Within steps of the parks, shopping malls, high-end highrises and corporate towers of Diagonal Mar is the barrio of La Mina:
Until the end of the 1960’s, La Mina was little more than an area of cultivated fields, livestock and scattered hamlets just outside the Barcelona city limits. … Immigrants arrived in the city with minimal resources leading to the growth of some of the largest shanty town constructions in the country.
It was not until 1968 that land was purchased by the Barcelona Council for the construction of low-rent housing in La Mina. … A rapid remodelling of the development plan allowed for a far greater density of development on the remaining land with the construction of 2,100 further apartments, specifically for the ‘chabolistas’ (shanty town dwellers).
Franco approves of La Mina
La Mina Nueva housing projects under construction
High levels of social deprivation, including very high rates of illiteracy quickly made the area infamous, with newspaper headlines such as ‘La Mina: district without law’ and ‘La Mina: dangerous area’. This unfortunate legacy left La Mina … with the greatest social deprivation within the Barcelona metropolitan area.
Projects (June 2014)
And given that La Mina was on the periphery, that might have been where it remained on the list of social and political priorities. Except something very Barcelonan happened.
In the late 1990s the city was looking to develop an economy of culture and communications, and above all to promote the city’s burgeoning tourist industry in the wake of the 1992 Summer Olympics. It conceived of another major event: the Universal Forum of Cultures to be staged in 2004 on a reclaimed industrial waterfront area at the farthest end of the Diagonal:
World Forum of Cultures, 2004
Today, all that remains of the controversial project is Big Blue, the Museu Blau de les Ciències Naturals (designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the architects chosen for the Vancouver Art Gallery), plus vast amounts of less than appealing open space (suitable for festivals and skateboarding), plus a beach and a huge solar panel.
But with so much riding on the successful development of Diagonal Mar and the Forum, the problems of La Mina had to be addressed.
Next, what happened.