“An increase in graffiti vandalism has occurred since a year ago. This is a blow, because three months ago they were not seen painted on the facades at the height of the second floor, and now they are. Jordi Bordas, manager of the Eix Comercial del Raval, says he finds it hard to believe that such actions can go unnoticed. “To do something like this, you need a five-meter ladder,” he emphasizes.
Merchants in the Ciutat Velha area have sounded the alarm about the increase in graffiti on private property and historic buildings. They complain about the permissiveness and slowness of institutions and the lack of police devices to monitor areas where there is more graffiti. The city council, on the other hand, makes sure that the facades of non-generic buildings are cleaned “as they are discovered” and that they have 26 crews from Monday to Saturday and five that work on Sundays and holidays to do this.
But the government brigades have another problem: they cannot clean protected and private buildings, since the owners are responsible for their maintenance. So graffiti has become the hallmark of some businesses.
Erica Fiore of Associació de la Mercè has a business in Gothic and also lives in the area. “In my area, around Carrer de la Mercè, there is more graffiti, especially on the new shutters,” he says. He believes that the fact that there are more and more closed businesses – those who did not survive the pandemic – exacerbates this phenomenon, but condemns that cleaning by institutions is “zero”, despite the fact that they are responsible for every local resident. who must take care of their shutters, while the monuments must be maintained by their owners. “I know that the city council tried to contact the owners of some buildings, but it was not successful,” he says.
The fact that most of the premises in Raval are also rented out and mostly owned by investment funds, Bordas considers another “added problem” to the issue of cleanliness in the area. “You’ll be lucky if you manage to contact the owner and tell him that he needs to clean the facade, but this rarely happens,” he says. The manager of the Eix Comercial del Raval says what usually happens is that tenants end up paying for cleaning “despite the economic effort involved” and at the risk that “in ten days you’ll be doing this shit again.” “. In Barcelona, you can often see new graffiti on freshly cleaned walls and facades.
The presence of graffiti and graffiti is not uniform throughout the Ciutat Velha area, which includes areas such as Raval and Gothic, and, as Javi Masip, manager of the Amics de la Rambla association, acknowledged, acts of vandalism on the main eastern type artery “did not increase noticeably”. However, Masip notes that the waterfront stalls were forced to paint their shops because they even painted the ceilings. He also adds that the area has graffiti on shutters and street furniture, but “without exaggerating other parts of the area where even historic buildings and buildings have been attacked.” Just a few weeks ago, some graffiti appeared on one of the facades of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi, and, according to sources from this parish, the vandals came for the stones.
Attacks on historic and heritage buildings are nothing new, as graffiti (and traces of graffiti that have been erased) can be seen on the secondary facades of other churches, such as Santa Maria del Mar, and even on cathedral facades. . Although the graffiti artists took care of the main facades. In Raval, Masip highlights the “dirt” of the street leading to the Barcelona Museum of Modern Art (MACBA) and deplores the fact that the Chapel de la Misericordia, the CCCB building and the Faculty of Geography and History of the Universidad de Barcelona are “full of graffiti”.
Ciutat Vella merchants agree that they have long been demanding more troops from Guàrdia Urbana and night patrols in areas where there is more graffiti. “We asked for a thousand times more cleaning and more police, all the neighbors want the same,” Fiore emphasizes. Masip adds that there is “inattention and permissiveness” on the part of institutions in this matter. “Vandalism action is very slow,” he laments. He emphasizes that the “scourge” of “dirt” causes the “broken windows effect”, that is, if the city is dirty and full of graffiti, it is easier for people to draw.
Barcelona City Council sources indicate that cleaning of unauthorized graffiti in non-patrimonial buildings is carried out “as they are discovered” and, according to them, in 2019 there were 164,662 interventions to clean 394,471 square meters, in 2021 there were 115,092 events on an area of 279,422 sq. m and until March 2022, 30,345 cleanings (71,114 sq. m) have already been carried out.
Neighbors and merchants note that graffiti artists are increasingly daring to paint at higher altitudes with the danger that this entails. Jordi Bordas, regarding graffiti at a great height, also speaks of “impunity for those who paint” and wonders how many fines are due for unauthorized graffiti and graffiti. According to sources from Guàrdia Urbana, 273 people were reprimanded for this reason in 2019, 203 in 2020 and 281 in 2021. And the city council of the Catalan capital explains that they have a budget for the conservation and maintenance of the building, parks and historical and artistic monuments in the amount of more than ten million euros until 2025. Of this amount, more than four million are allocated to the care of more than 1,500 elements and sculptural ensembles that require “constant dedication due to their own aging. due to weather, pollution or vandalism.”
Associació de la Mercè’s Fiore says there have been some improvements in his area, such as increased lighting, but “it’s not enough” because merchants continue to feel “neglected” by institutions. . Jordi Bordas is concerned about the “unfortunate image” this could give the city to residents and visitors alike. At the same time, he singled out three types of graffiti and stated that the members of his association are not against graffiti.
These three categories of graffiti are: artistic, political claims, and finally tags or captions. For Bordas, the latter is the problem. “It’s a matter of pure ego and for that reason it needs to be pursued as I may like the other two more or less, but I think they have a reason to exist,” he explains. Signatures or tags have appeared in recent months on historic buildings such as the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi, and the manager of the Eix Comercial del Raval is concerned by the fact that more and more of them are being carried out. and in private homes. “I don’t think it’s strange that if someone wakes up at three in the morning with a painted child next to their balcony, they might react badly,” he says.
Bordas rejoices that a city council member has asked Telefónica through his social media to hide the cables that hang from buildings, but regrets that merchants have been banned from decorating certain facades or placing plants because they are “cataloged and protected.” On the other hand, the manager admits that Raval has always been a lively area and “special to say the least”, but “acts of vandalism should start to have consequences.” “We are in favor of artistic graffiti, and in fact there are many places in Raval with shutters painted in this way,” says Bordas, adding that since his collaboration with Escola Massana and with other graffiti artists.
Heritage Citizen’s Desk
Each year, the various associations of the Ciutat Velha district submit reports on the district’s shortcomings to the Barcelona City Council. Masip of Amics de la Rambla explains that in his report for this year, sent in February, they highlighted the feeling of dirt and insecurity and that the graffiti issue was “another element”. And also that they went for a walk with the technicians of the district, “so that they notice all these shortcomings.”
Last Tuesday, the 17th, City Hall launched the Heritage Citizens’ Table, which they define as “a permanent space for dialogue and exchange of ideas with neighbors and heritage experts.” This action is one of the measures of the strategic plan to preserve the “unique character of the city” in addition to the traditional protection of monuments and iconic buildings. This table of more than fifty members will meet regularly twice a year and on exceptional occasions to discuss matters of particular importance.
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