Montjuic is a large hill overlooking the harbor near the city center of Barcelona. Over the centuries it has been the site of Celtic settlers, Roman ceremonies, political executions, and several events during the 1992 Olympic Games. It is now a recreational area, home to parks, gardens, museums and a castle. It is also a meeting place for a community of men who practice cruising – searching for sexual encounters in public places.

The cruising scene, which many participants say dates back to at least the 1970s, attracts men of a variety of backgrounds and desires, not all of whom identify as gay. They juggle the fears of being exposed and judged with the rush of clandestine encounters that make them feel deliciously alive. Although the number of people cruising here has somewhat decreased over the years, many insist that what they enjoy about the practice has not been replaced by the mainstream acceptance of homosexuality, or by the rise of dating apps. “What is hiding there in the distance, behind the dark leaves of the forest?” says Alex, who, like all of the men in this article, agreed to be interviewed on the condition his full name not be published. “Sex, yes, but also the fact of not knowing what is out there, that is what I like about it.”

“Every time I go to Montjuic I go up the hill through the same stairs. As I go up, that tingling sensation starts, like when you were a kid and there were presents to unwrap. It gets me every time.” – Aquiles, 25
“Every time I go to Montjuic I go up the hill through the same stairs. As I go up, that tingling sensation starts, like when you were a kid and there were presents to unwrap. It gets me every time.” – Aquiles, 25
“The first time, I felt something like pleasure, excitement and attraction – that was anything but fear. I felt all kinds of things. I liked it. Afterwards, the other times, I did feel fear. I feel insecure because it´s not safe, there are no lights at all. Often you don’t know who you’re doing it with, you don’t see faces; of course you feel a bit unsafe.” – Xavi, 23
“The first time, I felt something like pleasure, excitement and attraction – that was anything but fear. I felt all kinds of things. I liked it. Afterwards, the other times, I did feel fear. I feel insecure because it´s not safe, there are no lights at all. Often you don’t know who you’re doing it with, you don’t see faces; of course you feel a bit unsafe.” – Xavi, 23
“Going out to a bar to pick up someone? I tried that, but I am five-foot-three, nobody notices me, and wasting fifty Euros on drinks to look like a dwarf, trampled by all the other guys – no thanks! Hitting up guys on the internet, or on a date… it’s scarier. Picking up guys [in Montjuic] gave me more self-confidence, so that I dare to go to meet guys in other places. Not my entire sexual life is here, absolutely not!” – Francesc, 43, cruising for twenty years
“Going out to a bar to pick up someone? I tried that, but I am five-foot-three, nobody notices me, and wasting fifty Euros on drinks to look like a dwarf, trampled by all the other guys – no thanks! Hitting up guys on the internet, or on a date… it’s scarier. Picking up guys [in Montjuic] gave me more self-confidence, so that I dare to go to meet guys in other places. Not my entire sexual life is here, absolutely not!” – Francesc, 43, cruising for twenty years
“Lately, there are fewer participants. I, myself, go less. I am sure the internet has something to do with it. Every day there are more applications and more smartphones, and less cruising because of the convenience of the apps.” – Alex, 42, cruising since he was eighteen years old
“Lately, there are fewer participants. I, myself, go less. I am sure the internet has something to do with it. Every day there are more applications and more smartphones, and less cruising because of the convenience of the apps.” – Alex, 42, cruising since he was eighteen years old
“Sometimes it happens by accident. I am tired of the city, of the urbanization; I go to the park for a walk and to relax and then someone ends up passing by, and I end up cruising anyway.” – Axel, 34
“Sometimes it happens by accident. I am tired of the city, of the urbanization; I go to the park for a walk and to relax and then someone ends up passing by, and I end up cruising anyway.” – Axel, 34
“I like to watch the stars and feel free while I am fucking.” – Axel
“I like to watch the stars and feel free while I am fucking.” – Axel
“Looking is not participating. I want the real thing.” - Alex
“Looking is not participating. I want the real thing.” – Alex
“What I like about cruising is that… I have no obligation or commitment; I won't see them again, and I like that. That turns me on.” – Aquiles
“What I like about cruising is that… I have no obligation or commitment; I won’t see them again, and I like that. That turns me on.” – Aquiles
“I got infected with HIV in 2007. I’ve always been a person who carried eight to ten condoms on me; I don’t hook up with the first stranger; I don’t do risky things. Since I've been diagnosed HIV-positive, my sex life has declined dramatically.” - Vincente, 47, cruising for almost fifteen years
“I got infected with HIV in 2007. I’ve always been a person who carried eight to ten condoms on me; I don’t hook up with the first stranger; I don’t do risky things. Since I’ve been diagnosed HIV-positive, my sex life has declined dramatically.” – Vincente, 47, cruising for almost fifteen years
“I come here for sex, but I also come for something more. That something more could be friendship, a conversation, maybe even a partner. Sometimes, I just come to have a walk, watch the people passing by. It’s true that the more you grow old, the less important sex becomes. Many people who I have been with know that the first thing I ask [for] is not even a kiss, but a hug. Because a hug often tells you more about this person, just by the way a person hugs you.” – Vincente
“Sometimes, coming here makes me feel less alone, but sometimes it just makes me feel like I’m the only one on the planet. It depends on my mood; sort of like a roulette wheel.” – Francesc
“Sometimes, coming here makes me feel less alone, but sometimes it just makes me feel like I’m the only one on the planet. It depends on my mood; sort of like a roulette wheel.” – Francesc
“It’s not like I go [to Montjuic] and leave with the first hot guy. I like to watch the person, his body, the way he is dressed, if he is young or old.” – Mario, 22
“It’s not like I go [to Montjuic] and leave with the first hot guy. I like to watch the person, his body, the way he is dressed, if he is young or old.” – Mario, 22
“I have friends, but I don’t tell them what I come here for, because I am afraid to be rejected, afraid to be told that I am a slut or a whore for coming here. Many times I’m about to tell them, but I am afraid, I am still too afraid.” – Xavi, 23
“I have friends, but I don’t tell them what I come here for, because I am afraid to be rejected, afraid to be told that I am a slut or a whore for coming here. Many times I’m about to tell them, but I am afraid, I am still too afraid.” – Xavi, 23
“Life gets really complicated sometimes, and when I have sex it means not having to think about anything bad that’s going on in my life. It’s like an escape from the real world.” – Cesar, 32
“Life gets really complicated sometimes, and when I have sex it means not having to think about anything bad that’s going on in my life. It’s like an escape from the real world.” – Cesar, 32

Katia Repina

Katia Repina is a Russian documentary photographer who is based in Barcelona and New York. She works on documentary projects that focus on intimate stories spotlighting the issues of gender, identity and sexuality.

Luca Aimi

Luca Aimi is an Italian freelance photographer currently based in Barcelona. His documentary projects focus on exploring minority groups and their sense of belonging or lack of belonging in the spaces they occupy.