Why? Because Barcelona is in the Catalonian province of Spain, which is the richest province of Spain and…
They have land with resources and rich culture and tourism and technology and a strong workforce. Catalans have a special and unique heritage and language, sometimes more similar to Italian than Spanish, and the Catalan people have made sure to maintain it, to not get washed out by the powerful Spanish. And there’s more.
In 2017 I visited Barcelona when I was hoping to move here with my job at Sage as a content designer. I was here for 10 days and explored the city extensively. I also participated in several Airbnb experiences, including a hike to the monastery in Montserrat and horseback riding in the fields at the base of the gorgeous mountains.
This tour was provided by two young men from Barcelona and I took advantage of my time with them to learn more about the region. One of them was incredibly candid with me when I asked about the Catalonian separatist movement.
He said he felt the Spanish royal family was taking advantage of the people of Catalonia. The royal family inherits their power, they’re not chosen by the people. They’re definitely not a representation of the people of Catalonia and constantly pressure deeper assimilation into Spanish standards. And throughout Catalonian history they’ve been occupied and trampled by Spain. Catalonia was an independent kingdom under the Crown of Aragon for 1,100 years before Aragon agreed to the succession of Catalonia with Spain.
This protest and the country’s response to it is both funny and sad because I think of Spain as a leading nation of the world. They’re 24th in the Global Gender Gap Report, significantly higher than the U.S. which scores a painfully low 49 out of 144. And Spain hosts a plethora of well-preserved culture and history, similar to other European countries. Finally, Barcelona in particular is a technology hub of the world, a place for leading advancement that’s changing the nature of science from water desalination efforts to aerospace exploration.
But the people of Catalonia want to separate.
So they’re protesting. (You can check out my Instagram for videos and more photos of the event.)
Why today? Today, the Spanish government sentenced Catalonian political leaders to decades in prison simply for creating a referendum. For dissent. For not unilaterally supporting Spanish rule. In 2017, the Catalonian government leaders asked the people of Catalonia if they wanted to separate. The people overwhelmingly voted for independence. So the Spanish government, in a completely fascist method, said it’s illegal to even *think* about separating. It’s illegal to want to separate.
This is what democracy looks like.
It’s uncomfortable, but change always is. The people are protesting (again), and not in standard form. They’ve decided it should no longer be a Spanish secret, they’ve decided to take it to an international level by holding the Barcelona airport hostage.
It started with a sit-in. People started slowly infiltrating the airport. We arrived in Barcelona shortly before 3 pm when it was just getting started.
We tried to leave the airport but we were blocked at every exit. We couldn’t get to the metro. We couldn’t get to the taxi stand. We couldn’t even get to the parking lot. Nobody could.
Nobody can leave.
Barcelona airport is an international hub, an important airport for all of Europe. The protests are strategic, and now the world knows.
It’s just our luck that this happened today, while Lauren and I are headed back from a 10-day stint in Sardinia. We’ve been traveling and exploring, constantly on the go. We’re tired and ready to go home and sleep in our own beds. But tonight we sleep in the airport, in the crowded madness that it is. Tonight we participate in educating the world on the Catalan separatist movement.
Our flight back to Florida is tomorrow at 4 pm, in the other terminal that’s 7 kilometers away. But it doesn’t matter how far away it is, all of the doors to the airport, to any mode of transportation, are completely blocked by protesters and now the police, who are trying to prevent further encroachment.
We’ve been here 7 hours now and we’re going to be here a lot longer, I’m sure. Fortunately we’ve got access to food, water, bathrooms, and dark corners of the airport floor on which to sleep. I am uncomfortable and cold laying on the marble floor by a series of glass window walls right now, but I keep reminding myself that this is what democracy feels like.