Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Barcelona People

The people make the city, or the city make the people? The roots of this Catalunyan capital are held firmly in a soil of retaliation, separation, difference and progression. Catalunya's long quest for independence has shaped its capital, and its people. Their language, an ironic mix of Spanish and French, runs through the streets, in the shops, cafés, in the young and the old, it sings out on the radio, and blasts through the television. Its flag, startlingly similar to that of the Spanish flag, is everywhere you look, draped from patriotic apartment windows, flapping in the breeze.

Catalunya aspires to be seen as different, unique, and above all, separate from Spain. Traditional values of Spain are slowly diminishing; its conservatism has been thrown out in exchange for reinvention. Walls are plastered with graffiti, bearing an underlying revolutionary tone. A reflection of the vibrations which run through the Barcelonian people. Cosmopolitan society, through its separation and unique ambiance now represents a new, forward thinking population striving for change. They value ecology, health, vegetarianism, voluntary action, animal rights, human rights... the list goes on. As a result, cultural traditions such as bullfighting are starting to be rebuked, streets are turning green with health food shops; demonstrations, workshops, and forums tackle a range of issues and themes close to the public's heart. Again, the list goes on. This vibe cannot be found with such strength in any other Spanish city. Furthermore, Catalunya's proximity to France cannot be denied as an influence in social change; France's people have also demonstrated their desire for social change and green fingers. Whether they have succeeded is another question.

It isn't just about a change in mindset, it is also about a change in people; a 'foreign city' has been created. They have tunnelled their way into the woodwork, they have mingled themselves into the community. They own shops bars, and restaurants. They are professionals, blue collars, illegals. They have unwittingly altered society's vibes and filled the city with their cultures. A multicultural medley, where people co-exist. In harmony? Harmony is for fairytales. Social change has wiped its muddy shoes throughout the city. Freedom, from traditions, schools of thought, political ideals and the like has led to a downward turn in 'social standards'. The beautiful old winding streets have become a breeding ground for the illnesses in society, down-treading their magical prowess to what one would expect to find in a less developed country. A freedom from morals seems to be running through certain people's veins, as the city and its people are frequently victim to spiteful pillages, all of which can leave a bitter taste in one's mouth about a city. People seem to have decided to give themselves the freedom to do whatever they choose, which falls in contradiction to what society as a whole was striving for; an ecologically sound environment based on respect. It is quite possible that society is a victim of its own success. Barcelona has achieved its freedom of expression; it engulfs the city, dominating people's fashion, their music style, their way of life. It exhibits itself in the creative artistry which is spread throughout the city. Inversely, it is this same graffiti which has contributed to the downgrading of the city, and the social anarchy which seems to be running through some people's veins.

One cannot help but notice Catalunya's unique characteristics when juxtaposed against Spain, or any other European country. It is like a flower bud, alive, growing and blossoming, yet being attacked by a viscous weed which has not yet been exterminated.

Barcelona's artists, such as Dalí, and Gaudí and Miró, may well have had a more than expected effect on the city; their avant-guard ideas and creativity may have been one of the sparks which ignited social and change within Barcelona. Their artwork is still resonant throughout the city, and still leaves tourists awestruck, a creativity which is reflected not only in the artwork, but in the Barcelona people.

It was not even forty years ago when Spain's hash dictatorship ended, and people who lived during these times are still alive today. Spain has seen a sharp turn around in society, of which Barcelona seems to be at the forefront of the change. But is this amount of change healthy? It seems to have left Barcelona gasping for breath, choking on itself. The Catalan people seem to have a vision of how they see future society, but are blind to the more indirect effects which the change that they desire could produce.

All of this, when included alongside the Catalan's fight for an independent Catalunya, topped off with all the other influences of modern day society have constructed a very unique and energetic city. But which is being drowned by all of the social issues which invariably go hand in hand with such extensive amounts of social change, and which consequentially just may lead to the city's downfall. Barcelona's people and its government may or may not have realised but they now have a pressing need to pause, take a step back, and analyse the true consequences of the social change which they seem to so desperately desire.

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