Plaça de la Vila de Gracia, Barcelona, Spain, 2009, Psychogeographical Portrait

Nowhere in the maps of Gracia you will find this plaza under this name. Sign on the plaça itself is calling it "Plaça de le Vila de Gracia" but this square on a Barcelona city map is listed as "Placa de Ruis i Taulet? It was named after famous major of la Villa Gràcia. Under his position many major constructions were carried out all over Barcelona, such as the urbanization of the parque de la Cuidadella, the Colon monument, Mercat del Born and the first electric illumination of Barcelona´s streets, la Rambla, Plaza de Sant Jaume etc.

Plaça is main square of the Vila de Gracia, city founded in 1626 when a Carmelite convent was established there named “Nostra Senyora de Gràcia”. Gràcia remained independent until it was annexed into Barcelona in 1897. Even today there is a distinct one-of-kind character. It was known for its rebellious past being faithful promoter of a republican/ liberal cause during Spain's 1st and 2nd republics and civil war (1936-1939). Gràcia went bohemian again in the 1960's and 70's. It is still common to see anarchist flags hanging from apartment buildings and other signs of political radicalism on the streets and in plazas, restaurants and bars. [first two photos right].

Plaça de le Vila de Gracia is the square where famous clock tower stands [campana de Gracia], constructed with the intention that one could see the time wherever you were in the district.

The old town hall, now the headquarters of the district is also located here. More importantly this is a "heart" and location of the final events of the Festa Major de Gracia. This funky neighbourhood with Its mixed population of students, intellectuals, artists and families join together to organize the best and most creative community festival in Barcelona. Festival is celebrated since early 19th century, during the last half of august and it is an incredibly well-organized and artsy.

Gràcia's residents spend months planning parades, concerts, floats, arts & crafts activities. Most of the street decorations are of the really high artistic values. My experience with large world class art gatherings [like Biennale di Venezia for example] can assure you that aesthetic efforts of the community can go straight to the main program and perhaps even a top prize [third phote right]. Being the collaborative effort of a group of people is giving it social dimension rear seen in the art world. It can be compared to the project created by youth in Mourinho, favela of Rio de Janerio, Brasil, and reconstructed on biennale di venezia 2007 [link to our photoblog].

For this year [2009] result for the best decorated street of the district were announced and the winner street is Verdi which precedes that of Tordera and Joan Blanques de Dalt.

Blanques would be our choice not only because it was created using exclusively recycling materials but also for exceptional artistic merits. On august 22, 2009 [when this photos were made] Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia was a stage for the final celebration of the festival. Thousands of the people were present to enjoy performers dress up as giants, ball de diables (catalan "devils dance") with fireworks, noise of the marching bands, music, fire crackers even the old fashion guns.

Culmination of the festival is performance of castellars, group of people forming up human towers. [first photo bellow]. This typical Catalan tradition originates in the southern part of Catalonia towards the end of the 18th century. Their motto is "força, equilibri, valor i seny" (strength, balance, courage and reason) and it is obvious why when you witness their action. The final assemblement occurs when everyone has climbed into their designated places, where the enxaneta, the last person, usually a child has climbed up to the top, and has raised one hand with four fingers erect, said to symbolize the four red stripes of the catalan flag. Legend say made with four bloody fingers after same famous battle during its rebellious past. Preparation is building up during the whole evening leading to the extremely exciting sight often accompanied with the tears of concerned female spectators.

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note interesting resemblance of
the festival logo to our own urbansquares logo?!

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urban squares initiative by aleksandar janicijevic is licensed under a creative commons attribution-share alike 2.5 canada license.

Last time updated on Friday, October 25, 2013, 10:50 AM