Oh Barcelona, yet again you have left me longing to return as soon as possible. Spain in general has got me itching to explore every corner of such a beautiful country. I find myself no longer content to just visit the big cities, but with a longing to explore the small countryside towns and everything in
Coming from a country as young as Canada, I am still fascinated by the history of European countries dating back thousands of years. Like Portugal, Spain’s history is spread worldwide, with it’s language being spoken in dozens of countries the world over. Particularly interesting to me on this trip was how much I learned about the history of the territory of Catalonia and it’s separatist movements similar to that of Quebec, as well as the history of the Spanish civil war, which due to the fact that it was during the same time as WWII, largely gets forgotten in the Western world. Both of these are greatly intertwined with eachother.
September 11. For most of the world, after 2001, this day has become synonymous with the events in New York and throughout the US. For the people of Catalonia, the day represents something entirely different, with a history dating back longer that even the USA has been a country. September 11, 1714 is the day in which Catalonia surrendered in its separatist war with Spain and conceded to remain part of the country. It is the reason that at every game played by FC Barcelona, at 17:14 into the first half, the entire stadium shouts “Independence” in Catalan. FC Barcelona has also been intertwined with the separatist movement throughout it’s history as we learned during our visit to Camp Nou. You may have noticed, September 11 coincided purely accidentally with our stay in Barcelona. The Catalonians celebrate this day as a sort of rebellion, albeit peaceful, against Spain and it’s reluctance to allow them to succeed from the country. It was also a symbol of resistance during the facist regime that engulfed the country following General Franco’s takeover during the Spanish civil war. During Franco’s dictatorship that would last until his death in 1975, speaking Catalan was illegal, as was celebration of any kind of Catalan culture as it was viewed to be a threat to the regime. People found speaking Catalan were often arrested and sometimes even shot on the spot.
During this day, we participated in a walking tour of the city, which for the day nearly doubled in population from the surrounding areas for the celebrations and protests. Over 5 million people were in the city for the day, which is roughly the equivalent of taking all of Toronto suburbs and having them all go downtown for the day. I imagine it is what it would be like if the Leafs were ever to win a cup again. Not that I am likely to get to compare the two. The biggest part of the day that resounded with me was how a population that has been discriminated against for so long, who feels their prosperity is feeding the rest of the country and not them, could be so peaceful and joyful during the celebrations. In North America, one small event of what can be viewed as racism sets off violent protests with shameless destruction. To me this speaks to the maturity of a country. Like with my previous comparison of Canada not yet being toilet trained and Portugal being the wise old Grandfather. Countries like the US react like children and bang their fists to demand what they want, regardless of the harm it will do to themselves. Countries like Spain, Portugal and others similar have the wisdom gathered through countless past events that they can draw on as a people. This allows them to understand patience, dedication and something as simple as pride in what you believe in can eventually lead them down the path they wish to follow. Now that is not to say violence does not occur, but it is not the first plan of action, it is the last resort.
It is easy to see how the pride in the culture and the deep roots that are engrained into the city itself is a cause for celebration. Barcelona as it stands now is a relatively new concept. The rebirth of the city truly took off when it hosted the 1992 Olympics. Money was spent on basically rebranding the city into a place that all want to visit. The cultural effect was similar to what Vancouver 2010 did to Canada, establishing an identity to the rest of the world.
All things considered, Barcelona remains to be one of my favourite cities, especially when you take a step off the beaten path. It’s not a real Tapas place if the server speaks English as far as I am concerned. Hand made breads, cheeses and chorizo, and of course you have to ask for one dish that you don’t know what it is just so you can try something new. Beautiful beaches, a booming nightlife and back streets and alleyways that can be explored for days on end if you allow yourself to see it through the right light. And of course, I cannot call myself content with my visits until I have attended an FC Barcelona match against Real Madrid with 100 000 passionate Catalonians.
Until next time L’Espana, I will be back soon.