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Wendy Hunter Roberts: "Local businesses are what give Barcelona character"

Wendy Hunter Roberts: "Local businesses are what give Barcelona character"

Wendy Hunter Roberts, therapist and coach.

A New Yorker by birth, Wendy Hunter Roberts left the United States over 10 years ago. She is one of the privileged few who can live wherever they want because their work is not tied to a physical location. A therapist and coach, she has undergone training in a wide variety of psychotherapeutic approaches. With her own website (trans-arts.com), she now supports people in managing change, especially managers in the new technologies sector. She lived in Budapest for seven years, but three years ago the political changes in the Hungarian city and her love affair with Barcelona prompted Wendy to pack her bags and move here.

Why did you choose Barcelona?

I came here many years ago, before the 1992 Olympic Games: the city was not so clean then and less international, but there was something about it that I really liked. Later, when I was living in Budapest, I tried to travel here regularly because I love the city's culture. When I decided to move, Barcelona was the place that appealed most to me.

What do you like most about the city?

I love its light and architecture. Walking along its streets is an aesthetic pleasure, pure and simple; I always discover some new corner or street, and I love the unique mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Modernist, Contemporary styles. I also love the street life and the fact that people get so much out of Barcelona when they go out. I would also like to praise the public transport—not sufficiently appreciated here, although it is one of the best systems I have used—and the local markets, where you can buy really high quality fresh produce. Market culture does not exist in the United States and it is something I believe is typical of Barcelona and really important.

What aspects of the city need to be improved? How?

I believe that the perils of the local economy's over-dependence on tourism have been shown up by the crisis and this issue needs to be addressed. I also think that much more value should be placed on the local economy and that more attention should be paid to the people of Barcelona, their culture, and their customs. At the same time, Barcelona should also be open to the world in order to attract international companies and investors from leading sectors such as the high-tech and medical sectors. The government needs to play a part in this by making it easier for international talent and companies to come and invest in Barcelona. Bureaucracy needs to be streamlined: if you put obstacles in the way of international talent, it will go elsewhere.

What other challenges do you think the city will face once the health crisis is over?

Small local businesses are suffering hugely from the crisis caused by the pandemic, and I believe that the city will have to focus on helping them recover. I am really concerned about small businesses, as they are the heart of Barcelona and what gives the city its personality and unique character. Many of them are in danger of closing because of the crisis and they need active support from the City Council. I don't want big shops to turn Barcelona into a city just like any other. I come from the United States where there's nothing but wall-to-wall shopping malls, so I know what I am talking about.

What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?

I want us to stop ordering so many products online from department stores, large restaurant chains, and huge distributors. I hope that the people of Barcelona will think again and support local businesses, such as corner shops, neighborhood bookshops, small dressmakers, etc. They are what make the city special. And everybody should do this, both those who were born in Barcelona and international residents who have decided to make it their home.

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