Fai Rúa: Barrio Alto Neighbourhood of Vigo WebDoc

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An interactive documentary that recovers the past of the old district, A Ferrería, reclaims its present and recognizes the cultural and social heritage of the neighbourhood.

Construcción del edificio del Ayuntamiento sobre el Castillo de San Sebastián (Archivo General del Concello de Vigo)

Construction of the new Council over the ancient San Sebastian Castle (Council of Vigo Archive)

It was firstly know as A Ferrería (Blacksmith’s), but lately it was also known as “Chinese Neighbourhood”. It’s at the centre of the old town of Vigo, a working class city that grew up during the 20th century under the development of canned fish industry, car factories and, mainly, because of having one of the biggest harbours in Europe. Close to this port, dozens of brothels were opened, becoming a refuge for those sailors arriving to Vigo. During the 80’s, when the heroine stroke the city as well as the council left aside the care of those addicted to drugs, the neighbourhood collapsed, driving the once crowded district into ruins and almost complete depopulation. Recently, those institutions that years ago leaded the neighbourhood to ruins, joined to foster a rehabilitation plan and, slowly, new people moved again to the neighbourhood bringing new life to the area. This story may sound you familiar if you are from Barcelona, Seville or any other big city.

Barrio Alto Cultural Association was created within this environment. There’s a lot of work to be done but its priority is to promote the neighbourhood social and cultural life while giving visibility to the material and immaterial heritage. Our office is in the middle of A Ferreria and this is where our collaboration with the Association started trough Fai Rua project. We walked around the streets to listen and collect stories of the inhabitants. The common life of those who built the neighbourhood suddenly came up; stories about La Casa de la Collona, Bar Lichoca or la Panificadora.The neighbourhood where Pepe Soto, Rober Suzuka or Tino were born and lived as children. Alos, the neighborhood where Raquel moved recently,  the neighbourhood that Pintor San Luis depicted on his realistic canvas, that was filmed by Jaime de Armiñan and was sang by the 80’s rock band Os Resentidos.

montaje_fairua_post We choose web-doc, a documentary where each viewer can choose the route and direction over the neighbourhood. No beginning or end, you decide what do you want to watch first, which are your interests. Also, as one of the purposes of the project it to divulgate local heritage, we tried to push the dissemination of the different stories. For that, all the stories are uploaded to Youtube and licensed with Creative Commons as a commons resource, shareable and public.

Barrio cariñoso III, de San Luís (imagen cedida por Luis Jacobo Álvarez)

Loving Neighbourhood III,  San Luís

We started this post saying that the neighbourhood is nowadays on a crossroad and, probably, that’s why despite being one of the most representative collectives of the area prostitutes don’t have their voices directly represented. They hide more than 50 years of stories but rejected to share these story publicly: fear to prejudices still plays an important role and being anonymous it’s the best protection for these women. Also, we found a gap when searching for images of this area between the early years of the century and the 90’s, the “golden period”, we could only find a few postcards and we are still looking for a photographer that entered these streets.

Bitterness of these absences reflects the clash between the neighbourhood social reality and the interest on making the streets appealing for a group of middle-high class newcoming group. There’s no rehabilitation plan if social measures are not included, allowing those vulnerable inhabitants becoming part of change. Culture could have also an important role due to its transformative potential. That’s the purpose of Fai Rua, a project where a big number of neighbour got involved, those living for  a long time and also those that just landed into the area, because we are sure that we can only understand the present if we know our past.