When In Barcelona, Please Stay In Your Designated Lane

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some let their frustrations out through screaming, others by crying or pouting silently in a corner. In Barcelona,  one pissed-off Catalan graffiti artist lets his frustrations out by painting the streets of the Gothic Quarter creating lanes: one labeled  “tourists,”­ the other labeled “normal” for the locals.

It is no secret that “The City of Counts” can be obnoxiously crowded depending on the time of year and where one heads.  Most travelers and local residents expect to be grazed by sweaty shoulders or stepped on by an awed tourist at one time or another, accepting the uncomfortable situation as a typical day in Barcelona — until now.  In a recent article, The NZ Herald reported that this mysterious graffiti artist creates these “lines of separation” during the darkness of night to send a clear message to visitors: stay away.

Each morning, city workers paint over the lanes in hopes that the smeared dividers won’t scare travelers from occupying the coveted Gothic Quarter. The spectacle has drawn much attention to problems of increasing tourism — an upsurge of 15 percent is predicted for 2011 — worrying government officials that the upturn may be a turn-off.

Disgruntled residents are expressing frustration over the commercialization of their community and are speaking up about it. “We cannot put up with much more of this in the neighbourhood,” Maria Mas, president of the old quarter residents’ association, told the paper.  The association’s concern is that people will begin to move out, threatening the preservation of an eclectic community.

Each time I travel I am summoned by the roaring whistle of the guilt train.  Being drawn to extrinsic destinations that offer ethereal encounters with the natural world, I cannot help but feel that my “footprint” adds to the breakdown of vulnerable communities.  When visiting developed cities, I search for “off the beaten path” experiences to escape the fervor, never considering how harried the locals themselves probably feel.

The fact of the matter is that tourism — if conducted in a sustainable, organized matter — is vital to many countries’ economies.  It creates an important source of revenue, promotes cultural awareness, and develops global interconnectedness.  Unfortunately, greed has caused the exploitation and break-down of desirable locations making it more and more difficult to conduct responsible business practices.  Barcelona is one of many cities that may have to rethink the way it welcomes its guests.

Who knows, maybe this surreptitious protester has figured out the catalyst for change: speak up — or graffiti  — and start a revolution?

By Maria Russo


About the Author

Maria Russo is a freelance writer who loves natural wonders, good eats, ethical travel, and boutique hotels. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, USA Today.com, People.com and A Luxury Travel Blog, among others.


When Maria is not writing for her all-time favorite site (that would be The Expeditioner), she spends her time blogging about foreign jaunts and delectable food experiences for her site: Memoirs of a Travel & Food Addict. She is also up to no good on Twitter (@traveladdictgrl, @expedmaria).

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