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Sant Pere i Sant Pau: The story of a neighborhood that was born a cooperative city

A city within another city. This is how the current neighborhood of Sant Pere i Sant Pau was born, which this year celebrates 50 years since its creation. The exemplary neighborhood, the safest, rich in the field of associations and that still preserves among its neighbors the enviable feeling of identity. Sant Pere i Sant Pau was born in 1972 as a cooperative city. El Diari has met this week with a group of neighbors who arrived at the place when not a single building had yet been built. Not for a moment did they imagine that the neighborhood – or cooperative city, as they like to call it – would become what it is today. About 20,000 people live in it. To get an idea, almost the same ones that live in Valls. Thanks to those who were part of the cooperative’s first assembly and to the historian and neighbor, Andreu Muñoz, we have been able to get closer to that Sant Pere i Sant Pau from five decades ago.

The neighborhood was formed thanks to the initiative of the San Pedro y San Pablo Housing Cooperative, founded in 1968 and presided over for more than ten years by Manuel Aragonés Virgili. «In the 1960s, Tarragona was too small considering the growing industrialization of the region. Many of the first residents who bought a flat came from the shacks that were on the river or in the Miracle”, explains Jesús Barroso, a resident of the neighborhood. Civil servants were also installed, such as soldiers, policemen or bank and administration employees. “It was not a working-class neighborhood like Bonavista could be, for example,” says historian Andreu Muñoz. This would explain the little demanding character that the neighborhood has historically shown.

According to Muñoz, to understand the past and present of Sant Pere i Sant Pau it is essential to know the three initial stages that the neighborhood went through. The first corresponds to his birth, when the Franco regime still ruled in Spain. “The cooperative was made up of the elite of the time. It had a directional character, with little capacity for democratization”, explains Muñoz. It also had its positive side. It was a very well organized community, offering many services and initiatives. In fact, the neighbors of that time remember her happily, showing some nostalgia when talking about her. The cooperative city was a success, a good facelift for the regime of the time. “So much so that Minister Rodolfo Martín Villa came to inaugurate the neighborhood. A few months later, Franco awarded us the title of exemplary cooperative city”, recalls a neighbor, Ana Ferreras. At that time, Sant Pere i Sant Pau had its own police, firemen, gardeners and even taxi drivers. «If a lamppost was damaged, the next day it was fixed. Not like now, “explains Fernández. The members of the cooperative paid an annual fee and the board was in charge of the management.

It was in those years when the first facilities began to emerge. «In the neighborhood there were many young people, couples who had just had children. As the school had not yet been built, the classes were held in the commercial premises of the blocks”, recalls Alfonso Periáñez, a resident of the neighborhood and promoter of initiatives that are still ongoing, such as the first parents’ association or the Sant Pere i Sant Volleyball Club. Pau, a benchmark at a sporting level. Periáñez explains that “it was something incredible. They built buildings and classrooms and immediately they filled up, and they already had to build others. The cooperative city was growing at a dizzying pace », and he adds that« we were very close and we were able to channel the needs we had ».

The first shops were also born, such as the Vibo winery, the Pilar butcher shop, the Narciso hairdresser, the Queralt hardware store or the Cervelló bakery. Óscar Elijas is the son of a married couple who opened their tobacconist in the same year 1972. «Small businesses have been very important to us. It has given work and life to many people in the neighborhood,” says Elijas.

Sant Pere i Sant Pau has always been a very rich neighborhood in terms of associations. A band of bugles, majoretes, groups of sardanas, the colla castellera, two neighborhood associations, the football school and a long etcetera were quickly created. Without forgetting the parish, which had and continues to have a very important role. The first esplai in the neighborhood was created there. A golden age, the neighbors remember.

the second stage

When the moment of transition arrived, progressive and demanding movements began to flourish that, in one way or another, forced the democratization of the cooperative. “The neighbors began to be convinced that they could not live isolated from Tarragona,” explains Muñoz.

In 1984, powers began to be transferred to the City Council. Sant Pere i Sant Pau officially became part of Tarragona. The cooperative city was losing functions and the municipal government was gaining them. “The positive part was that elections were held in the cooperative. The negative is that services and benefits began to plummet, “explains the historian.

The ultimate integration

The third stage dates back to the 1990s, when all the powers were transferred to the City Council. Luís Trinidad, president of the Sant Pere i Sant Pau neighborhood association, acknowledges that “from then on, the neighborhood began to feel mistreated. At first they provided us with many facilities, such as the CAP or sports courts. But then the thing stopped and now we are the least benefited from the taxes we pay.

Sant Pere i Sant Pau is made up of various developments. The cooperative city built from the first to the fifth promotion. The streets have no name, they are known by the blocks. Then came the sixth, which belongs to what is known as Tarraco housing, followed by the seventh, referring to Mas de les Flors. The final touch was put by the urbanization of Països Catalans avenue, where the university is located.

It is in the 90s, when the neighborhood grows significantly. The neighborhood is equipped with facilities but, in contrast, that feeling of belonging, which had so defined the birth of the cooperative city, begins to be lost. Despite this, 50 years after its creation, there is a family atmosphere in the neighborhood. People still greet each other on the street and small businesses continue to survive. Quite an achievement. Here’s to many more years!

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