Identity and Wellbeing
Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Iredale R. Robyn and Guo Fei
Chapter 11: Chinese immigrants in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood of Barcelona, Spain: their socio-economic viability and identity
Recent European research on diversity indicates that neighbourhoods’ spatial and social tissue is influential on inter-ethnic interactions. Additionally, studies based on the Conflict and Contact theories as well as researches based on the ‘superdiversity’ theoretical proposal underscore the contradictory outcomes which diversity may provide regarding the development of local communities. While ethnic diversity within some economic sectors has been observed as empowering social cohesion and economic development, some ways of managing diversity in the public realm have been found to be an obstacle. Chinese immigration to Barcelona increased visibly in the twenty-first century. In the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood registered foreign immigrants were roughly 18 per cent of the total population in 2013, according to the National Statistical Institute (INE). This is similar to the Barcelona average rate. Chinese residents were the most numerous foreign residents in the neighbourhood, followed by Italians and Peruvians. This chapter presents local perceptions on Chinese immigrants and their footprint on the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood’s social and economic sustainability. It is based on results extracted from the analysis of various semi-structured interviews with natives and immigrants, supplemented by the analysis of statistical and documental sources. The results show that Chinese residents’ purchasing power could provide an opportunity for empowering (or improving?) the neighbourhood’s development but the wariness of other residents towards Chinese hampers such a possibility. Unjustified rumors, a lack of local authorities’ involvement and the economic downturn have been observed as escalating conflicting attitudes towards Chinese and limiting mutual collaboration. What impact has this had on the identity of the Chinese? Have they clung together more, strengthened their Chineseness? Relied on other Chinese more? Kept close links to China?
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