My Invisible Country
by, 05-17-2011 at 08:28 PM (2552 Views)
It's a fact, I live in an invisible country. Up until now, I thought it was just invisible to the eyes of foreigners. Whenever I travel abroad, I can't say I am from Catalonia, because it doesn't exist. All I can say is I am from Barcelona, a city I'm not from, and then something lights up in the minds of people, as Barcelona rings a bell either as a Spanish/Mexican city or -to the best informed- as a European city vaguely located somewhere in the South by the Mediterranean Sea, cradle of a well-known blue & crimson soccer team. A theme park designed to appeal both Japanese Gaudí lovers and Brits looking for an English pub after a sunburning day.
1992 was a turning point for Barcelona. The Olympic Games placed a city in the world map, a city that so far had lived facing inland, ignoring the sea. But the native charm of the Catalan capital was soon to become everything but a Catalan capital. A city where one hour an Argentinian waiter can't understand your order in Catalan and you must change into Spanish if you want to be served, while the next hour you speak in Spanish to a Jamaican waitress who happened to speak perfect Catalan. A city where in the morning you dodge Romanian Gypsies skilled in pickpocketing, in the evening you dodge some native creepy trannies after a match behind the Barcelona stadium and you still must dodge at night a Colombian low-cost harlot parade in Syringe Avenue. A city where sangrias are twice more expensive in a tourist street than in the parallel one, and where souvenir stores hide their Catalan items because what tourists expect from Barcelona -who knows why- is a Mexican hat and an Andalusian Gypsy flamenco dress. And for a Catalan, a cent is a cent. A city, all in all, that represents Catalonia when it's the less Catalan city in the country.
My folk could have disappeared as soon as the 17th century, but they decided it was not the time yet. We began to disappear again by the beginning of the 18th century, and Romanticism refreshed some brains well enough so that my folk could grow stronger than ever. Now we may be running into extinction again because of this badly understood globalization. Perhaps, as our brave children climb and fall and climb again to reach the top of our human towers, we must fall a dozen times before reaching the top. The brave are not those who do not fall, but those who stand up after a fall. Perhaps it is a good thing, after all, to be invisible. More visible folks fell down never to rise again. We were Franks and Moors, we've been Aragonese and Occitans, now they say we are Spanish and French... Most people even say my country is a region. But if not to the world, in our hearts we are Catalans, and as long as we believe it, som i serem, we are and we shall be.