Kawai’s Guide to Barcelona


I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the comics scene in Spain or Barcelona. I’d been told that the market is dominated by translations from the French market because the BD publishing industry there is so old and strong. So I was pleasantly surprized to find a number of great indie comics in Spanish (Castilian) and even one in written in Catalan. There was also an impressive selection of indie comics from N. America, including more current titles like Faryl Dalrymple’s It Will All Hurt. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

catalan  lavidaescorta

traviesos gabo

[above: Catalan comic by Maite Gurrutxaga and some fun looking comics in Castilian Spanish. More here!]

Although I browsed a great number of bookstores, I didn’t get a chance to visit a single store dedicated to comics; the shop close to my B&B was always closed, likely because the staff were on holiday. I did find this political bookstore with lots of zines and that appeared to be very active in terms of organizing events.


Even better was stumbling across the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona which, more than anything else, makes me want to revisit the city. I highly recommend seeing it – it’s a cultural centre that hosts exhibits, lectures, film screenings and more. It also operates an inviting archive that’s open to the public. I spent almost a whole hour in their bookstore which includes a mad collection of zines, independent magazines, all manner of comics and art books as well as catalogues of past exhibits (which appears to be heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy) and an entire little library of lectures held at the CCCB which are bilingual (Spanish/English).

cccbarchive cccbzinecloseup

cccbcomics cccbmagazines

[above: the CCCB archives and endless piles of zines, comics and independent journals. Yes, that is gay male leather smut right above copies of the New Left Review.]

The exhibit I saw, which took me over 2 hours to view, was a fascinating inquiry into the housing situation in Barcelona. The first part of the exhibit was highly critical of the use of housing as financial vehicles or investments as opposed to something that meets a basic need and a human right, like healthcare. Apparently there isn’t much in the way of rent control in Barcelona, so every three years, landlords can raise rents beyond what people can afford, making settling anywhere a gamble. The second part of the exhibit gave multiple real life examples of alternative living arrangements from co-ops and communal living to squatting which was fascinating (although my comprehension was dicey as this part of the exhibit was not translated into English).


[more pics]

Quick travel tips:

– Siesta is in full force in August. Sometimes store hours are just suggested guidelines. Roll with it.

– Don’t expect to eat at your regular hours. Lunch generally starts at 2pm and dinner at 8pm. Restaurants operate accordingly.

– The websites are like surfing waybackmachine. The website of the national railway, Renfe, is full of broken links and good luck buying a ticket in advance. Also, if there is a ticketing system at your train station, it may not be honoured so just join the queue.

– Learn some Spanish, it’s not a difficult language. While you’re at it, try to learn some Catalan. Note that while foreigners can get away with Spanish, language choice is political, like speaking English or French in Montreal.