So I stayed in Madrid from the 8th till the 11th of April. I got a flight from Lisbon to Madrid, because it made a lot of sense but to fly to Barcelona was too expensive for me so I searched other ways of doing it. One of the things I also wanted to try was blablacar.com . This ride sharing platform is great and has many people enrolled. I found a ride that went from Madrid to Barcelona for 30€ with Jose Antonio. Jose is originally from the South of Spain, now lives in a small town near Barcelona, although he works for 3 days in Madrid each week.
One of the amazing things about these platforms is the people you can get to know. Jose is a sales manager for Vans shoes in Spain. He worked with other companies having lived in Singapore and in the Netherlands. Riding along was Javi, a product designer that works as a freelancer for the biggest spanish smartphone company. So for starters that’s quite an interesting ride and all due to sharing platforms like this one. It was interesting to hear their experiences, both of life, work and living abroad. They talked mostly in Spanish because I told them I understood it and I talked with a mix of hard scratched spanish filled in with italian, and further with english when I couldn’t explain myself. This was confusing and Javi turned around and asked, why tha fuck are you talking like that? So I ended up talking mostly in english for the sake of understanding. The trip was quick, quite more than by any other way of travelling besides flying and even so, with boarding times and all that it’s probably the same. Once there I talked a bit with Javi about some of his experiences, like catching the transiberian train through Russia and Siberia, besides having lived and worked for 2 years in Australia. He was in Barcelona to meet some friends for 2 days and then going to some mountains to stay in a hippy community for a week, without internet and the such and working on the land, enjoying some time detached from the crazy cybernetic age.
One funny fact about Jose is that he, as a sales manager for a shoe company, gets a lot of shoes. Do you have any idea about how many shoes he has? I’ll tell you… 4 fucking hundred (400+). I was like, oh my god, don’t you wanna offer me some? I buy at maximum 2 pairs per year and usually I use them until they are way too screwed to wear.
After saying bye to Javi I took the metro to San Pau, where Xavi’s house is. There’s a difference in their names that reflects the origin of them – Javi is the spanish version of the name, while Xavi is the catalan version of it. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia region. It’s an autonomous region of Spain, designed as nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. It has around 8 million inhabitants, a little bit less than Portugal for instance (which points to around 10 million). Xavi lives with Mar, who works for Pol-len, a catalan eco-friendly publishing agency (for instance they published Warcelona – Una història de violència / Warcelona – A history of violence – a photo book by Jordi Borràs documenting police conflicts with social movements, football fans and so on) and also does volunteering in SOS Racism Catalonia association, in Barcelona.
I’ve met Xavi during my Leonardo DaVinci internship in Padua. He was there working for a NGO. He’s currently searching for work but at the same time participates in CUP, a leftist party in Catalonia, through meetings, general assemblies and neighbourhood interventions. They’re for the independence of Catalonia. I was somehow interested in this question. Xavi tells me there’s many reasons for the independence, both cultural/historical and economical. It’s important to notice that the majority don’t want to be outside Europe, they just don’t want to be part of Spain for what it matters. Those who want do want it because the way EU is arranged and maintained is in a neoliberal perspective, which many believe to be contrary to the principles that should guide it.
For instance, regarding culture, the reasons for independence are not the usual nationalistic ambitions that many times permeate these desires. In Xavi’s words, he thinks the Catalan culture is a very open one, that welcomes foreigners and is inclusive, so it’s not nationalistic in the sense of purity, but in the sense of a culture that’s not closed. Being Catalan for them is being part of a culture that is open, whereas they see the Spanish nationalistic identity as something more fascist, more imposing. They don’t share many of the cultural things we usually see attached to the Spanish culture, that goes for bull fighting, paella and other things. They also have a language of their own, that they love. Languages are ways of structuring the world so their fight for their language is in my own POV totally fair.
In this talk http://on.ted.com/ppgp , you can see why and how languages actually play a role in the way people perceive the world. Catalan is a latin language, with similarities to Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, but it’s its very own thing. I find it to sound easier on the ear than spanish for instance.
Other of the cultural aspects they don’t seem to share with Spain is the way of organising and redistributing richness. Barcelona was always very multicultural and anarchist in the ways of thinking, this means not a lack of rules, but a lack of authoritarian ruling. Their history as been marked by attempts of control coming from the Spanish crown, including the building of a stone wall around the city to prevent it from growing along with a military apparatus ready to drop in no time notice.
This of course is history but it show us that Catalonia, and specially Barcelona, were always seen as a threat to the imperialistic aspirations of the Spanish crown. Due to their mercantilistic nature the Catalan is spoken in other countries, such as Italy and regions of France and they’ve always been healthy in an economic perspective. This is also one of the reasons they’re against the budget cuts applied by the government, they feel they’ve always given more and that now they’re being cut as if they didn’t contribute. They specially think they could do better if they were the ones managing their own systems, social welfare and others, specially because they believe that the cuts should be applied in a diverse manner, somehow protecting the less favoured. You can see this by looking at the amount of public assemblies self organised in Catalonia, it shows people are looking for other ways of fighting the problems brought with this crisis.
We also met Marti, a friend of Xavi. We went to have a beer at a typical place, that very much resembles portuguese “tascas”, which are traditional places where you eat and drink, not fancy at all but usually very warming, with great prices and great quality.
The next days in Barcelona we went to a neighbourhood and I strolled a bit through the beach part of Barcelona and on another day I walked to Mont Juic (Jewish Mountain). There are like two Barcelonas, one highly touristic, cosmopolitan, and another one, a simple, mediterranean city. I love the colours of the buildings, the architecture and the way the city is drawn. Having beach certainly helps the mood.
I’ll have some more thoughts on Barcelona written in the next post as well as a small piece written by Xavi, about one popular assembly we went to see while there.
Until then, cheers!