Migratory waves in the history of Barcelona

BARCELONA, MIGRANT CITY:The growth and shaping of Barcelona, as in all large cities, has been historically linked to migratory contributions, whether distant or closer: one need only mention the arrival of the many people from Occitania who came to Barcelona in the Modern Age fleeing from the religious wars in France. In each historical moment, these human flows have implied a contribution of social capital that has been echoed in more or less difficult conditions in the progress of the city.

Since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, in the 18th century and especially throughout the 19th century, immigration to Barcelona from inland Catalonia was important. In the 20th century, the formation of a great metropolis was nourished by successive migratory waves from increasingly distant territories. During the early years of the century, the arrival of not very qualified workers from the eastern part of the Iberian Peninsular, balanced by the incorporation of certain foreigners in elite circles, occurred in very difficult conditions, in a climate of major inequalities and strong social confrontation.


The second major migratory wave of the century, that of the 1950s and 1960s, occurred in a period of greater economic growth. People arrived from throughout Spain to a city that, in spite of the scab of the Franco dictatorship, was generating more wealth and reorganising itself. The common struggle of local people and immigrants for greater equality, democracy and the city was also a struggle for Catalan culture and Catalan self-rule. Thanks to the train, telephone and car, newly arrived people had increasingly more connection between the villages and towns they had abandoned.

Between 1998 and 2007, the new Barcelonians who had arrived from throughout the world have comprised a wider and more varied human conglomerate than ever, in a metropolis that has also received them in a diversified manner. It is difficult to forecast up to what point the crisis that began in 2008 has marked the beginning of a different period from this decade of intense economic and human growth in a city that was becoming more globalised.