Igualada, the Catalan city of fashion and murals
A powerful enclave of the textile industry northeast of Barcelona, Igualada is trying to promote its tourist and cultural attractions.
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In Philadelphia, every wall is a potential blank canvas, and more than 3,000 stunning murals adorn building exteriors all over the city since 1984. That year, Mural Arts Philadelphia, the U.S.'s largest public art program, began an initiative to help eradicate graffiti by enabling professional artists and young Philadelphians to showcase their artistic talent in a constructive way. They believe that art ignites change.
Although not in the same part of the world as Philly, the Catalan city of Igualada, an industrial enclave 42 miles northeast from Barcelona, is betting on murals as a way to celebrate culture and arts, and as a way to protect its traditions.
Named capital of culture in Catalonia in 2022, Igualada has experienced an explosion of murals and street art displays on the facades of the city. Created by local artists, murals made in homage to a defunct bookstore, to schools and institutes, or even to traditions rooted in the city stands out, like the Castellers (human towers) or the city's Three Kings Parade.
Unfortunately, Igualada was one of the Catalan cities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and lived under strict confinement after an outbreak of the virus in its local hospital. A year later, artist Joan Fontcuberta debuted his work Miradas desde el confinamiento in the city, a tribute to collective solidarity during the pandemic. The work, in the form of a giant 50-meter-long mural, consists of a mosaic made of 50,000 images of citizens who were invited to send in their photos of what confinement meant to them.
A fashion enclave
Thousands of years old, the city of Igualada preserves an important legacy of the country's industrial culture. In addition to strolling through the narrow streets of the Rec district, a former industrial neighborhood, where the workers and tanners lived, a visit to the Leather Museum is a must. Igualada is still an outstanding place to buy clothes and fabrics, as evidenced by the large number of fashion stores.
Twice a year, the city hosts Rec.0, an eclectic festival of fashion, culture and food for four days in the Rec district.
The old factories and tanneries of the old industrial district of the city are temporarily transformed into fashion pop-up stores where major local and international brands and independent and emerging fashion designers sell their stocks and samplers at unique prices.
What else to visit? Las Ramblas (not Barcelona) is also the center of the town's commercial life. On the last Sunday of every month, an arts and crafts fair takes place in the Town Hall square.
One of the most important festivities of the city is the Cabalgata de Reyes. On the night of Jan. 5, thousands of comparsas parade accompanying the spectacular floats of Their Majesties, with wooden ladders, lined up on the balconies to deliver the gifts directly to the children.
The sport most associated with Igualada is roller field hockey. The local team plays in the highest league in the country and has won the League and the European Cup several times.
Food also features several typical dishes, especially an onion stuffed with cod. Desserts and pastries are also very popular: it is worth mentioning the coca d'Igualada, created in 1920 and made with aromatic herbs, the carquinyolis — made from dry pasta with almonds — and the traditional chocolate monas, cakes that are given as gifts on Easter.
At the beginning of July, a unique aeronautical fair takes place, together with the European Balloon Festival.
It is also an outstanding place to organize excursions to the massif of Montserrat, the most emblematic mountain of Catalonia, with its monastery and its Virgin of the Moreneta.