up close and… I don’t know, I remember it as a city a bit grey. It was a city that yet hadn’t…

Let’s say that it still had… The beach of Barcelona was a dump, the city was quite grey, the city center was shabby and really dangerous. It was different, very different from now.

What was your reaction to the coup attempt of the 81?

Well, I remember the attempt at a coup of the 81 because I got home and heard, my father was listening to the radio and I remember how it went. I remember the screams. My mother got home, she got very nervous. It seemed like they were killing all the politicians.

We lived it quite… A lot of dramatism, it seemed that suddenly Francoism was back. There was a scare, a sort of huge shock.

But soon enough it was clear that not… that nothing was happening, it wouldn’t succeed, it wouldn’t work. But I do remember that my parents got really scared, yes, they got really scared.

What was your reaction to the bomb that was placed in Hipercor the year 87?

My reaction to the Hipercor bomb… To tell the truth, I don’t know what to say… Sadness and, I don’t know, disbelief because it was such an absurd thing. Terrorism is always an absurd thing, but even more in this case, because they killed people that had nothing to do with that, I don’t know. It was a weird thing. A feeling of incomprehension, I think.

As a teenager, what did you do and where did you go to have fun?

As a teenager… Well, I don’t know, we played from the friends from school, from the neighborhood. We went to play… I don’t remember. Yes, take the ball and go play soccer around the neighborhood. Lots of family life with my cousins and brothers.

The summers, we spent in… well, we went changing places, but well, quite normal, between friends and family.

How did Barcelona change after the Olympic games 92?

Well, the Olympic games of the 92, I think there was a change. Because from being a grey city it changed to a more physically attractive city, they improved it a lot. And I’d say that people changed their attitudes a lot too. Proud, suddenly, of the city and I think it was an important change the 92 that we’re still living. The city changed a lot the 92, it was a very important change.

What memories do you have of the Olympics?

Of the Olympics… Well, I remember that I worked on something called the cultural Olympics, I worked on a couple of exhibitions that were held for the Olympics. During that time I went out a lot, I was quite the reveler. I remember it vaguely, I more remember the excitement people had, everyone was very excited.

I personally wasn’t much [excited], but people was very excited, very happy and all. I’ve noticed later, in that moment I wasn’t very unto that.

How can you distinguish a Catalan from a tourist quickly?

Well, physically they can’t be told apart, because I don’t think we have any unique trait, us Catalans.

But the attitude, yes… When you are in the street the tourist is usually distracted, and normally the person that lives here has another attitude, more practical, more getting to the point.

The tourist, of course, there are any kinds of tourists, but generally they go sheepishly in groups or dispersed.

If you could recommend a couple of restaurants of true Catalan cuisine, which would you recommend?

Damn, restaurants of true Catalan cuisine… Well, for example, there’s a restaurant that’s in the Goth neighborhood that is quite good. It’s called Agut [lit. Acute] that is in the Gignàs street. It’s a typical restaurant that’s really good, they make traditional Catalan cuisine, really good.

Then there’s another one, down Avignon street, besides that one. The Pitarram it’s on Avignon arriving to Ample [lit. wide] street, it’s a restaurant that must be from before the war too, it’s a really good restaurant.

Of the few there are left, there aren’t many left.

How is the millennial generation of Catalans different from your generaion?

I think that the millennial generation is less conscious. I think that maybe we have more history, more years, we have a perspective that is more… maybe we’re more conscious where we come from.

I think that younger people, maybe because of the technologies or the amount of information there is, are like… a bit less conscious I think.

I wouldn’t be able to tell the differences, but I guess there must be a bit of everything. I think they are more shallow, or basically that there’s so information that in a way… I feel, when I’m talking with someone young, that they’re less interested in general.

What was your favorite festivity while you were growing up? Can you tell some story of these festivities?

Of the typical Catalan festivities, maybe the day of ‘Sant Joan’ [lit. Saint John] is one of the prettiest because there’s the bonfire. It’s a popular festivity, it’s pretty, it’s really happy. It’s in the beginning of summer, I think it’s a very pretty festivity, of fire, and I remember it as something happy.

As a kid, I remember that it was the time school was over, many things. Then there’s Christmas which is also a very familiar and typical moment. Then there’s the day of ‘Sant Jordi’ [lit. Saint Jorge], it’s also a pretty day. A pretty day because it has a side of love, it seems like everyone is in love, I don’t know, it’s pretty, it’s a special festivity.

Barcelona has been a touristic destination for foreigners for decades. Nowadays it’s a source of frustration for Barcelona. What are your feelings regarding tourism as someone who has a sustainable tourism business?

I started… at the beginning of the 2001, 2002, to work in tourism so now it makes 14 or 15 years that I’ve doing it. Truth is that it’s been an avalanche of…

When we started we were few people, and it was something… And with time every time more pople, more pople, so it has become… massified. It’s massified bestially so for me it is, it has been an… what used to be something let’s say… I work the same now than fifteen years ago. I rent apartments, I’m on the renting business, and do it on a small scale, almost artisanal.

But I’ve seen grow businesses, hotels, transatlantic ships and tour operators. All of this has created an invasion and I understand that people are fed up. I am too, because living here in the neighborhood you feel invaded, I think it’s an excess problem.

I think it’s a city that has had much success and this success is hard to manage. Everyone wants to come to Barcelona so that business is served, so it’s created… It’s hard to stop all that.

So I continue with my small business and carry on, but… it’s not the same as in the beginning, it’s different.

What do you think of Ada Colau in relation to tourism and her goals?

Let’s see, Ada Colau, tourism… I think that she generally has good intentions, what she wants is to stop this wild growth, with which I agree. But I think they’re not getting it right, they’re using sledgehammers to crack nuts.

They are left-winged and end up persecuting the small businesspeople with small businesses, while they let big companies on their own. Purchasing buildings, setting up hotels, that undercover apartments are being set up everyone, that transatlantic cruises come with five thousand people I don’t know when, and tour operators filling the streets… that’s all legal. But having a small business with three apartments that’s… I don’t really understand their take on a topic that… They’re trying to deny a truth that is exceeding their…

Forbidding tourist activity is useless, because it’s a reality that… So I think they’re not getting right the diagnosis and how to do it. I think they should go after big businesspeople and let the small ones work.

But it’s curious that they are left-wionged and are doing the opposite, they are going after the small ones and letting the big ones grow. It’s contradictory, very contradictory.

Can you talk about the shack neighborhoods? What were they and what happened?

The shack neighborhoods… Well, I remember the one in the Barceloneta, the Somorrostro, that was the beach full of shacks. Then in Montjuïc I also remember that the whole mountain was full of shacks.

They were neighborhoods that had been created during the 50s, 60s and 70s and it was a reminiscence of a society that was still very poor and there was much misery. All this, with time, it vanished, those areas have been urbanized and so.

I remember vaguely, because I was little and didn’t live with that reality, I simply saw it but not… Surely it was generations of people who lived in misery, absolute misery.

But I’ve also known someone who lived there and told me that they were very happy there, so sometimes things are a bit strange.

I have a friend who lived in a shack in Montjuïc and told me that he had a really happy childhood there.

Our target with this documentary is to document Catalan culture and its customs as well as Catalan history. Could you explain the following to everyone? Castellers.

Castellers? Castellers is a very emotive activity. It’s a contruction of a human tower and requires the collaboration of many people. It’s a very emotive activity, as an spectator I get thrilled every time I see it because it really has… it is creating something with the effort of many people that doesn’t have … it’s not compet… It hasa big human component, of improvement, I think it’s one of the pretty things we have here.


I think that’s a kind of ‘castell’, right?

[Nobody really knows, so let’s go with his guess]

It’s a kind of ‘castell’ that instead of being a tower is like…

‘Gegants’ [lit. giants]

‘Gegants’ is also a typical thing from here. I remember specially because of my daughters, I have two daughters that when they were little we went to see the ‘gegants’. They loved seeing the ‘gegants’, yes.

The ‘correfoc’ [lit. fire run]?

The ‘correfoc’ is something that has a lot to do with our culture, of fire, of night, it has something kind of ancestral, it’s something that comes from… I don’t know if it’s a modern invention or not, but with the music, the dance, the fire, it’s something very mediterrranean.

The ‘capgrossos’ [lit. bigheads]?

‘Capgrossos’ are like ‘gegants’, they are a kind of mockery of… I suppose they are typical or special characters of the places, so the make… It’s a bit of a way to make characters popular and so, yes, fun, it’s nice.

The ‘calçotada’?

The ‘calçotada’ is one of the things that have got very in style in the last years. It’s nice because it’s a way to meet with friends and is a very informal way to eat. You eat the ‘calçot’, it’s a meeting… It’s become something very popular that we all do. Everyone has a ‘calçotada’ with family, friends, friends from somewhere, it’s really nice.

The ‘feria de Abril’ [lit. April Fair]?

The ‘Feria de Abril’? That’s one of the the typical things too, right? It is due to there being lots of Andalusian people in Catalonia so it’s one of the typical festivities The thing is that it is… It think it’s gotten worse. I don’t know, I honestly don’t know if it’s gotten worse, but I remember going when I was young to the ‘feria de Abril’, then I haven’t gone any more, so I woulnd’t be able to tell…

The ‘festa de la Mercè’ [lit. festivity of god’s mother of mercy]?

The ‘festa de la Mercè’… Well, it’s also one of those typical festivities of Barcelona, that seems more like a set up than… It’s a festivity they made up not too long ago and they’ve inflated it and do a lot of things and so, but I don’t know, it’s okay but doesn’t seem special.

The ‘festes de Gràcia’, those are really popular because this has more history and… I think in the case of Gràcia people from the neighborhood gets involved, they organize themselves, adorn the streets, there’s like a traditional part, it’s great. And then there’s the fact that it has become very popular, it has massified because it’s in August and it’s full of tourists.

The festivity of the Barceloneta?

The festivity of the Barceloneta is one of the wildest ones, I think, in all Barcelona. Because Barceloneta is a neighborhood that I think has a special idiosyncrasy. It’s a neighborhood that I don’t know why, I suppose because it’s a bit far, there by the beach, and it’s a neighborhood that’s very… everyone knows each other and there’s a very reveling atmosphere and… The festivities of Barceloneta are very strong, of alcohol and party and yes.

‘Sant Jordi’ [lit. Saint George]?

The festivity of Sant Jordi is, I think, one of the prettier festivities celebrated here. Because it’s at the beginning of spring, everyone gifts roses, books and it’s really cool to walk around the streets of Barcelona in the day of Saint George. It’s one of the pretty things, yes.

Go look for mushrooms?

That too, of course, those are all Cataln typical activities. I’m no big fan going to look for mushrooms, I don’t go because it bores me. But I have friends that love it, it’s something… I think it’s actually great, you do a field trip, pick up mushrooms and the eat them. Which is very, let’s say, it’s an activity with a prize, it’s great.