1975: Culmination of an industrial metropolis

The metropolitan city had 2,984,000 inhabitants in its 27 municipalities in 1975, 1,755,000 of whom were in the area of Barcelona. The new size of the city, extending over both sides of Collserola, was greatly due to the immigration of the previous two decades. Some 48% of the city’s inhabitants had been born outside of the province (some 44% outside of Catalonia). The majority were Andalusian immigrants, followed by those from Castilla, Aragon, Extremadura, Murcia and Galicia, without forgetting the continued emigration from the Catalan countryside to the Barcelona metropolis during those years.

The steady development of the metal/mechanical sector, as symbolised by SEAT, and the chemical sector had attracted skilled labour, while the less qualified people coming from rural areas were employed in production lines in industry and construction and in personal service work in shops and other services. Qualified public servants, professionals and employees in search of better opportunities also arrived in fewer numbers. The number of foreigners, mostly well-to-do citizens, remained at some 27,000 people.


The new arrivals in the years of the so-called Spanish desarrollo (“development”) were from a broader social range than those in the first third of the century; and their diversity of origin was even greater still.

The old town, or Ciutat Vella, remained the “port of arrival” to the city after the Civil War and was full of sublets and cheap hotels, while the outlying districts expanded and the shantytowns reached their historical peak. Until the beginning of the 1960s, when the city’s inhabitants who lived in precarious conditions were absorbed by the residential estates in the outskirts, which became an essential part of the city’s landscape.

Most of the new arrivals not only contributed to the urban, economic and cultural development of Barcelona but also made the political and national demands of Catalonia their own. While improvements in communication media, with lower prices for telephones and cars, meant that connections with places of origin increased and they became frequent summer vacation destinations.