Seeing their flags and hearing their chants, my eyes and ears were wide open to receive the Catalonian people. I had first heard of their movement back in 2012 from one of my roommates from Barcelona (who is and remains extremely passionate about the Catalonian independence movement). Although it might be a surprise to some Americans, the people of Catalonia have been fighting for independence from the Spanish since the early 19th century.
Even though many countries deny their independence, there is quite a difference between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Catalonian people have different traditions and holidays than their Spanish counterparts. For example, they have the tradition of creating the human tower. The human tower is a tradition where the community trains together to form a human tower. The Catalonians take pride in their unique traditions. Another surprise is that the Catalonian people speak a different language. Their main language is Catalan which varies from Spanish as it has French influences.
After visiting with the Catalonian people, it appeared to me that they come across more progressive their Spanish counterparts. This might be a surprise to some but Spain has one of the youngest republics of the European union. After the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the leader of the Nationalist army Francisco Franco became the dictator for Spain and remained dictator until his death in 1977. For about forty years, the Catalan people were subjected to the Spanish regime. Franco banned the Catalonian people from teaching Catalan in schools and regulated all new borns to have only names with Spanish origins. After his death in 1977, his handpicked predecessor called for a change and the first election happened. Spain has remained a republic ever since.
On October 1st 2017, the Catalonians took a vote for independence and 90% voted for independence with a 43% turnout rate. The low turnout could be from the efforts of the Spanish government to stop the Catalonian people from voting. My friend reports how hostile the Spanish army were to them. The soldiers destroyed their ballot boxes and beat up protesters. As a result, the Spanish government dismissed the Catalonian government and arrested the leaders of the independence movement.
With all eyes on Catalonia, I had the pleasure of flying into Barcelona on October 30th 2017. This was only a few weeks after Catalonia (the region in which Barcelona is located) had declared independence from Spain. Many of my colleagues told me to stay safe and advised me to fly somewhere else. They told me horror stories of people being unable to eat, shops being closed and violent riots etc...However, my visit to Barcelona that was much different than they described.
Everywhere I turned in Barcelona, I saw the flag of Catalonia. Some of the flags had orange and some had blue as they all were voicing their opinions on how they wanted to become independent (from democracy to socialism). It was admirable to see how vocal Barcelona was in voicing their political views considering how traditional the Spanish are. All of the protests I witnessed were peaceful with the Catalan police protecting them every step of the way.
If you are heading to Barcelona soon, I wouldn't be afraid of any violent riots or unrest. The city is functioning, thriving and the Catalan people are the nicest people you can come across. Their demonstrations are enlightening. It was a tremendous honor to visit their city and learn about their history. Although I do not know what is store for the Catalan people, I am happy to have a better understanding of their movement and wish them all the best.