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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.