Bodies of Barcelona: a Day at the Beach

Living in one of the most attractive places for summer tourism, we are almost guaranteed to be inundated in Barcelona by the hordes of tourists taking over the city. Thanks to Gaudi’s famous architecture, the sights are high up on the to-do list. But gazing at the views in the sizzling heat of summer reminds tourists there is even a better way of spending time on this Mediterranean coast: at the beach.

Barceloneta beach in Barcelona, Spain 2012
Barceloneta beach in Barcelona, Spain 2012

Whether it’s the inner-city over 4km of shoreline, or the countless kilometers of outer-city seaside, either in the north on Costa Brava, or in the south on Costa Dorada, they are all reaching maximum capacity. The beach becomes the main stage in the theatre of Barcelona’s daily life, and the play becomes a multicultural representation. Walk for just a few minutes on the golden sands of this city’s sea shore and you’ll hear a Babel Tower of languages all around you. You’ll feel like you’re eavesdropping on several foreign movies at once.

I noticed something unique about this beach-side international stage. Here the “actors”, landed from all parts of the world, are by the nature of things more exposed and so they are forced to play the social game more openly. In other social situations, when we have more props and costumes at our disposal, we can play our act of self-assurance easier. But when you lay almost naked on the sand, displaying your body in its fullness, with all its beautiful imperfections, you are forced into more authenticity. Whether skinny or plump, with cellulite or not, fake-tanned or Scandinavian-white, there is something about us being willfully undressed, that makes us behave without the usual social masks.

“All we’ve ever wanted / Is to look good naked / Hope that someone can take it”, Robbie Williams

While on the beach, if you look carefully, you can spot people from various cultures by the way of their habits. They wear bathing suits shaped acceptably to their culture; they put their hair up or make it braided, as “normal” back home. In this colorful multitude of manners, there is something that unites us all, one common attitude. We are all striving for the same thing: to look as good as nature, or the plastic surgeon, permits. Regardless of our way of acting to achieve that beauty, we all do what we do in order to look good in the eyes of the others. Because we all need this unspoken admiration, to feel accepted as part of the groups of our desire. All this, so we can spend a good time, almost-naked, at the beach.

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