Though it had been a major port throughout history there was a time when Barcelona turned its back on its waterfront. The best addresses where up in the hills away from ships, shipping and the riff-raff smelling of fish and salt. The Olympics changed much of that and the area is now very upscale. The Marina is bustling with parks, malls, multi-plex cinemas, restaurants and a not-bad Aquarium. Its a pleasant (if crowded) place to spend a Sunday.
At one other point in its history Barcelona celebrated its maritime heritage. For the World Exposition of 1888 the glories of sea going if not the sea itself were trumpeted. To commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, the year after he discovered the New World, a monument was built on the the waterfront. It stands in the middle of Plaça de la Porta de Paul at the end of Las Ramblas and is topped by a 7m tall figure of the explorer. He points out to sea but rather oddly to his hometown of Genova, the opposite direction to the “new” world he had “discovered” for their Catholic Majesties.
The monument, created by Catalan artist Gaietà Buigas i Monravà, reflects the sensibilities of its time. In the 1880s, and indeed up until recently, Columbus was viewed as a heroic discoverer and the men with him – clerical and military – had done great things in conquering this savage land.
Captain Pedro Bertran i de Margarit, next to a kneeling awe-struck aboriginal.
Father Bernat de Boïl, preaching to a kneeling Native who kisses his stole in gratitude.
A new look at history over the past two decades have revealed a less romantic view of his conquests, the efforts of those with him and the monarchs who sponsored him. Nowadays the figures on the monument engender a certain cynical irony rather than admiration. A different time – a different view.
16 aprile – Santa Bernadetta Soubirous