Asuncion Garcia: “I will not be exchanging my house for an apartment”

My name Asunción García Carceller, am eighty- three years old and I have lived in Poblenou all my life.
Since the age of fifty eight I have lived on the ‘Ramblas’ of Poblenou. It is the last proper house to remain on the street (number 4). Unlike the other original houses on the street it was never demolished. It is in the little house that my family have remained since 1936 and has seen the lives of 6 generations: my grandparents, my parents, my husband and I, my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I myself wasn’t born here. I was actually born in the restaurant my parents owned on the street Taulat.

What was the name of the Restaurant?

It was called “La Pequena” (“The small place”). It was named so after my mother as that was her nickname – “The small one”. My parents moved to this area from a town called Villarluengo in Teruel. My father was a chef and my mother was his helper. During the civil was the restaurant fed 300 people a day. My mother had been given the nickname as she was physically small but despite this she made up for it with her personality. She was very much the opposite of small in all ways, a very selfless person and always helping others. The older people of this neighborhood still remember her fondly. It is a compliment to me that people still regard her with affection. I believe that people can chose in their life what kind of person they want to be and that choice stays in people’s memories. I’m glad for my mother that it worked out the right way.

Times have been hard…

During the war and post war era there were some troubles that affected me and my family. My father went away to war which meant that as a family we had to fend for ourselves. During the war we had to ration and would use our field near by the house to grow vegetables. These vegetables were used in our restaurant. What little we had left I would go and sell in the streets with my grandfather. There was a man that was referred to as “El Grabado” and would come and steal what we had. He would then proceed to sell what he had stolen from us. I remember a time when I was twelve years old. I had been selling veg with my grandfather on the street named Fernando Poo. I saw El Grabado coming so out of fear I hid behind a door. He opened the door and said to me that there was no point in hiding because he had already seen me. I then watched as he took everything we had: tomatoes, peppers….that man was a scoundrel.

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Photo by Fabian Jorge Castillo

Previously you had a garden and an orchard? When did it change?

Originally we had a farm here but that was taken over by the council so all that is now left is the small house that I still live in. Where the garden is now, there used to be a chicken coup. A bit further down we had rabbit hutches, a horse and we also had a fresh water fish. This was a nice setting and comfortable until the civil war which brought plane bombers. The area was hit hard. The post war era saw a lot of famine in the area and things began to change. Poblenou was an industrial area. At the end of the street names Taulat there was a factory “Can Girona” they made railroad tracks here. You can probably still see some man hole covers that were put down by it. The original date is on them. There were also factories for making glass, buttons, fabrics and some others.

Did war change the neighborhood a lot at the time?

With the war there was a decline throughout, yes. It was a very bad time. In the restaurant my parents owned you could eat for 5 pesetas. Breakfast, lunch and dinner and we would look for rooms for people to stay in. We would help them rent rooms to sleep in.
Però després el barri va agafar aire de nou, oi?
By the 1960’s Poblenou was very neglected. There was an influx of immigrants to the neighborhood, looking for work. They began work on the metro and trams, the numbers 36, 52, 41 and 71. Boundaries / barracks were set up on the sea front. There had been a small traditional fishing village set up but in time that was all taken away.

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Photo by Fabian Jorge Castillo

The district started to boom again, like new, didn’t it?

Yes with the Olympics of 92 the neighborhood changed again. It was like we were living in the sea! The urbanisation of the neighborhood as a result of the urbanized coast line, had streets leading out to see and into the water. There were many homes that were built like ant hills. I didn’t like that. Large streets were being opened up and a lot of the factories were eliminated. Shops were opening up and transport agencies. This was all in an effort to expand Barcelona.

How is the neighborhood today?

It has changed a lot over time. When we used to go into the local town and needed something in particular we would say “today I need to go to Barcelona”. Now we have so much here and with it a lot of people have come here. We have the “Rambla” of Poblenou that reaches as far as the sea. There are restaurants and bars where you can eat well and enjoy the pleasant ambiance.

The thing I don’t like in the neighborhood is the lack of civil awareness amongst others. People don’t seem to care about one another so much and think more about themselves. There isn’t consideration for public spaces and the city council tolerates this lack of consideration. Money brought here by tourists is easy money to Barcelona.

What of the future?

I have three children, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. I married young and was married for 61 years. My husband, my partner and with whom I shared so much, passed away four years ago. In this house we experienced a lot. This little house is on the board of housing and it keeps me alive. I do not want to move to an apartment, I want to stay here. An apartment is what killed my grandparents. Eventually the house will be demolished. I try to be good to people around me that also keeps me going and I am good to my neighbours. I am a Jehovah’s Witness and in our bible it says – “what you do with your right hand, the left hand does not know”. If a neighbour is hungry, I give them bread. There’s nothing wrong with helping where you can and I do when I can. It is a piece of bread given with love. If we care, we can make the world a better place.

By Manuel Rey