Celebrations for the Chinese New Year are being held in Barcelona. It will be the year 4717 according to the traditional Chinese calendar, which follows the Chinese zodiac, and it will be the Year of the Pig. For example, in Nou Barris, there will be a parade in Plaça Major on Saturday 26 January. In the area around the Arc de Triomf, in the Eixample, on 2 February, celebrations will include a cultural and culinary fair, as well as exhibitions of popular Chinese and Catalan culture.
These are days for sharing cultures. Barcelona’s Chinese community is made up of around 20,000 people. Their economic activities in commerce have meant that they come into daily contact with other city residents, in shops, bars and restaurants. In 2012, a project, Xeix, was launched in Fort Pienc, with the aim of promoting cohesion and integration between the local and Chinese cultures, an idea that was later extended to the Pakistani community.
The Xeix project is still going strong. It enjoys the collaboration and participation of local retailers associations. And it has served as an inspiration for other initiatives: in Poble-sec-Paral·lel and Sants, there is the ongoing ‘Intercultural Capsules’ project, and in Nou Barris, there is the ‘Viu Nou Barris, Viu Comerç Divers’ [Long live Nou Barris, Long live Diverse Commerce] project.
The city’s districts, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Immigration and Interculturality Services are working on their implementation. From the very beginning, this initiative aimed to facilitate the integration of newcomers and, in commerce, to favour and reinforce the association movement among the new and local commercial fabric. After this first stage, other educational, cultural and social steps have also been taken.
In Fort Pienc, the pioneers, the Xeix project promoted the retailers association movement as a way of bringing people together and forging a neighbourhood identity. It included tools to help with interpreting language and with intercultural mediation, along with professionals from these fields. The neighbourhood social and commercial development plan, produced at the beginning of 2012, provided for the promotion and development of economic and cultural activities around trades linked to the performing arts. And as part of the anti-rumour strategy, training plans for professionals were set in motion, in order to break away from stereotypes and make it easy to create businesses.
Commerce is the origin
The local retailers association was the foundation for launching the Xeix project. The organisation was and is a formidable vehicle for economic and social promotion, and it became the starting point. For example, people who spoke Urdu and Chinese were hired, which helped to make contact with those communities, who were then encouraged to join the association.
Information was provided on how to improve people’s businesses; they were informed about the retailers association and invited to join; cultural activities were organised, including an intercultural poetry event, a performing arts fair and Sant Jordi; Chinese classes were initiated in schools as an extracurricular activity and celebrations for the Chinese New Year were held. With the involvement of the Chinese community, the initiative was very successful, to the point where the Fort Pienc retailers association project has received three major awards: in 2015, from the European Union; in 2016, the Barcelona City Council award for collaborative commerce and in 2018, the Maria Aurèlia Capmany award for the ‘Donem la volta a la moda’ [Let’s turn fashion around] project.
Implementation in the city
The project inspired the creation of other city initiatives. At the beginning of 2018, with the collaboration of Sants Establiments Units retailers association and a mediator, a project was created to make contact with members of the Chinese community who run shops, with the aim of informing them about municipal plans that would help to improve their businesses, making full use of the advantages of new technologies, the benefits of the association movement, such as joint promotions, and forming part of the neighbourhood’s commercial network.
Last November, with the support of the Department of Commerce and the District of Sants-Montjuïc, various intercultural mediators worked with the Poble-sec-Paral·lel retailers association to reinforce a sense of belonging in the neighbourhood and the pride of all retailers, with special emphasis on the Pakistani community. The initiative – ‘Intercultural Capsules for Retailers Associations (CIAC)’ – offers mediation and specialised training for neighbourhood revitalisation professionals and retailers, in order to overcome cultural barriers and bring local commerce together. Other similar processes had previously been developed with the Chinese community, mainly in Sants-Badal and La Marina.
Last November, in Nou Barris, where they are working on the ‘Viu Nou Barris, Viu Comerç Divers’ project, the retailers associations and Chinese organisations shared experiences in order to create synergies and consolidate mutual links. Representatives from the Maragall, Entorn Virrei Borbó, Fabra Centre and Eix Nou Barris shopping districts took part, together with representatives from the district, Chinese and Pakistani mediators, and a representative from Chinese organisations. The retailers associations have gained new members and the Chinese and Pakistani communities, together with the district’s shopping hubs, have been involved in cultural and culinary activities.