My name is Ada Colau and I am Barcelona's first woman mayor.

I was born in Barcelona in the early hours of 3 March, 1974. I spent my childhood and part of my adolescence in Guinardó, the neighbourhood where I lived with my mum and sisters, though I have lived in lots of neighbourhoods in the course of my life, including El Congrés, El Gòtic, La Ribera and La Barceloneta. I now live on the edge of El Camp d’en Grassot and La Sagrada Família, with my partner Adrià and my two sons, Luca and Gael.

I am the granddaughter of migrants who came to Barcelona looking for opportunities. My paternal grandparents were shepherds in Güel (Huesca) who came to Barcelona after the Civil War, in search of a better future, whereas my maternal grandparents came from Almazán, a village in Soria.

My interest in politics and my social concerns date from my adolescence, when I started to work with Amnesty International and Amics de la Gent Gran, a voluntary organisation that helps elderly people. When I was 18, I decided to study philosophy at Barcelona University. It was there that I got involved in political activity and founded, together with lots of other fellow students, the Philosophy Assembly. We organised strikes and sit-ins against a succession of reforms that were dismantling the public university system. I was 30 credits short of finishing my studies. There was no money at home, so I soon had to start earning a living. I did all kinds of jobs and courses, which I always combined with my main hobby: reading. In 2000 I embarked on communication-based work, doing consultancy jobs, TV production and translating and interpreting Italian.

The 2000s proved to be a decade of upheavals. Faced with the social and economic changes taking place around the world, a lot of people like myself - concerned about the decline of democracy - mobilised against the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Iraq War.

Back then I had already specialised in housing issues, as my activism made me realise the flagrant violation of the right to housing was leading to the violation of many other rights across the Spanish State. That realisation led to the birth of the “V de Vivienda” housing movement, the precursor to the Mortgage Victims' Platform (PAH), which we set up after the housing bubble burst. I was its spokesperson until 2014. Within a few years, the collective work of the PAH became an international model for defending social rights.

For all that, besides my experiences as an activist, it was through my involvement in the residents' association movement that I really learnt to love this city: first, as a member of the Casc Antic Residents' Association (AVCA) and, later, on the boards of the Catalan Confederation and Barcelona Federation of Residents' Associations (CONFAVC and FAVB respectively). There I got to know the best of Barcelona's many sides: its neighbourhoods and its residents who have fought for every street, square and facility. In 2007 I also began working at the DESC Observatory, first as a cooperation specialist and later as head of the Area for Right to Housing and the City.

It was back in the spring of 2014 that a bunch of us involved in the residents' movement, the academic world and movements championing public health and education got together on a project to reclaim the city and put it at the service of the common good.

We are now at City Hall, with a public mandate for change and dialogue to make Barcelona a fairer and more democratic city.

Share this content