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Europe | Spain

Barcelona / Revolution in the Air, But Where?

people carry on ordinarily while the political stage is in flames 

   “Have you seen the protests today?” my father asked that Sunday night. Somehow, I hadn’t. In fact, I had read the headlines only minutes before his call: “300,000 rally against Catalan independence,” CNN titled; BBC, The Guardian, and Politico read similarly. This time it was the pro-Spanish movement taking to the streets of a torn Catalonia. While many in the region, including Catalan leader Puigdemont, tried to struggle their way out of the straight jacket that the central government in Madrid is to them, many others stood by a united Spain loyally. The political stage was consumed by vigorous flames, a referendum called for by one side, treason claimed by the other and only days later Puigdemont was a wanted man potentially looking at a thirty-year prison sentence.

Soaking up the sensationalized news coverage in those days with a brain sponge, there was no doubt about a revolution in the scorching Catalan autumn air. But where exactly was one to find its manifestations? The whole day I had roamed the streets of central Barcelona, and all I had come across were people carrying on with their lives as though nothing was going on. Everybody seemed to elegantly follow their set course without political obstruction as the trees kept in line with the season, and, just like the leaves, everything seemed to fall in place naturally for everybody.



 

Of course, it was easy enough to miss the marching and chanting crowds in a city of millions. And of course, there was something happening somewhere, but maybe on a more personal level of life there was really nothing much going on. Well, there was, just nothing related to politics, the government, and society as that intangible entity. Old people were doing old people things, young people were doing young people things, couples were being couples, kids were being kids. Here, an inline skating nanny zoomed through foot traffic with a stroller; there, the score of a volleyball match was the closest thing to a worry. As per Sunday promise, most streets were fairly empty.

 

"Following the news like a stalker, one tends to forget the mundane realities that disappear behind those fat headlines, and the smaller yet bigger picture of individual lives going on individually."

 

Following the news like a stalker, one tends to forget the mundane realities that disappear behind those fat headlines, and the smaller yet bigger picture of individual lives going on individually. News only becomes newsworthy when it disrupts a common routine and experience where tales aren’t all that tall, but rather wide, narrating the lot of a broad majority more so than the extreme plots of outliers at the edges. The closest thing to revolution I saw that day was a graffiti reading “Defend your vote.” Some sluggish flags hung out of windows to hint timidly at a divide, but these statements were few and mixed – some for independence, some against, and some just seeking a peaceful common ground.


 

"Yet, between these societal lines, where the quintessence of our life as human beings dwells, our situation remains largely the same, despite political turmoil."