A wide starry sky over an orange grove, in the middle of it a red convertible. The radio plays “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers. Three city kids, none of them 18 years old yet, got lost in the Mallorcan countryside. At the end of the joyride with a cabriolet stolen at the underground garage of Plaza Coll they are confronted with their own loneliness and disorientation. That’s just one of the stories from Gabriel Beltrán’s Historias del Barrio that deeply touched me.
In his graphic memoir Beltrán takes us on a time travel to the Palma of the 80’s. In particular to Sa Gerreria, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city at that time. Where he and his friends encounter violence, theft, drugs and prostitution every day. Often they are part of it.
Historias del Barrio does not glorify or gloss over the past. Yet you can feel Beltrán’s love for the characters when he tells about their often difficult everyday life in the family and neighborhood. About their dreams, about first love, and first sex. And about little escapes, afternoons by the sea, and swimming contests.
Sa Gerreria has changed a lot by now but if you know the streets and places you will recognize many of them in the drawings by Bartolomé Seguí. With its vivid, carefully sketched characters and the authentic story Historias del Barrio was awarded the Ciutat de Palma Comic Prize shortly after publication.