Barcelona, Be Loved
There are view places in the world that live up to their own hype in the way that Barcelona does. There is simply no way to understate its beauty and majesty. Seated promptly on the northern coast, this former Roman colony offers everything one could wish to explore. From its topography, it boosts both beaches, mountains and lush green space. Its architecture is world-renowned. This is thanks mainly in part to the work of Antoni Gaudí--the amazing Catalonian architect.
While I was only in Barcelona for a short time, it left an indelible impression on me. One that I had been waiting for while I was living in Madrid. There is a certain level of romanticism and whimsy attached to Barcelona that is difficult to find in any other place. This is what makes it the touristic and cultural center of Spain. It is also what makes it such an easy target.
A New Normal
While I was living in Spain from September 2015 to May 2017, there were at least ten different terror attacks around Europe. The first one was the Paris attack in November 2015. I remember that all the foreigners I knew were a bit taken aback. We all in the midst of finalizing our winter plans. Much of which included traveling around Europe. We called our loved ones, shook our heads and followed the lead of the Spaniards. We kept on living.
The next one that caught my attention was the attack in Berlin on December 19, 2016. I had spent a year dreaming of visiting the Christmas markets in Germany. And in two weeks time, I was all set to touch down in Munich. It was a bit frightening, but not much. In the year since the Paris attacks, there had been four more in Brussels, Nice, Berlin, and Normandy. By this point, the threat of terrorism was just white noise in the normal minutiae of life.
While there seemed to be chaos all around, I have to admit, I felt inoculated to it. Why? Because none of these attacks had occurred in Spain. France had been hit at least four times, London three times, and Germany at least twice. But not in Spain, there were no terrorist attacks in Spain.
That was not to say that there was no racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia in Spain. There was. It was also unfair to say that it was due to a lack of Muslims in the country. That was also untrue. However, I naively thought that the shared history of the Moorish colonization of Spain, the Reconquista, and the Spanish Inquisition gave Spain a different vantage point on Islam. And the lack of attacks convinced me that therein lied an uneasy and unspoken truce.
Clearly, I was wrong. Wrong in the most profound and intense way. And that realization was just a big of a shock as the incident itself. While I was thousands of miles away in New Jersey on a treadmill when I heard the news, it felt so close. So personal.
Perhaps because, almost exactly a year before, I had walked down Las Ramblas with my Mom during her first trip to Europe. It was where we took the Metro to return to our Airbnb. It was where we shared many meals. And from Las Ramblas we walked to the marina so that she could view the Meditteranean Sea for the first time.
Or perhaps it was because Barcelona was my lifeline back to the "real" world. It was the first stop from my home in Menorca to anywhere else I wanted to go. I set off from Barcelona to places where the real danger lie.
It was also a place where something like this wasn't supposed to happen.
To be honest, I don't know what is next at this point. I will return to Spain in a matter of weeks. I am excited, yet a little weary. Two weeks ago, I thought that my biggest issue would be finding an apartment, not the threat of terrorism.
I don't know what to do about an issue that is so much larger than myself, but I know that I'll keep moving forward. Nothing is promised to us in this world. And unfortunately, in this world, that includes safety. So, we keep moving, marching and pushing forward. All the while saying to those we've lost, be loved.
So in this spirit, I say to you, oh dear one:
Barcelona, Be loved.