¡Happy twenties Barcelona!

On December 11, 2019, a tweeter asked the RAE if the next decade would begin on January 1, 2020 or 2021. The Royal Spanish Academy replied that the 20s of the 21st century would not begin on January 1, 2020, as it might seem, but on January 1, 2021. According to the RAE, which referred to Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts, “Each decade begins in a year ending in 1 and ends in a year ending in 0”. Not all experts agree, but as for this article it is perfect for me that the 20’s began a little more than a week ago, if it is not true it is well found.

Changing the year or decade, for all practical purposes, is of no consequence. On January 1 in the morning we are the same person we were on December 31 at night. However, little or much and however absurd it may be, we all long for the problems, worries and miseries that have accompanied us throughout the year to disappear, as if by magic, on New Year’s Eve, at twelve o’clock. Secretly, we hope that with the arrival of the new year we will be a more noble, cultured, rich, free, awake and happy person. 2020 has been perhaps the year that collectively we have longed to leave behind the most and 2021, the one that we started with the most hope.

Just a century ago, the world began a decade that in the West would be known as Golden Twenties, Happy Twenties it is included, Roaring Twenties. The First World War was behind us, there was an economic boom and people had a crazy desire to have fun. For Barcelona, ​​it was a decade of great social and political changes. I imagine that in the streets of the city there must have been an atmosphere similar to the one that was breathed in the capital of the Weimar Republic and that the series portrays so well Babylon Berlin. Gun fighting, workers’ struggle, repression and political confrontations that often ended in blood, but also Charleston, liters of champagne, glitter and sexual freedom.

Gun fighting, workers’ struggle, repression and political confrontations that often ended with blood, but also Charleston, liters of champagne, glitter and sexual freedom

A Barcelona that I discovered when in 2012 the CCCB (Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona) dedicated a magnificent exhibition to one of the most mythical avenues of the city: “El Paralelo, from 1894 to 1939”. The exhibition, curated by Xavier Albertí and Eduard Molner, revealed to me that the Parallel has not always been a rather sad street, with old establishments, with few exceptions, and with a handful of show rooms half collapsed or in permanent crisis. Quite the opposite! A century ago, our Parallel had nothing to envy Montmartre or Broadway. It was full of theaters, theater halls, cafes and cabarets where residents of Chinatown, sailors, anarchist workers and long-sleeved people in search of entertainment of all kinds mixed. A heterogeneous, multicultural and very, very liberal parallel that radiated modernity throughout the city. Republicanism, socialism and anarchism were preached from the same stages or a few meters from where hours later there were uncover shows. In the cafes there were heated discussions about politics, but there was also flirting and modern and daring hairstyles and dresses were displayed. The spectacle of modernity.

Terrace of the Spanish Café in the Parallel of the early twentieth century.

One hundred years later, the streets of Barcelona are deserted from ten at night. There is a curfew and the city looks dead or stunned. The dance floors have been closed for months. With what we have danced at the Apollo … The most rogue, noisy, chaotic and fun bars have become aseptic dispensing points of coffees with milk to go, without any charm or heat. Impossible to flirt with someone while having a gin and tonic at the bar since, from the required safety distance and hidden behind your mask, the fear of contagion makes you look at the stranger with distrust.

One hundred years later, the streets of Barcelona are deserted from ten at night. There is a curfew and the city looks dead or stunned. The dance floors have been closed for months. With what we have danced at the Apollo …

We have entered the 1920s, but, unlike a century ago, for now these are neither golden, happy nor crazy times. I hope that soon we can meet again ten, fifteen, twenty, a hundred or a thousand people to laugh, chat, dance … One of the graces of cities is precisely this: to be a crowd in constant interaction. ¡Happy twenties Barcelona!

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