When a community is faced with a problem that has arisen, it is more comfortable to blame a stranger than to take responsibility for it. It has always been like this. The impulse to instill fear in the other – a successful resource in fiction – does not wane even in the most informed society in history.
Examples of rabid news: in burned Greece, migrants are accused of having been responsible for the fire igniting, even though twenty of them appeared burned in the forest of Dadia.
Meanwhile, in Europe’s most attractive cities, tourists are blamed for making historic centers increasingly uninhabitable. As if we weren’t all tourists and there wasn’t a local industry that benefits from the visitor economy. An industry made up of not only remote top brass of opaque real estate investment funds, but also ordinary families who supplement their income thanks to Airbnb.
Cities tend to blame strangers for their own shortcomings
The historic centers of Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York, London or Paris expel neighbors to the suburbs on a daily basis. Madrid, which had turned in profile and was watching the misfortune of others out of the corner of its eye, is also devastated by the maelstrom. With the demand for freedom and drinks until dawn, it already attracts that type of tourism that will never regret the extermination of those historic shops that make the capital of Spain a unique city.
Other smaller cities suffer from the aggravating factor of claustrophobia that comes with the lack of space to escape from the crowd. It is the story of Venice, Florence or Lisbon, which is replicated in Spanish destinations such as San Sebastián or Málaga. It will be interesting to see how Amsterdam’s initiative to limit the number of flights it receives evolves, even though it is primarily motivated by the fight against pollution.
Barcelona already knows very well the effect that the commercial voracity associated with tourism can have. In a few days it has emerged that the Milano jazz club will close because the owner of the premises wants to rent it to an Italian restaurant (another one?) and that the new owners of the Horiginal bar, in front of the Macba, are getting rid of the poetry cycle that had given it so much importance.
There are literally going to be people who will have to go elsewhere with their music and poetry (luckily, the poetry cycle will benefit from the hospitality of Llibreria Calders). The City Council admits concern in situations like these, since the ability to intervene through the purchase of premises is very limited.
The Barcelona scene
Many schools, few venues
El Milano is not the only jazz club in Barcelona, or even the oldest, but the threat of closure has caused a stir in the sector. There are not so many venues in the city that the loss (or interruption of activities due to forced relocation) of a reference like this does not have its effect on such a precarious group. More than ever it is highlighted that a city with so many and such prestigious music schools has very few places where students can develop their talent.
Milano is an example, extrapolated to other cities, of the conditions of inferiority in which culture competes. The programming is good and the public responds, but no matter how much business is generated, it will never be enough to equal the rent that a chain of restaurants is willing to pay in a street as touristy as Ronda Universitat.
Before blaming the tourist, however, we should reflect on the type of cities we want to have. In other metropolises that have been ahead of Barcelona or Madrid for many years as tourist capitals, it has been assumed that cultural businesses move to the periphery – municipal or metropolitan – in search of more affordable rents. In the cultural world of Barcelona, the desire to be in the center still weighs too heavily, despite the fact that there are successful non-central initiatives.
The solution will not come in any case from the graffiti that invites tourists to leave the way they came. There is a not inconsiderable amount of tourism that respects the destination it visits and thus suffers a double punishment: it perceives the hostility it arouses in certain neighborhoods or environments and is at the same time the victim of standardization, especially commercial, which makes cities less and less interesting to visit.
Will cultural businesses one day enjoy such prestige that no one dares to replace them with restaurant franchises? We are not going in that direction. For every client with a certain cultural memory, hundreds will appear –own and foreign– who will ignore the past of the place and who will enter it without fuss. Then the fault, it is obvious, lies with the tourist.