Barcelona: Visiting During Catalonia's Fight for Independence
After an amazing retreat with Las Morenas de España in Jávea, Spain and a quick day trip to Valencia, I headed north to Barcelona where I stayed with family members. This trip to Barcelona happened in December 2017, which was an interesting time to be there given the recent political events.
In October 2017, the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain despite the Spanish government's attempts to suppress the vote through police force. Following the referendum, the Spanish government seized control of the region and dissolved the Catalan parliament. Many pro-independence politicians were jailed or fled the country, including Catalan President Carlos Puigdemont who fled to Brussels to escape arrest. To restore an autonomous Catalan government, the Spanish government called for elections to take place on December 21, 2017. The result was a win for pro-independence parties.
I wasn't in Barcelona during the October clashes between Spanish police and protesters that made international news, but the spirit of protest was still apparent. Catalan flags, Catalan independence flags, and flags protesting the detention of Catalan political prisoners were draped over balconies pretty much everywhere I looked. I was told that even more flags had been displayed in the past months, but some residents took theirs down due to fear of government reprisals.
Since October, rallies had been held daily in cities and towns across Catalonia to call for the release of political prisoners. I attended one of these rallies in Terrassa, a city within the Barcelona province. Participants sang traditional Catalan songs and held a moment of silence for the imprisoned.
Living in Baltimore during the protests surrounding the killing of Freddie Gray, I've seen firsthand how coverage of protests in the media can paint an inaccurate picture of what life is really like on the ground. I hope tourists are not discouraged from visiting Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia simply because the region is in the midst of political changes. This is far from a new struggle between Catalonia and the Spanish government. Barcelona is a beautiful and safe place to visit as long as you're a smart traveler with common sense, which is the case in every destination. Rather than any strong hostility or violence, I saw a deep sense of cultural pride and the spirit of resistance from pro-independence Catalans.
Aside from learning more about the current events in Catalonia, I made sure to visit some of my favorite Barcelona sights. In the short amount of time I had in the city I didn't get to all my favorites like Park Güell, but with so many things to see and do in Barcelona it's easy to fill the days. Keep scrolling for some photo highlights.
I always enjoy visiting markets when I travel. Every market is different and shows the culture and unique flavor of its location. La Boqueria, or Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, had me Googling the names of fish that I'd never seen or heard of in my life.
The Born Cultural and Memorial Center
What is now The Born Cultural and Memorial Center was the city's central food market until 1971 when the market changed locations. The abandoned building was being turned into a library in 2002, when the remains of 18th century Barcelona were found and construction was stopped. The Born Cultural Center opened in 2013.
The Barcelona Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral built from the 13th to 15th centuries and has some pretty interesting history and impressive architecture.