The golden years of Avinguda del Paral.lel
You can’t image it nowadays, but the somewhat lame Avinguda del Parallel once buzzed with excitement. With the aim to rescue the unique cultural universe that shook Barcelona’s polite society in the years 1894-1939 Xavier Alberti and Eduard Molner took the Herculean task on their shoulders to curate Parallels’ social, theatrical, political and sexual world in the CCCB exhibition “El Paral•lel, 1894-1939, Barcelona and the Spectacle of Modernity”.
Eduard Molner explains that in Barcelona’s Parallel, unlike Montmartre in Paris and Broadway in New York, the popular culture of the working classes ruled. This Barcelona Avenue, officially inaugurated in 1894 in the poverty stricken neighbourhood District V, not only became an instant entertainment mecca for the masses, while at the same time expressed the social and political conflict that characterised Barcelona at the beginning of the twentieth century.
78% of Avinguda del Paral•lel was in use for some kind of theatrical genre
The density of theatres at Avinguda del Paral•lel also represented a unique phenomenon: 78% of the route was in use for some kind of theatrical genre. From cuplé (associated with prostitution) to drama, vaudeville and circus and there was no stop to the amount of shows on offer, staged or improvised. The magnificent theatres, sleazy dives, dancehalls and cafes offered something for all tastes and sexual preference. Its proximity to the old Barrio Chino (El Raval), commonly known as “the prostitutes neighborhood” helped as well.
Although prostitution in the late nineteenth and twentieth century was a phenomenon of gigantic proportions it was strange enough legal. Male sexuality should be given an outlet too the bureaucrats figured. Condoms were officially sponsored, as well as advertisements about disease prevention and medical examinations. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 meant the beginning of the end for the city’s leisure avenue par excellence. The remaining theatres were closed in 1939.
Want to get to know the theatres, the artists, the shows and the political and social events that made this street a focal point for popular culture? Follow one, or all three urban itineraries (political, urban design or theatres route) on offer: El Paral•lel, 1894-1939.
Parallel Avenue, 1894-1939
Barcelona and the Spectacle of Modernity
From 26 October 2012 to 24 February 2013
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11a.m. to 8p.m.
Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (CCCB)
Carrer de Montalegre 5
Metro: lines 1, 2 and 3 (Catalunya and Universitat) FGC and RENFE
Bus routes: 7, 9, 14, 16, 17, 24, 38, 41, 50, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 64, 66, 67, 68, 91, 120, 141, L94, L95.
Avinguda del Parallel runs from the Plaza de la Carbonera to Plaza de España. Around 1890 Ildefonso Cerdà designed it as part of the new development Eixample. It was officially inaugurated on October 11, 1894. At present it separates the Poble Sec neighbourhood from the Raval and Sant Antoni neighbourhoods. Some theatres from the time when Parallel was the cultural epicenter for varietés and plays were restored and reopened. Like the legendary cabaret El Molino, where the famous group La Cubana performed for the first time, or the Arteria Paral·lel Theatre. Teatro Victoria, the Teatro Apolo and the Teatro Condal are still surviving too, but others like Teatro Cómico, Teatro Talia and the Teatro Nuevo have been demolished.