(Only one thing before going to the real beginning of this chronicle. Look at the photo. It is the bust of a Marquis who looks out of the corner of his eye at Barcelona’s Rambla through the glass. It was quite a surprise to run into him last Thursday, more than nothing about what happened the previous afternoon. That’s what the chronicle is about).
The closing day of the debates on ‘Inconvenient Barcelona’, held last Wednesday at La Modelo, was as surprising as the final revelation of ‘The Sixth Sense’, which is already saying something. I tell you. The previous four days of conferences on what to do with those monuments in the city that pay homage to those who do not deserve it were very rich in points of view. Unhorsed Antonio López from his pedestal in 2018, it was even analyzedfor example, if the pedestalwhich is still there, these days as the object of an ‘architectural performance’, it is also such a ‘slave’ symbol like the character who served as an altar for 126 or if, for that matter, it would now be a happy idea to leave it empty for eternity, which would give it a funny aspect of homage to Claude Rains for his first film, ‘The Invisible Man’. It’s an idea. But then, what was said, came the closure. Boom!
After the speakers, among others, the historians Manel Risques, Dolors Marín Silvestre and Ricard Vinyes, the Barcelona chronicler Lluis Permanyer, the architects Juan José Lahuerta and Xavier Matilla and the visual artist Domènec, all characterized by the lowest common denominator of the color of their skin, the conference’s curator, Núria Ricart, wanted to give the final word to Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of Macba, and the journalist specializing in African issues, Tania Adam, both black voices. They were politely merciless with what has been heard to date between those four walls.
They did not question the depth of the debates, but, said without cotton wool, they underlined from blackness how whites talk about whites. Adam paraphrased the postcolonial studies specialist Francoise Verges to sum it up. He read this paragraph: “For whites, whether in France, in Spain or in the United States, although the statues represent men who committed crimes in the period of slavery or during the colonial conquest, for them they are not just statues, even for those who criticize them. They have a kind of bond with themare part of the landscape, of their education at school, they are family members. Although he is a bad relative, his bad uncle is still his uncle. So there is an emotional bond that they are not aware of, but it is there, they are very attached to them emotionally. They are part of what they call ‘our history’, good and bad, as they say. They do not want anyone to tell them anything, especially if you are ‘black and brown’ & rdquor ;.
‘Black and brown’, just to clarify, is how Vergès refers to that entire ethnic spectrum that from the point of view of the so-called whites are not part of the community, an outdated way of seeing the world if you take into account, as said Adam, that According to UN data, there are 200 million people in the world who live outside their place of origin.n. If they were a country, they would be the fifth most populous on Earth. They are approximately 3% of the world’s population, but in Barcelona that figure jumps through the air, since 30% of residents were born beyond the borders of Spain. Don’t their opinions deserve to be taken into account?
That idea that Antonio López is the clothes that we believe should be washed at home It is, depending on how you look at it, one of the conclusions, forgive the redundancy, of the day of conclusions. Both Adam and Dyangani Ose agreed to lament what, in their opinion, is the aesthetic and discursive insignificance of what was organized during Architecture Week in the former Antonio López square, in which, through a staircase, everyone is invited to get on the pedestal and see the city as it was seen by the stone effigy of that great man of the 19th century.
Well-known stories also came to light that, with the perspective of time, surprise more and more, such as the lifelessness he had to endure Alphonse Arcelin when in 1991, on the eve of the Olympics, he demanded that it stop being exhibited in Banyoles a stuffed bushman. Arcelín knew how to read the absurdity of that situation that went unnoticed by the rest just like years before, in another example, the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe reread ‘Heart of Darkness’by Joseph Conrad like no one has done before, that is, as a story that dehumanizes blacks and turns Africa into a useful land just to examine the soul of whites. Conrad went on to swell the hell of racists.
Attending these two talks, intertwined at the time, was cathartic, thanks also to the staging. Adam arrived armed with a battery of images that were projected on a large screen, including that of that small sculpture that is exhibited over a fountain at the intersection of Diagonal and Bruc, known as the Fountain of the Basin, in which a girl tries to clean with a wet cloth the face of a black boy who she thinks is dirty. How disturbing it must be for a Barcelonan with African roots to walk next to that fountain.
With the raw notes of everything narrated on Wednesday in the Model, a working lunch was convened on Thursday morning at the Palau Moja to review the notable investment effort that the Department of Culture of the Generalitat is carrying out to update the Catalan museum network. The meeting was in a room that once served as a bedroom for Alfonso XII and his wife and cousin, María de las Mercedeswhich already has its what, but the surprise was to find Antonio López himself in the main hall on the first floor in a marble version, on a base that provides privileged views over the Rambla.
It is there because that neoclassical mansion is the residence that the Marquis of Comillas, come on, López, bought in 1875 for emphasize in the eyes of the whole world that he was the richest man in town. He was not with the sweat on his forehead, but with the others. Sweat, blood and tears. In the conference of the Model, by the way, it was suggested that the Palau Moja would be a great place to house a museum, or call it what you want, dedicated to slavery and colonialism. The bust of López and the collection of paintings that hang on the walls and that portray him at various stages of his life would then acquire a different mission than that of extolling that character, as is happening now.
Apparently, there is no debate about the inappropriateness of that bust receiving visitors to the Palau Moja. There is not in Barcelona, or in the Department of Culture, an Arcelín or an Achebe at hand to underline this inconsistency. He is still Uncle López, the bad and uncomfortable family member, but our uncle.