The origin of the city of Barcelona is explained by two legends. The first legend is that it was founded by mythological Hercules.The second legend explains that Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca, Father of Hannibal rebuilt the city in the 3rd Century which was founded by the Hercules four centuries ago. Barco named the city, Barcino (Barcelona) after his family. In the 15th century, the Romans occupied the city and made it one of their barracks. According to Morales and Giugni, M. (Eds.). (2016), when the Romans had occupancy of the city, it grew slowly due to its natural harbor and its beauty. The city further benefited from the barrack because it was free from imperial burdens. At that time, the town was under the reign of Emperor Augustus and a colony called Julia Augusta Paterna Barcino. The emperor did not levy taxes and manufactured its coins. This initiated a period of decline of the town. The Visigoths from north Europe who captured the city after the Romans contributed to this decline. After two centuries, the city conquered by the Moors in the 700s and then again by Franks in 801. The Franks made the city to seat on the Spanish, March under the rule of the Count of Barcelona.During this period of decline, the town struggled to maintain its economic and political independence. The struggle ended in 1117 when the rights and privileges of the Catalonia and Catalans-who then occupied the City-were suppressed.
From the mid-19th century, a period of cultural recovery began. This was since the arrival of the development of textile industry. It was during this period that the Catalan regained prominence as a literary language. The 20th century began with increased urbanization throughout the Barcelona City. Some of the modernized structured that were built since then include the Catalan Antoni Gaudi which is one of the eminent architects and some of the designed buildings like Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and Sagar Familia church (Coleman, 2015). The achievements of this period were however hindered by the 1936 Civil War and the dictatorship that followed. In 1978, the Barcelona gained democracy and its economic strength together with the Catalan language were restored. In 1992, the city of Barcelona hosted Olympic Games which rekindled its potential and reaffirmed its position as a major metropolis. In 2004, the city was also the seat of the Universal Forum of Cultures.
Religious, political and population breakdown
Barcelona is a region that has had a consistent religious affiliation to the Roman Catholic Church. However, in recent times, there has been the development of various religions including Muslims, Protestants, Jews and Evangelism. Roman Catholic spread during the Counter-Reformation and Spanish Civil Wars, and it was the chosen religion by most inhabitants. Today, the religion is still recognized but it is declining due to secularization and modernisation. Although regular Romancalendar holidays are still recognized, most people are not regular church goers.There has also been protestant presence since the 16th century but during the Franco dictatorship, all the religions got banned except Catholic but since 1980, there has been spread of religion freedom and today, there are about 250 thousand Protestants in Catalonia. Islams are estimated to be 450,000 or 6% of the population (Griera, 2016).
The Political structure of Barcelona dates back to the fifteenth century when the city gained significant political importance during Catalan Revolution that brought independence into Catalonians. Although the Catalonia was affected by the Napoleonic Wars after this independence, the rise of industrialization in the 17th and 18th century helped them recover their loss.Today, the city council governs Barcelona which consists of 41 councilors. The City is headed by the Municipal Law. The city council is responsible for taking care of the political decisions while the executive layer caters for the execution of the civil and political events.
Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia community and the second largest city in Spain. Barcelona has a total of about 1.7 million people according to 2016 estimations (Depietri, Kallis, Baró, and Cattaneo, 2016). This number only comprise of inhabitants within the administrative limits. Barcelona’s urban area has an estimated population of over 4.6 million people making it the 6th most populous urban area in Europe. The city proper has 16,000 people per square kilometer making it one of the Europe’s densely populated cities.Eximple district in Barcelona is the most densely populated area in the city with 36,000 people per square kilometer. Of all the Barcelona inhabitants, 62% were born in Catalonia, 24% came from other areas of Spain, and over 17% came from other countries (Depietri et al. 2016). These other countries include Pakistan, Italy, Morocco and China.Barcelona can be said to be a home for the Jewish community as has the largest Jewish community in Spain with about 3,500 Jews (El-Khoury, Robbins, and E. (Eds.),2016). Barcelona is the fourth most economically powerful city in the European Union.It is a leading sport, economic and commerce center. It is 35th most economically powerful regarding GDP and also among the world’s most successful brands.
Problems facing the city
Most problems in Barcelona are as result of the effect of the global economic crisis of 2008. Barcelona is faced with unemployment problems and poor housing that has raised the cost of living. The city comprises of a number of different slums. There are degraded houses in the center of the old city. Shantytown housing and other poor housing structures are common in the city’s poorest areas. The people that live in the slums are characterized by low levels of education and low incomes. The elderly and immigrants are the biggest inhabitants of these housing structures. The high unemployment rates are also another problem that has been coupled with the immigration movements. Most of Barcelona residents have an income of below 1,000 euros a month. Rents keep on increasing due to lack of construction of new houses to replace the poor houses. Barcelona being one of the best-designed cities in Europe, the popularity of Catalan is attracting more people from all over the world. The city has not been able to meet the housing demand, and the available good housing is very expensive. Barcelona ranks in the top three most expensive cities when it comes to renting. The other two cities in this list are Madrid and San Sebastian.Rent is higher in the city center, but the cost decreases as one move down to outlaw.The trouble of poor housing and high unemployment occurred at the height of the global economic crisis.This began with the construction boom that accounted for 12% of GDP and 13% of employment which was more than U.S (Charnock, Purcell, and Ribera‐Fumaz, 2014). The construction boom used money from household borrowing which tripled between 1996 to 2004.When the city stopped receiving the debt, it was unable to continue with the construction. Additionally, the old homes were not bought, and the new homes went unbuilt.The construction jobs that served many youths dried up. Regarding unemployment, 2008 contributed to most job losses, and in addition to that, Spain’s labor laws make complex firing procedures which scare companies to hire workers. Most workers thus rely on temporary jobs.
Another problem faced by inhabitants of Barcelona city is the regulation of uncivil behavior. In 2005, a draft of the ordinance of Measures meant to ensure peaceful coexistence created this problem. When you lose a job, a family or any other source of income in Barcelona, you end up in an extreme situation. Since you a cannot afford to house, you are forced end up in the street and worse more the local government fines you for uncivil behavior. That behavior is not considered as a survival measure but as a crime. This is a clear definition of poverty. According to Grigoriadis, Salvati, and Sateriano (2015), victims of poverty are accused of crime, and the city uses the penal system and punishment to finish ad hide poverty in the city.
Another situation ailing the Barcelona residents are the rising tide of tourists, and some believe tourist have presented worse problems than poverty. The city is the third most visited after London and Paris according to a MasterCard study of 2013 (Datzira-Masip, J., Beeton, S., and Best, 2014).The mass arrival of tourists in summer causes problems like snaking queues when visiting modernist buildings like Antonits Gaudi, jamming of the cities narrow streets, and overcrowding of the beaches. As Fodness (2016) states, if nothing is done in the next about 30 years, then the city can be turned into a complete tourist center. The dependence on tourism is already evident in some areas of the city like Ramblas avenue, and this is gradually making the city lose its essence.Tourism has been identified as the biggest problem in Barcelona followed by poverty.
Measures implemented to handle the city problems
One of the measures taken to handle the issue of mass tourism is declining issuance of new licenses for tourist accommodation. This strategy was imposed in 2014 and was to be in operation for one year. However, the strategy affected the city’s projects like a plan to turn Skyscraper Tower into a five-star Hyatt hotel.Emin Capital had bought Agbar building in 2013 and was planning to open a hotel in 2017, a project that was estimated to generate around 100 jobs. The president of the Emin Capital warned the government that suspension of licenses created a legal problem that just pushed tourists away. Local officials have also acted on the issue of mass tourism by banning tour groups during peak seasons. Shortage of rooms has also discouraged the traditional tourists from coming to Barcelona because they do not have free space to move their luggage.Also, there have been protecting against tourism in the last few years especially by the local people. Although these measures have given rise to other problems like unregistered tourist apartments, Barcelona continues to implement new negotiations to make tourism sustainable but this negotiation risk ruining the global tourism image Barcelona has.
Barcelona has also taken measures to handle poverty and injustices. The club of Barcelona in 2006, came up with plans to use commercial sponsorship and use the clubs name and resources to finance humanitarian projects( Mattera and Baena ,2014).The club agreed to donate 0,7% annual income towards the organization’s Millennium Development Goals Campaign.This initiative helped raise awareness of poverty in the world. Barcelona has since then played a key role in alleviating poverty in the region. In 2015.The FC Barcelona president, Joseph Maria discussed their partnership with the football club, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Citizen, about their aim to end poverty by 2030.This campaign was named FC Barcelona Foundation and their motto was ‘Beat Extreme Poverty.’ All these measures including present a significant effort the City of Barcelona is doing to tackle its problems.
Plans set to improve the quality of life
As the internet advancement continues to benefit cities around the world, Barcelona is not an exception. The huge potential of the internet has been one of the opportunities Barcelona has taken to improve the quality of life of its residents. Since 2012, the city of Barcelona adopted various technologies across the urban system including street lighting, public transit, and waste management. These innovations improved the quality of life and made the city a center of Internet of Things (IoT) (Capdevila and Zarlenga, 2015).Spain was one of the regions that were largely affected by the 2008 recession. To beat the resulting challenges, Barcelona has deployed technology to be a model of data-driven and smart urban systems. The 2011 to 2015 mayor of the City, Xavier Trias established the Smart City of Barcelona, a team that was assigned the responsibility of integrating the existing projects and also identifying new opportunities to enhance service delivery (Bakıcı, Almirall, and Wareham, 2013).The team did a marvelous job in integrating responsive project across the urban system.
Another thing the community has done is improving the quality of air through the 2015-2018 Barcelona Air Quality Improvement Plan (Cornes, 2016).The plan outlines both present and future measures for combating pollution. It aims to transform the city into a more efficient society with lower air emission, providing a healthy environment for the quality life of the citizens. Plans set so far include enhancing mobility, improving urban services, enabling transparency of information, energy production, improving communication and developing airport services. Those responsible for the plan along with the City Council will oversee their implementation.
Barcelona is one of the exciting cities in the world with a huge number of attractions including the city center and some stunning modernist architecture like Gaudi and Picasso. This is the reason it attracts many tourists in addition to its popularity. The city has an interesting history on how it came into being to now among the most populous cities in the world .The 2008 recession hit the city hard accounting to its high unemployment rates and poverty. The city also has a shortage of houses, and the available quality houses are very expensive hence the high cost of living. There have been a number of intervention measures implemented by the city council and the FC Barcelona Club to combat such problems like mass tourism and poverty. Although the problems have not fully been solved, the aggressive efforts by these groups set a hopeful future. The City has on-going plans like the air quality improvement plans and the technology adoption plans that aim to improve the quality of life. Barcelona is one of a kind, offering great cultural diversity and experience.
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