Living Among Political Unrest in Barcelona, Spain

Mackenzie Grell is a student at University of Nebraska – Lincoln and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.

For as long as I’ve been here– about 2 months– there has been political unrest in Catalonia.  If you haven’t heard, here’s a vague background for you:

Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain, with Barcelona as its capital.  It’s mostly autonomous, which is great, but with mounting tensions with the Spanish government– headed by Mariano Rajoy– the Catalan government decided to have a vote for independence.  This goes against Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which states that no region may secede.  During the vote on October 1st, the Spanish police used excessive force with the Catalan people at the word of Rajoy and the Spanish government.  On October 27th, Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia, and the parliament declared independence.

So, what’s it like, as an American student, to live in Barcelona during all of this?

Well, it depends on the day.  There are some days when there is nothing going on, and there are days when there are protests all day, sometimes there’s even violence.  But, violence is very rare.  Honestly, the Spanish people are very peaceful.  I swear the national slogan could be “No pasa nada,” which means “don’t worry about it”.  The best days are where there are protests in the university plaza.  They’re always very civil and absolutely brilliant.

A protest in front of Universitat de Barcelona, which was founded in 1450.

The day after the referendum, there was a student led protest in the plaza; it was beautiful to see Barcelona come together to protest injustice.

There were so many people that the Barcelona police had to shut down streets.  That’s an image I will carry with me the rest of my life.  Overall, I try to avoid the protests in case violence breaks out, but I had to see the Catalan people protesting peacefully after so much violence was inflicted upon them.

The Catalan people use their culture and knowledge of Castellers to put up flags, they’re still up to this day.

But really, so much of this is still up in the air.  They’ve sent in the military to force Catalonia to comply with the constitution, but Puigdemont is holding firm.  Madrid, with their threats of less autonomy, violence, and overall indifference to Catalonia’s frustration has really forced the hand of the Catalan people.

I, for one, am unsure how this will play out, but I am hopeful that it will be okay. As the Spanish say, no pasa nada.

The world awaits…discover it.

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