By Andreu Pujol
Barcelona is a city with a definite presence in the international public imagination. Over the last few months, a number of events have taken place and made this presence quite apparent in many ways. for example, there is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1992 Olympics, or the controversy on the impact of tourism, as a consequence of the city’s success as a experience worth having for anyone from anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the terrorist attack on the Rambla is also an example of the position of the city in the world: the bastards also see it as a place to go to do as much harm as they could with as much exposure as possible.
As the capital of a unit that doesn’t appear on world maps, every time Barcelona becomes the focus of attention for better or for worse around the world, tension grows and the workings start to squeak. Among the cliché souvenirs, with their bullfighters and flamenco dancers and bottles of cheap sangria, together with the banal nationalism of the monarchy, the Spanish flags and the constitution, something isn’t right. In fact, there’s something that gets in the way of the expectations.
Twenty-five years ago, when Barcelona became the world center of Sport, it was necessary to lock up and torture a few people. They were afraid then, as they are now, of people booing the king, of protest banners and of a reality that spoiled the fiction they had prepared. That happened then, a festive event that was meant to join the peoples of the world through the efforts of the athletes.
Today’s context is the complete opposite. Barcelona has been shaken to the core by the terror of a mass killing. If the message of the organizers of the 1992 Olympics was one of brotherly love, that of those who set up the dreadful events of 2017 was one of contention and hate. However, yet again, the same inconveniences occur. An unexpected language, bothersome flags, unwanted banners.
A press conference where the Chief Officer of the Catalan Police or Mossos, responding in Catalan to a question in the same language lets rip a controversy as absurd as debating the colour of one’s eyes or one’s skin: that’s the way things are, and that’s that. Last Saturday’s demonstration also caused controversy. The inhabitants of Barcelona and other Catalans had to accept being counted in a sea of carefully distributed plastic Spanish flags, behind a header of a king and a president flown in from Madrid with the passengers of chartered coaches from goodness knows where, holders of the right membership cards, singing the carefully orchestrated slogans. The boos to Felipe VI and Spanish president Rajoy, the Catalan indy flags with black ribbons and the occurrences of the local tribe have ruined it all.
The thug press has made every effort in making our existence seem outlandish and to underpin the political agenda of the nation with the terrorist attack. Simply being has been portrayed as some sort of tendentious ideological vindication, a wish to be a pain, because our grief had to be expressed as they dictated if we didn’t want to become accomplices of the barbaric events we had suffered. Now that you’re sad, it’s not the right time, they said. Now that you’ve suffered a tragedy, it’s not the right time to show yourselves as you are, with your country bumpkin language and your unconstitutional rags for flags. It’s funny that when the Olympics brought us Cobi and a duet by Montserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury, when we were meant to laugh and dance instead of weeping, that wasn’t the right time either. The fact is that maybe, as far as they’re concerned, it would never be the right time; but we have, at last, begun to ignore their expectations.
Historian, Art historian and author of Ministeri d’Incultura: Catalunya a la recerca d’un Kitsch nacional [Ministry of non-culture: Catalonia’s quest for national Kitsch](A Contra Vent Editors, 2013).