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Paralyzed in the middle of Plaça dels Ángels, I’m like a cone that skaters dodge before jumping, doing new and climbing somersaults. I’m in one of the crucial centers of The Raval neighborhood in Barcelona and I’m in front of the city’s contemporary art temple: an extraordinary whitish building whose profile a girl is trying to draw in her drawing book, sitting on the ground, a few meters behind me. MACBA and CCCB are the perfect instruments to project a modern and high-class image of Barcelona. Nevertheless, I think, the only certain thing is that is selling its own image the best contemporary art produced by the city.

The museums like the film library or the new University of Barcelona faculties are part of the new facilities set up in the Raval by the new administration as a consequence of the Olympic boom in order to give a sort of cultural and touristic interest to the neighborhood. But this reshaping had another motive: first of all, to get rial of the stigma of the Chinese neighborhood, removing generations of Spanish immigrants who had arrived here attracted by universal exhibitions and the industrial development; secondly, to bringin a new peaceful middle class, even bourgeois. People who, despite this, never succeeded in settling down, and neither were the others chased away. During the following years, those who arrived, in flocks, were Asian and Maghreban immigrants.

Calle Joaquim Costa is the main road of the north of the city, where the writer Terenci Moix was born. A stupid fad, I tell myself, while I’m looking at how neighbors’ sheets and bicycles hang down from balconies of the nearby roads. Everybody seems to do everything here, speaking an impossible language. Asian grocery stores, Syrian restaurants and wonderful bars contend for the business supremacy. In spite of its colorful image, the Raval area keeps a decaying aspect of a seaport, its tortuous town planning and this echo of a Victorian crime novel where everyone, walking and nostalgic about times never lived, observes what is represented: vestiges of the old working classes who inaugurated Catalan syndicalism a century ago, who founded UGT and armed themselves with guns in order to make an endless revolution and then a war which they lost.

I keep walking and I get to a narrow street reigned by supreme silence reigned supreme, which can be broken only by the whispering of the souls who live here: I swear Damn it, I didn’t want to come here. It seems it has suddenly become dark. Some bars are open and the shutters of some shops are pulled down halfway. Inevitably, I look at them and only see the Shopkeepers’ sandals and socks. Stuck a few meters in front of me, two young people are whispering and I think they want to rob me. I feel like the fearful Jonathan Harker when he went to Transylvania for the first time.

When I raise my head I see the end of calle Sant Pau. Now I’m surrounded by people who seem to walk in a circle. Some ladies are whispering and leaning on the doors of the houses, next to failed artists; the urban gang intimidates, and sometimes speaks with a couple of young men dressed in sports clothes.

In this area, the sensation that you can anytime bump into anyone or into a freak, such as the man mentioned before, grows considerably. There are many Closed Circuit Television Surveillance (CCTVS) and a brand new Cataluña film library; as far as we know, the neighborhood is very interested in Jean Luc Godard.

Moreover, there is a high reference to Jean Genet, the thief poet, the faggot who attacked churches, to whom the local administration has dedicated a square near Drassanes. Then I get to the Raval Rambla. There is a group of tourists taking photos on top of the Botero cat. I suddenly become sad, without a particular reason. There are drunken people and others with dirty dogs. There is a luxury hotel, an example of Barcelona’s multiculturalism and of its neighborhood fusion. There are beer sellers; a clear signal that night is coming.

It’s not difficult to fritter your time away when you are too young (and consequently a sensitive person) or too much of a hipster. Due to the huge numbers of bars, their permissive closing hours and the proximity to discos, The Raval is a restless neighborhood every single night. Its wine-smelling and noisy streets are used as a vintage tool by many young people who want to lead this unconventional and rebellious way of life, like models of a trendy magazine. This image is, nevertheless, only another product that we can have for 8 euro a drink and it shows our status as happy slaves as hearty idiots, or as spoilt young men.

If someone asks me about The Raval, I will reply I like walking here. At the same time, I don’t think it’s possible to live in this place and get used to its lifestyle, with shops that open at 10 p.m. and close at dawn, but this is the centre of Barcelona. All of this, more than ever for tourists, continues to be attractive, even if we go to bars recommended by leisure time guides or if we circulate with fixed gears.