MY POINT OF VIEW 12 (by Tatiana Sisquella)
I have learned this week from the media that the Maradona of the Rambla is retiring. My first reaction was a feeling of indifference, due to the fact that this gentleman, who wears the colours of the Barcelona Football Club and does juggling acts with footballs, has never done much for me and has never really turned me on in the same way that the sight of the fountains of Montjuïc may have done, or a view of the sun setting over the port, or taking an aperitif up on the mountain-top at Tibidabo. After thinking about it for a few minutes, though, I realized that I was doing an injustice to a personality who, thanks to his consistency, coherence and discretion, has come to form a part of the folklore of our city.
We are talking about Joan Sabaté, a gentleman who one fine day decided to just put on a sports-kit, grab a football and show to whoever cared to watch what he was capable of doing with a spherical object and his own body. And that’s it. But with the passage of time his act has become a street spectacle that has lasted now for over 40 years. Which means that a part of the history of Barcelona’s most characteristic thoroughfare has been written alongside the name of The Maradona of the Rambla…I occasionally reflect that the real Maradona would probably be very happy to be as physically fit as Joan at his age, but that’s another question…
Mr. Sabaté has had all sorts of experiences at different times thanks to his “work”. First he went unnoticed, then he had to deal with a regulation passed by the City Council that didn’t allow him to play with a ball in the street, and, at the end, he had his moment of glory pass through his fingers…even if it’s only for his consistency and discretion that he will stay in the memory of many of us.
Having made this rather gauche and insignificant act of homage, Joan’s retirement got me thinking that very often the landscape of a city does not only consist of unique buildings, spectacular monuments or geographical features, but rather it is the people who also form a basic element for understanding the nature of a particular location. The Maradona of the Rambla, the Guatemalans of the Plaça Catalunya, the skaters of the Plaça dels Àngels, the old people who still sit outside in their chairs to have a chat down towards Barceloneta because you can still get a little bit of sea air there…all these people are also part of the landscape of the city. They are the freckles, the wrinkles and the corner of the mouth on the physiognomy of Barcelona, and without their presence, the face of the city would only be a face, and not a countenance.
That's why, when I feel a little sorry when I see that street musicians need a permit now to play music in the open air, that you get less and less sea air in Barceloneta these days, and that we are getting less and less tolerant towards the picturesque individuals who have traditionally earned their living by exhibiting themselves in public.
I feel a little sorry because I see that my city is turning into a city dominated by norms, by restrictions and by limits to our freedom,
The Maradona of the Rambla was able to carry on kicking the ball in the air despite the regulation that prohibits ball games in the street, because it was considered that his presence made up part of the landscape of the Rambla. But that was the only reason he was allowed to.
It isn’t difficult to come to the conclusion that there won’t be any other “Maradonas of the Rambla” in the future. There will be no shortage of Starbucks cafés, though.
Question: Why Barcelona?
Answer: Because, despite everything, we still have some jugglers left.