Controversial inauguration of tourist complex in Catalonia
President Rajoy’s opening of new hotel where hundreds were killed in 1707 makes many Lleida inhabitants very uncomfortable
Controversy surrounded the opening by the Spanish president of a new luxury tourist complex in the city Lleida on Thursday. The Parador Nacional del Roser inaugurated by Mariano Rajoy is part of the Spain-wide network of luxury hotels, or ‘paradors’, run by the state-owned company Turespaña. Normally, such an event would pass by barely noticed, but the fact that the company has converted the old Roser monastery into a hotel has disturbed a large part of the public in Catalonia’s inland provincial capital.
The problem stems from the monastery’s history, as it was used as the headquarters for the execution of hundreds of Lleida citizens by Bourbon King Philip V’s troops in 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, which lasted from 1702 to 1715. Rajoy, however, seemed unconcerned and said he was convinced the opening of the luxury tourist complex will help to improve the numbers of visitors to Lleida and its surrounding area.
At the inauguration, the Spanish president stressed the increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting Spain, already at 28 million visitors in the first five months of this year, some 11.6% more than in the period last year. Rajoy also pointed out that Catalonia takes first place among Spain’s most popular areas, accounting for 23% of the total number of visitors.
Nevertheless, more than a hundred people from the pro-independence left showed their discontent by demonstrating in front of the remodeled monastery. Yet, according to the mayor of Lleida, the Parador Nacional del Roser project has made the renovation of the building possible and connects the historical center with its Seu Vell hill, where buildings such as the old cathedral and the King’s Castle are located, and the city’s shopping area. The mayor also emphasized the Seu Vella’s candidacy as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and said he is confident that the opening of the hotel will help.
Pro-independence left-wing protest
Ever since the project to turn the old monastery into a hotel was announced in 2003, pro-independence left-wing groups have showed their disapproval. They say the project disrespects the memory of the hundreds of Lleida citizens who died in that same building in 1707, when Philip V’s troops entered the city during the war. In fact, before construction work began, the entrance of the monastery was where the traditional offering took place every year on the National Day of Catalonia on September 11, which actually commemorates the fall of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession. While that event was moved to another of the city’s iconic spots, the protesters continued to pay their respects at the Roser monastery. The only commemoration of what happened back in 1707 is a plaque remembering the dead of 1707.
After it closed down as a monastery at the end of the 19th century, the building has hosted the Faculties of Law and Humanities of the University of Lleida, the Art Museum Jaume Morera and also the Municipal School of Fine Art of Lleida.