About Bernat Puigtobella

Barcelona Metròpolis Editor

Open city

Photo: Pere Virgili

The Sant Andreu cricket club training on the Pérez de Rozas baseball pitch on Montjuïc, in a photograph taken in 2016, with captain Sajid in the background. This is one of the cricket teams formed by young Pakistanis with backing from the City Council.
Photo: Pere Virgili

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.

“We’re fortunate enough to only have been receiving immigration since relatively recently, if we compare ourselves with London or Paris. These are two cities with a colonial past that even today are faced with significant difficulties in managing diversity”, explains Lola López, commissioner for immigration at the Barcelona City Council. While France opted for the assimilation of newcomers, England opted for multiculturalism. The years have shown that neither recipe has prevented segregation or guaranteed social cohesion.

For over ten years, the Barcelona City Council has invested in interculturalism. The Municipal Plan for Interculturality has been an irrefutable foundation for city politics over the last decade. “We need to try and avoid the errors of other models”, insists López. “The first thing we need to do is to not see interculturality as a closed model, but rather as a process. This model is under construction, and we need to encourage citizens to participate. We don’t apply intercultural policies, we organize actions from an intercultural perspective. This model is so open that we can decide to abandon it at any point.”

The first tenet of interculturalism is not to exclude either the multicultural option or assimilation. “Whoever wants to assimilate with the local culture has to be able to do so. We also won’t put up any obstacles to multicultural coexistence. If a community choses to live more closed off in its own space, —always within a shared context— they need to be respected, because that’s a natural tendency that we all have when we migrate”, sustains López.

Photo: Pere Virgili

Two Bolivian women in Plaça Catalunya during the 2017 Festes de la Mercè.
Photo: Pere Virgili

Three levels of interculturality

Interculturality is applied on three levels. First, we need to guarantee equal rights and equal access to opportunities. This first value is essential, and it’s shared by the French assimilationist model and the multiculturalist British model. The second requirement for building an intercultural dynamic is the recognition of cultural and religious diversity as an asset.

Finally, the third level of interculturality demands interaction and dialogue, so that all communities can contribute to the construction of our city without leaving behind who they are. “Dialogue demands the recognition of the other as an equal. Interculturality isn’t easy, it has plenty of areas of conflict” states López. “We constantly need to be building this dialogue, recognizing the value of diversity. We still haven’t realized, for example, that the Colombians, with the baggage of conflict they carry with them, can provide us with tools for conflict resolution. Or that we can learn strategies for community survival from newcomers from sub-Saharan Africa, a group that didn’t return to its countries of origin with the 2008 economic recession because it was better able to resist it than others”, concludes the commissioner for immigration.

Barcelona is a fertile field for intercultural relations. The Chinese New Year, which is celebrated in the Fort Pienc neighbourhood with a parade, combines dragons, castellers and diables. The City Council has gotten involved, promoting the celebration: “You offer the Chinese community the opportunity to celebrate something of their own, in a real way, and they open the door to incorporating ingredients from the country that has received them. As a result, a sense of belonging is created in both directions. The city makes the traditional celebration of one community its own by adding local elements.”

Another successful example of interculturality can be found in the Pakistani community, which has watched its youth begin to play cricket around the city, eventually creating the Poble-sec Cricket Club or the Sant Andreu Cricket Club, among others. The City Council has provided these youths with spaces and has organized a program for teaching sports monitors to play cricket. Most of these monitors are also Pakistanis who see that their skills are recognized, and that the work they do is respected. As a result, Pakistani children see these monitors as positive figures who help them to identify with their community. The City Council has promoted a female cricket team, which has also incorporated girls of Moroccan and South-American origin. This has brought about a change in how others see Pakistanis, bringing them to value their abilities. This program embraces all phases of interculturality, since besides guaranteeing citizens’ rights and equality, it places value on diversity and integrates other communities into this space for interaction.

The exercise of interculturality also takes into account religious diversity. During Ramadan, Muslims in Barcelona celebrate Iftar (the breaking of the fast) with a celebration in the streets open to everyone, where they serve dishes typical of their countries of origin. Different experiences of death also result in different ways of understanding funerary rites; the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead invites us to honour the deceased in a more festive manner than we are used to.

Photo: Pere Virgili

Chinese New Year Parade in the Sagrada Família and Fort Pienc neighbourhoods in February 2014.
Photo: Pere Virgili

Citizenship and culture

Our cultural identity is an important ingredient in our citizenship. Toby Miller, a professor at the University of California, distinguishes between three different types of citizenship. First is political citizenship, which considers the rights and obligations of the individuals in a certain community. Second is economic citizenship, which should guarantee the survival and welfare of the citizens of a country. Finally, third is cultural citizenship, which should guarantee the feeling of cultural belonging.

Cultural citizenship guarantees the right to cultural representation and the right to speak from one’s own identity. This right allows us to express ourselves collectively as part of a community without having to be completely integrated into it.

Political citizenship has proved important over the past two centuries, and economic citizenship emerged after the Second World War as a result of a need to guarantee the welfare state. Cultural citizenship, on the other hand, emerged after the postcolonial crisis and immigration from third-world counties to the western metropolises.

The first wave of migration in the mid-20th century to France and England included a postcolonial element, and was accepted with a certain degree of paternalism. The feelings of imperial guilt resulted in the need to adopt a rhetoric that welcomed the newcomers. The care shown by the British to Africans or Indians was not applied later to immigration brought by globalization from places like Poland or Latin America.

Interculturality needs to promote a real coexistence between different communities within the demographic diversity of each country, based on respect for a series of universal rights, and not on supposed attack of conscience of the old empires. Today’s migratory movements are the result of imbalances that go far beyond the old colonial constellations.

Joan-Anton Benach, the magazine’s founding editor.
Thirty years of ‘Barcelona Metròpolis’

Joan-Anton Benach. Photo: Pere Virgili

Joan-Anton Benach (Vilafranca del Penedès, 1936) was the founding editor of the magazine, whose original name was Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània. It was founded in May 1986, when the city was preparing and reinventing itself to host the 1992 Olympic Games. Adopting the promotional slogan of “Barcelona, more than ever” devised by the City Council, the magazine chronicled the profound changes that the city underwent. Benach retired from the City Council in in 2007, but remains very active. In fact, he arrived to this interview on his motorbike. He is a theatre critic for La Vanguardia and works every day in his office. While we were talking in a bar in the Eixample district, he received three calls on his mobile phone.

How did Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània come about?

It was the realisation of an old proposal. Several journalists about my age had submitted a proposal that got tabled. Pasqual Maragall asked me to revise and update it. I was head of the City Council’s Cultural Affairs Department between 1979 and 1983, the time of the first democratic city council, and the idea of starting a magazine had always been there on the back burner. Between 1983 and 1985 I became fully involved in an exhibition on the industrial archaeology of Catalonia entitled “Catalonia, Spain’s factory”, which we did in conjunction with Economic History Professor Jordi Nadal. I participated as the curator, and we worked for almost two years to fill in 8,400 square metres of the El Born Market. After the exhibition, in late 1985, I was finally able to focus on the magazine proposal.

It was conceived as a cultural publication. Where did its name come from?

From the chatter that could be heard at that time about the reality of the metropolitan area. Pasqual Maragall’s Barcelona was very much based on the idea that the city should expand beyond its official municipal boundaries to become a full-blown metropolitan area. And including the adjective “mediterrània” (Mediterranean) was my idea. Some thought the “Mediterranean” concept was a bit naive, but we moved forward.

How was the magazine distributed?

The first distribution strategy failed. I couldn’t find anyone willing to offer selective distribution. A publication like that needed to be sold in about 20 kiosks, as it was targeted at specific sectors. We negotiated with some publishers but couldn’t make anything happen. We eventually signed an exclusive contract with an advertising agency that committed to distributing the magazine in exchange for us managing its advertising. We ran adverts for a period of time, but then the agency began to delay payments and ended up owing money to the City Council. Fortunately, this did not affect the magazine, which continued to operate normally. And then it began to be distributed, as it is to this day, through massive mailings.

As the magazine’s present editor, I have never had the misfortunate of having my articles censored or being pressed into covering a particular topic. Did you ever receive pressure from anyone?

No, councilmembers may have asked to write something, but I never allowed politicians to contribute. Councilmembers would say: “Benach won’t let me write”. And I would add: “Won’t ever”. I already had many years of experience and many councilmembers were good friends of mine from before the time I ran the Cultural Affairs Department – from my time as a journalist at El Correo Catalán. I also had another advantage, which was that Pasqual Maragall championed the publication’s independence. Sometimes a councilmember would complain about an article that had been critical of the City Council, but I liked the fact that the council’s policies could be criticised in the pages of Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània. It gave us credibility. I never had problems in this regard. Maragall also defended the magazine from budget cuts that came with a new manager. Maragall gave the magazine his ironclad support and always stood up for it.

You say that articles written by councilmembers were not accepted, but the mayor did write editorials and sometimes programmatic articles were published, as in the case of issue 37, which ran a very long letter from Maragall to Jordi Pujol and Felipe González. Maybe that was the only time the rule was broken.

Yes, it was the only time. But the focus was on the status of culture in Barcelona at the time. We were running a monographic supplement at that time which explored a particular topic in depth. The supplement on theatre, for example, is still very useful as a kind of “who’s who” and “what’s what” for theatre in the city of Barcelona. These supplements were published separately. And in some cases, like the one we devoted to the 1888 Universal Exposition, it served as a catalogue of the expositions for the 100th year anniversary. Robert Hughes, the Australian writer and art critic, wrote a reference book on Barcelona in which he often quoted the magazine. He combed through every issue of Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània in English and drew upon them extensively.

Hughes’ book was important during the Olympic period. Thirty years on, how do you look back on that Barcelona, the one that was just waking up and beginning to reinvent itself with the enthusiasm and innocence of those times?

It’s been thirty years! I look back on a highly improvised dynamic. From 1985 to 1992, the magazine’s driving theme was the Olympics and all efforts were aimed in that direction. Today, the opinion and leadership groups in Barcelona are much more heterogeneous than they were then, especially in the field of culture. There was a particular notion about the direction in which the city should move. I see it now as being more multifaceted, more diffuse, more broken up, especially after the 15-M anti-austerity movement. My impression as a Barcelonian is that there are many pans in the fire and it’s hard to know what to serve as the main dish. This should be a good thing, because there are many new things on the horizon of this European city. I like Ada Colau because she applies her municipal management capabilities to everything, and especially to problems. When she says “Let the refugees come!” she is really putting herself out there. As well as that, the city is doing fantastically well in a range of areas.

Joan-Anton Benach. Photo: Pere Virgili

And after having spent so many years in the Cultural Affairs Department, what differences do you see in the way things were managed then as compared to now?

Then there was confidence in the city’s cultural management, but Barcelona’s culture was much more difficult to manage. I suffered from the non-existence of the Cultural Institute of Barcelona (ICUB), because the department could not generate its own revenue; all our revenue went into the City Council’s general coffers. We organised a presentation about Ramon Casas which generated plenty of money. It was successful. It always had long queues, and its run was extended several times. Cultural Affairs did not receive a penny of that revenue. The same thing happened with the Grec theatre festival. I managed the Grec festival four times, but we had to pretend that the City made the theatre available to certain companies, because Cultural Affairs could not charge anything on its own.

Prior to joining the City Council you spent many years at El Correo Catalán, where you came into your own as a journalist.

When I got the idea for Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània, I was motivated more by curiosity about cultural issues than my experience as a journalist. Newspapers have a different dynamic. At El Correo Catalán, I edited the cultural section for many years before becoming editor-in-chief. We had to come out with a newspaper every day, which was very different to producing a magazine. I had been specialising in local policy issues and wrote a daily column, in which I was highly critical of the municipal policies of then mayor Josep Maria de Porcioles. And one got censored. Censorship cast a long shadow; the censor kept your articles. One day, an officer from the Barcelona delegation of the Ministry of Information and Tourism showed me my file, which was quite thick. Other colleagues of mine, such as Josep Pernau, had files that were even thicker. As a member of my then current party CC (first called Crist Catalunya, then later Comunitat Catalana, before becoming secular and changing its name to Força Socialista Federal, FSF, when Pujol was sent to prison), I was editor of the magazine Promos. That job earned me a fine and a disciplinary proceeding. Manuel Fraga closed it and wanted to send me to prison. The Press Act was enacted to exercise control over all news and journalistic activities. They abolished Signo, a Catholic magazine with a high circulation; they also closed down a communist magazine in Valencia. Eventually the ministry blackballed me. In 1966, leaning on the Press Act, Fraga told the editor of El Correo Catalán that I could no longer write any articles that were not about culture, and hence I was exiled to the cultural section. They also blackballed Casimir Martí and Joan Fuster. I was in good company.

Culture as something innocuous.

Exactly. Culture seen as something harmless. And even then, they censored many of my theatre reviews.

Under your editorship, the magazine had a couple of very clear phases when the focus was on major events in the city. First the Olympics and then the 2004 Forum.

I think the Forum stage was a bit murky. From the urban planning perspective, it made sense and worked, but it didn’t fit in well with the city or with the people. The city’s current pulse is something that I understand very intuitively. It’s a city that has supported cultural events such as Sónar and Primavera Sound, which were targeted at specific groups. I also notice the lack of a thorough approach to tourism, and particularly to heritage tourism. There is now a dynamic of taking things as they come, because the demand is there, but what we really need is quality tourism. La Rambla has been hijacked and we don’t seem to mind that much. We need to systematically reflect on the way Barcelona should react to this unstoppable surge in tourism, which has come on rather suddenly, like an avalanche.

Recent issues have featured some highly critical articles.

The cultural map that is emerging from this magazine is not at all bad. As I said, the aim had always been to develop the cultural sphere. As Cultural Affairs Director I oversaw twenty-four museums and the municipal orchestra’s musicians; a staff of five hundred were under my charge.

You were the ones running the show.

At that time the job of councilmember was an elected position, but they didn’t work as much as they do now. Department directors, in contrast, were treated as “illustrious” individuals; that’s why I always said that my funeral would be paid for by the City Council. It was actually very hard work, something which needed to be explained to be understood. We made a museum map. We saw the need for a section where we could present, in a very specific way, the best pieces from the museums. We gave special attention to the city’s museums as part of the effort to create a heritage inventory. But we also emphasised photography, design and literature. We also wanted to include urban planning and architecture as important aspects of Barcelona’s culture. Oriol Bohigas had a particularly positive attitude towards the magazine and gave us lots of support.

In this regard, the special supplements filled a need not met by other magazines and media outlets.

They were so successful that in some cases we reissued them separately.

Today there is a raft of cultural magazines out there, mainly online, but things were different then.

That worried me. I don’t think that Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània could have been compared with any other magazine at the time. There was one that I considered reprehensible and which I had to distance myself from as an example of what the City Council should not have done. Its name was San Jorge, published by the Barcelona Provincial Council, in Spanish. That was when everything was done in Spanish. It was a magazine for staff members filled with photos of inaugurations and political “posers”. Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània didn’t compete with other media outlets and was well received by the newspapers.

Did you hold any public events related to the magazine?

Yes, when a new issue came out we often invited journalists to a breakfast and held a press conference in one of those majestic rooms at the City Hall, with white-gloved porters. Journalists did show up for those breakfasts, needless to say.

That would be unthinkable today.

When I retired in 2007, they threw me a farewell party at the City Hall. A great many people from the world of culture were there, everyone who had contributed to the magazine. I have very good memories of that.

Najat El Hachmi. Barcelona: the city where you can stop being an immigrant

Photo: Pere Virgili

In her books, Najat El Hachmi, a writer of Moroccan origin, juxtaposes the world she comes from and the one she has found here, in a negotiation between both worlds. We are fortunate to have an author in Catalonia who has successfully been able to put this experience into writing.

Najat El Hachmi (1979) is one of the most celebrated and influential authors of her generation. Born in Morocco, she and her family moved to Vic, where she was educated in Catalan. In 2008 she won the Ramon Llull prize for L’últim patriarca [The Last Patriarch], a novel that brought this hitherto unknown world into Catalan literature. This year, she was recognised with the City of Barcelona award for her third novel, La filla estrangera [The Foreign Daughter], which had already won the BBVA Catalan Literature prize. El Hachmi’s mission is to write good books, although her excellent writing also manages to debunk clichés about Islam.

In La filla estrangera, there is an incident where the protagonist agrees to wear a veil purely due to the pressure from her family. With this novel, you make readers see that there is always a person behind the hijab.

Every woman who wears a veil does so for different reasons. For years, I tried to avoid the topic of the veil in my literary work or in the conferences I got invited to. The funny thing is to see how over all these years in which the media in the host society have been putting so much emphasis on headscarves, hijabs have taken on more meaning for the people who wear them. They have become symbolically charged; there has been a process of re-Islamisation that has been spread and reinforced from some countries which want to give a very specific vision of Islam and want to have a strong influence on the new generations of Muslims here. They don’t want to lose believers, because they know they will be able to dominate them politically that way.

And over here, there has often been a glaring inability to communicate with newcomers, to establish an authentic relationship. There has been a huge amount of condescension towards immigrants, which is seen very clearly in La filla estrangera.

We are used to thinking that the immigrants here don’t realise what we are saying about them; they’re talked about as if referring to an object, not someone who could be reading or watching you. When I was little and my mother wore a headscarf, I never questioned whether she had to wear one or not, but when everyone in Vic asks why you don’t take it off, you start to think that maybe the veil is important. The issue is even more complex in the case of Moroccan teenagers who live here, because there’s also the relationship with your body, the uneasiness that comes from sexuality and questions about what the right body is, because at home they tell you one thing and outside something completely different.

In La filla estrangera, you talk about a teenager’s sexual desire. You also explored feminine sexuality in La caçadora de cossos [The Body Hunter], which is a very different novel.

The topic of bodies is an issue that also affects western teenagers. How do you identify your desire and how do you channel it? What do you do with the desire your body can provoke?

You explore the relationship between sex and maternity both in La filla estrangera and in your articles. Sex links all areas of a person and is also linked to maternity; in your eyes, it’s not an independent entity. Said by a Catholic woman, this could be read as an fundamentalist statement. However, coming from the lips of a Moroccan who openly declares herself to be atheist, it has a totally different effect.

I talk about topics that unsettle me, but I don’t want to think that having a certain origin determines the way I talk about sexuality, which goes for the education I received at home as well. I reflect, and I do this based on the world I’m living in. I’ve been born in the age of contraception; for me it’s clear that sex and maternity aren’t linked…

Photo: Pere Virgili

So, you have to go further and understand what is happening in this sphere once the battle has been won to separate one from the other. I want to understand what’s happening to me as a woman, as someone who’s a mother as well. Linking sex and maternity isn’t taking a step back, but forward. I want to understand all the elements that make up the condition of woman and connect them. I don’t want to analyse it based on any ideological prejudice — as much as I may believe in feminism. The debate on maternity needs to be opened up.

You talked about maternity in a recent article, saying: “Human babies have the flaw of being born mid-gestation and it takes some time until they have the autonomy needed to detach themselves from their mother’s body”.

It was very difficult for me, it shocked me, despite having lived in an environment where breastfeeding was normal. It happened to me both with my first child and with my second. You realise you have to make a sacrifice out of love, as a bodily need, not because anyone has imposed it on you.

You describe a very interesting case in La filla estrangera, of a Moroccan mother who doesn’t want to take her small children to school because she needs to be with them, and the protagonist who acts as a social mediator is almost forced to wrench the child away from her…

There are many mothers — they don’t necessarily have to be Moroccan — who find themselves at this point. They are mothers who breastfeed longer than would be considered usual, who want to fully experience their maternity. And every day there is more aggression against mothers in the workplace, as if a woman who has had children cannot be as productive. According to some versions of feminism, the aim has been to ignore and deny this need for maternity, and the proposal is for us to have equal maternity and paternity leave. To me, seeking equality along these lines seems ridiculous; it is a paternalistic view towards women, promoted by precisely the versions of feminism that tell us: “They’re making you go back home…” I will never defend the professionalisation of maternity, because believe me, it’s not positive for the woman or her children. We have to be careful about the message we’re sending out. My daughter grabs the typewriter and says she’s a writer. You have to be able to experience the breastfeeding period with a certain peace without having to pay dearly in professional terms later on. I was afraid it would be hard to go back; in some professions it’s really hard not to pay dearly for it.

You’ve always defended feminism in your articles, up to the point of considering it one of the most significant changes in humanity. You’ve also written that “feminist children will not be born to us without doing anything, just because we have not experienced what our grandmothers experienced.” It’s not a case of machismo having returned, as is often said, it’s more the case that it never went away to start with. What role does feminism have today, and what pitfalls must be avoided?

We’ve sometimes tended to think about progress exclusively in terms of evolution, but ideology is not passed on through DNA, but through education and culture. That’s why we need to be aware of our mission as transmitters and not start sitting back and relaxing.

Feminism has sometimes been expressed in a purely rhetorical way. Isn’t the case of gender splitting something superficial? I’ve heard some real nonsense, like about the catalan teacher who addressed the students as “alumnes i alumnes”, so as to include both the masculine and feminine forms, despite them both being the same.

Splitting has almost no effect. It is much more significant to see how teenagers treat each other. We have to be very militant about basic things. Insults and mistreatment can never be permitted. It cannot be the case that in the public sphere they can insult you as a woman, that they can attack you for the body you have. On the other hand, from a feminist perspective, we cannot fall into temptation or mistakes we already made in the past, such as excessive political correctness or wanting to censor things.

Not long ago in Vic there was a controversy at a wedding fair. There was a photo of a couple where the bride was in an allegedly submissive position… and people from [leftist group] Capgirem Vic complained about it. I believe we can’t start censoring sexuality either; we can’t get involved in what kind of sex people should have. It seems like excessive correctness to me. It’s better to spend time on more important things, like inequality.

In terms of inequality, in a recent article you talked about the refugee crises and how we treat war refugees and economic refugees differently.

Yes, there are many people who are angry about what happens at the Greek or Hungarian border who would never call for immigration detention centres to be closed or demand more rights for the immigrants who are already here. It must be because class is more divisive than origin, and because in our minds we always look upwards when equating ourselves to others. Not long ago, the Duchess of Alba’s son was explaining that he had hosted a refugee in his home, and that they were a doctor… Obviously, the people who can get here are usually those with more money. And in some countries they have extorted that money.

You have had first-hand experience of immigrating. You went from Nador to Vic, from Vic to Granollers and finally to Barcelona. Have you felt welcome here?

Five years ago I came to live in Barcelona, a city I had loved for a long time through literature. For an immigrant family like mine, it was the city where we went to do paperwork, a place where we used to go to queue for hours. I became familiar with the places I’d learned about through reading, spots described by my top authors: Rodoreda, Montserrat Roig, etc., and Josep Pla as well. Places I’ve been emotionally involved with. So it was easier for me to put down roots in Barcelona, because even before it was a city I’d lived in, for me it was a city I’d read about.

It was a city I loved, but feared at the same time due to the anonymity it gives you, which can be positive, but it can also leave you without any protection. It’s a feeling that’s shared by many immigrants who live in regions outside the city and look at the city with respect, because as an immigrant, the place where you’re going is always very specific. You always go from one specific place to another, not from one county to another.

A small city like Vic may be more manageable, it allows you to form a network, but at the same time it conditions you, because you have limits. It’s interesting to see how, for many immigrants, especially for the children of immigrants, Barcelona is the city where you can actually stop being an immigrant. Once here, you separate yourself from your immigrant group, which gives you support when you need it but which also exercises social control.

You’ve worked as a cultural mediator, bringing the Moroccan and local communities closer together. In La filla estrangera, the protagonist’s mother says: “Moroccans’ worst problem is Moroccans themselves.”

Yes, this ruthless criticism is very typical of Moroccans. This sentence is also typical of someone who feels that the eyes of others are on the group itself, because the host society has the need to identify a group and label it.

When I was working as a mediator and would act as an interpreter, some women would ask me not to translate everything they said: “Don’t translate this,” they’d say to me with a certain foresight. It was the awareness of belonging to a group without power within another larger group, the awareness of living without equal conditions. When we were little my parents would tell us: “This isn’t our land”.

Photo: Pere Virgili

In this issue of Barcelona Metròpolis we look at the topic of multilingualism in the city. And now that you mention your experience as a mediator, what’s it like to be an author who speaks different languages with her parents, siblings or children? How do you think linguistic diversity should be addressed? The Grup d’Estudi de Llengües Amenaçades [Threatened Languages Study Group] says there are 300 languages spoken in Barcelona, and proposed a vote to decide which one should have the honour of taking this number.

I would vote for a pidgin language, a creole language. My nephews live in Vic in a neighbourhood where there are lots of Berbers, and the way they mix Catalan and Tamazight is amazing. They take Catalan verbs and inflect them in Tamazight. The Tamazight they speak has interferences from Vic Catalan now. And there are also Tamazight elements in the Catalan they speak to each other.

What languages do you speak with your family?

When I was little, I lived in an outlying district of Vic and went to public school. I remember having to learn Spanish on the playground, after learning Catalan in the classroom, because if we didn’t speak Spanish, the other kids would make fun of us. So I ended up speaking in Spanish with my siblings. Then most of us ended up speaking in Catalan or Tamazight with our children. I speak Tamazight with my mother, Spanish with my siblings and Catalan with my children. The sociolinguistic factors change over time; there are no clear and defined patterns, but rather it happens like this.

In terms of the present and future of the novel, you’ve said that writers shouldn’t feel forced to innovate at every turn. Maybe now we’ve reached the end of the history of the novel and can finally talk about what’s important. You’ve also recognised the debt to the women in your family, great storytellers who knew how to explain things, lingering over details and creating dramatic tension. What kind of influence has Moroccan women’s storytelling style had on your work?

To be fair, I’d say that it can’t be considered a trait of Moroccan women. It’s more one of my mother’s gifts, which fascinates me. My mother is illiterate, but she has a unique ability to tell stories. She starts talking and you immediately find yourself inside her story; I don’t really know how she does it. She does it naturally, without hesitating, with an ability to capture detail. I remember being silent, listening… An influence like that isn’t recognised anywhere, nor is it honoured, but there are my roots as a storyteller. My great-grandmother was a great storyteller as well, with great vitality, and she had this same instinct for telling stories. I can only hope to be able to explain this disappearing world through literature.

In the infinite city

La filla estrangera [The Foreign Daughter]

Author: Najat El Hachmi

Edicions 62

Barcelona, 2015

El Hachmi had already recounted her experience in two earlier works. While El Hachmi dealt mainly with a relationship with a father in The last patriarch, in La filla estrangera she focuses on a mother-daughter relation ship.

Najat El Hachmi has the merit of having introduced a new point of view to Catalan literature, and even, I would say, to Iberian literature as a whole. El Hachmi has emerged as a unique voice, capable of explaining the experience of the new Moroccan community in our city. Unlike other literary traditions, the Catalan tradition has not segregated a postcolonial literature – for obvious reasons – although globalisation and new migration have made it possible to integrate multiple identities and new perspectives in a literary society that would have otherwise ended up spiralling into a very ethnocentric viewpoint. Authors from around the world who are based in Barcelona – such as the Englishman Matthew Tree, the Czech Monika Zgustova, the Afghan Nadia Ghulam and the Frenchmen Gregoire Poulet and Mathias Enard are, together with Najat El Hachmi, some examples of authors whose work has offered the world a window onto Barcelona.

El Hachmi had already recounted her experience in two earlier works. In her novel The last patriarch (Ramon Llull Award winner), shook literary society with a story that was unsettling – both due to the world that emerged for the first time in our literature, as well as for the story’s literary effectiveness. While El Hachmi dealt mainly with a relationship with a father in The last patriarch, in La filla estrangera she focuses on a mother-daughter relation ship. The author tells the story of a girl born in Morocco, who was transplanted and brought up in a city in inland Catalonia, as she enters adulthood and struggles to become independent of her mother. She maintains a loyal but unhealthy relationship with her mother, with whom she speaks a variant of the Tamazight language. Educated in Catalan, the novel’s protagonist lives straddling two languages, which eventually turn into the field of negotiation between two worlds, a field of forces that not only affect the girl’s social environment.

The great strength of La filla estrangera is the equidistance the author maintains between two worlds and two cultures that overlap without ever becoming identical. El Hachmi unsparingly depicts the prejudices and atavism of the Moroccan community, but also the narrow-mindedness and paternalism with which the Catalans have addressed African immigration. There is no good or bad here. Everyone struggles to be who they are and gets it wrong when judging others. La filla estrangera is, in this sense, proof of the importance of the novelistic genre for understanding the complexity of identity and transforming readers’ views. 

The question raised by La filla estrangera is: “What should I be, in relation to my origin?” In Vic, the protagonist finds a society that is welcoming enough that it enables her to become integrated. Her experience, however, will end up turning Vic into another extension of her maternal prison, and she will be forced to break free and move to Barcelona. 

For the protagonist of La filla estrangera, the big city becomes a space of liberation, after the years of imprisonment living in Vic or suffocation living in Morocco. “I remember walking without stopping along huge streets and being happy to know the infinite city,” she confesses. El Hachmi explained in an interview that “there is a big difference between living in the provinces or in a big city. The big city is often seen as a release, but that’s not always the case. Immigrants arrive and settle here grouped into communities that already come from their home countries […] That’s why there is still this oppressive social control experienced by the protagonist.” 

Prepared for adversity

© Oriol Malet

Ten years ago Barcelona experienced one of its most dramatic moments in recent times. Tunnelling works on the city metro Line 9 disrupted the foundations of several residential buildings in the Carmel neighbourhood, and more than a thousand residents had to be evacuated and the works halted.

Two years later, between 2007 and 2008, the city suffered yet more critical incidents, bringing the vulnerabilities of city services and infrastructure into sharp relief: there was a risk of severe drought that forced the city to bring in drinking water by ship, a power cut caused by an overloaded transformer station that resulted in a string of power failures in the electricity grid and a chaotic episode in the transport sector when high-speed rail works at Sants Station triggered delays to train services.

All these upheavals in such a short period of time combined to intensify awareness of the need for a risk detection and prevention plan. In order to improve reactive capacity and the city’s ability to respond to future adversity, the municipal government set in motion a strategic plan.

One of the results of this initiative is that Barcelona has become the first city in the world to create an urban resilience department, earning it the reputation as a leader in the field. Barcelona has been the headquarters for the UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Programme since 2013. The city is also participating in the 100 Resilient Cities project as of this year, having been selected by the Rockefeller Foundation, which is contributing 100 million dollars to urban resilience programmes.

  • Resilience: prevention, mitigation, recovery
  • Beyond resilience
  • Five acts of resilience
  • An international cooperation network

Resilience: prevention, mitigation, recovery

Resilience goes further than rolling with the puncahes and struggling through, it includes the ability to turn misfortune to favour.

© Vicente Zambrano

The president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Judith Rodin, defines resilience as “the capacity to bounce back from a crisis, learn from it, and achieve revitalization”. Building resilience means that cities can anticipate or mitigate against potentially disastrous situations that can affect their normal activity and, in the worst of cases, identify or at least respond in the best possible way to problems that can be neither predicted nor avoided.

Rodin does not limit resilience to simply rolling with the punches and struggling through, but widens its scope to include the opportunity to turn misfortune to favour. Rodin even talks of dividends when referring to the abilities and benefits that are by-products of building resilience, the keys to which are awareness, availability and the capacity for responsiveness and revitalisation. Ideally, Rodin says, “the more we are able to deal with disorder, and the more skills we develop to build resilience, the more we will be able to create or take advantage of new opportunities, both in the good times and the bad. These are the dividends that come from resilience.”

Building resilience is becoming more and more urgent, something ever more needed in a world where volatility is the new normal. A quick look at the newspapers is all you need to see that not a day goes by without some upset to daily life: a cyberattack, a new virus, a devastating storm, a terrorist attack, a systemic failure, a natural disaster or a sudden collapse on the floors of the stock exchanges can have destabilising effects on huge numbers of people. Rodin points to three fields of disruption that both belong to and define our present times: urbanisation, climate change and globalisation.

The century’s three great challenges

The world’s population is concentrating in urban areas at a relentless pace, with ever more people leaving the countryside in favour of cities. The improvised and disorderly growth of major cities leads to pockets of population that are extremely vulnerable to the threats of climate change and epidemics. The disorderly expansion of large metropolises also affects ecosystems: the effect of urbanisation is not only social, but ecological, too.

The second great challenge facing humanity in this new century is climate change, with recurring natural disasters that are ever more frequent and severe. We are anxious witnesses to global warming, rising sea levels, floods and droughts, all of which cause displacements of populations and have paved the way for a new type of exodus, that of climate refugees.

The third defining factor of the present time is globalisation, which has accelerated the changes we are experiencing, introducing previously unknown hazards and variables. Furthermore, globalisation has added complexity to our systems and has brought with it extra economic instability. Given that everything is interconnected, Rodin says, in a massive system of systems, one disruption often triggers another, which may in turn exacerbate the effects of the first, leading to the original shock snowballing or even avalanching. For example, a storm can damage infrastructure and quite easily result in a public health problem, so an initially small disturbance can end up leading to a large-scale catastrophe. According to estimates by the World Bank, almost 4 trillion dollars were lost worldwide between 1980 and 2012 due to natural disasters.

Resilience is not innate or genetic, but rather a quality that can be developed, be it in a person, a community or an organisation. According to Rodin, a city needs six fundamental values if it is to be resilient: awareness, diversity, redundancy, integration, self-regulation and adaptation.

© Mario Tama / Getty Images
The favela Cantagalo hanging over Rio de Janeiro. Disorganised urban growth changes ecosystems and creates clusters of population extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.


It is essential to know your strengths and limitations and to be alert to possible threats and risks, but just being aware of your vulnerability is not enough. Faced with a crisis, you have to be able to take in new information and adjust to the changes that are happening in real time. “The management of city services involves a great deal of complexity because of the high number of stakeholders who play a part in the process”, says Ares Gabàs, head of Barcelona City Council’s urban resilience programme. “The necessary tools and organisational structures must be built in such a way that they enable the management of the city to be approached in a transversal manner that connects sectors”.

Taking care of all this begins with the management of incidents affecting city services, and this is done through the Operations Centre of the Urban Habitat Department, a key tool in the process of creating resilience. The centre’s mission is to confront critical situations that could compromise the working of the city, addressing issues with the different agents and operators that are involved in managing city services, in both the public and the private sectors.

The Operations Centre deals with any incident detected in the public sector that urgently calls for action or repair and is organised in three shifts to give 24/7 coverage in the event of any emergency in Barcelona. It receives alerts from proactive services and the public, and then organises operatives into immediate response teams that are distributed across the city, guaranteeing rapid de-escalation  or the removal of dangers occurring in public areas.

Diversity and redundancy

© Mike Clarke / AFP / Getty Images
A crowd tries to withdraw money from BEA bank in Hong Kong following rumours about the relationship between the entity and the failed Lehman Brothers, September 2008.

To be resilient, a city needs to have a variety of resources –to the point of redundancy – so that its activity is not disrupted when one part of the system fails.

An example of redundancy can be found in the agreement between Barcelona’s metropolitan transport company TMB and Urbaser, the company that manages the city’s waste collection. Both TMB’s buses and the waste collection trucks run on gas and each have their own filling stations. However, in the event that one station ran out of fuel or any other incident were detected, the buses or trucks would be able to make use of another station.


Incident management requires more than having reflexes and good fire and police departments. All the information relevant to the workings of the city needs to be integrated. According to Rodin, for a system to be properly integrated, all functions have to be coordinated and systems need to be able to work collaboratively with one another to find solutions that bring cohesion. To achieve this degree of integration, information must be shared and communication must be transparent.

In order to address this organisational challenge, Barcelona’s resilience team has created a so-called Situation Room. This is an information management platform whose goal is to offer an integrated view of the city’s operations, piecing together all the relevant data from the constituent systems. “The organisation of the city’s services is complex because of the number of different operators involved, as well as the fact that, in spite of the clear interdependencies that exist between different systems, they often fail to manage their information in a cooperative way”, Gabàs explains. “The Situation Room represents a new opportunity to share information between all parties involved and enables joint analyses of data that were impossible to correlate until now. This brings with it new knowledge to support decision making, be that at a strategic or an operational level”.

With this desire for integration, an initiative called the Barcelona Urban Resilience Partnership was recently created and promoted by the City Council. In the context of the UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Programme, the aim is to foster and consolidate public-private partnerships with the companies that provide the city’s services (Acsa, Aigües de Barcelona, Cespa, Endesa, FCC, TYPSA  and Urbaser), consultancies and engineering firms (anteverti , BAC  Engineering Consultancy Group, Institut Cerdà and Opticits), academic institutions and research centres (BSC and CIMNE).


© Antonio Lajusticia
Passeig de Lluís Companys covered in snow, February 2010.

Cities must have self-regulation mechanisms that mean they can be affected by breakdowns without suffering widespread collapse, dealing with exceptional circumstances without a domino effect occurring.

For example, it is well known that the water used by Barcelona’s population comes from two main sources, the rivers Llobregat and Ter, which are channelled to neighbourhoods in approximately the south and north of the city, respectively. However, three years ago there was a serious fault in the pipework, which could have left half of the city’s population and part of the metropolitan area without services. Catastrophe was avoided thanks to a conduit commissioned not long beforehand which connects the Ter and Llobregat networks via the Collserola hills, allowing water from the Llobregat to be diverted to areas normally served by the Ter. The breakdown could have caused severe disruptions, but hardly anyone even knew about it, let alone had cause to get upset.


A city must be able to change in line with the new circumstances that a crisis situation creates. This could mean developing new plans, implementing new actions and, in some cases, changing behaviour to avoid future problems. In the aftermath of the devastation wreaked on New York by Hurricane Sandy, the city government decided to look for a solution that would meet future storms head-on. Instead of building a taller dyke, sure to be eventually overcome by another hurricane, they decided to create parks along the coast to serve as areas for the public in fair weather conditions, whilst simultaneously providing land that could be flooded in the event of severe storms.

With the same purpose, adaptation, Barcelona City Council has created the so-called Resilience Tables. The initial objective was to reduce the city’s level of vulnerability to dangers related to infrastructure and service networks. Nevertheless, it now has a wider scope, covering natural and man-made dangers that could affect the guaranteed continuous operation and performance of the city’s services.

Beyond resilience

Taleb coins the term “antifragile” to describe things that benefit from the impacts they receive. These are phenomena that grow or prosper when exposed to volatility, chance, disorder, risk or uncertainty.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb has expanded upon and, to a certain degree, revolutionised the concept of resilience with Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, a book that explores the effects of uncertainty in all areas of life.

Taleb, a Lebanese-born author resident in the United States, has worked as a stockbroker and an academic researcher and is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering. Taleb coins the term “antifragile” to describe things that benefit from the impacts they receive. These are phenomena that grow or prosper when exposed to volatility, chance, disorder, risk or uncertainty. Talib has done so because, despite the fact that these phenomena are ubiquitous, no antonym exists for fragility. He suggests the term “antifragility”, a concept that goes beyond mere resilience or strength. Things that are resilient can take a punch without falling over. The antifragile, on the other hand, improves when struck by adversity. Everything that has survived and changed over time has benefitted from antifragility. We cannot understand bacterial resistance, political systems, the stock market or publishing success, or even our own existence as a species on this planet, without the phenomenon of antifragility. As Taleb puts it, “We are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to antifragility. I’d rather be dumb and antifragile than extremely smart and fragile.”

If antifragility is a characteristic of all complex natural systems that have survived, isolating these and depriving them of unbalancing factors will weaken and eventually kill them. A large part of our modern world has been created according to a spirit of overprotection, with policies that have tried to change people’s behaviour from the top down.

Just as almost everything that is conceived from the top down impedes antifragility and tends to weaken growth, that which grows from the bottom up does so under the rightful pressure of stress and disorder.

Five acts of resilience

Barcelona’s Department of Urban Resilience has decided to integrate all the city’s operations information to prevent or mitigate incidents and accidents that could have a negative impact on the everyday lives of residents.

This integration has made it possible to define risks and make diagnoses in order to design strategies and projects to protect the city’s infrastructure. These are some examples of the actions that have been drawn up, implemented or are underway in Barcelona’s resilience plan.

© Dani Codina
The wastewater treatment plant in Sant Adrià.

The water cycle

The strategy includes an increase in rainwater harvesting. The city’s drains cannot always absorb torrential rains, so to stop rainwater from overflowing or creating mud blockages in the system, tanks have been built to hold it. These tanks also prevent sediment and other torrential rainwater waste matter from flowing out uncontrolledly into the sea. With the accumulated water in tanks, the flow that reaches the purification plants can be regulated and, once the downpour abates, all the water that is gradually put back into the drainage system will be treated before it reaches the sea.


© Dani Codina
Uncovered underground conduits during the improvement work on Diagonal road.

Infringement between gas and water mains

In Poblenou a serious incident occurred in which residents were left without heating or hot water due to water leaking into the gas mains. In order to prepare a response to this kind of incident, a protocol has been drawn up by the City Council’s Civil Protection Department and the utility companies. Representatives from the companies must meet at the location in which the incident has occurred until responsibility has been ascertained.

This will increase responsiveness, reduce outage times and improve coordination between utilities to avert a potential domino effect of faults.

© Dani Codina
The Rovira tunnel.

Instruction manual for the city’s tunnels

The Urban Habitat Department has audited the condition of the city’s tunnels and detected a weak point: there were multiple contracts with different companies to manage the tunnels. This rang some alarm bells: if there was to be an accident or fault, it would be difficult to ascribe responsibility and to obtain an immediate response and solutions.

The resilience plan includes a change in the way contracts are given, to guarantee integrated maintenance and operations. The tunnels are now managed by only one company with a single chain of command. To ensure that this new model works effectively, a draft Technical Instruction Manual has been produced for the design and operation of road tunnels in Barcelona. Among other things, it includes all the basic regulations that must be met in terms of tunnel safety, currently spread across different Spanish and European laws and directives.

Integrating all the operations information

Barcelona’s Department of Resilience, in partnership with the Municipal Institute of Information Technology (IMI), has set up the so-called Situation Room, an information management platform which is currently being developed and implemented and will have the capacity to process and visualise different types of data. From the intersecting data across all the municipal departments, a multi-layered map is emerging, showing where the gas and water mains, electrical grid and telephone cables are located. A team in the Control Centre collaborates with the utility companies to improve the notification of incidents, and there is case-by-case reasoning to determine the seriousness of the event and the procedure for transmitting the relevant information.

The website of Barcelona’s Situation Room, a management platform for urban systems information.

The Urban Habitat Department intends to sign agreements (some have already been finalised and others are under way) with all the utility companies that have committed to sharing information of public interest. Each company has its own communications protocol with the Urban Habitat Department, which sets out the specific way in which they must be notified of a faulty service. The utility companies not only have to provide maps of their networks but also information on the actual network infrastructure, which should facilitate decision-making if, for example, a pavement splits open. This information should make it possible to quantify the number of users affected by a fault and identify the damage to vital facilities (schools or hospitals) and to public mobility.

Redundancy in utility networks

Pipes that connect the water systems of the Ter and the Llobregat rivers through the Collserola mountains.

Redundancy is one of the key issues in resilience. A utility network in the form of a grid is able to maintain services because of the surplus of some of its elements, even when supply is cut at one point. To this end, projects have been carried out to ensure the supply of drinking water. They include interconnecting reservoirs at the head of the Ter and Llobregat networks, as well as investment planning  and actions at different pressure levels to ensure that supply reaches every point in the city.

Another example of redundancy in urban utilities is the protocol that has been drawn up to ensure that compressed natural gas (the fuel used by part of the city’s fleet of buses and waste collection vehicles) can be shared by the energy companies during an incident.

An international cooperation network

The Rockefeller Foundation has selected Barcelona from more than 330 candidates as one of the latest 35 cities to be added to the resilient cities network this year.

© Oriol Malet

Barcelona’s place in the 100RC (100 Resilient Cities) network was recently confirmed, giving the city access to tools, financing, technical help and other resources needed to build urban resilience. The network constitutes an avant-guard international group, including Paris, London, Singapore, Bangalore, Amman and Chicago. Created in 2013 by the Rockefeller Foundation – which is also providing the funding – 100RC is a non-profit organisation committed to helping cities worldwide develop the resilience they need to proactively address the major challenges of the 21st century.

Barcelona had already been recognised by UN-Habitat in 2013, being chosen as the global headquarters for its City Resilience Profiling Programme, in which the city is an active participant alongside nine other cities selected from around the world: Balangoda (Sri Lanka), Beirut (Lebanon), Dagupan (Philippines), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Lokoja (Nigeria), Portmore (Jamaica), Talcahuano/Concepción (Chile), Tehran (Iran) and Wellington (New Zealand). This international cooperation programme has set an objective for December 2016 to establish an analysis framework and to test it using empirical data. The idea is to gauge these cities’ resilience and to implement software and interface tools to connect their data. The final objective will be to define global urban resilience standards and agree upon a new regulatory framework that enables the monitoring of urban systems on a global scale.

“Barcelona has a highly interconnected concept of resilience, as it goes beyond infrastructure services to also integrate social and health services. In the face of an emergency, all parties involved have to be integrated. It’s a holistic approach; that’s what’s new about the Barcelona model” explains Maíta Fernández, coordinator for UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Programme. “If there’s an accident with fatalities, the city’s social services look after the family and also conduct a subsequent follow-up. Based on this, they proceed with whatever further services are needed in each case. The same thing happens with people who have lost their home to a fire”.

The main constraint the resilience specialists encounter to the application of their programmes is the difficulty of justifying investment. “Politicians will always give priority to other things before designating budget to address hypothetical impacts. Above all, programmes such as UN-Habitat’s must serve to calibrate standards that will address future threats, from those to do with climate change to cyberattacks by hackers or fundamentalist terrorism,” says Fernández.

Think globally, fabricate locally

Growing numbers of people live in cities and are increasingly connected, but only productive societies will be able to decide their future. A plan has been implemented in Barcelona to place technology within everybody’s reach, allowing the community to work together.

© Pere Virgili
From left to right, Vicente Guallart, Chief Architect of the City Council and founder of the Barcelona network of fab labs, and Neil A. Gershenfeld, professor at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and director of the Center for Bits and Atoms.

Neil A. Gershenfeld is a professor at MIT and the head of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the same technological institute, a sister lab to the MIT Media Lab. His research studies are predominantly focused in interdisciplinary studies involving physics and computer science, in such fields as quantum computing, nanotechnology, and personal fabrication. Gershenfeld is one of the most prominent advocates of the notion of personal fabrication and has been an inspiration for many scientists and engineers working in fab labs today across the globe.

Vicente Guallart, for his part, is the Architect in Chief of the City of Barcelona and the founder of Barcelona’s network of fab labs. Guallart is the author of The Self-Sufficient City (Actar Publishers, 2012), a luminous book on the future of the city, reviewed in this issue of Barcelona Metròpolis. We have interviewed them during the 10th International Fab Labs Conference and Fab Festival, celebrated in Barcelona.

Mr Gershenfeld, you claim that the digital revolution has not come out yet to the physical world. We are going now from programming bits to programming atoms. We have reached the first stage of the digital revolution, but we have yet to move to another level. Where are we now?

Neil A. Gershenfeld: There is a very precise historical analogy that shows where we are now. As computers evolved, we first had mainframe computers, followed by a secondary stage with mini computers, and after that came the ‘hobby’ computer, and finally the personal computer. So that was the history of digitising communication and computation. We are retracing that history now for fabrication in different stages, so in an initial stage you would have the main frames of fabrication, that is, the big machines and factories. We are in the minicomputer era of digital fabrication.

So the fab labs work today like the minicomputers, and the minicomputers were the moment in history when the Internet was invented. Now fab labs are working on machines that make machines, so fab labs make fab labs (those were the hobby computers) and the research we are doing is leading up to the personal fabricator. That is still a research project – one machine that can make anything – but the historical lesson is: You didn’t have to wait 20 years from the invention of the PC before you could start using the internet. So the revolution is here today. There are still many years to work on the technology, but the revolution has already arrived.

Mr Guallart, in your book The Self-Sufficient City, you make a striking assertion: “The Internet has changed our lives but it hasn’t changed our cities, yet.” How will the digital revolution change the way we live now?

Vicente Guallart: The architecture of cities is the last to change when society undergoes a transformation such as the one we are experiencing now. We usually build our idea of society according to the technologies we have at hand at a given time and place. In the 21st century we are all globally connected, and thanks to the Internet we have gained access to all sorts of information generated around the world. This information will enable us to produce our own goods in a self-sufficient way. We are not there yet, but we will be able to produce locally only if we are globally connected. So, we sense that a big change is looming on the horizon but it hasn’t happened yet. We see that we live in a different way and use technologies in a new way, but the way that cities work with the idea of fabrications, the way we produce food, the way we recycle materials… All these point to a larger change, so we are waiting to see the technologies that will transform our cities. For now, we can see that the way we move around and the way we produce energy is going to change in the near future.

N.G.: Today our cities import goods and produce trash that we can only partially recycle. We are still immersed in the PITO model (Product In, Trash Out) but we are moving towards a new model in which the flow of information will be the key. The DIDO model (Data In, Data Out) will enable information to flow so that production can be based locally. If we decrease the flow of matter, the flow of information will increase.

How is this change going to come about?

V.G.: In the city of the near future, all houses and businesses will necessarily be connected to the Internet. The city of the future should be a metropolis of neighbourhoods, where everybody should be able to walk to work or have a bakery or a swimming pool or a fab lab within walking distance. Barcelona is implementing a plan to have a fab lab for every district and thus create a public network of fab labs in order to make technology accessible to everyone.

It has been said that the first fab lab at MIT appeared as if by accident. How did it come about?

N.G.: From CBA and MIT the answer is very narrow. We had a big grant from the National Science Foundation and they asked us to show the social impact of the research and we had no idea, so we just set up a lab as a requirement for the grant, and then they have been doubling it for ten years since. Barcelona has been one of the earliest and biggest and most important labs for this history because the city has a fabulous tradition of design and 50% youth unemployment. There is this great knowledge base, and then there is this broken economy. What is happening here in fab labs in Barcelona and in this international meeting is really profound – it is actually creating a new economy that challenges the fundamental assumptions about how the economy works and so on, all over the world, and Barcelona is a real leader in this. Digital fabrication leads to personal fabrication, which is leading to a new economy.

Vicente, how has the MIT lab shaped Barcelona’s fab lab? What sort of inspiration…

N.G.: Well, let me correct the question. We started it at MIT, but Barcelona’s lab is bigger than MIT’s. The notion of fab labs has been invented by the world. MIT was a little seed and we are still involved, but what goes on in fab labs is the result of a global community collaboration.

V.G.: In our case, Neil has always said that MIT is a safe place for strange people. So we are some of those strange people that engaged in thinking how to invent the future. I have some previous experience with digital production, but we realised that if we were not able to work in collaboration with other people, we would never be able to produce anything and would be reduced to consumers. We created our lab, and our Master of Advanced Architecture arose when we could work with Neil to create the Media House Project together. The idea of a fab lab is having a community with which you can share ideas and solutions while you use the same kind of technology, and from that point of view we are trying to learn as much as we can from MIT. We come from the Cistercian tradition, which springs from the Middle Ages, when monasteries replicated each other. We decided to replicate ourselves in other laboratories, here in Barcelona, but also in Lima and Addis Ababa, so we can become a kind of proactive partner with the fab academy in order to make the revolution possible.

Fab labs in Africa. Valentina, an 8-year-old girl in rural Ghana, can do something by herself that we currently need different people to assemble… Now three students at MIT are scaling innovation done by an 8-year-old in Africa…

N.G.: The bigger lesson is not the students at MIT, which after all fits a few thousand people. They are bright and inventive, but they are only a few thousand, whereas in the planet there are a few billion. What is driving the lab story is that you find exactly the kind of profile of bright inventive people in rural African villages or above the Arctic Circle. The existing advanced education industry does not reach the brain power of the planet. So it’s not changing MIT, but scaling MIT. We are finding people all over the world but there is no place for them, and this is the gap fab labs are trying to fill.

So what can fab labs do for democracy today?

V.G.: We are in a global crisis that affects both the way we work and the way we organise ourselves. We are moving towards a world in which people will live mostly in cities and will be more and more connected, but in the future only the countries and cities that are productive will be able decide their own future. This is why the city of Barcelona has decided to create a plan similar to the one that was developed 100 years ago with the libraries. Recently I was at the Boston Public Library, and at the entrance there is a motto that says “FREE TO ALL”, which is an invitation to open the knowledge of academics to all citizens. Until now, technology was closed to universities and we have decided to open it to everyone. This is why in Barcelona we are developing a plan to set up a laboratory in each district in the same way that we have libraries, schools, health centres, etc. We work to make technology accessible to everyone, we create a network that allows the community to work together… and this is fundamental to grant people the right to decide their future for themselves. Today many people are calling for a revolution, but we are already making a revolution, empowering the citizens, allowing them to have the tools to connect with other people and to share knowledge. We also want to empower cities, because often cities have collapsed, not only economically but also intellectually when confronted with the question, “What to do next?” In the 50s, after the Second World War, the economy was being pushed forward by democracy, mostly in America, and we were all growing together. Today, though, the money is coming from places that are not very democratic, like China or Russia or the Middle East… so we need to invent other ways to manage the economy in order to empower and to connect economic growth to democracy.

What are the current main obstacles that make cities resistant to change, or contrary to the emergence of new cities? It seems that the logic of big companies is that people are meant to consume rather than to create technology…

N.G.: No, that’s not exactly the problem. Remember that when the personal computer appeared, the leading computer companies all failed because they considered PCs a toy; they did not see them as a threat. In the same way, big government or big business are not threatened because they see fab labs as toys; they don’t understand them. The biggest challenge for fab labs is not confrontation but organization: building an organisational capacity. What Vicente and his colleagues have done is profound. They have essentially taken over running the city to build that capacity. There aren’t direct obstacles… The hard part is to build the organisational capacity to support this revolution. So we had to spin off a fab foundation and a fab academy to help support this growing network, and projects like the one Vicente is leading in Barcelona are building the civic infrastructure. It’s a real invention: he is inventing new ways to organise the city around a new notion of infrastructure. And so that’s the limitation, sort of inventing a new city, because if anybody can make anything, how can you live, work and play?

In an article published in Foreign Affairs in 2012, you said that the hype for 3D printers can be compared with the interest that newspapers showed for the microwave oven in the 50s, when it was seen as a substitute for cooking. Now we know that microwave ovens have improved our lives, but that we still need the rest of the utensils to cook. The fab labs would be the kitchen and the microwaves would just be the 3D printers.

N.G.: The research we are doing at my lab at MIT is to take all the tools in a fab lab and merge them in a very deep way, fundamentally structuring the properties of materials. Today, in a fab lab like the Architecture Institute in Barcelona, the 3D printer may actually be the least-used tool. There are bigger machines that involve much more complex processes. Right now there is a bit of hype in the media about 3D printers, but it is silly because the articles  are written by journalists who don’t even actually use them. There is a revolution today, which is digital fabrication, which means turning data into things and things into data, and the 3D printer is a small corner of that big space.

In Barcelona we have marked 300 years since the siege. You might have seen the show M.U.R.S. by La Fura dels Baus. The idea of the siege is relevant to the rise of fab labs, since you aim to create cities that become more self-sufficient, as Vicente Guallart’s book title points out. If we are to be under siege, we should be prepared to produce our own goods…

V.G.: The original title for the book was The Connected Self-Sufficient City. The ideal is not to be isolated. The way we are connected with others is different from the way we were in the past. The question is to empower local production. Basically because we must do it in order to be leaders of our future, but we will only be able to do this if we are connected to the world.

N.G.: Barcelona is under siege today. The economy is broken; people far away take your money and your jobs. You are under siege. It’s today.

How do you envision the city of the future?

N.G.: Think globally, fabricate locally.

V.G.: The city of the future will be multi-scalar, because the city of the future will be a network of cities. We will all be connected, and this implies that we will live in different places at the same time somehow. The city of the future is a metropolis of neighbourhoods. The future is not having a rich centre and a poor periphery, but a city in which many neighbourhoods are empowered and have the right facilities in order to be able to produce nearly everything.

How many things are you wearing that you have produced yourself?

N.G.: When you came to this interview I was working on the internals of the software that controls the machines that make machines – the engineering processes. One of the things that most excites me is the workflows, so I am wearing this laptop. The software in here is what I make. I am more interested in the workflows in the lab rather than the products of the lab. So that’s what I wear.

And you Vicente, what are you wearing that you have produced yourself?

V.G.: What I wear is myself…

N.G. (interrupting): No, no, I can answer for you. It’s the city. Look at this hall, look at Barcelona full of fab labs. I think the answer for Vicente is he is wearing Barcelona.

The risk of humans becoming robots

Carme Torras is a research professor at the Robotics Institute, where she leads research into perception and manipulation. As well as her scientific career, Torras has written a unique work of literature. She is the author of La mutació sentimental, which won the Premi de Ciència-Ficció Manuel de Pedrolo 2007.

© Pere Virgili

You are one of the best-known researchers in robotics in Europe, a relatively new field. How did you get into this discipline?

Once I finished my degree I started working in a multinational, but I was more motivated by research and wanted to keep learning. Thanks to a Fulbright scholarship I was able to study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At that time what interested me most was the brain, artificial intelligence. At Amherst I focused on brain modelling, and Professor Michael Arbib was my supervisor for my Master’s thesis.

And what was the focus of that thesis?

I studied neuronal modelling. We worked with neurologists from the Ramon y Cajal Hospital in Madrid. Specifically, I modelled the nervous system of a crayfish. With very few neurones you can model learning, on both the physical and chemical level. The aim of my research then was to understand how we learn, how the brain acquires knowledge.

It cannot have been easy to follow this line of research.

It was difficult, because it needed a lab that we did not have. I started to look at artificial intelligence and robotics. At that time the Robotics Institute, which had been founded by Gabriel Ferraté, was known as the Cybernetics Institute, and was a joint centre between the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), the two institutions for which I work. Currently the institute has four fields of research. First, there is robot kinematics and design, the closest to mechanics. Second there are mobile robots, focusing on urban outdoor robots. Then there is process control, which deals with water distribution, electricity grids, fuel cells, etc. And finally, there is perception and manipulation, the group which I direct. Initially I worked on the kinematics and programming of industrial robots. Now, instead, I look at cognitive robotics with social applications.

What does cognitive robotics consist of exactly?

In the application of artificial intelligence techniques to robotics. And it sets out to mechanise in a robot actions that humans do naturally, like task scheduling or the perception and manipulation of objects.

What do you understand by perception and manipulation?

We mean that the robot has to be able to make itself a good representation of the environment and the user. We work in a domestic environment, in robotics for care and ser­vices. This has very different determining factors from industrial robotics. First, the robots that move in human environments must be safer; they cannot make sudden movements that could pose a danger to the user. Secondly, a non-expert must be able to programme them. For example, the person can teach the robot how to beat an egg with a simple demonstration, and the robot must be capable, thanks to cameras inside it, of acquiring this information and learning the basic skills necessary.

Have you created a robot that can cook our dinner?

The cooking robot is still at the research stage. Not long ago we carried out a European project, called Paco-Plus, where we managed to get a robot to clear the table and put the plates in the dishwasher. It was not intended to be transferred to the private sector, but it involved up to nine research centres.

Was it an international project?

Yes, we are completely integrated into the international robotics community. Recently, we have participated in three European projects in the field of cognitive systems. The Paco-Plus project, directed by the University of Karlsruhe, involved groups from Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Slovenia. The GARNICS project, also headed up by a German group, was aimed at creating a robot gardener capable of taking samples in big plantations to optimise the yield. And the goal of the current IntellAct project, an acronym for Intelligent Action, is to teach robots to carry out simple manipulation tasks simply by doing them in front of them and correcting them when the reproduction by imitation is not quite right, just as you would with someone who was learning.

Could domestic robots have feelings?

There are people who work on giving cognitive robots emotions, to make them more sociable and friendly. For example, in Japan they are already working on various robot carers that can look after elderly people or children, something that I question. It is good that robots can expand our capabilities, but I do not like the idea that they are used as baby-sitters. In the long term it could be harmful if children have robots as slaves, and are not obliged to negotiate as they would when playing with other children. How will they learn empathy if they do not have someone in front of them who responds emotionally?

What kind of robots should children have, then?

A robot, to a greater or lesser degree, can affect the development of a child’s interpersonal relationships. A child who only plays with a robot will not have the emotional feedback needed to generate empathy. We learn emotions by seeing them in others. In the end, as Robert C. Solomon says, the relationships that we build are those that in turn shape us.

But it is also true that robots or games can stimulate multitasking [the ability to execute different tasks simultaneously], an ability that is well-developed in the younger generations, but which is detrimental to the ability to concentrate, because they are ready for a thousand stimuli at the same time. It is a vital attitude that trains the sensory motor skills, the driving reflexes, stimulus response, but which decreases the capacity to concentrate deeply on a problem. You see this, too, in the new generations of researchers: the machines generate such precise graphs and the algorithms give such automatic responses that often the researchers lose the physical sense of what they are doing.

Today people are still more dangerous than robots.

The danger is not that the robots will become more human and attack us, but that humans become robots, that they limit their actions to the simulated world inhabited by robots. Robots should increase the abilities of people and give us more autonomy, instead of decreasing it.

In your book La mutació sentimental, set at the beginning of the 22nd century, there is a robot that has a creativity prosthesis, designed to challenge the user and stimulate their wits.

What we must ask ourselves is whether we want robots to do the work and sideline humans or, conversely, if we want robots that will stimulate us and make us grow as people. “Spoiled robots make spoiled people, robots slaves make tyrants and robot entertainers remove the brains of their owners,” says a character in the novel. We should have an opinion as to what kind of robots we want, otherwise we will have no control over what we get sold. We have to start to think differently about the use and the point of robots.

Machines are changing our cognitive capacities and it is important to be aware of this to decide which capabilities we want to have. We cannot easily control our reaction to stimuli, but we can pick and choose which stimuli we want to receive and for which we want robots to be designed. And in this, society has a lot to say, because companies will sell what they want to, and the users must know how to discern what really suits them, whether we are talking about a doll or a butler.

A lot of education will be necessary to develop this awareness.

Yes, I started to write La mutació sentimental exactly for that reason. There are scientists who still aspire to creating a fully autonomous robot, not dependent on humans and capable of organising itself and setting its own goals; they even make robots with bodies programmed to keep growing. I see no sense in encouraging this kind of experiment without asking ourselves what will happen afterwards. In other words, there are those who think we will not have a fully developed artificial intelligence until we have created completely autonomous systems. I, on the other hand, think that robots should serve people. For me it makes more sense, for example, to design robot doctors who are capable of carrying out surgical procedures with more precision than us, than inventing a robot that has its own goals.

All this raises fascinating ethical questions. Just as overcoming the limits of biology has given rise to bioethics, in your field there is now roboethics…

Yes, more and more researchers are becoming interested in the subject, and the potential users are also paying more attention to it. At the previous robotics world congress there was a session open to the general public, dedicated to human–robot confluence. It was a very enriching experience contrasting very varied viewpoints.

What limits can we impose on the entertainment industry in the development of robots and humanoids?

I often use the example of Tamagotchis, devices which for a time were all the rage among kids. They were like living things, which needed feeding every day so they did not die. Tamagotchis were a hit and sold loads, but for me they are a clear example of an artefact that gives us nothing and creates a useless dependence. On the other hand, there are educational robots that many schools have integrated into the curriculum. At the moment, they are holding the First Lego League, for example, a worldwide competition for children aged between six and nine and ten and sixteen. It is a team competition. Some do the design, others programme and some take care of the sensory aspect. With these robots we can provide examples for explaining physics or math­ematics. Last year three Catalan girls trained in our workshops won an international prize.

Who formulates the discourses that feed roboethics? It is an open debate or restricted to engineers?

On the contrary, it is more important now than ever to open the debate to other disciplines. Like I said before, at the previous robotics world congress, in Karlsruhe, there was a forum entitled Robotics Meets the Humanities. At the table were two robotics professors, two from humanities, a philosopher, a science fiction filmmaker, there was Marcel·lí Antúnez as a performing artist who uses robotic technology, and I was the moderator. The robotics community has already glimpsed the need to draw up possible future scenarios, which give us ideas for research and enable us to assess whether they are feasible and where they will take us on a human level.

Do you think autonomous systems should have rights…?

There is not much sense in conceding rights if they have to serve people. Instead they should have obligations. What does need legislating is, if a robot harms someone, who is responsible? The engineer who designed it? The company that sold it? The person who was using it? Think about drones, military robots.

Can we talk about military roboethics?

A friend from NASA explained to me that there are already veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq who fought using remote control drones. In combat their emotional involvement was not as intense as if they had been on the battlefield, but they suffer anxiety attacks and end up having psychological problems as serious as those of Vietnam veterans. If a military offensive is trusted to robots, knowing that they may impose limits, it would probably limit the scope of the destruction, provided that both sides rely on robots and they attack each other, of course. There is much to talk about here…

What role will robotics have in the smart cities of the future?

Robots will be useful for doing all kinds of tasks. We have sensors in waste containers that tell us when they are full, for example. Rubbish collection will be robotised. Lots of other infrastructures will also work autonomously. There is a project called Roboearth that consists of making an internet for robots, so that each of them can add their expertise and knowledge into a central system, a data cloud. Then a robot can go somewhere and know exactly where all the devices it has to use are, even the first time it sets foot there, because it will have access to all the information that has been modelled. We are also in contact with Barcelona City Lab. Here we have The Humanoid Lab, a workshop for university students to start programming robots.

How do you see Barcelona in the field of smart cities? Do you think it is high in the rankings?

Yes, very. Our institute took part in URUS, a pioneering project on the development of robots that guide users around urban environments. It was undertaken in parallel with a similar study at the University of Osaka, and the two cities were twinned as promoters of urban robots. There was a demonstration in Passeig de Sant Joan: two mobile robots and an automatic car. People in the street approached and asked questions. You could ask the robots where the hospital was or ask them to accompany you to the automatic car, which would then drive you to your requested destination.

Barcelona has signed the Smart City Protocol and the City Council is working to consolidate good practices to make Barcelona a smart city. What is the view of the Robotics Institute on this, and how is it participating?

Well, in fact, URUS drew up a preliminary protocol to define everything that had to be standardised when defining actions and processes in different places. If people had to be evacuated in the middle of a fire, for example, and we had robots that helped the humans in this emergency, it would be good to have homologous behaviour everywhere, both for reasons of efficiency and so that their actions would be understandable to all of the users. If we standardise the protocols, we could also make the robots more universal, and therefore make the investment needed for developing them more cost effective.

From crisis to revolution

The cloud is not just a virtual repository of information that allows us to scale costs or save space on our hard drive; rather, it also has an emancipatory potential for teachers and students because it structures reality and, in passing, it changes the way we relate to and communicate with each other.

© Swasky

© Swasky

The futurologists say that half of the trades that our grandchildren will practise in fifty years’ time do not yet exist. We are not facing a time of change, but rather a veritable change of era. Our world as we have known it so far is sinking, before another one can be born again to shore it up. We do now know what the world will be like in twenty years’ time, and paradoxically we have to train the people who will take us there as best as we can. We are groping about in the dark, although it is probable, as Gregorio Luri says, that “one of the best indicators for measuring a coun­try’s wealth is investment in and the quality of its educational system”.

We live in the midst of liquid modernity, they say. It is also true that we are stuck in the lock, just at the point when the gates of an outmoded past close behind us and the ones ahead of us have not yet opened. While we wait for the waters of the world we are leaving behind us and those of the canal ahead of us to level out, we live amid confusion and paralysis. The lock is one of the paradigms of our time.

In the field of education we live in a twofold confusion which drags us in opposite directions. First of all, there is the crisis regarding the figure of the teacher, devoid of prestige and stripped of all authority in a school system that has made the student the centre of everything. Secondly, there is the confusion caused by the new array of opportunities opened up by the digital revolution, which provides new tools and ease of connection, but which also endangers the face-to-face relationship between teacher and student. With the Internet era in full swing, the teacher can no longer merely teach, let alone impose knowledge. They must make it accessible and shareable, recreating it with the students, who, in this generational lock, are often more digital than the actual teachers.

In L’escola contra el món (Schools against the world), Gregorio Luri bemoans the loss of direction in the education system. The prevailing pedagogical sanctimoniousness has disregarded rigour, effort and education of character in favour of the autonomy, opinion and spontaneity of the student. In this model, “the teacher basically becomes a catalyst of the student’s interest, while traditional subjects become mere tools of personal development,” says Luri, who believes that confidence in the educational system and in the teacher’s authority has been lost. Reviewing the last forty years of the active school, Luri questions the pedagogical principles of Rosa Sensat and regrets that for years pedagogical activism was confused with anti-Francosim: “Anything that did not promote student autonomy was belittled as if it were indoctrination into submission.” Greogrio Luri also regrets that education has associated values such as excellence with classicism and segregation, and has advocated a misunderstood equality which eventually levels students out by pushing them down. Teachers used to make the distinction between students’ ability and willingness to gauge whether failure was due to lack of ability or lack of effort. Luri regrets that the school has become “a therapeutic institution” in which it is taken for granted that the student’s attention deficit is involuntary and that their failure at school may be attributed to some kind of disorder that has to be diagnosed. Luri thus denounces the dominion of psychology over pedagogy: “Education cannot confuse the psychology of learning with pedagogy. The former tells us how we make certain knowledge our own, but not why this knowledge is valuable.”

Why should certain skills be promoted? Why should some content, and not others, be taught? What skills should students develop? As Albert Aixalà states in the article contained in this special edition, if we define the objectives to be achieved only in terms of skills, we run the risk of them becoming merely technological skills. “Many students start secondary school without even having attained basic reading and writing skills,” says Aixalà. In these conditions, it is impossible to promote “critical, dissenting and dialogue-based thought in our students”. Aixalà says that the teacher would rather relinquish their own educational skills to delegate their work to a hologram of Carles Puyol or Gerard Piqué, who would probably make the topic much more exciting.

The teacher–student relationship

Now more than ever, at a time when dropping out from school is put down to disease and disorders, it is the relationship between teacher and student that is at stake. But it is a game you cannot play without a modicum of attention. Attention is now the only condition for the possibility of keeping the relationship between teacher and student alive. This is why only too often psychologists and drugs are brought in to solve a problem that we have chosen to medicalise in order to avoid having to question or re-evaluate educational skills.

But we will not be able to refocus this attention by reverting to the traditional school model, in which the teacher imparted knowledge on a one-way basis through the authority afforded to them by their profession. As Xavier Laudo, professor of pedagogy at the University of Barcelona, in his article “Internet, liquid education and emancipation” highlighted, “the die-hard defence of a school that conveys truths that should protect us from permanent doubt, which some educators expound, is too anachronistic. On the other hand, attributing the current problems of society and schooling to the principles of the active school is pedagogical reductionism.”

In the school of the future, teachers must be able to re-focus attention, defining and prioritising contents, placing knowledge before information and effort before entertainment, but they must do so in the digital context and with tools and materials that will probably not depend solely on them. This transition from analogue to digital school runs the risk of simply replacing the student’s attention with connection. But connection (or connectivity) alone does not guarantee the attention that is essential for the transfer of knowledge to take place. If the only thing that harnesses attention is the connection, then the transfer of knowledge is doomed to be superficial and ephemeral. Catherine L’Ecuyer’s contribution in this magazine warns us of the over-use of screens in schools. L’Ecuyer points to a piece of data that is both surprising and telling – the American Waldorf school in California, where the children of the high-ranking executives and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley are schooled, has distanced itself from the use of screens in the classroom. In an exercise of futuristic imagination which some may see as reactionary, L’Ecuyer holds that children’s ability to be surprised must be preserved, rather than satiating their receptivity and the gift of marvelling at a visual overstimulation.

Teresa Fèrriz, lecturer at the UOC, admits that “in the classroom, permanent connectivity is not a value in itself, but the opportunities to communicate and cooperate with each other, which increase exponentially, are, and particularly the active involvement of the student in their own ­learning which, with the appropriate methodologies and technological tools, are adopted by children when they start to work collaboratively”.

Be that as it may, it is therefore inevitable that the school of today and tomorrow depends on connection to the cloud. “The school of the future will be digital or else it will not be” said Ramon Barlam in the article he penned for this special issue: “We will no longer be talking about new technologies, since by then they will be seamlessly integrated into our daily lives.” It is true that we are still learning the alphabet – we have whiteboards, ICT rooms, but either our Wi-Fi doesn’t work or we don’t have fibre optic in our schools. Neither do we have text books that surpass the multimedia-rich PDF. We want to integrate ICT, but we do so with analogue ticks.

In the traditional school, the main instrument available to the teacher for focusing attention in the classroom was the textbook, which defined the framework of knowledge and skills that students were supposed to learn. For many students there was nothing beyond the confines of the school textbook. Today, the concept of the textbook as the sole and universal guide has been plunged into crisis, particularly since the Internet has become students’ main tool for consulting and research, but also a source of interference and dispersion.

The teacher is no longer alone with the textbook, but in the eyes of the student he or she is not the sole guardian of knowledge, because now every student potentially has the same access to a dizzying amount of resources and information. “Despite these changes, it is the teachers who continue to define the rules of the game – the incorporation of ICT into classrooms must pursue very clear objectives, with a preliminary study of students’ needs to strike the right balance between educational, technological, organisational and contextual elements,” warns Teresa Fèrriz, who has promoted projects such as Lletra or Mestresclass, designed to bring education to the cloud.

The cloud is not just a repository of information stored virtually on the network that allows us to scale costs or save space on our hard drive; rather, it also has an emancipatory potential for teachers and students. And if the cloud is potentially revolutionary, then it is because it structures reality and, in passing it, changes the way we relate to and communicate with each other.

Cradle of good practice

Barcelona is the cradle of good practice in this field. One, in the public sphere, is be the Àgora project, part of Tele­matic Education Network of Catalonia (XTEC), which offers students and teachers a virtual classroom. The Àgora project has spread great interest among schools and teachers in the use of virtual teaching-learning platforms and dynamic school portals. Àgora currently serves about 1,700 schools and/or organisations related to the world of teaching that have their own cloud.

In the private sphere, Barcelona is the cradle of Tiching, an international educational platform that includes parents, students, teachers and schools in an open community that shares a huge bank of games and free teaching resources in the cloud. Its founders, Tomás Casals and Nam Nguyen, explain in Barcelona Metròpolis how Tiching is postulated as the largest social network for education.

The revolution has just begun.

Xavier Verdaguer: “Barcelona is like a start-up”

Xavier Verdaguer is one of the most creative and international entrepreneurs that Barcelona has produced. He holds computing engineering and technical architecture degrees from Pompeu Fabra University, has studied top level management at Stanford University, and defines himself as a serial entrepreneur. Over the course of his career he has created several companies, and is currently behind three Silicon Valley projects: Innovalley, dedicated to the design of smart clothing; Seven4Seven, which develops apps; and Imagine, a creativity programme for young entrepreneurs. Verdaguer calls upon our universities and business schools to train their students in entrepreneurial skills to make up for the country’s shortcomings in this area.

© Italo Rondinella

You were an inventor from a very early age. There is an episode of the programme Joc de ciència [Science Game] in which, at the tender age of 12, you receive an award for creating a machine…

Yes, a pluviograph, a device for measuring rain intensity. It is probably still at the Sant Miquel dels Sants school, where I was in my sixth or seventh year of primary education. TV3 organised a competition for inventions, theoretically for older kids. A classmate and I lied about our age to be able to take part with a device that we built with things I had pinched from my granny, like an alarm clock and a biscuit tin. However, the contraption worked, and generated a rain graph. The prize was a Commodore 64: it was my first computer, which set me on the path towards IT. That is what being an entrepreneur is about, having a dream and fighting to make it real, not just going to a notary and signing a company’s articles of association…

You have set up a good number of companies over the course of your working life. You started with TMTFactory.

Yes, it was my first, and it has been with me since I started out up to the present day, through some hard times, such as when I went bust in 2001 with the dot-com bubble. The first commission was a project for the Barcelona Maritime Museum. At the time, I was a computer expert in a civil engineering consulting firm, and started to do things on my own with 3D and multimedia production. In 1997, I went in for a tender at the museum with a project to explain the port’s history interactively, although I cheated a bit as I had no company incorporated. The proposal consisted of explaining, using touch screens, how the port had evolved in different periods. They gave me three months to set up an exhibition. I had to create a team and shut myself into my flat in Gràcia until everything was ready. The exhibition won an award for the best multimedia production from Spain and Portugal. After that we continued to work with multimedia projects until the internet did away with CDs and we started doing websites. Until 2001…

You said you went bust…

I worked for a single client, and when the bubble burst the client disappeared overnight, owing us a lot of money. I come from a very humble family and have never had a financial cushion, so the crisis dragged us all down. I had to lay off all 20 workers and start again from scratch. The failure was very tough, because you get black listed.

What qualities are needed to be a real entrepreneur? What skills should be worked on in schools?

Firstly, students’ communication skills must be worked on, because otherwise they will be unable to present or sell projects, and it goes without saying that English should be taught better. Secondly, we need to promote leadership. Success is frowned upon and entrepreneurs lack ambition and the will to change the world. We need people with drive, and this has to be instilled in children from an early age. Here, an entrepreneur who does well is immediately pigeon-holed as a businessman, a term that has negative connotations.

And in more advanced stages?

The entrepreneurial spirit must be promoted at university. In the United States, lecturers encourage students to create companies. Having an entrepreneurial experience is like a whole school, because you have to know a bit of everything: accounting, public relations, planning, and so on. It is not just a matter of training managers, but rather entrepreneurs, in all schools, from teacher teaching to pharmacy. Barcelona has very good business schools, such IESE and ESADE, which should divert management training towards entrepreneurial skills; otherwise they will miss the boat. Here, university researchers work to obtain scientific prestige; in the United States they never lose sight of the entrepreneurial horizon. University research in Catalonia should keep the market in mind, to attract investment, with more pragmatic objectives. In the United States, universities encounter fewer administrative obstacles if, for example, they want to set up a spinoff to create a company. By way of illustration, the President of Stanford University sits on Google’s Board of Directors. In contrast, here it would be unthinkable for a university president to be a member of the board of directors of a major company. There is a very big barrier between the universities and business, and this makes knowledge and technology transfer difficult.

Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, says that “the twentieth century was the bankruptcy of the social utopia; the twenty-first will be that of the technological one”…

My discourse on technology is more optimistic. Technology is unstoppable. The internet is spreading like wildfire and will make things reach everyone faster. A Maasai with an internet-enabled mobile has more information now than Ronald Reagan had 20 years ago, when he was President of the United States. At this moment in time, barely a quarter of humankind is connected to the internet, but this figure will increase to three-quarters by 2020. This low-cost internet penetration will democratise many things the first world already has, such as access to education and information.

© Italo Rondinella

A few years ago you launched the Imagine project, which seeks to motivate young entrepreneurs from here and take them to Silicon Valley for a spell. What are these projects about?

Right now we are working on a technology to purify water, a commission from Unilever, a multinational company with a very strong foundation behind it. They have realised that in a few years’ time there will not be enough water for everyone, and asked us to come up with a proposal for saving water. We created a team of three young people with very different profiles: a mathematician, a publicist and a creative. None of them had knowledge of environmental management. The mathematician developed an index to measure responsible water consumption, which takes demographic mass, industry and environmental needs into account. The publicist proposed the organisation of a world competition of cities – 180 of them, including Viladecans, where the company is sited – which will compete to improve their consumption index. To promote community motivation, an urban element is installed in the main square of each city so that the residents can follow the index’s progress. As of this moment people are asked to propose specific saving measures. Our creative’s idea, for example, consists of taking a shower while listening to a song that lasts no longer than five minutes. It has been demonstrated that if you limit your shower time to the length of a song you can reduce your regular water consumption from 160 litres to 80. So the idea is to publicise measures that motivate people in general.

This collective motivation is essential if we are to move towards smart cities, a new paradigm of interaction with the environment which will only be possible if there is hyperconnectivity among people. Connectivity does not mean social cohesion. Perhaps technology alone is not enough…

Evidently, technology cannot be an end in itself; it has to be a means. It offers us a series of new possibilities, which will take shape in what we now call the Internet of Things, but the use that people make of it and how we leverage the opportunities that emerge in order to cooperate and add information will be more decisive. One person has half an idea and another person might have the other half. Social networks promote connectivity, and therefore creativity, but technology alone is useless.

As a company, is Imagine solvent?

It is not a business, but rather an open project. It is my most successful business in the sense that the transformation of the people who participated in the three editions has generated an emotional yield. Imagine was a turning point in their lives. They went through a very intense experience that helped them to transform the environment.

You have also created a highly international community with the Supertramps project. How did this adventure start?

A few years ago I had a scare, health-wise, but I recovered. While I was getting over it, I took a semi-sabbatical year and a more relaxed attitude to work. I decided to travel the world for six months, got all my visas and vaccines, but I never paid a single night’s hotel. I did couchsurfing. Moving from one sofa to another, I reached India and Nepal. Over the course of this period I shared photos of people with open arms with the people I met. These photos, which I posted on Facebook, are called Supertramps. They have spread everywhere, and every day I receive about a dozen photos on the FB supertrampspage, which now has 3,500 “likes”. To my mind, happiness is not real until it is shared.

Your journey ended when you set up in California to study at Stanford University. You did a Master’s degree there, and founded Innovalley in 2010, a company that develops “smart” clothing.

Yes. Innovalley merges Catalan creativity and fashion with American technology. We make gear for motorcyclists with built-in GPS, using sensors which tell you whether to turn left or right, for example. We began making branded clothes accessories, but some time ago we began to work for the major fashion brands and other accessory manufacturers. We work on long-term research projects, which means we won’t see some of the products on the market for a while, but we have a great time testing the prototypes that we produce.

You once defined yourself as a “serial entrepreneur”. Are you more of an entrepreneur than a businessman?

Yes, I am more interested in generating new business ideas, designing the business, putting together a team that works and starting it up, then turning it over to a management team.

This distinction between entrepreneur and manager is very American, isn’t it?

Yes. There would be two models. One that starts up and manages that project for ever, which is typical of here, and the founder model, which is creative but is not involved in management.

What does Barcelona need to acquire or catch this enterprising spirit?

First of all, a direct flight to San Francisco. Right now, the Mobile World Congress makes us the world mobile phone capital. Barcelona is very well-positioned here. It is a sector where talent prevails, and there is a lot of it. We must create a cluster of entrepreneurs in Barcelona.

When all is said and done, we are in the midst of globalisation. What can you do in California that you can’t do here?

Right, that is true; the place is not everything. To begin with, we should wonder why Israel is the second country in the world with most companies listed on the NASDAQ. We are still lacking an entrepreneurship culture here. Catalonia is the third European research power in science. We have talent and people with money who do not invest enough in local talent. Barcelona is like a start-up. We have had interesting waves, but now we have opportunities. Nowadays, Barcelona is a creativity brand associated with many things: football, cuisine, architecture, design… And it seems that we do not realise this. Sectors must be reinvented. We can decide the direction we want to take.

Could the Silicon Valley ecosystem be replicated in Barcelona?

Any place in the world can be enterprising, but some eco-systems are better than others. It is more difficult to be an entrepreneur in Barcelona than in San Francisco, where there are investors, opportunities and machinery ready to turn ideas with teams into a business… In San Francisco the environment is very positive and you learn a lot more. There are a lot of highly qualified people who are also very accessible. Here, on the other hand, you have to go through endless filters to get to speak to certain people…

So what are we lacking?

The culture of failure. And the culture of success… Here, anyone who is successful falls under suspicion immediately. And the risk culture. We have to be passionate about what we do, we have to work with a more positive mindset. In the United States, if you lose your job you have no unemployment benefit, but people pull through. We also need the mentoring culture. We need to join forces and cooperate a lot more. We are too focused on Spain. Catalonia has to look towards the world, and make its own contribution. Our world is the world. Sometimes I kind of wish that Spain would boycott our products because this would oblige us to sell abroad, and we would buck up.

Do you, an entrepreneur, believe that an independent Catalonia could make it on its own?

I don’t know, but I like to share this collective dream. Having a dream and fighting for it is an entrepreneurial attitude. With this kind of attitude we can achieve great things and greater happiness, both in the world of business and in life in general, and the same applies to building the future of a nation. I truly believe that entrepreneurship is a good road to happiness.

If you came back to live in Barcelona, what business would you get into?

I would probably be into telephony, or social issues, or perhaps both of them together. Barcelona has a vast degree of social innovation potential that must be discovered and harnessed. The Hub Candidate Barcelona has been created, a platform that seeks to connect, promote and foster the social entrepreneurs’ big ideas. The Hub Barcelona Initiative belongs to a global network of 31 hubs spread out over the five continents whose mission is to change the world by applying sustainable business models that can be extended and replicated. A veritable ecosystem of social innovation.

Technology and happiness

In addition to his ongoing projects, over the course of his career Xavier Verdaguer has founded other companies, such as TMTFactory (multimedia contents and consulting for digital projects), BCNMedia (multimedia production), IntegraTV (interactive television), Smart Point (information point systems) and Bconsulting (software development). This creative man is an international partner of Barcelona Global and a promoter of the San Francisco – Barcelona Sisterhood initiative. He received the Barcelona Activa Entrepreneur award and the award for the best young creative entrepreneur in 2010, granted by the Junior Chamber International (JCI). He is also the driving force behind the Supertramps project (www.supertramps.ws) for sharing moments of happiness online.

Barcelona wiki

Before the existence of the welfare state, people had support networks that took a variety of forms. Workers’ cooperatives, parish or anarchist-run schools, mutual health societies, Catholic care homes, pawnshops, non-denominational or religious choral associations: in 19th-century Barcelona they all formed a social network that was gradually replaced by the welfare state. Social democracy provided citizens with a public health and school system and allocated a budget to the arts.

We are at a worrying crossroads. With each day that passes the so-called welfare state loses more layers. The old assumption that a provident superstructure funded by our taxes will come to our aid in times of need is fading. However, new forms of interaction and cooperation are emerging, often thanks to the immediate connectivity provided by information technology. Online social networks have pushed the internet out into the meeting places, opening up new channels of cooperation from wiki platforms.

The internet connects people who don’t know each other but who could make up for shortfalls. This is about spreading reciprocity. And that is the purpose of BarcelonaActua, an online platform developed by Laia Serrano, which links up people with different needs, be they care- or arts-related. Cooperation strengthens relationships that already exist in the real world and creates new ones; relationships that are not relegated to the virtual world but translate into new, face-to-face encounters, into exchanges and collaborations that bear fruit and broaden the network of people. This is the raison d’être of Lost & Found, a market for unused essential items, which opts for exchange in a world that will be increasingly governed by a reduction in irresponsible consumption, re-use of objects and recycling. Cultural activities will look for ever more imaginative channels, such as the Wikiartmap, Verkami and Fònics 2.0 initiatives, that work not because of financial strategies but thanks to the voluntary collaboration of their participants.

Portada dossier Barcelona wiki

© Albert Armengol
Book-exchange gathering organised by BarcelonaActua in a bar in Eixample in May.

The “Barcelona wiki” section, coordinated and written by Ada Castells, maps out the new forms of collaboration that are emerging in the city thanks to the internet. Whilst the old structures collapse, new ones are created that are much lighter and more decentralised. There are undoubtedly many more that we haven’t detected or that are germinating at this very moment. Nevertheless, we can be certain that the city’s fabric will be rewoven with these invisible and somehow seamless layers.

The old distinction made by the 20th-century Catalan writer Josep Pla, who used to say that in this world we have friends, acquaintances and people we greet, remains totally relevant in the digital world, but it will also become much more dynamic over time. Someone you greet can quickly become an acquaintance and an acquaintance can turn into a friend.

Barcelona, the great enchantress. From the couch to the coach

“Within our mean wood / reverberate men and cities.” (Carles Riba)

“Thus have cities been made: / built up slowly / with stones that yesterday were human lives: loves, sufferings that no one recalls.” (Narcís Comadira)

Barcelona has not been left on the sidelines of the globalisation process. It is a welcoming city that opens itself up to outsiders and this means that ripples reach us from everywhere. However, it is also true that Europe is no longer the centre of the world. The geopolitical centre is shifting towards Asia. The Mediterranean, the cradle of Western civilization, could soon be downgraded to a peripheral status on the world map. Barcelona is a city that has grown because of the impetus given by big one-off events (the Universal Exposition, the Olympic Games, the Universal Forum of Cultures) and the roll-out of large-scale urban development projects (the Eixample, the Vila Olímpica, the 22@ business district, etc). Now that the city is developed, it is still not immune to the economic crisis and it needs to come up with a new productive model to make it sustainable. Tourism still brings in a lot of revenue, but it will not drive the new productive model that must ensure us a place on the cognitive capitalism map. We live in a time of unrest. The world we knew is dying, before a new world is born. The crisis is not a transient phenomenon. It is more like a systemic overhaul and it will demand the continued efforts of everyone.

Barcelona Metròpolis has always revolved around a central dossier, creating in-depth documentation of an aspect of life in the city. In this new stage, the central theme will be  Barcelona’s transformation. In moments of crisis, one must use different lenses to look at problems with a historical perspective and a vision of the future. Barcelona is a capital undergoing transformation. From now on, mapping, projecting, debating, illustrating and documenting Barcelona’s changing place in the world will be the purpose of this magazine. And we shall do so with eyes that take in the past, help us to describe the present and test out different paths as we look to the future. The great enchantress needs to redefine herself. It is time to sit on the therapist’s couch or get an appointment with a life coach. We have asked some writers to conduct an exercise in prosopopoeia, giving Barcelona a dramatic monologue about her hopes, fears, traumas and fantasies. In each of these six soliloquies or dialogues with her therapist, Barcelona lies on the couch to explain what the matter is with her (with us) and elucidate where we come from, where we are and where we’re going. At the end of each monologue, the authors themselves put themselves in the shoes of a life coach, suggesting new challenges and attitudes with which to move forward.

Historian Enric Vila explores the Barcelona that measures itself against other neighbouring cities with a mixture of pride and envy. Xavier Theros gets Barcelona to speak from her architectural heritage. Anna Punsoda gives a voice to the city that sees itself from a philosophical angle. Jaume Radigales gets the music-loving city to speak. Àlex Gutiérrez gives voice to the city from the perspective of press journalism, a sector threatened right at a time when titles in Catalan are proliferating. We end the dossier with an exploration of the linguistic reality of Barcelona, ever more multilingual but also polarized between Catalan and Spanish. The choice is fragmented, but it is enough to give us an idea of the symptoms and the acute situation we are currently experiencing.

© Cristina Sampere

© Cristina Sampere

“Great enchantress”: is a translation of the Catalan “gran encisera”, the famous and oft-quoted epithet that the poet Joan Maragall dedicated to the city in his New ode to Barcelona, dated 1909.

The lovely enchantress sticks out her tongue

Il·lustració sobre llengües parlades a Barcelona, de Pep Montserrat.

© Pep Montserrat

–Lovely enchantress, here we are again. Make yourself comfortable. Would you like to sit on the chair or the couch? You’re panting, your tongue’s hanging out.

–My tongue… yes. They say I’m a multilingual city.

–Multilingual? Saying you’re a multilingual city is a very elegant way of burying your head in the sand. Take a seat on the couch.

–On my streets, one hears Amazigh, Swahili, Italian, French, Urdu, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, English… There are so many languages, they even speak Catalan!

–You’re in a jokey mood today. Why so facetious?

–Some people are amazed. Even for me, it’s something of a miracle that, after so many centuries and such a history of prohibitions and persecution that the Catalan language has suffered, I can still hear it spoken on my streets. Because, while I enjoy listening to the phonetics of Kikongo and Ronga, of Spanish and English, I especially love the sound of Catalan as it is the city’s own language. We speak lots of languages here now, but Catalan has always been spoken here.


–Since Latin became a crucible for the Romance languages. In the Middle Ages, Barcelona was the capital of a kingdom that spread its empire around the entire Mediterranean. The Catalan kings and queens were among the first European monarchs to turn away from Latin for the writing of their royal chronicles and adopt the language spoken by their subjects. The royal chancellery helped to consolidate a language that is still shared by Catalans, Majorcans and Valencians today. Catalonia’s age of splendour came early (maybe even prematurely) because the Crown of Catalonia and Aragon had its moment of glory before the creation of the modern nation states that have ultimately drawn the map of Europe, either with wars or with blows of romanticism. The French worked out how to “civilize” the Bretons, the Occitans and the people of Roussillon. The Spanish have not quite managed to “civilize” the Catalans… Exactly 100 years ago, in 1912, Pompeu Fabra published the first modern Catalan grammar. He wrote it in Spanish, so that everyone could understand it and it wouldn’t go unnoticed by those who needed it or those who had to acquaint themselves with it. The people of Barcelona have always made an effort to explain to the world that Catalan isn’t just a dialect. Take the Olympics, for example.

Retrat de Pompeu Fabra

Retrato de Pompeu Fabra, de autor desconocido, realizado en un año indeterminado del segundo decenio del siglo pasado.

–Now you’ve put your finger on it. So tell me, what’s on your mind?

–I don’t want to lose my calm. Officially, I am a bilingual city. I have my own language: Catalan. And another one that I share with the other towns and cities in Spain. It’s a balancing act. Some tell me I should embrace Spanish more (the Spaniards call it “the common language”). More people would understand me, but I can see that when I speak my home language, everyone here still understands me. Catalan is also a common language. Why give it up? Some people want to make it into a problem and others have always seen it as the solution.

–You mean some have seen language as the solution to the problem and others see it as a problem to be solved.

–Thinking that the language is the problem is just as dangerous as believing it’s the solution. In Barcelona we’ve been talking about the normalisation of the Catalan language for 30 years now. It’s relatively easy to normalize the institutional use of the language in government and schools, but obviously people can’t be normalised. A fireman can’t be normalised, a judge can’t be normalised, a footballer can’t be normalised.

–Is that the problem? Would it be enough if Messi spoke Catalan?

Imatge de l'exposició bibliogràfica catalana organitzada al Palau de les Belles Arts de Barcelona amb motiu del Primer Congrés Internacional de la Llengua Catalana, que va tenir lloc del 13 al 18 d’octubre de 1906.

© Frederic Ballell / AFB
Catalan bibliographic exhibition organised in the Palau de les Belles Arts of Barcelona for the First International Congress of Catalan Language held between 13 and 18 October 1906.

–At the moment, I’m more concerned about demographics and grammar than language policy. Catalan has to consolidate a critical mass of speakers if it’s to retain its place in public life. If not, it runs the risk of becoming an official marginal language. You know what the matter is? More or less everyone understands or speaks Catalan but those who can speak it don’t always want to. And many who do speak it, willingly or otherwise, don’t speak it well enough. Or they half-speak it.

–And what’s more important, the quantity or the quality of speakers?

–That’s one of my dilemmas. For decades, my leaders have gone for quantity. They acted in the belief that Catalan, which initially looked like an obstacle to integration, was in fact the solution. It’s true that today in this city, no-one can work in any position of authority, be it in public service or the media, without understanding Catalan. Seen like this, normalisation has been a success, but along the way we’ve sacrificed weak pronouns and contaminated syntax.

–The Catalans are pricking up our ears. What’s more important to you: correct use of language or having the courage to speak?

–Don’t make me choose. Someone said that the main threat to a language’s survival isn’t the people who don’t speak it, but the natives who speak it badly.

–Who does the language belong to? To those who know it well or those who just get by?

–To those who love it. I’d be happy if everyone understood that, however much of a polyglot I am, Catalan is my language. I would love it, for example, if the city authorities didn’t have to contest or debate the use of the language.

Imatge d'estudiants de català. Classe per a persones desafavorides, la majoria immigrants.

© Julio Parralo
Catalan classes are one of the activities organised in Poble-sec by the Bona Voluntat en Acció organisation, which works untiringly to promote the social integration of the more underprivileged in the neighbourhood, most of them immigrants from abroad.

–Listen, lovely enchantress. This is now your life coach talking. Do you really think that regulations on the use of language alone can save the Catalan language? The legal protection is already in place because there is consensus; the people have wanted it that way. Your language won’t be saved by laws or Catalan language exams alone, but by love. Conquering the public domain is no longer so urgent, but preserving those spaces ruled by affection for the language is: better a teacher’s hug than a judge’s sentence. Better to win in the playground than smash TV viewing figures. Some thought we needed to normalise the newcomers, but normalisation begins with the Catalan speaker, the homo faber, to put it in Darwinian terms. Those who speak it see Catalan as a right and those who don’t see it as a somewhat burdensome duty. It should be the other way round. Those who don’t know it should see Catalan as a right. And those who’ve spoken it their whole lives and boast about its survival should see it as a duty.

Catalan has to be actively defended by your citizens: speaking it and not just speaking of it. Languages are markets and Barcelona’s Catalan speakers must decide, individually and collectively, in which city they want to live. If homo faber had boycotted the cinema until he was offered films dubbed into or subtitled in Catalan, we wouldn’t have had to draw up the cinema law. If homo faber chose to buy products labelled in Catalan, manufacturers would soon notice and take action. Why do Microsoft and Google offer their products in Catalan and yet it’s hard to find a tin of peas labelled  in Catalan? What interests me more than the attack of Catalan is the mark of Catalan. Making a mark. Being a recognized market.

You know the problem, lovely temptress? We’ve handed out level C certificates in Catalan language as though they were Catalan identity passports. Now we find that many of your citizens have learned the language without the need to feel Catalan. Is a Catalan person just someone who speaks Catalan? Can one learn Catalan without feeling like a Catalan, purely for administrative merits? The language is off on its own, flying away. We must try to stop it from getting caught up in feelings. We mustn’t pass on our aches and pains to it. We must open up paths for it, without identity checks. Our language is the greatest legacy that Catalans will leave mankind. It’s not only ours any more. And with the fellow citizens who don’t speak the same language, because they don’t know it or find it difficult, we’ll still understand each other if we speak the same language. The language of respect and of love.