7 Inspiring Women from Barcelona You Need to Know

Barcelona from above
Barcelona from above | © shawnleishman / Flickr
Tara Jessop

Whether it’s standing up for a cause they believe in or becoming one of the most notable figures in their fields, these women are an inspiration. Read about these seven Barcelona-based women who have flown in the face of opposition to come out on top.

Mercè Rodoreda

Widely considered on the of the most influential Catalan authors of the postwar period, Mercè Rodoreda’s most acclaimed work is the 1962 La Plaça del Diamant, translated into English to be titled The Time of the Doves. Set in Barcelona before, during, and after the Spanish Civil War, this stream-of-consciousness novel follows the life of a young woman as she faces the hardships of war and discovers her own inner freedom.

Portrait of Mercè Rodoreda

Montserrat Caballé

One of the most famous Spanish voices of all times, Montserrat Caballé rose to international fame when she performed alongside Freddie Mercury in 1987 to record a song for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Born into a poor family in Barcelona, she studied at the Liceu Conservatory before starting her career in Basel where she performed in a number of operas. In 1965, a stroke of luck had her replace singer Marilyn Horne in New York’s Carnegie Hall, where she received a 25-minute standing ovation.

Montserrat Caballé with her son in 1971

Carme Ruscalleda

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be a challenge, but this didn’t stop Carme Ruscalleda from becoming one of Catalonia’s top chefs and the world’s only seven Michelin-starred female chef. Born into a humble family of farmers, she studied cooking before opening her first restaurant in the seaside town of Sant Pol de Mar in 1988, where she obtained her first Michelin star just three years later.

Ada Colau

When she became Barcelona’s mayor in June 2015, many people couldn’t believe that Ada Colau had made it to office. A founding member of the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages, Colau has participated in countless protests, marches, and direct actions aimed at opposing forced evictions, which often resulted in her being forcibly removed by the police. In 2014, she joined a coalition of various left-wing movements including the Podemos political party and, despite some criticism, has generally been regarded as one of the more popular mayors in recent times.

Ada Colau at her inauguration

Carme Pigem

Though Carme Pigem isn’t someone most people have heard of, the studio that she co-founded received widespread acclaim when it was awarded the 2017 Pritzker Prize of Architecture. Born, raised, and based in the Catalan town of Olot, located 70 miles (111 kilometers) north of Barcelona, Pigem and her team stunned the world when they received the prestigious award despite being previously unknown outside of Catalonia.

Isabel Coixet

Described The New York Times as “unclassifiable,” Isabel Coixet is one of the most prolific Spanish film directors of modern times. She has won numerous Goya Awards—Spain’s equivalent to an Oscar—eight of which were given to three of her films: My Life Without Me, The Secret Life of Words, and The Bookshop. She often writes, directs, and even shoots her own films, which have been produced in both Spanish and English.

Isabel Coixet

Alicia de Larrocha

Described by Time as “one of the world’s most outstanding pianists,” Alicia de Larrocha started to play the piano at age three and gave her first performance when she was just five. By seven, she was composing music, something she would continue to do for the rest of her life. She was the first Spanish artist to win the International Music Council/UNESCO Prize and only retired from performing when she was 80 years old.

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