The oldest street art in Barcelona
“Fueresse luego Oliveros”. “Go away Oliveros”. This outburst carved on one of the ancient walls of Raval Neighbourhood is the oldest street art in Barcelona and probably one of the oldest political graffitis in the world, as it could be almost 400 years old. The inscription can be seen on one of the walls of Hospital de la Santa Creu, the ancient medieval hospital, and is one of the amazing secrets hidden on the old stones of the Ciutat Vella, the Old City.
“Oliveros”, the quite unpopular public figure mentioned is reasonably Don Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, First Counsellor of King Philip IV of Spain.
If you’re wondering how Olivares looked like, here he is:
This tapas-loving big guy was the most important person in Spain after the King, who really trusted Olivares and gave him a lot of power. For around twenty years he was the mastermind of both internal and foreign affairs of Spain. He was even granted a historically unique privilege: to be both Duke and Count, something almost unconceivable for anyone else.
So why was our ancient street artist so fed up with Olivares?
In 1635, during a long war against France, the Duke-Count sent a lot of soldiers from all different parts of the Spanish Kingdom to Catalunya. The soldiers had to be ready to face the french troops in the north. The mobilisation and permanence of the royal army in Catalunya meant that the population was forced to host them in their houses, feed them and give them hostages. The behaviour of the troops was arrogant, even violent in many villages.
Finally the Catalans started a rebellion against the Kingdom and proclaimed a Republic (sounds familiar, right?).
The conflict began the 7nth of June 1640 with a sudden explosion of violence in Barcelona that led to the murder of Viceroy, the Count of Santa Coloma. During that time of the year many reapers came from the country for the harvest season. The first riots began after a fight between a reaper and some officers of the Viceroy Marshall and quickly the revolt extended to the whole city where a savage hunt started of all the persons related to the king’s side. After the murder of the Viceroy, this facts took the country to a bloody war of 12 years, called la Guerra dels Segadors, the Reapers’ War.
It was probably during those years of great unrest in Barcelona that a fed up citizen (probably an important one, only important people could write and read at that time) decided to express himself on one of the walls of the city with the Middle Ages’ version of the famous “go home”. The citizen considered Olivares responsible for the distress, violence and fear that lingered in the streets and invited him to get out of his city with all his trouble making soldiers.
He could never imagined how far his political graffiti would travel in time to become the oldest street art in Barcelona.
Did you know that Barcelona’s Raval District is one of the most famous Street Art and Graffiti places in Europe? Join our Raval Underground Tour to visit it!
This article was written in collaboration with David Burruezo and Barcelona Other Eyes Routes.