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1900: The attraction of greater Barcelona


The metropolis of Barcelona, united under one municipality as a result of the unification policy of the Pla de Barcelona (the area comprising the city and its suburbs) in 1897, entered into the 20th century with around 544,000 inhabitants, 38% of which had been born outside of the province (21% outside of Catalonia). The city had grown significantly in the previous decades due to its industrial and urbanization needs that, together with events like the 1888 Universal Exposition, had attracted quite a numerous rural population.

The majority of these new Barcelonians came from the Catalan comarques, or counties, that had a low agricultural yield and vineyard areas affected by phylloxera, especially in the provinces of Tarragona and Lleida. These workers were not very qualified and were employed in textile factories, the building industry, domestic services and street vending.

 

 
 

Alongside this immigration was the lesser flow of skilled workers, people with a trade and small businessmen from the comarques with manufacturing traditions who worked in industry or set up shops and businesses. At the same time, well-to-do families from throughout Catalonia used to send some of their children to study in Barcelona and they often remained in the capital once they had finished their professional studies.

Of special note amongst the new people arriving from outside Catalonia were those immigrants from Valencia and Aragon, who were employed in factories and certain artisanal activities. There was also 1.7% of foreigners, some 9,000 citizens, amongst which included highly qualified technicians who were incorporated into the professional levels of Barcelona.

Most of these newly arrived people were concentrated in the popular, working-class districts of the old town (Raval, Barceloneta, Sant Pere and Santa Caterina), the most working-class area of the Eixample (the district of Sant Antoni) and the industrial and artisan suburbs of the city (Sants, Gràcia, Sant Martí and Sant Andreu). Small communities or groups that were based on their towns of origin or labour skills were often formed in these quarters.