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CULTURE

Barcelona’s Las Ramblas kiosk owners ordered to shut up shop this month

Barcelona City Council has plans to revamp the Catalan capital's emblematic Ramblas street, but this also includes the controversial decision to evict the owners of the promenade's historic kiosks.

Las Ramblas, Barcelona
Kiosks on Barcelona's Las Ramblas. Photo: Jorge Fernández Salas / Unsplash

Barcelona City Council plans to revamp the famous Las Ramblas into a place not just for holidaymakers, but somewhere that locals can enjoy too, since over the past 15 years or so the promenade has been taken over by touristy shops, illegal street vendors and fast-food restaurants, with their terraces taking up the pavement. 

This means making Las Ramblas greener, widening the pavements, and reducing the lanes of traffic on either side of these walkways from two to one. It’s estimated that the project will cost around €44.5 million.

But part of the city’s plans also involve getting rid of the iconic kiosks of Las Ramblas, which have been a common sight on the street for more than a century, giving them until the end of February to leave and close up shop. 

The Antic Ocellaires’ or ‘Pajareros’, as they’re called because they once used to sell birds and other small animals, have stood on Las Ramblas for the past 160 years.

The bird sellers even gave this part of Las Ramblas its official name – the Rambla de Ocells (ocells meaning birds in Catalan).

At the end of the 2000s, the Town Hall banned the sale of animals from these kiosks, due to complaints of animal cruelty, so the owners resigned agreements to sell things such as tourist souvenirs and ice creams instead while keeping their original name. 

Las Ramblas, Barcelona

The historic kiosks on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas have been given eviction notices. Photo: Martijn Vonk / Unsplash

Why does the City Council want to get rid of the kiosks?

The City Council claims that the old bird sellers have no place in the new future plans for Las Ramblas. They have said that there will only be flower and newspaper kiosks when it has been reformed, with the exception of one kiosk selling tickets for the historic Wax Museum.

The authorities argue that the licences of the kiosk owners expired on June 14th 2021 because of an agreement that was signed back in 1971, granting them a licence for a maximum term of 50 years.

Picture taken in 1949 of Las Ramblas Avenue in Barcelona, showing one of its iconic kiosks. (Photo by AFP)

What do the kiosk owners say? 

Javier Cuenca, spokesperson for the collective ‘Antic Ocellaires’ disagrees with this and told the Catalan News Agency that he believes their licences are still valid and urges further dialogue with the council to come to a solution.

The kiosk sellers have already filed an appeal against their eviction notice, as well a lawsuit.

Cuenca believes that the council’s decision is a “pressure strategy” and does not understand why they have to leave now, when he claims that plans to reform their part of Las Ramblas won’t come into effect until 2029. 

Many locals are also angry about the council’s decision, arguing that there are still prostitutes, pickpockets and manteros (immigrants or refugees who sell items illegally from blankets laid out on the streets) on Las Ramblas – even though many of these sellers now mainly congregate in other areas of the city. 

For some, Las Ramblas has come to represent the decay of parts of the Catalan capital, a city weighed down by its immense international popularity and all the knock-on effects that come with that in the 21st century.

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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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