Barcelona, the Catalan brand

This year is the twentieth anniversary of the Barcelona Olympic Games. That event boosted the transformation of the city. The benefits went beyond a mere facelift, however. In addition to the architectural development and building expansion came rewards of a more intangible nature. Barcelona took on a new identity as a brand, and as of that moment it became easier for us Catalans to present ourselves to the world.

Mercat San Antoni 1960

© Ritma / AFB
Sant Antoni market in 1960

Anyone who had travelled abroad before 1992 will remember how difficult and trying it could sometimes be to explain what Catalonia was to the rest of the world. The inevitable reference to bulls or flamenco prompted the need for all kinds of explanations. The Olympic Games showed that besides the world map with countries and capital cities there was also an intercontinental map of cities, and the Olympic event led Barcelona to become a watermark in this global urban constellation.

Mercat de Sant Antoni l’any 1960

© Ritma / AFB
Born market

As of that moment things changed. When asked where we were from, simply responding “Barcelona” greatly simplified the ensuing conversation. All of a sudden we discovered that Barcelona was a euphonic word, with a drawn-out and happy cadence, like bringing a flower to our lips, a word as easy to pronounce as Rambla, Gaudí or Picasso.

Mercat San Antoni

© Albert Armengol
Sant Antoni market undergoing refurbishment

Since then the Barcelona brand has gained credence. And not just thanks to the Olympic brand, but also by dint of the architectural brand of modernism, the gastronomic brand of Catalan chefs such as Ferran Adrià, Santamaria, Roca or Ruscalleda, the literary brand of Jaume Cabré or Ruiz Zafón, the technological brand that gives us the Mobile World Congress, and particularly the Champions brand, with Messi and Guardiola as leading lights. However, everyone knows that a brand is not an end in itself, and nor can we afford to talk about Barcelona only in terms of branding, letting ourselves be carried away by the fluctuations of the stock exchange or fashion. Indeed, that old saying that holds, that “Barcelona sounds fine if you have money in your pocket”, could be reworked to say, in keeping with the times, “Barcelona sounds fine because the brand is fine”.

Mercat Santa Caterina

© Vicente Zambrano
Santa Caterina market

Nowadays, Barcelona can leverage a great many values, one of them being Mediterranean cuisine, and Barcelona’s markets are one of the driving forces of this food culture based on fresh local products. This issue of Barcelona Metròpolis is dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of a market model that has become an example for other cities, which have come here to observe how they work and then adapt them to their own needs.

We are also dedicating a special dossier to novels about Barcelona, which takes us on a literary and actual tour of the city, since increasingly more tourists come to explore a cityscape they have heard about through writers. The Barcelona literary brand has recently engendered two major works, L’ombra del vent  [The Shadow of the Wind] by Ruiz Zafón and Jo confesso [I confess] by Jaume Cabré, both of them translated into numerous languages.

© Albert Armengol
El Ninot market currently undergoing refurbishment

But a brand is always linked to an identity and a history. And Barcelona also has to act as the capital of Catalan feeling and identity. Modernity, innovation and creativity are not at odds with the defence of identity. In his Ode to Barcelona, Pere Quart said to the city: “Tousled and hoarse, / knowing neither shame nor banner, / but you earn your living, / amid death and folly.” This is not how we want things to be.

The brand also spurs us on to be more self-demanding. This magazine bears the name of Barcelona, and we shall strive to live up to the demands of our time.

Mercat de la Barceloneta

© Vicente Zambrano
Barceloneta Market

Marc Puig i Guàrdia

Director of Communications and Citizen Service

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