17th June 2024
Aurora Carbonell, Mayor of Sitges
Sitges News Spotlight

10 Questions for the Mayor of Sitges, Aurora Carbonell

Tell us about your family background …

I’m a Sitgetan from birth, my parents were born here and my grandparents, too. I have only ever lived a few years away from Sitges, and always returned. I’m the youngest of four children, having two sisters and one brother. I have a daughter, aged 21, and a son, 24 … and I have a dog. I’m also a vegetarian.

My father opened a travel agency in 1963 – it was innovative and the 60s became a boom time for Sitges. My grandparents were also in the shoe business. So, two businesses that were also very typical of Sitges: tourism and shoes. When I was young I worked in the shoe shop of my grandparents, and then in the summer months we all worked for the travel agency, helping with hotel reservations, visits and excursions. I worked for a long time on the currency exchange.

If you weren’t the Mayor of Sitges, what would you be?

Sociology has always fascinated me. I enjoyed the tourism sector but what interested me more were the sociological aspects of it – why people travelled, their habits and movements. 

I’m lucky to have travelled a lot myself, which helps to open the mind and one’s curiosity, and I also like philosophy, especially ‘political philosophy’. I have a degree in Humanities and worked in public administration in the Catalan government’s Department of Economics and Knowledge, specifically in the secretariat of Universities and Research, promoting universities internationally. Society, people and travel have always fascinated me … so maybe I would be working as a consultant in the tourism or travel sector. It could happen.

If you weren’t living in Sitges, where would you live?

That’s very difficult! I would be happy to live elsewhere ‘temporarily’, and sometimes I feel I wouldn’t mind living in a big city or large metropolis … New York, Paris or Singapore … but only for a period.

A perfect day for you in Sitges?

It’s very easy to have a perfect day in Sitges. The great thing about Sitges is that you can be working or not, but still have the sensation of being on holiday. You and I, instead of sitting here, we could be having this conversation on the Playa de Sant Sebastian, in front of the sea with a coffee, or in the evening over a drink, and you’d feel you were on holiday.  

On a non-work day, I really enjoy walking in the Garraf park with my dog … I love it there, it’s calm. Then a healthy breakfast or brunch on a terrace in front of the sea … there are so many good ones. On a Saturday, perhaps to stroll through the town and the shops, something I can’t do midweek. There are always new things to see and new shops. And to end the day on one of the rooftop terraces of a hotel with a drink, if there isn’t a concert or a cultural event.

Aurora Carbonell, Mayor of Sitges
Aurora Carbonell, Mayor of Sitges, in her office on 7 July 2021. (Tim Parfitt)

Your view of international residents here? Do we integrate?

The international community is a richness that Sitges has. We have nearly 30% of foreign residents, and it is more and more evident. My own children have friends whose parents are American, English, Scandinavian … and it’s a richness to have this mix of cultures here, it is very positive for Sitges. In other towns it’s not so common, but here it is the normality … and I love it, especially coming from the tourism background. It’s really great for the town.

I see there is total integration of international residents in our local culture, above all in the schools … many international children also speak Catalan, you see them participating in the Festa Major and other cultural events and traditions. Even those without children, Sitges is very open for everyone to integrate. And it works both ways … I also see many Sitgetans participating in Irish and Scottish festivals here, and other international celebrations.

Five recommendations for visitors?

They should find time to visit the Garraf park, the vegetation and landscape are very special. They must see our cultural heritage, the Cau Ferrat and Maricel museums. They should have a beach day – our beaches are unique – and then enjoy the local cuisine, perhaps an arroz a la Sitgetana (meat and fish rice dish). And simply enjoy walking around the town. Sitges offers a great mix, I like to think of it as the ‘middle mix’ of what a city might offer, at the same time as having a village feel. In Sitges, you can have it all … but walk a few more steps and you can also have total tranquility.

With so much construction, is Sitges growing too much?

All the construction taking place now is from agreements finalised in March 2006 [with construction then delayed because of the 2008 economic crisis], based on the El Pla d’Ordenació Urbanística Municipal (POUM) for Sitges, which started to be drawn up back in 1997-98.

It is also one of the last areas [La Plana] of Sitges for construction. Sitges simply can’t grow much more, if only for the lack of land. Many people also don’t want it to grow anymore. We now have a population of 30,000 … and after all the construction, it could reach 40,000 maximum, but that would be over years to come.

We have managed to persuade construction companies to keep many green areas, and there are rules on the height of buildings, and commercial or residential use, but it is private land and they can construct.

Your vision for the future of Sitges? 

I would personally prefer Sitges not to grow much more. Above all, I’d like there to be more social and economic activity in these new ‘districts’, so that not everything takes place in the centre of Sitges. The new residential areas need local shops and other local amenities.

I also believe it is important to diversify the economy of Sitges. We’ve all seen with the pandemic that we can’t just depend on tourism. Sitges is ideally located, near the airport, near Barcelona, and so – for example – we should be able to attract new companies here – not factories, but smaller businesses in the technology sector, perhaps, innovative start-ups that might complement the tourism sector.

Anything missing in Sitges?

A bookshop. We do have a project for the building of the ‘Patronato de Acción Social’ in the Carrer Parellades. The ground floor will be a bookshop. It’s a great building and it even has a garden at the back.

You love Sitges because … ?

For its diversity. I’m very sociable, so I love its diversity, the different languages, identities, people, nationalities, which goes hand in hand with its cultural diversity.

This interview was also published in L’Eco de Sitges (23 July).

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