When I moved to Sa Gerreria ten years ago, my friends in Palma didn’t really understand why I would choose to live in this neighborhood. While I fell in love with my barrio right away they did not even like it. In fact, most of them hardly knew it. They didn’t notice how the former red light district had changed within the previous decade. And it still keeps changing. For the better, but also for the worse.
In the 80s and 90s, when the US navy anchored in the bay of Palma, American soldiers frequently visited the so-called barrio chino. The lively neighborhood had attracted newcomers for centuries. Arab craftspeople, migrants from the peninsula and laborers from the part forana found a home, opened their own workshop, or just lived here while working in Palma.
Hostels, bars, small restaurants and stores gave Sa Gerreria its characteristic atmosphere. But in the wake of drug dealing and prostitution many houses dilapidated. And although it wasn’t really dangerous more and more people considered the streets around C/ Sindicat and Plaça Quartera a no-go area. On the other hand living was cheap. For those who stayed as well as for those who saw the opportunity for a restart.
Pioneers like Bar Flexas, Plaer Natural or Moltabarra paved the way for a quarter that turned from underestimated place to secret tip. An ambivalent development that takes place wherever the courageous and creative unintentionally initiate a process of gentrification. Driving up housing prices and making it harder for locals to meet their daily needs. Forcing a growing number of grocery stores and traditional shops to close for good.
But there is also an upside. Within the last few years, neighborhood stores such as Botons, eco shops and bakeries like biokalma and PaneNostro, and even a small supermarket opened up. Plus a number of new bars and restaurants that offer everything from burgers to tacos to francesinha, from pasta to ceviche to papas arrugadas. Raimundo Burger and La Vieja together with La Juanita and Botons were crucial for the revival of Plaça Raimundo Clar. Same goes for La Miranda, PaneNostro or L’Informal Tacos on Plaça Nova de la Ferrería.
Recently the founders of Particular, a new concept store in Sa Gerreria, took the initiative and designed a map of the quarter where thirty stores and restaurants present themselves. And the message is clear. Sa Gerreria has become an attractive neighborhood to stroll around, to discover old and new places, have a drink or dinner with friends. I hope they will be successful while keeping heart and soul of the barrio alive. Because Sa Gerreria is not an open air museum but home for all kinds of people. Open for guests from all over the world, as they have always been.