15 centimetres of Barcelona pride
José Luís Frías, a trader on a wooden stall is aware of the attraction of what he has in his hands. Twnety-three years displaying the piece in the heart of Barcelona, he perceives that the two timid Japanese tourists will like it. It's hardly 15 centimetres but “it is prettier than the one I had years ago”, he says. “Chss! Listen! Look”, he says to one of the two girls. “Six Euros and it's yours. Sis iuros”, he insists. The girl hesitates and then gives in to temptation stretches out her hand. Another foreigner taking home the miniature model of the Sagrada Familia Temple.
It is difficult not to be tempted by a collectable souvenir. On José Luís’s stand in front of the Birth facade of the temple design by Antonio Gaudí, a squadron of reproductions of the work line up, bearing witness to the 130 years it has been being built. The trader uses his little statues, which inspire “pride in Barcelona” in him, to go through the history of the cathedral. “This one with the four bell towers of the Passion facade, we saw these in the 1980s. It's like it was then. It cost 300 pesetas (the old Spanish currency)”, he explains. “These went up to 500 and were made in the 90s, when they put the sculptures on the facade”, he continues. “This is newer, later than 2000. Do you see? It is more colourful because they put in the Passion and Resurrection stained-glass windows, and was sold in Euros”.
Unlike what happens with the perennial reproductions of other colossal monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of Pisa or the Statue of Liberty, the Sagrada Familia models are a pure sticker album for any kitsch fetishist, and also for many of the two million tourists who visit the cathedral each year. 300 workers erecting the 170 metres the temple will finally reach, Unesco heritage since 2005, and a similar number of miniature manufacturers and sellers keeping up with its development. This is the commercial consequence of building a cathedral at the height of souvenir times. At most 40% is still to be finished, but in case it goes on a long time, the complete work is already being sold pocket size. “The Chinese have been making it for years”, says the salesperson as if it was nothing new.
Gaudí said, “It will be a temple where people from all over the world will come to see what we are doing”. José Luís believed him and decided to climb on the wave. Two pale skinned blondes come up. “Gudmornin, señoritas”. Time to show his pride.