Barcelona’s Rambla del Raval:
Public? Space– and Passers-by (1)
[CONFERÈNCIA INVITADA AL “Colóquio Internacional The Walker and the City / O peao e a cidade”,
Universitat de Barcelona / Institut Català d’Antropologia
Space, Passers-by and Quality of Life
As a human grouping, Barcelona’s Rambla del Raval – officially opened in 2000, and 300 metres from the legendary Rambla with its massive tourist flow – exemplifies the type of gentrifying transformations undergone by broad social sectors and spatial areas of Barcelona today, and relatively comparable to other venues in contemporary western metropolises. If the city is a place, with its limits and borders, what goes on inside it is the process of urban life through which, whether ambiguously or explicitly, the paradoxical dimensions of the urban become crystallised: movement, temporality, unpredictability, agreement and conflict, consent and alienation.
The creators, destroyers, transformers of these dimensions in search of any type of individual or collective fulfilment are its inhabitants, the true generative nucleus for the practices and representations at issue in the urban space. Perhaps the ideal embodiment of the new citizenist world order would require- in its urbanistic conception at least – a totalising action as to how, when and why each millimetre of the streets should be used.(2) In the acts of all of the passers-by gathered here, we see the meaning that Lefebvre gives to a space as a framework,(3) a reproduction and an appropriation by the people that inhabit it: the relation established in the streets would be based on superficial, visible aspects of social life. The space, then, is conceived as a social phenomenon produced and reproduced by the practice made of it, and for this reason it is a social process: a social process that is perpetually structuring itself, in other words, structuring yet never structured in the sense of completely finished.(4)
On 23 December 2007, at the west end of the section of benches that I renamed 5 B of the Rambla del Raval, a middle-aged Peruvian-looking man confessed, “I don’t want to remember anybody,” to the man with him. However, despite his reluctance to recall those he passed at every step, he too became part of real aggregations of people such as concern us here: foot-travellers who pass through one same space in a given lapse of time, or who settle for a while in it, forming a “communauté passagère” or transient community.(5) This is a social process that briefly mobilises and structures forms of sociality marked by the most absolute anonymity, in endless succession, where “the mosaic becomes a kaleidoscope, in which the countless parts take on new shapes over and over again.”(6)
That same Sunday morning, I was musing on how complicated it was to inspect the space and interaction that humans maintained with the area east of the south pavement of the Rambla del Raval, since, perhaps because it was winter, the area was empty. Suddenly though, a man of about 65 emerged from the headquarters of Visca Xauxa – a choral group founded in 1922 and whose name means “Long live the land of milk and honey”. He took a few steps forward, stopped and looked me, the anthropologist, up and down. Another fellow came out of the same social premises, they exchanged a few words and the second man went back inside. The first man stood there, half-looking at the anthropologist, who seemed as out of place as a clam on Mars. “Polite inattention”,(7) as a social situation, was inevitably disrupted, just as if two humans had unexpectedly run across one another in the desert. In Goffman’s words, this is the social situation understood as:
[...] an environment of mutual monitoring possibilities, anywhere within which an individual will find himself accessible to the naked senses of all others who are “present”, and similarly find them accessible to him. According to this definition, a social situation arises whenever two or more individuals find themselves in one another’s immediate presence and it lasts until the next-to-last person leaves. Those in a given situation may be referred to aggregatively as a gathering, however divided, or mute and distant, or only momentarily present the participants in the gathering appear to be. Cultural rules establish how individuals are to conduct themselves by virtue of being in a gathering and these rules for commingling, when adhered to, socially organize the behaviour of those in the situation.
Similarly, in the terms proposed by Quéré and Brezger,(8) it would be a case of shifting “civil inattention”, in other words: “a very precise form of attention, taking into account the co-presence of the other person and the treatment of people”. Thus I entered into a dialogue with that man. He had spent much of his life in Carrer de Sant Jeroni, which had been wiped off the map in 1999 so that the Rambla del Raval could come into being in 2000. He had been rehoused in a dwelling in Carrer del Peu de la Creu, some 500 metres to the west of where we were standing. Some of his neighbours had been rehoused in the district, he added, while others had agreed, for “next to nothing” to leave the buildings in which they lived (and yet no longer resided) in the neighbourhood. He lamented the transformation of the social morphology of what we could call his street.
Any anthropological, sociological or even urbanistic analysis of the quality of life of passers-by with respect to the organisation of automobile traffic should take into consideration the living conditions of those pedestrians and their relation with the space. Granted, physical accessibility by passers-by to the Rambla del Raval does not rank with the conflictivity of the literally dizzying route that awaits foot-travellers wishing to cross Lisbon’s Praça Marquês do Pombal. Nonetheless, a citizen’s quality of life unquestionably transcends the organisation of automobile traffic, the length of traffic lights to cross the streets, the maximum speeds of automobiles and motorcycles, the greater or lesser use of public transportation, etc. Given the much-needed call for environmental sustainability, one might wonder how the social structures –economic, political, labour structures, as well as access to a decent home and an education that exceeds the economicist perspectives of social relations– affect the uses which passers-by make of streets and squares.
Rambla del Raval
After the sweeping urban development operations associated with Barcelona’s winning bid to host the 1992 Olympic Games – the Olympic Village, seafront, the Montjuïc and Vall d’Hebron sites –, the 1996 announcement of the organisation of the Universal Forum of Cultures of 2004 appeared as the timely incentive for an ambitious project at the northeast end of Barcelona. That was to have been the temporary culmination of actions framed within a context in which the urban planning resulting from the Strategic Metropolitan Plan of Barcelona 2000, the design and organisation of the space, the burnishing of the city’s image as a “competitive” product on the international market – alongside the planning and building of the necessary infrastructures –, the consequent lure of international capital investments, and the localisation of consumption and urban tourism, have been produced, and parallel to the processes of destructuralisation and social exclusion revealed in the city under the current capitalistic framework of ordering social relations.(9) The Rambla del Raval was the immediate offspring of that process: the destruction of six streets led to a boulevard of over 300 metres long and 80 metres wide within a highly densified urban fabric. In 2007 the now former mayor of Barcelona Joan Clos announced that the Rambla del Raval would mark an end to large-scale “surgical operations” on the city, and that mere “microsurgery” would be needed from that point on.
My research study on the Rambla del Raval, carried out in 2007-08, opens with an introductory section that examines the specific urban planning project that led to the creation of the Rambla – a term derived from the Arabic word for path in the sand – of the Raval in the year 2000, stressing the explanatory dimensions with which the public administration justified the need to create this boulevard – shades of Haussmann. This is followed by a look at the historical, sociological and urbanistic process through which the Raval district took shape, pointing out the basic aspects which classify its existence in the contemporary period as a proletarian district dating from the early 19th century. Next there is a retracing of the ambits deemed preeminent with respect to the social medium in which the birth of the Rambla del Raval took place and what might be called its infancy – from 2000 to 2006. The analysis concludes with a description of the physical framework of the space in question. The second section offers a panoramic view of the Rambla del Raval as a space in flux or a social process throughout 2007 and 2008, with the aim of examining the prevailing dynamics that crystallise in it in terms of regularities of every type: from those involving the most evident – and changing – pedestrian appropriations of the space, to others that project the political and economic aspects of the representations and the public institutional and media practices applied to the Rambla del Raval itself, without neglecting either the consequent reactions by the residents to the institutional imposition of certain uses of the space, or the modifications which the Rambla del Raval underwent that same year (2007) with respect to the previous period 2000-06. And of course there is the development of the macroscopic on-the-ground observation from autumn 2007 to the present.
The creative nature of the relational event – on all social scales – involves urban life as a whole. Through the documentation, ethnographic register and confrontation between practically opposing projects and practices, on and with regard to the Rambla del Raval, an attempt has been made to outline the predominant features of the type of “diffuse sociability flows” detected,(10) consisting of insignificant (yet easily recognisable) acts, in which meetings are triggered through the constant movement of pedestrians who succeed one another in public spaces. An endeavour has been made to touch understandingly – “only to understand”, to use Simmel’s phrase –(11) on the variety of worlds that inhabit the physical world of a street in relation to the arrangements and predispositions that are expressive in an ideological and symbolic sense, and instrumental in a material and empirical sense. In methodological terms, then, non-intrusive techniques have been chosen: the observation embraces dialogues half prompted by the very presence of the anthropologist in his role of passer-by. The theoretical development (centrally based on the work of Simmel, Goffman, Joseph and Augoyard) which accompanies the on-the-ground descriptions has sought to emphasise the directions of the movements and the communicative interactions by the people in the space: the passing of people along the Rambla del Raval. The study itself has been approached on the basis of a series of fundamental distinctions concerning the interrelations between the different areas of the Rambla del Raval: the rectangle or central esplanade, the two east and west satellites, the north and south roads and the pavements north and south, all in relation with the entry and exit accesses which surround it.
Also treated are the institutional planning projects of the space through the installation of urban furniture – drinking water fountains, telephone boxes, containers for selective rubbish collection (manual and pneumatic), public toilets, benches, parterres, litter bins, signposts, bus stops, artificial lighting –; the texture of the space as material; the overall colour shades, and the regular sound ambiances with respect to the gamut of pedestrian uses of the space, including the study of the links detected among passers-by – on foot, bicycle, roller skates or skateboards – and drivers of motorised vehicles – cars, lorries, vans and motorbikes. Hence, an exploration has been carried out on the uses which the government had initially foreseen for the Rambla del Raval, the prevailing political and media constructions associated with that original plan and the diversity of responses – antagonistic in terms of the residents and citizens – which ensued.
The Rambla del Raval of 2000 and the years immediately following was not that of 2008, and with the passing of time it seems reasonably conceivable that the gentrification process in which the Raval district is immersed will even further increase the distance between the relentless early intention to impose an institutional model of space occupation – like a major scenario for the city, a space to hold mass institutional celebrations, to extol the virtues of its current institutional identification (12) – and the government’s subsequent retreat towards a gradual elitisation of the Rambla del Raval, associated with a much greater administrative and political control. From February 2007 to the present day, the direct presential police supervision of passers-by, of a certain type of appropriations by the pedestrians – meaning those outside the margins of formal consumption and commerce –, has become intensified, at times asphyxiatingly, subjected to the ideology of citizenism – making the conflict invisible – which is reflected in the Ordinance of Measures for Fomenting and Ensuring Civic Coexistence in Barcelona’s Public Space passed by Barcelona City Council in January 2006.(13).
Each of these aspects has been treated in detail and, with regard to the more literal dimensions of pedestrian practices, attention has been given to the very high degree of self-management of the uses of the space by the foot-travellers and their relation with the constitutive elements of motor traffic. The social worlds – including rapport between humans and animals (domestic or otherwise) – revealed on pavements, roads, satellites and in the central esplanade, their relation with the immediate setting and the development of everyday forms of sociability are constituted as proof of a space in the process of transformation which, in turn, becomes the reflection of short and long-range social events through the multiplicity of selected situations.
Thus, thought is given to the issue of to what extent the space in question is far from that of a single class of peoples, i.e. the utter futility of trying to determine the theoretical division into “zones of specific social groups” of the area under study and its segmentation of passers-by. For this reason, it has been impossible to assign each space its appropriation by a specific social group – say, categories like “the elderly, young people, men or women, families or likewise, cyclists, small or large groups of people, skateboarders, kiddies, locals or immigrants, residents and those from outside the district”, etc. Beyond the occasional relativity of similar categories, which usually tend to be blended, we see how the passers-by circulated and stationed themselves everywhere –regardless of the frequencies, durations and typology of the users of the terraces of cafés and restaurants, which also reveal a broad social span.
All of the parterres or landscaped areas have gradually been excluded from these zones for use. Small palm trees have been planted to prevent passers-by from sitting down or lounging on them – indeed a temptation when warm weather comes. And at night even the Rambla del Raval itself has to a certain extent been declared off-limits: the stepped-up police control over the space, which began in summer 2007 and has continued through 2008, reflects asphyxiating pressure by the authorities on foot-travellers at night and in the early morning. Any passer-by seated on a bench at such times is systematically identified by the forces of law and order as a potential suspect. If the proliferation of pedestrian groups ready to engage in recreational uses – eating, drinking, talking, singing, playing bongos and guitars – of the Rambla del Raval at night and in the early morning – at weekends and holidays particularly – has been reduced more than significantly in 2007 and 2008, the ordinary occupations by residents or tourists passing through, alone or in groups of 3 to 8 people can still be detected. Now then, occupations geared towards playing football in a small areas of the rectangle without entering into conflict with the pedestrians – this is a district bereft of play areas for children and adolescents –, discreetly drinking – one person alone, or perhaps just two – a beer or eating a baguette at “ungodly” hours – from 10:00 or 11:00 at night on – is next to impossible today. The opening in September 2008 of the Barceló Raval, a new hotel intended for affluent tourists, adds to an understanding of to what extent the police control over the space seeks to whitewash the dynamic core of life in the Raval district: one of sharp social conflict.
The increasing repression of such situations is applied to the very residents of the Raval district – of different ages, sexes and socioeconomic conditions –, who are the regular passers-by of the Rambla del Raval. And yet, the sight of young tourists or residents from outside the district loitering around the Rambla del Raval, with alcohol and at times boisterously, does not seem to rivet police attention to the same degree. Not because fining ambulatory drinking is prohibited, but because of what is discerned as a process of channelling pedestrian occupations of the space aimed at calming certain varieties of residential commotion so as to develop the progressive gentrification of the Raval district within the context of the opening of the island of the Raval – a luxury hotel (the aforementioned Barceló Raval), housing and offices for the employers’ association – and of the future space uses around it, replete with “cultural” institutions whose purpose has been brilliantly analysed by Fumaroli.(14).
In broad outlines, the daytime time slots offer two basic types of use: in the first place, journeys on foot within the Raval district – including the north-south and not only east-west directions, although the latter is more prevalent – by the residents themselves or by their visitors, or else the Rambla del Raval’s status as an entry or exit route; and in the second place stationing by both residents and outsiders. Although the age groups feature a larger segment of elderly people during these time slots, the passer-by typology still varies. Working hours, the beginning and end of the school day, and afternoon snack and supper times would explain the flows and reflows of different groups. Women abound in the majority of social groups of passers-by, from the homeless to residents of the Raval or from beyond it. Furthermore, it has also even been seen as a gathering place for North African women of different ages. Homeless men and women, in other words the destitute, find the Rambla del Raval to be a focus, coinciding with Hindustani immigrants obliged to remain outside the dwellings they inhabit by shifts. The presence of family groups passing through or getting together, and of children at play, is habitual in the afternoons and at weekends, accompanied by the father or mother, both parents, or at times by elderly relations, or by groups linked by more distant kinship or friendship. People stroll and at times rendezvous at a given point and linger for a while –this is a common image among Hindustanis. The blend of passer-by typologies into men/women, people with homes/homeless people, and autochthonous residents/immigrants is on the whole greater than the mixture of old/young –except in apparent family groups or, on occasion, of autochthonous or immigrant resident groups. There is little evidence of tourists and Barcelona residents from outside the Raval mixing with the people from the district, except with formal traders – from cafés, restaurants, nightspots – and informal ones – ambulatory beer vendors and narcotics traffickers. The stationing of passers-by from the Rambla del Raval on benches or on foot, can last from 10 minutes to a couple of hours, although, in general, the dynamism of the arrivals and departures in terms of spatial presence is very high, characterised by moderate lapses of time. Lunchtime sees people discreetly consuming their baguettes; in the afternoons, people smoke, gawk or have a beer. This means that, if there is more than one person in another’s company, it is more common to see people talking. However if three people are on alternate seats of a section of benches, they tend to be in silence, watching. The benches function exceptionally as meeting points for informal transactions – the sale of hashish, perhaps occasionally stolen goods – and, more often, as places for exchanging information in the case of immigrant passers-by – particularly Hindustanis and Africans.
On the whole, this pedestrian ebb and flow is one of peaceful harmony, despite the circumstances of social exclusion associated with many passers-by. Likewise, there has been a marked absence of conflictive situations between pedestrians and cyclists, and between both these groups and motorised vehicle drivers. The roads for vehicular traffic to the north and south of the Rambla del Raval are not known for clashes. In both the north and the south there is a roadway for vehicle parking and installation of rubbish containers, and another road for the passing of cars, lorries, motorbikes and microbuses, with a small space for cyclists – although many of the latter opt for the Rambla del Raval’s central esplanade. The crossing of these roads by passers-by is organised by means of zebra crossings – and there is not a single traffic light on the entire Rambla del Raval. The civic self-management of the road crossings here is excellent, perhaps because motor vehicle traffic is very low.
The outdoor terraces of cafés and restaurants have sparse clientele in autumn and winter. By day, the north and south pavements beyond the central esplanade of the Rambla del Raval offer regular images of small groups in front of the establishments to the southeast, most notably after dark. The bus stops have no relevant uses in numeric terms; on the contrary they are somewhat restricted in terms of number and action – they simply wait. The relations between passers-by and animals – domestic (dogs) or otherwise (pigeons, Argentinean parrots, seagulls) – are not problematic in the slightest. The obvious failures to comply with the institutional standardisation of space uses for the most part no longer include (since autumn 2007) settlements in the parterres set up on the edges of the Rambla del Raval, which tend to be invaded only by little boys and girls, as if on nature hikes. Regularly although not daily, someone urinates behind a palm tree – far beyond police control –, the dogs to a greater extent than people – the homeless or, at night, young tourists. Defecations have not been detected, except those by dogs, and their human escorts tend to scoop up the expelled material.
Intervention, by both the Catalan national police and the municipal police, is enunciative by day:(15) with ambulatory patrols and, above all, vans parked in the area to the east, with the officers in a state of formal observation and unceasing conversation. At night though they are clearly repressive: the assault of the Rambla del Raval’s central esplanade by groups of two, three or four municipal police on motorbikes, or at times in vans, is intensive. So much so, in fact, that one literally gets the feeling that sitting on a bench after dark is prohibited.
The sanitation workers work with implacable zeal: they act in the vicinity of the benches, which are at times besmirched by food and drink. One standard practice at night is the manguerazo – hosing down the pavement – as a dissuasive tactic to loitering. The foregoing considerations aim merely to act as guidelines and respond to the broad outlines which have been established. The aforementioned situations occur within the type of contexts presented and of course the research itself must be consulted in order to explore the dimensions gleaned heretofore in greater depth. At this point in time, the highest value of the Rambla del Raval would be the apparent heterogeneity and dynamic diversity of modes and territorialities of the spatial and situational sociability that take place in it.(16)
Fixed characterisation and the restriction of the practiced space through closed segregations would not have been expected to cause more than an apparently temporary effect of the assignation of a group to a place: yet the facts have shown quite the contrary. Consider, for example, the uses pedestrians make of the satellites placed at the east and west ends of the central esplanade (pedestrian circumferences with palm trees and fixed lighting on the ground): in theory they might be regarded as transition zones in the sense that the initial budget allotted to their design envisioned passers-by limiting themselves to crossing it.(17) As a neutral space, their ambiguity for pedestrians might be as exasperating as the “Dead Zone”, the name given to the Forum area from the eastern façade of the Forum Building to the wall of the water purification plant.(18) Why would one tarry on the satellites? And yet, not only have brief stops been witnessed but also presences resulting from temporal articulations of very different human masses: men and women; old, middle-aged, young, teenagers and children; residents and non-residents in the district; autochthonous of different origins and outsiders – which is to say tourists. Even more telling, the uses embrace both what would be formal meeting space and play space – cricket, for example, by young people of Hindustani background –, to informal encounters prompted by unexpected space-time coincidences, or group loitering – in general (but not strictly limited to), of tourists or groups of Barcelona natives from outside the district who, once at the crossroads of having to take a direction, settle their arguments there, on the satellites –, or even as a place where the newcomer pooch enjoys greater freedom to urinate or defecate. Here, as Delgado points out,(19) the huge distance between “the project of a place and the place as a project, on the one hand, and the fabric of uses by those who come to it on an everyday basis, making it a scenario for certain social dramaturgies, the most elementary of which consists of going from one place to another”. In other words, the abysmal distance from the place that was conceived and the place practiced. To what point then, has the action by urbanists, designers and institutional planners, under the prevailing political and economic guidelines, exhausted the heterogeneous and perforce unforeseen uses of such spaces? The changing nature of social realities, their fluidity as an ensemble never ordered or concluded, is effaced by a patrimonialising praxis in which historians, archaeologists, architects, urban planners, designers, politicians and shopkeepers compare history and memory in paternalistic terms. Nevertheless, this raises the questions of what memory is, what history is and what culture is, since, even though they are all interrelated, they are not all the same. The urban life observed on the Rambla del Raval ensures that urban uniformity does not exist. Who wants to find, under the poverty, history in small letters – histories –, peoples, passers-by, through arranged meetings and sudden encounters? Those pedestrians – so rare in the upper-class districts of Barcelona – reflow, dream, agonise and die overwhelmed by what could be called – taking up the extraordinary image proposed by Laura Horta – “the February 29th Syndrome”: afflicting those who can only celebrate their birthdays once every four years, since in the other three that date is missing from the calendar – bereft of commemoration, social space and social time.
Yet despite such a context of precariousness, until the summer of 2008 –although this did occur later, owing to the spiralling economic downturn felt along the streets of Barcelona – not a single dispute was triggered explicitly by competition for space, not one pedestrian clash, not one traffic altercation between passers-by and drivers… What better approach to all these mobility and accessibility practices than the research for which Ramos claimed their instrumental value when seeking an understanding what occurs in the streets? (20) – what occurs in them, according to Delgado: (21): “the endless action [...], everything that cannot stop or set in the city”.
What takes place in the streets is, a priori, identifiable as the “incardination” (22) – and even initiation – into a social order. Pedestrians will continue to make the Rambla del Raval their own, because only in this way will it assume the role that all public spaces – who recalls the role reserved for the slaves in the Greek agora? – should play in a truly democratic society: to make themselves happen as the object of free appropriation by the body of passers-by with the aim of bringing about the crystallisation of the vast range of possibilities for the social experiences of strolling, rolling along, stopping to look, even stumbling or falling: in a word, trances. In each of those swarming, everyday, ordinary rambles, in each one of those stationings there is something more, much more, than a society rendered a street. It is what any society, any human experience of the world, is based on: life and its multiplicity of potential meanings attainable by taking one step after another. Within such a context, the car cannot do more than symbolise the machinery that embodies our very society,(23) where the automobile appears as an essential device to cast the passer-by paradoxically into the shadows of the current citizenist discourse.
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Bourdieu, P. ‘Estructuras, habitus, prácticas’ in El sentido práctico, Madrid, Taurus, 1991 (1980), pp. 91-111.
Delgado, M. ‘Espaços-Travessia’ in Frétigné, H./Ramos, J., coords., Uma praça adiada, Lisbon, Associaciao de Cidadaos Auto-Mobilizados, 2005.
– ‘Lògica del passavolant’ in Revista d’Etnologia de Catalunya, Barcelona, Generalitat de Catalunya, 2007, no. 31, pp. 18-26.
– (2008) ‘El espacio público como ideología’, Unpublished article.
Fabri, P. El giro semiótico, Barcelona, Gedisa, 1999.
Fumaroli, M. El Estado cultural (ensayo sobre una religión moderna), Barcelona, Acantilado, 2007 (1991).
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–Frame Analysis, Madrid, CIS, 2006 (1975).
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Maza, G. ‘Participación urbana/representación cultural. Cascos históricos: El Raval (Barcelona)’ in Idensitat CLF/BCN 01-02, 2005.
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1. This article has been prepared within the framework of the Research + Development Project Análisis operacional sobre flujos peatonales en centros históricos de Portugal y España (Operational Analysis of Pedestrian Flows in Historic Centres of Portugal and Spain), carried out with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (reference: SEJ 2006-12049).
4. From Bourdieu’s notion of habitus, to emphasise the unconscious practice by people within the context of how primary sociocultural institutions (family, religion, economic and political organisation) constitute structures that are both structured and, at the same time, structuring: systems defined by differences, positions and relations that organise both practices and the positions, yet never as a finished process.
13. With the Rambla del Raval an attempt was made to intensify the control over the population of the inner Raval district and in turn to banish the hubbub from The Rambla and the tourist nucleus of the city centre towards its outskirts. Forum 2004 led to a banishment to the suburbs; and the Rambla del Raval should have meant an inward banishment to serve massive concentrations. However, the type of socioeconomic aftermath of the intervention had, perforce, to prompt, in view of the models that govern such operations, a speculative and gentrifying process that instrumentalised the justified complaints by some residents of the swarming crowds that befell them, with the aim of modifying the constitution planned for the very Rambla del Raval as a scene of mass revelry. For this reason, the protests by residents in the vicinity of the Forum – working class districts from Barcelona’s suburbs – have been futile, while, in contrast, in the Rambla del Raval they have borne fruit: the public and private powers have established that the future of the Rambla del Raval will have a certain classist elegance and the sort of “external cleaning operation” that accompanies any gentrification process in a district.
14. The generation of spaces for consumption is inextricably linked to the invisibilisation of poverty and the expulsion of the poor: which is to say the residents. The political meaning of these new equipments that have cropped up steadily in the Raval, and of the cultural policies associated with them, consists of a centralisation of “cultural” practices as symbolic representation of civic participation, in the interest of the creation of a social identity of purely commercialised, “no conflict” diversity with regard to the established order. Maza, in ‘Participation…’, has frankly described the instrumentalisation of the calls to participation by public institutions as a feature of the new Barcelona and also a most glaring lack of participation by the residents affected by major urbanistic operations such as the Rambla del Raval. See Fumaroli, El Estado cultural (ensayo sobre una religión moderna).
17. The dearth of benches indeed spurs one to keep going. It initially appears to be the transit zone par excellence, in that it involves the access of one elliptic space surrounded by roadway to another – a central esplanade or contiguous walkway areas: if the rites of passage group the ensemble of ceremonial sequences that accompany the passing from one situation to another, from one world – cosmic or social – to another (Van Gennep, Los ritos de paso, p. 20), then this transit area certifies, if only in appearance, that it is nothing more than a potential conveyor space to the immediate pavements, communicating with the Rambla del Raval’s east and west exits.