Most countries, cities and communities have faced enormous challenges (wars, natural disasters, epidemics, social unrest, financial crises…) during their history that tested their capacity to endure and survive.
The long history of humanity’s efforts to raise its living conditions has been marked by episodes of great difficulty that have also helped to mould and reinforce the character of these societies.
The city of Barcelona is a clear example of this drive to overcome adversity, which it has encountered many times throughout its history. From the plague in 1348, which killed 60% of the population of the time, to the last cholera epidemic in 1971, the capital of Catalonia has lived through many debilitating periods, with the bout of yellow fever in 1821 standing out as particularly catastrophic.
This will to move forward found its metaphorical expression in the great project that marked the separation of the modern city from its unsanitary past, choked and hemmed in by its medieval walls: the new city plan of l’Eixample, designed by Ildefonso Cerdà. The growth and expansion of Barcelona and its conversion into a major industrial and cultural capital, the driving force behind modern Catalonia, could not have taken place without it. The International Exhibition of 1888, held just a few years before the city annexed the closest of the nearby towns, was the culmination of this progression.
The history of Barcelona over the last two centuries has been affected by more than just health crises. There have also been periods of serious unrest and violent protests, of social upheaval such as the Setmana Tràgica, or the devastation of the civil war between 1936 and 1939, which left deep scars on the city’s society, economy and institutions.
One example of Barcelona’s obstinate capacity to withstand these situations is precisely the speed with which the city’s entrepreneurial class engaged with the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council to recover business initiative at the end of the civil war by immediately restarting the Trade Fair of Barcelona as a way of injecting new life into an economy that was utterly exhausted.
Everything leads us to believe in the capacity of the community, of society’s organizations and institutions and the collaboration between public and private initiatives, to pull through the current situation and face the future with a reasonable amount of optimism. In Barcelona, in Catalonia and in Spain. In the whole world and all of humanity.