Personifying a city that has a rich history
Romans would call her Barcino, but we all call her Barcelona. That's what comes to my mind before I pick up my luggage. It was time for me to come visit her after 10 months living with a different smell. I don't smell the cinnamon whiff that Canada has been giving me during these last months — that is now a thing of the past.
I lift my head up I can already feel the stickiness of the heat sitting on my temples. I don't know if I'm excited to be back or sad.
That's what Barcelona is to me: a sense of love and hate. What an irony she is. She witnessed my successes and my failures, my achievements and my disappointments. She embraced me with her mountains, her ocean and her gastronomy, but equally with her poverty, eagerness and frustrations: the good and the bad, the black and white. Generous when I left her, superb when I came back.
Thousands of tourists must be on patios ordering their first cervezas, probably thinking they have sweaty hands, but the natives know that it's just humidity, ready to stick to your skin until the first brown leaf leaves the tree in the Fall. The same humidity that bathes the Sagrada Familia — still busy welcoming strangers with cameras – is the same humidity that waters the road in Las Ramblas.
She's got that magic, that delicious poison that makes you want to stay in her forever.
Barcelona speaks for herself
The airport doors open and I see them crying. My mom hugs me and her touch smells like, "I've missed you." My dad, still trying to stay strong cannot do it anymore, he starts breaking down in tears when he knows it is his turn to show how much he missed me.
We're driving home from the airport and I suddenly think of how I almost forgot how Barcelona looked. My city is an amazing storyteller. She tells of how her buildings survived a rain of bullets in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Let me tell you the story about the dictator who tried to destroy the Catalan language.
Her language, her main tool, was being taken away within the civil war. The cry for anindependent Catalonia needed Barcelona to be the voice of the people, and the centre of a thousand year old culture and kingdom.
She's patient. She knows when to act. She gathered her people and mobilized them around the city, says my dad while driving and recalling some strikes he took part in. He told me that Barcelona knew unity creates strength. At that point –he says while lighting up a cigarette – she would smell like black powder.
Barcelona keeps writing her history as I pass by her streets, and you have to know why.
She is reminding me how she nodded to censorship in the '50s and how she made a mockery of this dictator, who tried to seduce Germany's worst leader in the '40s. Not only was Barcelona forced to laugh at Hitler's jokes, but also had to incorporate German musical scene on her culture.
We're now driving close to El Liceu, Barcelona's main theatre.
And, very smoothly, the theatre winks at me, as an eternal accomplice, while the Catalan anthem starts to play, demonstrating its power, its identity built up thousands of years ago.
By a desperate stroke, she felt in need to cut herself clear of entanglements when the war period was over. Therefore, I can feel her smile when she uses her language, Catalan, to name her shops, her institutions and her streets. She's witnessed nine decades of changes, colours and smells.
However, Barcelona exudes a different scent today. She now smells like a new book that you just unwrapped. She feels renewed and liberated. The sun and the wind look amazing on her. Barcelona looking gorgeous, brave and European today.
But, at heart, she's not Spanish anymore.
The oppression made her stronger
She is not the only one occupying the country though. Her neighbouring provinces also went through the war, even though they were not as oppressed as Barcelona was. Nowadays, no one is supporting her and everyone says she will be in trouble if she becomes independent.
The main reason for this relies on money. Catalonia is the main source that supplies Spain's financial needs, and Spain is trying to keep Catalonia on its side. Barcelona is desired, but she is not loved anymore.
She is acting like the adolescent who's been repressed for a long period of time and now is freeing herself. She is fighting for her identity, and she does not care about who is getting in the way. Barcelona stares at other provinces while they make fun of her for her will to be independent. But she feels the power of her heritage, culture and language. Those mocking her and getting her money don't know yet of how capable Catalonia is of raising its own country.
Not all that glitters is gold
If you have visited Barcelona before, let me get rid of your expectations by warning you that she's changed. She's got the power and she feels brave. Avarice and greed have taken over. Her will for freedom has evolved in such a strong way that she does not listen to anyone. She's building her own path by removing what has been bothering her.
Barcelona talks to me knowing she is my happiness and my sadness. She strikes me as someone who loved me once and took care of me so much that it wouldn't be wise to stay in her anymore. I would be asking too much.
I can't ask her to be like she was before. All she gave me she did it with generosity. We loved each other so much that we have to live separated in order to not spoil our history together. I'm okay with that, and with the cinnamon smell of Canada that reaches me when I return.
- By INGRID MIR