Catalunya

There’s a documentary on TV now on Catalunya. It’s in Chinese but it’s nice to see so many places we know. If I could re-start my history degree, I would probably study modern Spanish history and write a thesis on Catalan cultural history. Perhaps something on Catalan culture under Franco. It’s fascinating.

Busy day in Madrid

After four weeks in Spain, we began our journey home early wednesday morning (June 18th) when we left the house at 7 AM to catch the 8:30 AVE to Madrid. The plan was to stay overnight in Madrid and catch the new Air Canada flight to Toronto. Although we don’t know Madrid very well – the weather prevented us from really enjoying the place last time we were there – we had quite the day meeting friends.
We arrived at 11:15 in Madrid and after checking in at our hotel, we went off exploring. The weather was much nicer than in our previous visit (a sunny 20 C) and we wandered the narrow streets of the Huertas (aka Barrio de las Letras) and the Plaza Mayor. For lunch, we took advantage of the tradition in this part of Spain of the tapeo – which basically consists of ordering a drink to get a free tapa at local bars and cervecerias. Luckily, in Madrid one can get a free tapa by ordering a very small glass of beer (a caña), smaller than a half pint. Here are some random pictures of our wanderings:

Click here for slideshow

After a short nap, we went off to Atocha station to meet a friend from the blogosphere – Erin, the wandering woman. I was so happy to be able to meet her in Spain, a place we both like so much. Erin is a true free spirit and it was so easy to wile away the afternoon in a shady spot of Plaza Santa Ana, hearing about her exciting plans for the future and her experiences on the camino de Santiago.

After accompanying Erin back to the train station, we visited the memorial for the victims of the 2004 Madrid bombings. Hundreds died when bombs were simultaneously detonated in commuter trains arriving at Atocha station and last year a memorial was inaugurated to remember the victims. It is quite a moving site. You can see a picture of it in the slideshow above.

After resting a bit at the hotel, we met Mireia, a friend from Barcelona who is in Madrid on business, her colleague Lydia, and Yaniré, a Chilean we met in Barcelona who has since moved to Madrid after marrying her long-time madrileño boyfriend. It was great seeing Yaniré again after over a year. We had tapas and beer at a local bar until past 1 AM and it was a great end to our month in Spain. We have no idea when we will be back since I have decided not to make any travel plans until I’m finished my dissertation. But I’m finally mentally ready to get it over with so hopefully I can finish within the next 12 months.

No-Bull Barcelona

No BullOn Friday, we ran into an anti-bullfighting demonstration in front of the Generalitat (government of Catalunya). Tourists usually expect to see bullfighting everywhere in Spain and get disappointed when they get to Barcelona and find that the only bullring in town is basically a show place, geared towards the tourist market. Bullfighting is not a Catalan tradition and many Catalans feel strongly against it. The group below is trying to collect enough signatures to force the government of Catalunya to ban the practice in its territory.

Bull

bull Anti-Bullfighting

bull2

Happy birthday to me!

This weekend we celebrated my birthday at Wushu with a few of our very good friends here in Barcelona. Paul, Wushu’s talented dessert chef, even made me a special cake and we spent an amazing four hours at the restaurant, enjoying the company, the many bottles of cava, and, of course, Brad’s amazing food.

friends

I had my favourite dish – the red curry with roasted duck (on the left) and next time I’ll try the laksa (on the right):

curry laksa

cake

There are more pictures on my flickr site. It was a very busy weekend, which included dinner at Wushu on friday night with other friends, shopping in Gracia on saturday morning for a lunch on sunday that Jackie and I were organizing, then dinner at Wushu again on saturday night and finally a big lunch on sunday, when I cooked a not-so-traditional Brazilian feijoada for friends. Tomorrow we catch the high speed train to Segovia. It’s probable that I won’t be accessing internet there so stay tuned for a report on the trip to Segovia some time next weekend!

Quotation

Per nosaltres, la nació és una cosa viva, plena de sentit i de cara el futur, i la raça és una cosa morta, pobra de contingut i plasmada sobre el passat.[…] Per nosaltres els forasters que vénen a Catalunya – que sempre acollim amb els braços oberts – i pateixen amb els nostres dols i gaudeixem amb les nostres alegries, i que ens donen fills, que les nostres dones no en pareixem prou, són tan catalans, en la nostra interpretació futurista de la nació, com nosaltres mateixos. No fem absolutament cap diferència.

Rafael Campalans, 1923, founder of the Unió Socialista de Catalunya

Loose translation:

We believe that the nation  is alive, full of feeling and looking towards the future, and race is dead, a thing poor in substance and stuck in the past. For us, the foreigners that come to Catalunya – and who have always been received with open arms – and share with us our pains and our joys, and who give us children, are as Catalan, in our futuristic (progressive) interpretation of the nation, as we are ourselves. It makes absolutely not difference.

I found this quotation, from 1923, in an article dedicated to the issue of immigration in Catalunya today. Salvador Cardús i Ros argues that immigration had always played a crucial role in the development of Catalunya. This phenomena can be traced as far back as we have reliable demographic information (i.e. the 17th century) as the region has always had a low birth rate. Yet, currently, the issue of immigration is seen in a negative light as a threat to national identity. Cardús i Ros proposes that this situation should be reversed by turning immigration into a place for the collective memory of Catalunya, considering it as a part of the nation. Very interesting.