Guest Post: Gone In Six Seconds

September 13, 2011
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Guest post exclusively for Robbed in Barcelona by Frank W.

I was looking forward to moving to Barcelona. As a freelance translator, I’ve moved around a lot and lived for much of the past ten years in Central and South America (in cities whose reputation is more dangerous than Barcelona). I think of myself as a seasoned traveller, try to be careful without being paranoid.

Before coming to Barcelona I’d rented somewhere temporary to get a feel for the city and check out where I might want to live. Through a nice, very helpful agent, I thought I’d found somewhere. On the day I was due to move, I arrived at my new flat just after midday (in Raval) about five minutes before the agent and the dueña.  I was waiting outside the door with various suitcases and a rucksack slung over my shoulder.  It was a quiet, residential street, barely a cat and three people wandering around, so – stupidly – I was less alert than I might have been were I on the Ramblas or in Barceloneta.

The snatch took barely a second or two – someone stopped and asked me for directions. I only turned to him for about six seconds but that was all the time it took for his partner to unbuckle the rucksack and vanish. I didn’t even see him make his escape.

Depressingly, being a freelance, the rucksack was the one thing I could ill afford to lose, it had my laptop, backup discs, books, papers, etc… The estate agent, who showed up seconds later, was as helpful as she could be; helped me comb the streets, took me to the police station and waited with me for a bit, the police were polite, and sympathetic but told me I had no hope of recovering anything.

What most astonished me – other than the shock of losing so much in such a short space – was how organised the theft was. I had been standing on the street for less than five minutes, but someone had to have noticed me (not difficult) and then find his/her partner to carry out the robbery. All this is about 7 minutes, in broad daylight, and though there were not many people on the Carrer de la Lluna, there were enough people passing such that it’s very likely someone saw something, but those around claimed to have seen nothing, just shrugged and kept walking.

I decided not to take the flat (thereby also losing 6 weeks rent) and have spent the rest of my time in Zona Alta. Barcelona can be a wonderful city, it’s sprawling and beautiful and most of the Barcelonins I have meet have been warm, charming and personable, but everyone I have told my story to back home has immediately “Oh, yeah my sister/my friend/my daughter was robbed in Barcelona.” Not much of a reputation, and it seems to be spreading fast.

Foto: rateta2009

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6 Responses to Guest Post: Gone In Six Seconds

  1. Cesar on September 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I’m from Barcelona. I’m now visiting the United States and I was specting something similar here but I was wrong. What happens in Barcelona is unique in the world. Actually, I’ve never been robbed travelling, and I’ve been in China, Japan, Mexico, Dominican Republic and whole Europe. It’s a shame what happens in my city and I’ve to say thank you for still speak well
    about it.
    It’ time to finish this. Enough of that shit!

  2. October on September 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    I also used to travel a lot internationally for work and had never been robbed. Well, only in Barcelona. I was in a women´s clothing store on Gran de Gracia trying on a coat. I had my bag hung up in a change room. I left the change room for a moment to change the size of the coat. A woman entered my change room and calmly but very swiftly took my purse and left the store. It happened so fast – in seconds. I live in Catalonia now and have learnt to be incredibly careful. I clutch onto my bag, never put it down and always feel the possibility of being mugged. My husband is Catalan and he usually carries my bag when we are the city. It´s always a relief to leave the city and head back to the hills and small town where I live.

  3. Luis on October 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    As a Spaniard, not from Barcelona but currently living in Barcelona, I’m very sorry for all your sad experiences. Having said that, I must add that I’m also shocked by how little you seem know about this city. Before the 92 Olympic games, El Raval was known as “El Barrio Chino”, which is the way Spaniards say “red-light district”, and is equivalent with poverty, drugs and prostitution. Local authorities improved large portions of the city, but not El Raval. They did however give it a new name. In the last 10 years, El Raval has deteriorated a great deal. This is in contrast to the other large Spanish cities, who have succeeded in regenerating their worst neighborhoods in the last decade despite similar economic and demographic circumstances. This difference, in my opinion, can be explained by the laissez-faire attitude of a series of socialist rulers, nostalgic of “Il est interdit d’interdire”, and who-unlike in other places-happen to come from local rich families. Of course, none of them would ever choose to live in the lower part of the city. It doesn’t help either that Catalonian politicians is completely dominated by far more important issues, such as the meaning of Catalan identity.

    • Rob Daly on October 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      “Before the 92 Olympic games” is more than 20 years ago, Luis, please don’t be shocked… we’re not historians.

  4. Luis on October 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Rob. The point I was trying to make is that the transformation of Barcelona that took place 20 years ago (trust me, when you’re 45, 20 years will not longer look like ancient history to you) turned it into a city that attracts thousands of visitors and people who want to settle here, while leaving unsolved an enormous problem in the very heart of the city. What surprises me is that so many of those attracted to Barcelona seem to be unaware of this reality (of today).

  5. Vanessa on November 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Raval is not advisable to people coming to Barcelona for the first time. It’s not that bad if you know the area (a map or smart phone with GPS will only attract attention). Don’t act like a victim and you should be fine.

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