As of today, I am able to say that I have made even statues talk! A miracle? No… as with many English cities, in Barcelona you can find artists who, for their livelihoods become living statues. However, on the Ramblas they are an institution and prior to the town council deciding to begin regulating this most creative of trades, the statues were pretty much everywhere, an entire multi-coloured army!
Everybody, even adults but most especially children are astounded by the variety of costumes on show, which make the most famous road in Barcelona such a characteristic place. From 09.00 to 21.00, and especially during the more ‘touristy’ times of day, you can witness them in astounding numbers provoking a spontaneous curiosity to know what is hiding behind the mask. It is normally difficult to interview a statue, especially due to the fact that speaking can break the magic spell they create, and once again they would turn into a normal person. But upon breaking the ice and overcoming the obstacle of mistrust, I met some lovely people with unbelievable artistic talents.
The ‘Fruits of the Ramblas’ and the ‘Roman of Barça’
Patricia and Shubert are Columbian and by this August they will have been statues on the Ramblas for 9 years. They tell me proudly that they are probably the oldest performers here and perhaps due to this reason occupy an excellent position on the Ramblas: in front of the Liceu theatre. When I meet them, Shubert is putting make-up on his wife and straight away I notice Patricia’s costume, which is lively, colorful and elaborate. Shubert tells me: “the character’s name is the ‘Fruits of the Ramblas’ and is inspired by the nearby Boquería (market). To invent a new costume always requires a great deal of work and we do it every two years. It has to be elaborate, so that other statues can’t copy us”.
‘Quijote’ and the ‘Two Heads’
Atanas, on the other hand, works solo. He’s Bulgarian, about 50 years of age, and has being doing statues for 5 years. When I ask him about his hours of work, he answers: “Now things have changed because of the crisis. Whereas before 4-5 hours were enough, now I work on occasion anything up to 12 hours, in order to get enough money to live. It also depends how many tourists there are”. A trick to get more money? Change costume during the day. “In the morning I’m Two Heads, and later on I’m Quijote”.
Anibal is a Columbian artist and works in a duo with his friend. Straight away you notice his enormous black costume, which was thought up and put together by him. About a year ago, he began dressing up as a dragon and he also confirms that there’s an economic crisis. Actually, as well as being a statue, he also paints houses in order to make a living. He loves updating his costume, which next season will be a beautiful gold colour.
Giuliana is Argentinian with Italian roots and citizenship. She came to Barcelona 5 years ago to study theatre. To make a living and gain experience she does her statues not only on the Ramblas but also for private parties. I ask her if she has another costume and she answers “yes, of a little old lady, but the kids tend to run away, frightened by the wrinkles”.
Walking along, many other statues can be seen, such as an ancient Roman, Frankenstein, a female devil, amazon Indians, a bull-fighter, a cowboy, Siralhil-la, the guardian of Alismir’s heaven, Andre (the Ronaldinho of the Ramblas), la Muerte (death)… Some of them put on full-blown spectacles that frighten tourists, and start to move when a child gives them some change.
Useful information for aspiring statues…
The statues are present both in summer and in winter. Many of them change costumes when the season changes, however sometimes only the material will alter- for example, cotton being replaced by wool or leather. It takes about 20/30 minutes to do the make-up, and usually they work alone or in couples. Between colleagues there is respect in that they usually would not occupy the position of another statue for example, but they are not friends. On the contrary, there is a lot of competition and often there is the problem of being copied. Bear in mind, too, that it isn’t possible to simply invent your own statue and choose your position, since you would risk a fine of 200 euros!!! All in all, being a statue isn’t just a hobby, but a real and true job with its own rules.