Prostitutes overrun a Spanish icon - Macleans.ca
 

Prostitutes overrun a Spanish icon

Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas is becoming too seedy for tourists


 

090915_spainOn Barcelona’s Las Ramblas—the bustling thoroughfare known for its flower vendors, dancing buskers and the 250,000 visitors a day it attracts—tourists have plenty of fodder for photos. But the images that recently surfaced of prostitutes servicing men just off the strip’s iconic market are not the stuff of postcards. The photographs, published in the Spanish newspaper El Paìs, have drawn attention to Las Ramblas’ seedier side. As one restaurateur recently told the Times, “There are more prostitutes than ever. They don’t wait for their clients, they go looking for them.”

For as long as tourists have flocked to the cobblestone strip that connects the city centre with the old harbour, the street has had a dark underbelly. In 1907, Pablo Picasso featured prostitutes from a brothel on nearby Avinyó Street in his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. By night, it has never been unusual to spot drug dealers or drunken revellers in the area.

But critics say the balance has tipped too far toward the tawdry. Las Ramblas is now frequented by pickpockets; travellers are warned to hold their purses tightly. Even before the sex photos surfaced, La Vanguardia newspaper observed that on Las Ramblas, “The sensation is of chaos, of a lost city.”

At issue, it seems, is the country’s lax prostitution laws. The exploitation of women is banned but prostitution itself is not, making Spain an ideal choice for gangs looking to profit from pimping out illegal immigrants.

In recent days, government officials have been scrambling to restore order, with Barcelona Mayor Jordi Hereu calling for a ban on prostitution in the city centre. But others say the proposal is ill-advised. They argue that legalization—not repression—is what’s needed to keep lewd scenes off the street.


 

Prostitutes overrun a Spanish icon

  1. "But others say the proposal is ill-advised. They argue that legalization—not repression—is what's needed to keep lewd scenes off the street."

    But…it's already legal. So if lax laws produced rampant prostitution, why would even more lax laws help?

  2. This is the APPEAL of las ramblas! Goodness, it wouldn't be famous if it wasn't full of drunken stupor at 3am – not that I would ever partake in this kind of behaviour…

  3. The Ramblas has always been colourful at night but in the last few years the prostitutes who hang out there in the evenings have become too aggressive. So much so that often get the impression they are thiefs masquerading as hookers. For a single male coming out of one of the bars on Carrer Ferran or thereabouts it is a nightmare. You will be suurounded by these street urchins who have one intention – to rob. It's high time action was taken, but I feel the authoroties in Barcelona need to do just as much to crack down on the chronic problem of pickpocketing and robbery. After all, who doesn't know someone who has been robbed in Barcelona?

  4. i feel as though i could have written this article in the spring of 2003, when my friends and i were swarmed and pickpocketed by a group similar to what bobby is describing above.

    i can't imagine it would be all that difficult to police the area if there was the will …

  5. Carry a Samurai sword and speaks softly.

  6. Follow Amsterdam's example and set up an official red light district. The tourists travelling to Barcelona can then choose what sights they want to see.