I have lived in a neighbourhood in the historical centre of Barcelona for more than thirty years. Whenever I am asked where I am from, I never answer that I am from Barcelona, but rather that I am “ciutat-vellenca”. I struggle daily against the onslaught of the effects caused by my neighbourhood’s popularity as a tourist destination to the world. My house is situated in Plaza del Pi, less than 100 metres from Ramblas. The trees that line the promenade are the closest green area, and the Boqueria market, the place where I shop, as did my great-grandmother and my grandmother before me. I am one more link in a chain of daily activities in a neighbourhood encompassing many generations  who lived in these streets and houses with such dignity, that neither class nor status can grant you, but only the feeling of belonging. I witnessed and followed with interest the rehabilitation policies of Ciutat Vella by first democratic council in the 1980s and 1990s, and accepted to be part of the government of the city and become a councillor of the district, first for three years (2007-2010). I feel like a privileged observer of the vicissitudes that have been taking place in Barcelona and together with other activists, a “forewarner” of the dangers of the loss of direction and straying of our city due to its growing commercialization.

However, I am beginning to feel resentful, because despite the measures that were applied in the past, and are still in the process of being implemented to try to reverse things, our city and its neighbourhoods are being destroyed. What at one stage were isolated cases of Real estate mobbing, is now a powerful mechanism of the systematic uprooting of long-standing residents of the city. Not one day goes by without hearing about one more case of such eradication of neighbourhood life or nearby shop.

However, if we resist and start to carefully pick at the phenomenon and consequences of so called “mass tourism”, we will find ourselves before a paradox: this massive affluence of tourism comes along with a process of desertfiication of the historical centres of our cities. What I would like to explore here is that tension between mass and desertification. In whose interest is it for cities to become empty? Moreover, that they are replaced only by what we refer to as “floating population” in our reports. Is it not proof that our tourists are being treated more and more like a filler population of empty cities which lack vitality?

Itzíar González Virós, "The Wrecking of Tourist Cities and Their Rescue by Citizens" in Ciutat de Vacances, Generalitat Valenciana, Consorci de museus de la comunitat valenciana, Arts Santamonica, Es Baluard - Museu d'art modern i contemporani de Palma, 2018.