I’m not really into nostalgia wallowing or grumpy-old-woman rants. True, in my first years here, the Rambla wasn’t overrun by stag and hen parties in ‘Quiero Cerveza’ T-shirts—and there was no Starbucks! Huge trucks roared straight through the city along Aragón and the Avenida del Generalísimo (aka Diagonal). There was no ring road, much of Nou Barris was still a shanty town and the beach/seafront ended at Hospital del Mar.
Back then, before Franco died, I taught English at a school on Rambla Catalunya, on the floor above the Moroccan Consulate.
One evening we heard a commotion outside and stepped onto the balcony: a handful of demonstrators straggled down the central walkway, waving Polisario placards (the movement for the liberation of Spanish Sahara). They stopped opposite our building yelling “¡Marruecos asesino!”
“Bah!” scoffed my students. “Són quatre gats.” Few people.
And then flames whooshed up as a Molotov cocktail exploded on the Consulate balcony below. We scrambled inside and slammed the window shut. The director’s wife rushed in telling us to stay put in panicky broken Spanish while black smoke billowed up the stairwell. But quite soon we were able to leave; I freaked out, to be revived in the local bar. A colleague recounted how a demonstrator had burst into his class and sat down, followed by the police. Poker-faced, my colleague had passed him off as one of his students. From then on, our building was guarded by a pair of grises (the police uniform was grey) with submachine guns.
First published in the Barcelona Metropolitan December 2008, as part of a series looking back over 35 years in Barcelona.