Welcome to the Monkey House! An underground report of the street drugs in Barcelona.
All of us who live in Barcelona know that there are a lot of drugs on the streets. Spaniards consume the most cocaine in the EU (EU drugs report from 2012) and for a teenager it’s easier to get drugs from the streets than a bottle of rum or a pack of cigarettes.
“Hashcokeextacyhashcokeextacy” is the sales pitch that everyone has heard in the center of the city, but do you know how the drug business works and where the stuff comes from? Here is an inside story straight from the Monkey House.
A few days back, “I was waiting for my man” (a reference to the legendary Velvet Underground song) at Plaza del Tripi located in the Gothic Quarter in the heart of Barcelona. I had made an appointment with George, a local drug dealer, who had agreed to show me the tricks of the trade.
George is a handsome and normal looking guy. He is smiley, polite and extremely talkative, and insisted that he doesn’t use the stuff that he sells. “It’s just a job”, he said. “If I used drugs, they wouldn’t let me do what I do. Drug addicts are the most unreliable dealers – I’m sure you know what I mean”.
Me and George decided to walk to a small shop to buy some beers and chat for a while to break the ice. While we were drinking he started to explain: “You have to have an eye for the right customers. The first rule is never to sell drugs to teenage beginners, even if they offer to pay you double – that’s when you’ll get into trouble. The teenagers will overdose or they’ll rat you out to the police if they get busted”. Then he looked at me and said, “You could be a really good customer”. I took it as a compliment.
He claimed that he chooses his targets carefully. The people having fun in bars or the ones smoking outside are the easiest targets. He’ll just have a chat with them, and if the situation is clear, he closes the deal.
While we were drinking our beers, George phoned the “Base”. The Base is where the stuff is stored, where the drugs are cut, weighted, and where the street dealers collect the merchandise for the customers.
We had to walk just 5 minutes from the Plaza to a house with heavy iron gates. George knocked 3 times and an armed guy opened the door.
Inside The Base there were two guys with guns. I recognized one gun as a .38 automatic. George said we should go further inside. The place was huge. The guards with guns were sitting alone on one side of the room, which was about 70 m2. Ignoring them, we went straight through to the end of the room. On the left side, there were sofas to hang out, and a really cute girl who was injecting heroin… I thought to myself: “Welcome to heaven and to hell.”
The Trusted One
Inside, I met Sandra, who claimed that she was 55 years old but looked much younger. She’s “the trusted one”, and didn’t want talk about her personal life that much. I think she is aware of the risks that she takes, but as I understood the situation, there are not many other options for her.
As an illegal immigrant from South America it’s almost impossible to earn a decent living in Barcelona, and as a mother of three with no social benefits, working with drugs might be the only thing that she can do to survive. And she also makes a point of not taking drugs.
Her job is to weigh the drugs, manage the money for the street dealers, and find new dealers if someone gets caught. While you could buy anything you want in The Base, and I really mean anything, most of Sandra’s time and attention was focused on heroin and coke.
Finally, as I made my way out of the base, the dealers offered me a snort of coke – and I asked them, “If you don’t use drugs, why should I?”.
The names and the places in this article have been changed.