A tour of the Ramblas and Gothic Quarter highlights a dark part of Barcelona’s past, including how many of its famous sights were built with fortunes made from slavery
Modernisme, Catalonia’s stunning take on art nouveau, is as important to the Barcelona brand as Barça striker Lionel Messi. The work of Antoni Gaudí in particular defines much of the city centre but few locals, let alone the tourists queueing to get into world-famous sights such as Palau Güell and Park Güell, know their dark secret: many were built with money made from the slave trade.
Nations are adept at swerving uncomfortable episodes in their history and Spain is no exception – the civil war’s legacy, for example, was not confronted for decades after Franco’s death. But times are changing: money has been spent on finding mass war graves, and Spain and Catalonia’s role in slavery is getting more attention. Barcelona has a radical new mayor, Ada Colau, who made her name as a social activist, and the city council is supporting a new walking tour of places with a slave history.