Wednesday, March 02, 2005

meet Remei

Una catalana, viuda[1], probably in her 70s, perfectly sane. She was sitting on the corner of Estel and Nou de la Rambla, between a vacant lot and a police station.

I didn’t know Remei. I was walking around a descampado[2] in the Raval to take a picture. She was sitting nearby and without getting up she asked me if I was “desorientada.” I told her no, I was just trying to take a picture.

She answered “porque todo ha cambiado y yo lo sé porque he vivido en este barrio toda mi vida.”[3]

I thought, wow, divine academic intervention.

I asked her to elaborate and she told me to sit down next to her on the curb-bench.

She wore a winter coat and had a white plastic bag with a pack of light bulbs in it.

Then she turned in my direction and said: “Este barrio era la flor y nata de Barcelona y ahora es una mierda.”[4] I didn’t say anything.

She continued: “Cuando yo era pequeña, esos bares estaban cerrados de día pero cuando las señoras abrieron las puertas para limpiar podíamos ver…”[5]

“Antes había pobreza pero había honradez.”[6] She said this twice.

“Y cuando yo era pequeña había prositutas pero en esa época las prostitutas no querían que los niños las vieran—no como ahora,. Ahora pasan.”[7]

I repeated her sentences in my head to try to remember them because I didn’t have a pen or paper with me.

Pointing behind her, she asked me if I knew where the Sant Pau church was. I answered yes. Then she said “ahora la Iglesia de Sant Pau está tan dejada que da tristeza, no da ganas de entrar”[8]

Where the police station is now there used to be “pisos guapos”[9] and calle Tapies passed right through.

“pero todavía en este barrio hay sitios muy bonitos tanto como en el Gótico.”[10]

“pero ahora están abarcando todo como en el barrio judío del Gótico.”[11]

En esta calle [calle Nou de la Rambla] se podia comprar de todo, de todo.”[12]

Places that used to exist in the neighborhood that she mentioned during our conversation:

“Casablanca”

“Cine Apolo”

Un cabaret

Mobles

Un bar de travesties “allí el sexo débil no existía.”[13]

I asked her if I could get a picture of her. She dryly agreed.

I asked her what her name was and she told me Remi. I didn’t get the name at first. She repeated it and explained that it’s Catalan for Remedios.

I asked her if she would like me to send her a copy of the picture and she said that she doesn´t give out her address.

And we said goodbye, and I went home to write this down before her words were forgotten.


[1] A Catalan woman, a widow.

[2] descampado = abandoned lot/field.

[3] because everything has changed and I know because I have lived in this neighborhood my whole life.

[4] This neighborhood was the sweet cream of Barcelona, and now it’s a piece of shit.

[5] When I was little, those bars were closed during the day but when the cleaning ladies open them to clean we could see what was going on inside…

[6] Before there was poverty, but there was honor.

[7] And when I was little there were prostitutes but back then the prostitute didn’t want the kids to see them—not like now, now they could care less.

[8] now the Sant Pau church is so abandoned that it makes one sad, one doesn’t feel like going in.

[9] pretty flats

[10] but there still are pretty places in this neighborhood, just as many as there are in the Gothic Neighborhood.

[11] but now they’re taking over everything like they did in the Jewish quarter of the Gothic Neighborhood.

[12] On this street [Nou de la Rambla] one used to be able to buy anything and everything.

[13] A travesty bar “there the weaker sex didn’t exist.”


(Published in Tiresias, vol. 1)

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