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Barcelona’s ‘Pigeon Man’

Barcelona’s ‘Pigeon Man’

* The author is part of the community of readers of La Vanguardia

Those of us who were born in the middle of the 20th century were lucky enough to meet the Pigeon Man of Barcelona: Pedro de San Pablo.

He was an older person, of medium height, with a white beard, wearing a threadbare hat and jacket, pushing a strange little cart. In the lower part as a base he had a kind of cage in which he kept carrier pigeons. And a pedestal served as a stage for part of his show.

He opened the doors of the cage and six carrier pigeons came out of it and placed themselves on top so that the Pigeon Man the show will start.

Pedro de San Pablo, for some historians was SampabloHowever, those of us who have followed his most relevant acts have been able to observe that the real last name is that of San Pablo and his story begins far from Barcelona.


The Pigeon Man, with the children.

The Pigeon Man, with the children.

Jesús Fraiz Ordóñez / http://labarcelonadeantes.com/

The true story of Pigeon Man began in 1950 in Barcelona, ​​although he had his beginnings in 1881 in Zamora. He was the fruit of a dysfunctional family, which shortly after birth abandoned him in the city hospice, where he stayed until he was two years old.

At that age he was adopted by a nurse from Villalpando who, taking advantage of the subsidies given to people who took out an abandoned child and adopted him, took him home, where he stayed until he was nine years old, the date that said subsidy ceased to be given. .

During his childhood he went from being an altar boy to a printing apprentice, stable boy, among other activities. At 18, he met a sergeant who took him to the barracks so he could eat. Already in Madrid he was mopping in different trades, he even tried to enter the Army and become a soldier, but he had a problem because of his short stature.

In 1906, at the age of 25, he married on May 31 (the same date that Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia were married). From the marriage there were six children. One day when she went to Toledo to buy lambs, some thieves drugged her and stole her money. When he woke up on a beach in Gijón, desperate because of his misfortune, instead of returning home he embarked for Cuba.


Pedro de San Pablo, always surrounded by pigeons.

Pedro de San Pablo, always surrounded by pigeons.

Jesús Fraiz Ordóñez / http://labarcelonadeantes.com/

That was not his final destination, since he worked in different trades in Mexico and Brazil, until, in 1926, tired of wandering, he returned to Spain again.

On his return, he looked for his family without finding them, so he decided, in 1950, to settle in Barcelona.

Installed in the city of Barcelona, ​​he held various trades and jobs, among others, operator in the Sociedad Anónima Cros and usher in the Ramblas Cinema, but neither lasted long.

Tired of trying jobs, he decided to dedicate himself to breeding carrier pigeons. He started with six which he named after his children that he had always remembered.

The show with the pigeons

With them he began to plan a new job, which would be the one that made him famous. He built a car designed by him, in the lower part he had a cage in which he carried the pigeons and in the upper part he built a round platform on which he made the different pigeons pose to perform their exercises.

He made them work one by one, they came out of the cage, they did the little number and at his shout the pigeons returned either to the base, to a cane that he was carrying or perched on his arm.

The fever of wandering characters in Barcelona in the mid-20th century made them triumph among the people, which made them popular

In 1952, he participated in a colloquium organized by the Official School of Journalism that was held at the Ateneo. Subsequently, she appeared in 1960 on Spanish Television in the Miramar studios, in a program of reports in which there was no lack of Pigeon Man.

His appearance made his wife recognize him through television, but the wife, after more than 30 years, remarried, since she considered him dead.


The Man with the Pigeons, as a giant at the Gràcia festivities.

The Man with the Pigeons, as a giant at the Gràcia festivities.

Jesús Fraiz Ordóñez / http://labarcelonadeantes.com/

On March 16, 1968, The vanguard, on page 29, commented that Pedro de San Pablo had been picked up by the Guardia Urbana and hospitalized for bronchopneumonia. In one of the paragraphs he said:

The man with the pigeons, Don Pedro de San Pablo, is sick. Picked up in the middle of the street by the Guardia Urbana agents, he was taken to a hospital. The people of Barcelona follow the illness of this popular character with interest.

The man with the pigeons is already eighty-four years old. When he gets over his bronchopneumonia, he tells himself, he’s not going to go back to his shack on Calle Dos de Mayo; he is going to be housed in some establishment, perhaps the Mundet Homes.

A few years later he died in complete oblivion. He had failed in his life but in his last years he had been able to live happily among pigeons and with the affection of the public who, at the end of his performances, left him some coins to eat.

One of the neighborhoods where he exhibited his work with pigeons more often, in 1988, they made a giant for the holidays that represented his figure. A way to remember the extravagant character.

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