Leaving behind Barcelona is like leaving behind the summer; you know there’s a new season coming but you breath deep every last breath of warm air, you catch every last ray of light, remember every adventure and each romance and you let one more ambling afternoon pass you by on the grass or the sand, but you now there’s a change in the air and it’s time to decide: build a nest or migrate south.
If you leave you leave knowing that you’ve just seen one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. The charm and density of its labyrinthine streets of its old quarters contrasts with the modernity and open-air of its boulevards – the impressive Grand Via, the elegant Passeig de Gracia, the energetic Paral-lel – which act as overflows for the life spilling out from the barrios they divide. Its parks are few and far between it is true, but there’s nothing quite like a doze in the sleepless Ciutadella or a swim in the Mediterranean to escape the noise and the traffic, and you can always get lost on Montjuïc Mountain to find your bearings after long nights of losing yourself in town.
You leave Barcelona knowing you have just lived one of the freest and care-freest cities there is. Here you never see an eyebrow raised and not a single insult or fist thrown. If there are restrictions on human enjoyment they’re hardly enforced; people happily smoke and drink what they want where and when they want and nobody ever seems to mind; unless, of course, you’re disturbing the precious sleep of a city that never sleeps, but the water (and lightbulbs) thrown from bedroom balconies will move you on quickly enough. But you know in Barcelona you are free: free to be you and free of people who can’t stand you being you.
But you will also leave Barcelona knowing you have just loved one of the most over-loved cities in Europe. The fact is that Barcelona is being taken away from the very people who live in it: building by building, barrio by barrio, Barcelona is being lost to the infinite volume of tourists who mean no harm but whose sheer mass does so much damage. Las Ramblas, lost; The Boquería Market, endangered; Gothic Quarter, mortgaged to the masses during the day; Park Guell, sold; Barceloneta, threatened; the Sagrada Familia barrio, clogged. With hotels buying up big, Air BnBers homogenising residential buildings, with prices being pushed up and up, something needs to be done to protect the very things which make this city so attractive to the world.
And you will leave Barcelona knowing that you have just marched away from the a city on the vanguard. Barcelona is a city that has suffered so much through the years of this unending global crisis of capitalism: after countless job losses, countless evictions, after endless wage reductions and simultaneous cuts to the social wage, and after ever more privatisation of public utilities, Barcelona has begun to fight back. It is this city that gave birth to the PAH , a group of mortgage holders facing evictions who are fighting back against the banks who would rob them of a roof. And this is a city which has learnt how to mobilise, with countless thousands coming out and occupying the plazas in the 2011 reaction against austerity known as 15-M (15 May), a moment which gave birth to a movement, a movement which now marches through the corridors of power in the local council, and it is a movement which, if it can’t win this year’s General Election on December 20, will surely go on in any case to change the course of this country’s history, and in fact it already has.
Anyone who visits Barcelona even if just for a short amount of time will leave and take with them a hand, heart or head full of this city’s youth and energy to transplant it in their own land to grown and bring more life there, because it is that kind of city, a city of ideas, energy and beauty that you will love and that will love you.