There are many vestiges of Africa in Barcelona. Remnants of a time when the city was leading the trading with the north of Africa with many consulates in the region and Mediterranean sea was practicaly a catalan lake.
Contacts with Africa were frequent, not only Barcelona was contested land, a borderland between the Frankish empire and the Califat of Cordoba. The port of Barcelona was the gate to a world of contacts with the cities of Alger, Damasco, Alexandria, to follow the route of silver, species, minerals, choral, tin, mirrors, honey, draps, silk from the East and the gold of Sudan, And through that gate came not only gold, species and goods, but also knowledge of the ancient and the modern world.
The trading center was located at the district of El Born and La Ribera, famous for the big market that today can be admired, the nice boulevard of the area, Passeig del Born and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar. The district was divided into guilds where were located the different artisans and craftmen according to their work: sailors, traders and merchants, leathermen, coppersmiths, silversmiths, shoemakers. Catalonia had consulates in almost all the cities of northern Africa and the attacks of pirates in the mediterranean and to border cities was also very common. The prisoners taken from those attacks were sold as slaves and Barcelona had one of the most important slave markets of the region.
If you happen to go to Palau de la Generalitat on the side of street (Carrer del Bisbe) you will see the first representation of an African in Barcelona on a base of a column from the XV century.
Barcelona also became an important center to translate arab science texts to latin through key places as the Jewish community located in the Gothic quarter and the monastirs of Ripoll and Sant Cugat del Vallés.
In the Middle ages the Mediterranean had a strong cultural identity and joined the 3 main religions: christian, jewish and muslim. In Barcelona the presence of saints that had African origins was prominent, such as Sant Antoni Abad, Sant Agustí, Santa Monica and Sant Onofre.
The presence of pirates in the area was one rising source of fear, mainly berebers pirates from the north of Africa that emerged in the popular imagery as the famous moorish heads or “carasses” that appeared in cathedrals and palaces.
Towards the end of the XIX Spain looses the last colonies in America with the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico. The eyes of Spain and Catalonia turned to Africa and specially to the areas of the Maghreb and Guinea. There were many territorial conflicts with Marroc due to the limits of the Spanish colonial possesions.
The Spanish colonisation of Africa was financed by the Bank Hispano Colonial with seat in Barcelona and behind it were the names of Antonio Lopez, Manuel Arus and Manual Girona. In 1883 the Trade Company Hispano-Africana was born. It was the engine behind the militar ocupation of Rio de Oro in western Sahara.
If at beginning of the XIX the catalans ships that departed to Africa from the port of Barcelona were mainly interested in the slave trafic with America, towards the end of the century Barcelona became the main chocolate producer of the entire Spanish state. Barcelona also became one of the gates of chocolate to Europe.
Amatller was one of those famous brands and today you can visit the house of the chocolate industrialist in Passeig de Gracia next to Casa Batllo, projected by the famous architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch.