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The modern legacy of the 'Americanos' in Sitges

La marca cultural i social que és Sitges avui té molt a deure a un grup important d’emprenedors locals que anaren a fer les amèriques a finals del s.XVIII per tal d’impulsar negocis a les antigues colònies espanyoles. Els anomenats ‘americanos’ o ‘indians’ varen fer fortuna i tornaren a casa per a impulsar una modernització radical de Sitges i aixecar mansions imponents que avui conformen un llegat únic de pedra… i d’història.

 

The commercial exodus of thousands of young Sitgetans starting in 1778, when King Charles III declared free trade with the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico, was one of the most important recorded in Catalonia. On their long voyage across the Atlantic, they took with them ideas and experience from out in the fields and vineyards, which once there they turned into thriving companies producing wine, distilled spirits (rum reached a whole new level with the Sitgetans Andrés Brugal and Facundo Bacardí), tobacco, sugar cane and other products. With the loss of these three colonies, many returned and became a part of the new Sitges bourgeoisie under the moniker of "Americanos" (Americans).

 

And it was a golden return, as many of these merchants came back as wealthy entrepreneurs, but, of course, not at all a contemplative one. They placed their restlessness and experience at the service of Sitges and the result was the town's electrification, the arrival of the railroad, the creation of the first drinking water network and a more favorable predisposition for new artistic movements. In fact, this artistic attitude coincided (and was clearly reinforced) with Santiago Rusiñol's decisive arrival to Sitges, which transformed it into one of the epicenters of Modernisme first, and of 'Noucentisme' afterwards.

 

This historical -and even anthropological- lesson about Sitges is brought to us with great emotion by Rosa Julià, an expert 'Americanist' and cultural agitator with a certificate of origin who heads the Agisitges guided tour agency. Rosa herself reminds us that this legacy of modernity brought to us by the 'Americanos', “and which has defined a way for us to do and feel things”, is accompanied by another patrimonial legacy of stones, columns, balconies, towers and stained-glass windows: their mansions. In all, 69 'Americanos' homes are registered (and protected) as such; the ones located in the 'Expansion' district in the Modernista style, and the neoclassical ones closer to the sea.

 

Many of these mansions are now boutique hotels, with hydraulic tile carpets and gardens where you can disconnect...or connect. In any event, visiting them from the outside, these houses are a wonder of shapes and colors. You already know that we aren't very fond of indicating specific routes, but a good starting point would be Eduard Maristany Square, by the train station. From there, then we can leisurely explore this area that pulsates with social and commercial intensity (offering fantastic bars and restaurants) and, as we were saying, is scattered with magnificent 'Americanos' villas, many of which have been reconverted into hotels with (tons of) charm. In this regard, the main streets are Francesc Gumà, Illa de Cuba and Sant Bartomeu, all of them parallel to each other, and Artur Carbonell, Sant Isidre, Gaudenci and Jesús streets, which cut across them. In this urban island, at every step, Rosa Julià reminds us, there is a mansion. Just to mention a few examples: Casa Pere Carreras, Celler Rafael Llopart (a former winery that, in the late 19th century, supplied muscatel to the royal household), Casa Antoni Carreres (Sitges Royal Rooms Hotel, Casa Sebastià Sans (Sitges 1883 Hotel), Casa Manuel Planas (Hotel Noucentista), Casa Antoni Robert (Medium Renaixença Hotel) or the impressive Casa Villa Avelina, which houses the present-day El Xalet Hotel.

 

If we move closer to the sea, an equidistant spot -and an essential stop-, is the Casa Bartomeu Cabonell, also known as the 'Casa del Reloj' (Clock House), with its outstanding tower. And now, opposite the seafront promenade, at the crossroads between Passeig de la Ribera and Sant Pau street, Casa Simó Llaurador, home of the present-day Celimar Hotel, is worth a refreshing stop. This mansion, with a roof in the shape of foamy waves, is a very paradigmatic example of the 'Americanos' and, by direct inheritance, all Sitgetans' way of being: love of art, love of their own town and love of the sea. And love, of course -you know us by now-, for sharing it with you.

 

Pic: Hotel Noucentista (IG: @hotelnoucentista)

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