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Raging Bull: A Snapshot of Spain in Crisis

May 24, 2013

by J. Andrew Zalucky

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Spain has gone through a tough few years. A financial crisis spreading across the globe, followed by the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone have left the country with a massive unemployment rate and seemingly little hope for the future. Though you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell when you visit one of its greatest cities: Barcelona.

I recently returned from a trip to the historic metropolis, and while there, it almost felt like things were running along as usual, as if there was no crisis at all. To be sure, Barcelona benefits from being one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations and has received a recent boost from the chaos of the Arab Spring deterring travelers from the otherwise tranquil tourist spots of North Africa. That and, as CNN reported earlier this year, it is Madrid that has seen the bulk of discontent:

Nowadays, Madrid is a city of protests — it is almost impossible to cross the capital without coming across a sit-in or a march, petitions are everywhere

Still, Barcelona sits at the heart of Catalonia, a region known for its own nationalistic aspirations (and one which stood as an anti-Fascist stronghold against Franco during the civil war of the 1930’s). I vividly remember snapping a photo of this very emphatic sign on display back when I visited London back in 2011 during the Barcelona v. Manchester United game:

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So it only makes sense that the recent crisis with the government in Madrid would lead to even stronger voices for independence and dissent. In the context of the civil war, Barcelona itself has a very radical, revolutionary past, one which George Orwell spoke of at length in his Homage to Catalonia:

I had come to Spain with some notion of writing newspaper articles, but I had joined the militia almost immediately, because at that time and in that atmosphere it seemed the only conceivable thing to do. The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was still in full swing. To anyone who had been there since the beginning it probably seemed even in December or January that the revolutionary period was ending; but when one came straight from England the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties;

While I actually did not see any open protests or riots, there were plenty of images that caught my eye. In many ways, the specter of that turbulent time still haunt the city, and what better time to arrive than at a moment of national crisis?

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“Revoltosa”, a squatter social-center run by the Occupy movement.

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Anti-fascist and Anarchist posters near the El Clot metro stop.

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“Capitalism Kills”- its cronyist incarnation certainly hasn’t been kind to Spain.

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In the hills on the way to Gaudi’s house. Messages on the left read “We know your capitalist paradise” and “We look for the hell of freedom.”

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Graffiti courtesy of the ARRAN Gràcia movement.

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“Fight All Government, There’s No Authority But Yourself”- I think I liked this one the most.

After only a few days in the city, I absolutely fell in love with Barcelona and would recommend an extended stay there to anyone. Let’s all hope things improve for Catalonia and the rest of Spain soon. Such a friendly, beautiful country should never go to waste like this.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. PJK permalink
    May 25, 2013 8:46 pm

    Nice first hand report- looking forward to further thoughts based on your visit.

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