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Javier Mariscal:

Mercè is a local girl

For a couple of years now, Barcelona’s Festa Major de Barcelona has extended into the suburbs of the city more than it’s ever done before. And while last year saw it dip its toes into Parc de la Trinitat, this year it’s back and, not just happy with turning a Ronda suburb into festive territory, it's extending its conquests to Parc de Nou Barris and Parc de Sant Martí. 
 
Yes, without a doubt, Mercè is a local girl... This has been seen clearly by a Barcelona artist who, like so many of the city’s inhabitants, was born outside Barcelona. His name is Javier Mariscal, and he’s someone who will turn a hundred in 2050 and who, in the meantime, kills time by working or surrounding himself with his grandchildren. He would never have imagined himself as he is now when he turned up in Barcelona in the early 1970s to study design at the Elisava school. He spent a couple of years there because what he really wanted to do was lose his class. He'd come from Valencia, where he was the son of a well-to-do family, but what he really wanted was to live somewhere where he wasn’t anyone’s son or brother but simply Javier. He found himself in a bigger city than he’d thought and where more things went on than he’d imagined, a city that, as he said, "smelt of print" and where a thousand and one publishing projects were simmering away. It’s not unusual that he was immediately drawing, that he became part of that legendary underground comic called El Rrollo Enmascarado and that he shared a flat with Nazario and other lowlifes who were part of the underground scene of the time. Some people think that Mariscal appeared out of the blue in 1992 with Cobi under his arm, but he’d been working for many years in the city and had made a name for himself and done commissions in Japan, Italy and many more places. In fact, by 1987 he was already an acclaimed artist who had done a poster for the Mercè. Today, he looks at that poster through critical eyes and, tutting, judges it to be too sad and washed-out, "without the colours of Barcelona". "The day I did it,” he explains, “I was in a bad mood." So this year, he’s shaken the weight off with a new poster, in Mediterranean colours, that turns Mercè into a local girl.
 
Because 25 years after bringing to life a family in ink made up of Cobi, Petra and a few more Olympian friends, Javier Mariscal has now drawn a Mercè who, from her expression, could live perfectly happily in Nou Barris. She’s a pretty, young woman imbued with the beauty of Barcelona that gives her a hairstyle à la Tibidabo and a hair slide in the shape of a communications tower. In her hands, she’s holding a mobile, the essential element for any human being today, whether they live in Los Angeles or Senegal, most certainly with a music app that allows her to listen to the artists appearing at the BAM. Yes, Mercè follows fashion and has a tattoo on her arm of Columbus’s statue that’s the envy of her friends. She’s surrounded by giant-heads and giants, cruise ships filled with tourists, girls sunning themselves on the beach, kids playing in the street like they did in the past and like they can do again now that there’s more green and more pedestrian areas... Because car fumes (Mercè knows this and so does Javier, who often cycles to work) are as bad if not worse than cigarette smoke. That’s why this Mercè from Nou Barris has no doubts: we have to get a move on with recycling, hence the necklace she’s wearing; we have to get clean energy however we can, hence the solar plaques made into sunglasses; and we have to make sure we have quality public transport, like the metro emerging from under Mercè’s ear... This, and no other, tells us that this local Mercè is the future of the city: once again being a pioneer and becoming a benchmark in the field of sustainability and of culture, that series of knowledge and behavioural guidelines that make us better and that will free us from barbarism.