The History of Paral·lel

Avinguda de Paral·lel

It was only opened in 1894 but plays a very special role in the history of Barcelona. Marking the boundary between El Raval (previously known as El Barrio Chino) and El Poble-Sec, Av. Paral·lel became a world of its own, a mini Montmartre filled with theatres and cafés and all the characters those worlds bring. The first theatres opened towards the end of the 19th Century, and by the turn of the 20th Paral·lel was bustling, crowds came to watch the vaudeville and cabaret shows found in the many theatres and music halls which had sprung up along the Avenue. These shows launched new stars and new shows and songs were being created all the time. Many famous playwrights wrote for theatres on Paral·lel including Santiago Rusiñol, writing plays ranging from cheeky comedies to melodramas and plays based on the social problems of the time such as morphine addiction amongst the upper classes. As well as the stars of the stage, Paral·lel attracted many other characters such as prostitutes and drug dealers lured by the crowds of people looking for fun and the closeness of the port.  The ordinary Barcelonins would also fill the cafés, talking about life, love and often, politics. Some cafés were known as being the unofficial headquarters of certain political groups with new, revolutionary ideas such as the anarchists, the trade unionists, and the socialists, indeed many of these groups were involved in the Setmana Tràgica (Tragic week) in 1909 who protested against ordinary men being sent to war again when people say that the rich were exempt.  With the onset of the Civil War and dictatorship as well as factors such as changing tastes and the growing strength of the cinema, Paral·lel fell into decline. Many of the great theatres and cafés, full to the rafters, not 30 years before were closed and either changed into cinemas or nightclubs or eventually demolished. Just the Victoria theatre, El Apolo and the Condal are still running as theatres. The Apolo is also now a famous club. El Molino, a music hall based on Le Moulin Rouge has been renovated and now holds cabaret and burlesque shows. The majority of the old Paral·  all may be gone but the name still brings a twinkle to most Barcelona resident’s eyes.