Arrowed towards modernity

At the end of Passeig Joan de Borbón, near where there used to be an aquarium with the fish which had grown crazy eyes from so many turns in glass boxes on a fake seabed, they were lifting the pavement. It seems that they are going to set up a shop to manufacture custom-made thongs, which will be a fabulous business because my grandfather used to say it every time he peeked over the railing of the promenade: they keep the money and the fabric.

I was passing by, when I saw the workers who stopped for a moment to grind the nerves of the neighbours with the pneumatic drills and, as the workers in the industry are all deaf, they were shouting at each other. One was asking the other about that thing that was half buried, and looked like a rocket of verbena, wondering if it was going to be explosive. As I am an expert in nothing and knowledgeable in everything, I went to see what kind of artifact they had encountered. The smell of cold barbecue got up to my nose and I immediately realized what it was. It had been buried there for 30 years.

I think I fell asleep during the broadcast of the opening of the Olympics on July 25, 1992, with the never-ending flag walk. I have always been bored with flags, I only like the flag of Barceloneta because it is made of sea and sand. My mother called me so I wouldn’t miss the moment when the Paralympic athlete Antonio Rebollo drew the bow, and there was this silence in the Olympic Stadium of Montjuic and in millions of homes in dozens of countries where the event was being followed. That arrow would not only light the cauldron of the Olympiad but of a new era of modernity and progress with Spain’s entry into the European Community that year, and Barcelona, which suddenly realized that there, in the background to the left, where the urinals always are, was the Barceloneta, so many years forgotten in the “Casa Gran” of the Plaza Sant Jaume.

Rebollo could not fail, it would have been an olympic screw-up and the whole discourse of Barcelona and Spain of modernity, the movida and design would have gone to shit. They had cold feet and did not want to risk: the difference between Barcelona and Barceloneta is that the former does not like the unpredictable. So, a smart guy from the organization talked to the gas company and they put a tube and an almost imperceptible flame on the cauldron and told Rebollo to forget about putting the arrow inside. He just needed to pass it over it so that the camera effect would seem to light the fire. The arrow passed over it as planned, they hit the gas spigot and the 92 Olympics burned with the exciting soundtrack of Fredy Mercury and Caballé, so in love with Barcelona that she paid her taxes in Andorra.

That useless, aimless arrow hit a flowerbed in Montjuïc and fell on a man who was sleeping off the monumental binge he was having. It was the Metralleta, king of the alley of the Barceloneta. He picked it up, still smoking, and brought it to the neighbourhood. When he got tired of that burnt stick that smelled of scorch, he threw it into one of the ditches that the City Hall had opened in that Paseo Nacional that would later be named after the uncrowned king. For years I thought that my mother had never woken me up during the broadcast of the inauguration of the 92 Olympics and that I had dreamed it all. But when I saw that arrow buried in the guts of the neighbourhood, I trembled. I told the operators not to touch it, as it was radioactive, probably a residue of a European Space Agency experiment, and to cover it up again. It will remain there forever because Barceloneta is built on sand, stories, and secrets.

Antonio González Iturbe,
A journalist, a university professor, a writer and, as if all that were not enough, he is from Barceloneta