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Text and photos by Amanda Astramowicz
In the 1980s, the Barcelona city council began a contentious urban renewal process in the Casc Antic that involved expropriating and demolishing old buildings and relocating the families that lost their homes. In 1999, the demolition of a building in the Ribera district left a big hole full of debris that remained untouched for weeks. In protest at the forced removal of families and the demolition of buildings in the name of progress, residents of the area renamed the 5,000 square metre hole of rubble as El Forat de la Vergonya meaning, ‘The Hole of Shame’.
The space, located between the streets of Sant Pere Més Baix, Metges, Jaume Giralt and Carders, occupies the central part of Santa Caterina and Sant Pere, two neighbourhoods that, along with the Born, make up La Ribera. After much turmoil between residents and authorities, the council finally agreed to cover the hole sooner rather than later. Originally, the plan was to transform it into a green area, but it was later reclassified to provide private parking spaces. Tensions continued to run high between residents and the council, as locals fought for a voice in the future of the space arguing it was not only the square at stake, but the entire neighbourhood. In 2004, five years after the demolition, the Ajuntament finally agreed to allow the residents to participate in the planning of the square.
2014 marks the tenth year anniversary of the demise and rebirth of this space, which is now a public square and self-managed by the community. The inhabitants of the district, together with squatters in the area, used the opportunity to plant fruit trees, build a community garden, place benches, a stage for entertainment, and football and basketball facilities. The community also manages concerts, meals and activities for children and adults. It has become the meeting point for a multicultural community. Now, instead of El Forat de la Vergonya it is more commonly known as the only true main square in the barri and is a point of reference when discussing the power of a neighbourhood’s residents.
For more information about the history of El Forat de la Vergonya visit: deuanyssensevergonyes.org
The urban community garden, L’Hortet del Forat, is self-managed and a free resource for organic gardening. A group of volunteers organise group gardening days which are free and open to anybody interested in agroecology, urban ecology, community projects and social transformation. The garden also holds meetings to address topics that include: improving the design of the garden, gardening hours, and other future activities and collaborations such as art exhibitions and concerts, as well as agricultural workshops and presentations. If you are encouraged to learn about gardening or feel like planting a few seeds of your own, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go directly to the garden and take a look at their bulletin board. There you can find information about current and future events that you can get involved in, or visit the blog: