Now I don’t know how late Giles Tremlett filed this story about Barcelona. But the Guardian has it timestamped at 1938 Madrid time, which is certainly late enough to have come after a very hearty lunch indeed. One clue suggesting that this is the case comes in the form of the article’s shortness. Tremlett isn’t the most wordy of reporters but all the same…
Another oddity is Tremlett’s insistence that “Although Las Ramblas has always attracted prostitutes, they used to occupy a small area near the port”, which is, as a local travelling tinker muttered to me, “a complete load of bollocks”. I’m not sure when this golden age of non bollock grabbing Rambline strolling is supposed to have occurred but it was certainly not very recently. Barcelona has always been packed to the rafters with ladies and gentlemen of the night (and plenty of lady gentlemen too). Indeed, it’d be hard to walk down a single street in the city without passing some brothel or other (even if you don’t realise it).
What this whole story really represents is the latest development in a late-summer-nothing-to-publish episode, where El País shocked our sensibilities (and had us checking again and again) with some pictures of a long-haired tourist making the beast with one back with a prostitute round the back of an overpriced market. Noted local newspaper, 20 Minutos (oh, yes I did!) interviewed various pillars of the community the other day, asking them whether they thought that Les Rambles has a major problem with prostitution. General opinion: it’s a hell of a lot better now than it used to be.
My feelings: Mexican sombreros and €7 a beer are far more offensive and nearly as exploitative.