This broad avenue that runs from the Plaza de la Carbonera, almost in the Barcelona’s dock, to Plaza de España (about 2.5 km long), was officially opened as a urban road on the October the 8th in 1894 and its layout coincides with an Earth parallel, the 41°22’34 “, from which takes its name since 1979. Avenida Paralelo arises, as the Gran Vía and Diagonal, from Eixample project designed by Ildefonso Cerdà and becomes, at present, on a hub that separates the Poble Sec neighborhood of Raval and Sant Antoni. From the late nineteenth century and to the early 1939, when the Spanish Civil War ended and they closed all theaters of Barcelona, and after its subsequent resurgence, this important city hub became the cultural epicenter for varietés and plays. The music halls, taverns, bars, theaters and cabarets filled, during the golden years, the avenue, turning it into a emblemathic area full of peculiar characters that still survive in the collective memory.
Despite being commonly compared to Montmartre in Paris or New York’s Broadway, Avenida Paralelo was popular for its singular artistic expressions, for its plays and shows’ contents and for the formats that from the very beginning they performed there, made by the audience and the artists. The music-halls’ “glamour” gave way to a political, social and unionist genuine expression, especially in the first half of the twentieth century. Its proximity to the old Barrio Chino (now the Raval), also known as “the prostitutes neighborhood”, makes Avenida Paralelo becomes also a clear example of the sex perception transformation and the breaking of traditional morality. For further information about the beginnings of Avenida Paralelo you can currently visit the exhibition “El Paral·lel, 1894-1939” until February 2013, where they show this area rise at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB, Montalegre Street, 5).
Nowadays, Avenida Paralelo has lost some of its charm and authenticity in favor of more commercial plays, big-budget musicals for massive audiences, and shows that are far away from social denounciation. Even so, they have recently restored and reopened the mythical cabaret El Molino, where the legendary group La Cubana performed for the first time, they have also reopened Arteria Paral·lel Theater after being the Gran Teatro Español and the Studio54 club. Still surviving we can find the Teatro Victoria, the Teatro Apolo and the Teatro Condal, but others like Teatro Talia, the Teatro Cómico and the Teatro Nuevo (latter turned into a cinema, the Nuevo Cinerama), have been demolished. Currently one of the most iconic theaters at Avenida Paralelo, the Teatro Arnau is being renovated and soon reopened, although the City Council hasn’t given a specific date. Everybody wants this avenue of Barcelona shines and vibrates again with shows, plays, performances, music-halls and concerts.