Sant Antoni Sunday market History

 “…Cal consignar la dominical fira de llibres vells, amb l’espectacular congregació humana que origina, més les connotacions derivades de la noblesa de la mercaderia que hom compra.” (... “The old book Sunday fair must be assigned for the huge amount of people it gathers, plus the connotations that derive from the nobility of goods to buy”) .”

With this words, so admired Catalan artist Tísner, defines one of the most emblematic markets in Barcelona.

Settled since 1936 in Sant Antoni market, this second hand market is the inheritor of the Fira del Bellcaire, which some say it used to be held near the port, and some others say it was in the same location where, in 1882, the Sant Antoni market was inaugurated.

After this modernistic market was inaugurated, the Fira del Bellcaire moved to the surroundings: first, to Ronda de Sant Pau, afterwards, to the Urgell, Tamarit and Ronda de Sant Antoni streets. Exactly in this Ronda is where started to appear the first booksellers – about twenty at that time – together with the rest of the stallholders.

From 1920 to 1936, the Fira del Bellcaire moved to the Avinguda del Paralel, next to the theatre Molino. At this new location, the Mercat del llibre d’ocasió (Secondhand Book Market) was institutionalized. In 1931 there were more than 300 book stalls, really successful, popular and with the acknowledgement of that period intellectuals. In this year too, was created the first stallholder association, whose first objective was to specialize the market in book selling, since this activity had taken the place of the others.

In September 1934 was born El Nostre Butlletí, launched as the official mouthpiece of the association and with a growing strong demand: the return of Sant Antoni market. The inclemency of the weather –wind, rain– suffered in the Avinguda del Paralel, took the association to request the Barcelona city council the possibility to use the Sant Antoni porches as the new location of the Mercat del llibre d’ocasió. Finally in 1936, they came to an agreement with the city council, according to which the stallholders would settle into the Sant Antoni market, known at that period as Mercat del Padró. Exactly in the same place it is until now, but with a new name: MERCAT DOMINICAL DE SANT ANTONI. .

The Mercat del llibre d’ocasió history is more than that. Above all, it’s the story of those hopeful boys and girls, who give their first steps in culture and, accompanied by their parents, come to the Mercat, buy tales and comics, change repeated picture cards and learn how to love books. And so on generation after generation. Those children, once they become adults, keep coming to the Mercat, and tales become books, or maybe a stamp, comic or any cultural product collection.

Some of the current stallholders are grandchildren of the first stallholders of Bellcaire. During the Franco years, many stallholders carried out a praiseworthy work in favour of the freedom of speech, putting their own security at risk by secretly gathering, buying and selling the dictatorship prohibited books.

The Mercat Dominical de Sant Antoni is a fair specialized in certain cultural products. It is only allowed the sale in paper, videogame or magnetic material. Have been regular customers intellectual and famous people like Guimerà, Pedro Pons, Rusiñol, Pedrolo, Tísner, Candel, Moix, Monzó, etc.; distinguished representatives of show business, politics and musicians like Gurruchaga, Pasqual Maragall, Mario Cabré, Joan Manuel Serrat, Nina, Magic Andreu, Gila, Puigcorbe, Nazario, etc; and occasionally movie stars as Ursula Andrews, with Fabio Testi, o the photography director, Néstor Almendros.

The Mercat Dominical de Sant Antoni has turned into a small jewel of Barcelona, unique in the world. Saying it in Tísner words, “parlem molt sovint de com cal fer sotrir la cultura la carrer. El nostre mercat de llibres demostra com nosaltres ja ho practiquem des de fa anys…” (We talk very often about how to make the culture come out. Our book market proves that we have been doing it for years…). We are talking about the biggest fair of this characteristics; this market offers a unique supply in the city and is visited every Sunday by more than 15,000 people.