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Notes from Barcelona: the latest on the Catalonia question

Last weekend was the first time a protest directly affected me. Driving back into the city from a school field trip, we encountered a traffic jam. I assumed it was rush hour traffic and didn’t worry. However, after 15 minutes had gone by and we had moved mere inches, a feeling of restlessness swept over the bus.

We were, according to our maps, 5 minutes away from our drop-off point. We looked out the windows, and I saw more people than I have ever seen at one time. Hundreds of thousands of people had filled the city to demand the release of eight former Catalan government officials. This was the first pro-independence protest I had seen since the declaration of independence on Oct. 27 and proved that the Catalan independence movement was still going strong.

Some estimated that 1,000 cars had driven into Barcelona that day. Combined with two main streets closing, this had created a huge traffic jam throughout the whole city. 

Despite the strikes and protests, the city is still very busy and touristy areas are filled with people. A few city-wide general strikes have been called, and these can briefly interrupt daily life, but I’m always impressed that most things can go on as normal.

The movement is huge and the desire for independence is strong, but the commitment to being peaceful is even more powerful. It is interesting to compare this movement, the top political drama in Spain, with some of the political debates in the U.S.. In my Spanish class the other day, my teacher brought up the debate over gun control in the U.S. In her opinion, the independence movement would be a lot more dangerous if everyone was allowed to have guns.

I still get most of my news from teachers and the people in my program. Occasionally, I will get notifications from my U.S. CNN app, but only when something really big happens. There is not a lot of coverage of the protests or the minor events in the U.S. news outlets I follow. This is too bad, because what is happening is really a big deal and more people should know what is happening.

The Spanish government has denied the Catalan people their voice and their right to democracy. Even if I believe that Catalan independence is not the right solution, those who are pro-independence deserve the right to express their opinions and vote on issues that are important to them.

At the beginning of the semester, I though the protests would only last until the vote on Oct. 1, and after that things would die down and the protests would fade away. However, the pro-independence movement has been very resilient and people keep pushing for their rights. I am impressed with their determination and it appears that the political unrest will last for the rest of the semester. Although it is hard to predict what will happen, I am confident the Catalan pride will remain strong.

Harper Johnson is graduate of South Eugene High School and former EW summer intern. She is on a study abroad program in Barcelona through Arcadia University and taking classes at Pompeu Fabra University.