Barcelona is one of the cities in Europe that has been the most understanding of the drama of the refugees, and it has also been a magnet for immigration in southern Europe. The communities of people from abroad living in Barcelona today are bigger and more diverse than ever.
Today, Barcelona houses more foreigners than newcomers from other parts of Spain. Globalization has irreversibly changed the demographic face of a city that became a magnet for migratory movements from all around the world this turn of the century.
Barcelona holds a special place in the imaginations of Italians, who see it as an almost-perfect city. However, behind this image lies a reality that can prove tough for many of them.
In contrast to what happened with other migratory communities, the economic recession didn’t cause the sacrificed, money-saving and hard-working Chinese inhabitants of Barcelona to return home or leave for other destinations: the immense majority of them remained. The recession only slowed their arrival.
Whether we’re buying food after hours, catching a taxi, getting a shawarma in the Old City or buying a drink from a street vendor, it’s very probable that we’re interacting with members of the Pakistani community. But what do we know about these discrete new Barcelonians?
Since my arrival in Montcada i Reixac in 2006, the number of Pakistani women living in Barcelona has increased considerably. Nevertheless, the problems they face have not changed much.
Citizens of Moroccan origin make up a very large community as a result of the migratory movements of the seventies. Morocco is just an hour and a half away by plane, but sometimes it seems much farther away. This distance is imaginary, and most likely comes from cultural differences.
Latin American countries share a strong tendency towards participation in associations, and this can be seen in the significant number of organizations created by citizens originally from the other side of the Atlantic. The presence of females is very significant: Latin American women have become key to the maintenance of the welfare of the native population.
Except for the Chinese and the Italians, the volume of immigrants in Barcelona has stabilized, and many people —largely as a result of the recession and the rise in the cost of living— have decided to move to another town or to return home. Under these circumstances, other nationalities that had not been as well-represented have become more visible, like the Bengalis, the Armenians or Hondurans.