CASTELLDEFELS - THE TRAJECTORY OF A SMALL TOWN FOR ‘AMANTES’ TO A MACRO BROTHEL DROWNING IN CORRUPTION.
I feel it is important to share the how and why this documentary came into fruition. It is quite simple. I left Australia two years ago and moved to Castelldefels a popular beach side town about 20 mins drive from Barcelona and close to El Prat Airport. It is nice, there is a small town, a long beach popular for all sorts of water sports and family vacations. The town of near 70,000 is home to celebrities such as Messi and Suarez and very, very wealthy residents from all over in particular a large Russian community. The private winding mountain roads are populated with what I call ‘Mc Mansions’ left vacant and an impossibly expensive real estate market pricey enough to shock Sydney.
My first week here, I saw a lot of retirement homes, mobility vehicles, zimmer frames and thought it could be a retirement town. Wow, how wrong was I! My first stop was a bike store (later, I discovered it was a brothel before the bike store due to its strategic location on the highway) on the C32 highway to change tyres. While I waited for the guy to change my tyres to those suitable for road biking, I left to look how far and how steep my new cycle route would be. It was then I first noticed a plastic white seat with a very young, pretty, blonde girl sitting on it. Literally, two minutes later a guy speeds up to her, they seem familiar already and there isn’t much of an exchange before she jumps in and speeds off. Again, no more than a few minutes later I see a young Latin American woman leave an apartment block and walk down the street, in a tight dress, very high heels, a small bag big enough for a mobile phone and few other things. She walks past me, we lock eyes, she looks embarrassed, I look away. She walks to the highway and takes the white plastic seat, 15 minutes later a car picks her up. It was ‘siesta’ time between 2pm-5pm, a peak time for picking up the many young immigrant women that work on the open roads throughout Catalonia.
About then a cab pulls up and asks if I need to go anywhere I tell him no I am waiting for my bike to be fixed. He asks where I am from I reply Australia, the usual ‘it is so far, ‘muy lejos’ and questions about kangaroos and crocodiles. The usual. So, I ask about the plastic seats, the girls and the town. He tells me years ago there were more, but now they closed down the large macrobrothels ‘Riviera’ which housed about 160 women and ‘Saratoga’ which was apparently the ‘high end’ option for business men and football players. He furthers there are lots of girls working from apartments and that everyone knows where these are, he mentioned a Casa del Campo, an outdoor type brothel further towards Gava.
The next morning I cycle towards Gava, I pass another young girl blonde Eastern European girl on a plastic seat, ironically the plastic seat has a bike chain locking it to the post directing drivers to the beach and I look opposite her on the highway and see a ‘morena’ a brunette on another white plastic seat. You get the picture, I will tell you more about this later on but some background on Castelldefels.
It began as a town where wealthy Catalans bought a house for their ‘amantes’ (mistresses) due to its close proximity to Barcelona. A policeman who provided me with information on prostitution in Catalonia and in particular Castelldefels explained that the one story houses were the typical style for ‘amantes’, again dotting the famous C32 highway, this was the trend in the 1930s.
In the 1950-60's many brothels started popping up very discreet but with several rooms from then on with the demand they got bigger. Then in 1980’s-90’s it was the rise of the macrobrothels and clubs, replacing discos and normalising prostitution even more.
Castelldefels, before the infamous La Jonquera and ‘The Paradise’ was the site of the largest macrobrothels in all of Spain.
After, reading everything I could on the closure of the Riviera which was both shocking and confusing I couldn’t stop myself from investigating further. My first steps were to find some facts about this so I looked for crime impact reports and read the reports from The American Consulate Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).
I read the crime impact report upon closure of the Riviera in which crime and delinquency reduced in Castelldefels by 30% and the TIP report which states that at least two minors were found working at the Riviera and a ‘breakfast’ bust by National police found 59 undocumented women working there.
What is so shocking about the Riviera is the level of corruption, not just the police corruption but the town opportunists taking advantage from town planners, doctors visiting once a month to take blood, the children of police officers working there in managerial positions.
But, perhaps the most shocking fact was that the Head of The Immigration Unit and his wife were heading an extortion gang. Twenty National Police were charged with corruption in relation to this brothel.
To be clear, the famous Riviera (& Saratoga) was closed due to police corruption not because minors were found working there or trafficked individuals.
Fast forward two years, I am still living here. The blonde girl below the ‘platges’ (beaches) sign is still there from 12.30 everyday. She looks maximum 23 years old. Everyday her pimp is there in a different car. I have seen her everyday for two years.
My neighbours tell me she has been there for absolute years. They point to her pimp watching us from a car. I tell them I know, it is obvious. I met another woman walking her dog and ask her how long the girl has been there, she tells me at least six, as she has been living there for twelve years and knows all of their faces. She tells me about a club on the beach, where she has seen all of the girls who work on the highway in the evening.
It is geared for the older patron. I check the Facebook page for the club and see that these girls have ‘checked in’ and reviewed the club as a great place usually accompanied by a provocative picture.
The girl, on the seat to me represents all of these immigrant women on the roadsides. We see them and drive past them and accept that that is how it is in Spain. Patriarchy unchallenged and plenty of women suffering on the margins. The gender violence and sexual exploitation that prostitution is, it’s not a job, it’s oppression.
I met with a social worker who runs reinsertion programs for sex trafficking victims in Barcelona. She explains that there often isn’t any available intervention unless a woman has ‘golpes’ looks beaten or there has been a robbery between her and the client.
I ask her about the 160 girls and women who were working at the Riviera and if she helped any of them in her program. She said by the time she reached Castelldefels all of them had been hidden and not one was met for interview.
I mention the minors in the TIP report, she didn’t know. Later on I speak with my police confidant who tells me to be very careful and that the people who ran the club were not nice people and still around. I know.
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You can learn more about this area by watching this short video created by the #HornsOnTheWoman Documentary Team. https://vimeo.com/290685357
There are some incredible people working so hard in the education sector, law, and human rights to try and right the situation in Spain, I have spoken to many of them. This film isn’t one to make money, we don’t have the money that the sex industry and mafia does, so your donation whatever size will help to make some change. If you can’t give right now, I understand, please SHARE this story with your contacts.