El CarmelApril 25, 2021
A Working Class Neighbourhood Up On The Hills
The neighbourhood of El Carmel lies on the the slopes of one of the hills above Barcelona between Horta and Gràcia and is one of the steepest in Barcelona.
The name of both the hill and the neighbourhood comes from the Santuari del Carmel, which dates from the mid-19th century and the first summer residences were built in the area from 1875 onwards.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the first permanent residential neighbourhood consisting of single family detached homes, such as Can Bacardí, Can Mans and Salt de les Bruixes, grew up and these houses were mainly occupied by bourgeois families from Gràcia and Horta.
During this period, a whole host of community groups were set up with the Estrella del Mont Carmel choral society based at the Bar Tolrà community centre and social club being of particular note.
The first wave of immigration from other parts of Spain came in 1929 when mainly Andalusian and Galician workers came to take jobs building the Barcelona Metro in the run up to the 1929 Barcelona Universal Exposition.
However, El Carmel remained mainly two storey houses until the mass immigration from Southern Spain came under Franco in the 1950s.
The housing at this time was initially shacks and shanties built by the new arrivals until the were replaced by large faceless blocks of flats in the 1960s.
In the last couple of decades some improvements have been made with the building of the Rambla del Carmel and Carrer Llobregós and the installation of metal escalators that help moving around this incredibly hilly neighbourhood.
A lot more needs to be done, though, and I sometimes wonder whether the slowness in creating new faciities has been due to the fact that El Carmel and the surrounding neighbourhoods are still mainly Spanish speaking.
In 2005, the massive subsidence caused during the building of a metro tunnel in the area hit national news headlines and revealed the poor state that El Carmel was in and I wonder if this hasn’t stimulated the authorities to increase investment and speed up local improvements.