A ‘bunker’ in purgatory: Shakira’s complicated relationship with Barcelona

The singer has led a secluded life in the city, focused on her family life, children and exercise

Colombian singer Shakira takes a break during the filming of a music video at Barceloneta beach in Barcelona on August 18, 2010. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN GREVSEN/ SPAIN OUT. (Photo credit should read JONATHAN GREVSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Colombian singer Shakira takes a break during the filming of a music video at Barceloneta beach in Barcelona on August 18, 2010. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN GREVSEN/ SPAIN OUT. (Photo credit should read JONATHAN GREVSEN/AFP via Getty Images)JONATHAN GREVSEN (Getty)

In 2010, Shakira was riding a Harley without a helmet down Barcelona’s Moll de la Fusta, howling like a wolf. Now, she is living in an anti-paparazzi “bunker” in the Catalan municipality of Esplugues de Llobregat. She even put up a witch-like mannequin on her balcony, facing her ex mother-in-law’s house. So what happened between the song Loca, when the Colombian singer was filmed skating down the Barceloneta beach, surrounded by crowds and taking a dip in city fountains in broad daylight, and this year’s BZRP session #53, where she is secluded in an airless studio, voicing her rage and complaining that she lives practically like a hostage?

One could say that Shakira’s relationship with Barcelona is similar to that of a movie that appears great in the trailer, but ultimately fails to deliver. She has had quiet but cut-off life, far from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Shakira filming the music video for ‘Loca’ in Barcelona, August 18, 2010.
Shakira filming the music video for ‘Loca’ in Barcelona, August 18, 2010.GTRES

“In Barcelona, Shakira has had a comfortable and quiet life. Now she wants to sell her house and get out because she can’t handle that guy anymore,” says journalist Laura Fa, a reporter who has followed the Colombian pop star since her 2010 arrival in Spain, when rumors of a romance with “that guy” – the ex-Barça player Gerard Piqué – filled the air.

Piqué and Shakira met while recording the music video for her track Waka Waka, the official song of the South Africa World Cup. Shortly after, Shakira – whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll – visited the Catalan city of Ripoll (where her mother’s surname is from) with her then-partner Antonio de la Rúa. Soon afterwards, she settled in Barcelona to film an ad for the Catalan sparkling wine company Freixenet.

Until their official breakup in January 2011, Shakira and Rúa lived in a house that they rented from Spanish swimmer David Meca. The home was located in Bellaterra, some 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Barcelona. “Shakira moved to Barcelona because of Piqué, but she already had a really good relationship with the city. She often came to record with the producer Jaime de la Iguana,” Fe says.

Piqué and Shakira in a 2015 image.
Piqué and Shakira in a 2015 image. David Ramos (GETTY IMAGES)

In February 2011, when Piqué uploaded a photo of the two celebrating their birthday – they were born on the same day, but 10 years apart – they made their relationship official. While they were dating, everything in Barcelona looked brighter and better. In those days, they lived in the city center, before moving to their 380-meter home in Esplugues. Shakira invited Barça players onstage to show them how to move their hips. The couple could be seen out and about eating Italian or Japanese food and drinking cocktails in different neighborhoods. In 2013, Shakira gave birth to their first child, Milán, and released Shakira, a quiet album with a song dedicated to Piqué, thanking him for being her “anchor.” She even sang a cover of his favorite song: Boig per tu.

But more than any celebrity reporter, the person who knows Shakira’s relationship with Barcelona best is Susana C., the tax inspector who accuses the singer of defrauding €14.5 million ($15.8 million) from the Spanish Tax Agency between 2012 and 2014. According to Susana C.’s lengthy investigation, the Colombian singer feigned tax residency in the Bahamas in order to avoid paying taxes in Spain. Susana C. knows that her hairdresser styled her for free twice a week in the Esplugues house, that she spent €418,046 at 279 establishments in Barcelona, where she took private French classes and that her Zumba teacher was named Betsie. The investigator even knew her code name at the Teknon private clinic, where she gave birth to her children: Sila Prieto.

Shakira arriving at a Barcelona courthouse with her brother Tonino in December 2022.
Shakira arriving at a Barcelona courthouse with her brother Tonino in December 2022. david oller (Europa Press)

“With motherhood, Shakira committed herself to a very familial life. She has received a lot of support from her brother Tonino with respect to taking care of the children, and she barely has friends here [in Barcelona]. It seemed like she was going to connect with Antonella, Messi’s partner, but it didn’t happen. It seems like she has only done so with Rosana, [soccer player] Patrick Kluivert’s wife, and with the group of parents at her children’s school, who support her a lot and have even blocked the paparazzi with their cars for her,” Fa explains, in reference to the exclusive private school La Miranda, which charges €800 ($870) per month per child. Shakira can often be seen picking her kids up from the school in her Volkswagen.

The Colombian has taken refuge in exercise: she takes paddle tennis classes at home, works out at the Bonasport gym and attends the Emilio Sánchez Vicario tennis academy in El Prat. Her public appearances take place largely outside of Spain, such as acting as a judge in the US edition of The Voice and posing at Cannes Film Festival after parties. As Shakira recounts in her session with BZRP, she led a secluded life in a bunker, with tax debt, the press at her door and her mother-in-law as a neighbor.

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