Barcelona Has A New Diasporan Armenian Community


By Aram Arkun

Mirror-Spectator Staff

BARCELONA, Spain – When you ask Armenians about the Armenian community of Barcelona, the only name at best that comes up is that of Vigen Hovsepyan. Now a Yerevan-based singer, Hovsepyan lived in Barcelona with his family as a teenager, and sings Spanish and Armenian songs. However, there is an active community there that deserves to be better known.

The Armenians of Barcelona form the most organized segment of the Spanish Armenian community. Most are recent immigrants from Armenia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, though there were scattered numbers of individuals coming to Spain from the Middle East and elsewhere even before this. Datev Soulian, president of the Associació Cultural Armenia de Barcelona (ACAB), estimates that there are around 3,000 Armenians in Barcelona, as well as more in surrounding areas. Though many initial immigrants went into construction and restaurant work, as accessible initial jobs, there are now many professionals in fields like law or business.

Datev Soulian, president of ACAB

The association keeps in touch with many Armenians through email and social media. It has a website and Facebook page.

The walls of Hay Doun are festooned with images of prominent Armenians
Armenian teachers, including Tamara Karapetyan, Anahit Ghazaryan, Narine Kulikyan, Naira Madinyan, Narine Yerimyan and Marine Avanesyan, and their students at the Casa Armenia on Saturday, February 24

Founded in 2004, ACAB has a physical center called Casa Armenia or Hay Doun (Armenian House) which it established in cooperation with the Armenian General Benevolent Union in 2010. It is located in a central location in the upscale Eixample neighborhood. Although few Armenians actually live in this neighborhood, it is convenient because of the good public transportation network.

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Every Saturday, the community gets together, with chess lessons, Armenian language classes, and dance lessons. Occasionally the students perform at events. The teachers are all

volunteers, and textbooks are sent from Armenia. Students pay a nominal fee of 25 Euros a month, while parents and members of the association periodically make additional donations.

In addition, every month or two there are lectures or other public events. Sometimes Armenian speakers from other parts of Europe and Armenia come and visit.  Some events are intended more for a Spanish/Catalan audience than for the local Armenians. For example, on February 20, the Armenian ambassador to Spain, Avet Adonts, came from Madrid and participated in a panel at the Centre Internacional Escarré per a les Minories Ètniques i les Nacions (CIEMEN) devoted to the 30th anniversary of the Karabakh Movement along with journalist and director of VilaWeb Vicent Partal and Abel Riu, political scientist specializing in the post-Soviet realm.

On the other hand, on March 4, the children celebrated International Mother Language Day at the Hay Doun with a presentation primarily for the local community.

ACAB maintains good relations with the government of Armenia and its embassy in Spain, and various diasporan organizations, such as the AGBU (including its US headquarters, in Europe and Armenia). Soulian pointed out that it strives to keep the Armenian cultural identity alive in Spain. At present, most families have relatives in Armenia and sometimes go back during vacations, so this identity is strong, but it is the new generations born in Spain which will require more support to combat assimilation into Spanish society. ACAB is working to create programs for their needs.

The community is a growing one and is welcoming to guests from other countries.