Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I find myself at one of those times when there are many different "threads" running around in my head, vying to be considered as blog fodder, but... they all feel a bit background. As if none of them are strong enough to be the backbone of a whole post.

But hey, I like writing this blog, and there are at least a few of you out there who like to read it, so what the hell.

• I continue to be fascinated by "the urban experience". In other words, what it feels like, for me, to be here in a city after so long in the hinterland. And also, how people size each other up in the urban space; how people "read" each other (which ironically sort of just means "make snap judgments about each other"). Much of my interest in this topic tends to break down along the "tourist / non-tourist" divide because, I suppose, I can't quite tell where I fall on that spectrum. Also, there is a vibrant anti-tourism strain running through the public discourse here, which probably adds to my interest in the question.

I find myself highly tuned in to the subtle signs that mark a person as an "outsider," and semi-constantly trying to guess how I am evaluated by others. In some ways (and on some days) I don't care, and in other ways and other days it is of course nice to blend in a little. Especially when this

and this

are very common sentiments.  (Sorry for the horrible picture.. wow it's really hard to take a picture on an escalator! The sticker says "Tourism Kills The City" and features a skull with crossed selfie sticks

If you can manage to avoid wearing stupid sports-related clothing or neon colors and being 80 pounds overweight, the indicators can get a bit more subtle. I find that a person's eye-line, facial expression, and gait can be very good indicators. Basically, if you're walking with a purpose while sporting a serious or preoccupied look on your face, chances are you won't be mistaken for a tourist. It's all very subtle, but endlessly fascinating.

Interestingly, Spaniards don't really wear hats. I've been told that my hats mark me out as a foreigner. So, in light of the fact that I do like hats, this is a choice I have to make on a daily basis - influenced not only by the amount of sun or rain I expect to encounter but also whether I care about "standing out".

• The anti-tourism sentiment is strong. While most parts of the world would kill for some tourist dollars, a few select locations have too much of a good thing. Venice has been pilloried for becoming a theme-park version of it's former actual self (there are no more Venetians in Venice, apparently) and there is genuine fear that Barcelona is heading down the same path. Tourism has grown tenfold in ten years. The new mayor Ada Colau was elected in large part on the strength of her pledges to do something about the problem (HERE is a great interview). Several people I know who have lived here for over a decade are very alarmed and do in fact believe the city is being degraded. Even I can see the difference between the city now and the city I have visited in the past (I can still remember the animal sellers on the Ramblas, gone now in part because they don't fit tourist sensibilities...)

• Cataluña is an interesting place in a historical and cultural sense, because it's a country within a country, and by the looks of things 40% - 50% of Catalans are not too happy about that. Cataluña has its own culture, its own economy, its own flag, and perhaps most importantly its own language. Franco tried to stamp all that out, and while it seemed as if he had some success during those years, it seems more accurate to say that it just went underground. The language is back with a vengeance. Even if your Spanish is really good, you'll still always be something of an outsider in Cataluña if you don't speak Catalan.

There is apparently a referendum coming up in which Catalans will vote on independence from Spain. The vote is not officially recognized by Madrid, and will not have any real effect, as I understand it. It's a strange  time to be here, and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds. This particular sign appeared one day across the metro system, and was gone one or two days later. Hmmm...

This sign has been around, in the metro, for weeks. Clearly, it's a message in favor of "YES, lets divorce from Spain." It's a bit hard to see, but someone wrote "NO" in sharpie below the "Sí", and then someone else erased it.

A typical scene here in Barcelona. Tour groups below multiple different flags and banners in favor of independence. The Catalan flag with the white star on a blue triangle stands for Independence.

Future blog topics
• Urban Filter
• The passage of time, and perception thereof
• The graphic symbol of Barcelona
• My sculptures (which are coming along)

OK, we are off the Venice in less than an hour, to see the Biennale. Hasta la vista

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