I recently witnessed one of the most incredible events I have ever seen. On September 11th, the very same day the citizens of the United States mourn and remember those lost at 9/11, the people of Barcelona verged for something quite different: the independence of Catalonia from Spain.
Upon exiting the metro, I was submerged in a sea of human flesh of red and yellow banners, shirts, and body paint. Drum circles pulsated riling everyone into a unified synchronized oscillation. Rockets flared and screamed through the mess, as people chanted and rallied in demonstration and identify their cultural identity.
All the while, I was reading twitter feed and post updates from friends and family back in the United States reflecting on the tragedy 11 years ago. While they are two complete distinct and separate matters, I think a lot can be learned comparing the two.
At the very heart of it all lies the power of cultural identity. In both cases, the United States and the people of Catalonia have a vivid mindset of who they are, what they are apart of, and what that culture represents. This identity is something people will go to whatever means to protect and defend from outside saturation. The shear raw vigor and passion the Catalalunians demonstrated was so liberating and inspiring.
One of, if not the most fundamental desires of mankind is to be connected; to feel apart of something. When you take that away from someone, when you say that you must submit to another form of ideology that goes against what you believe, it creates havoc. I couldn’t helped but be reminded of the formation of the United States, and how the states rebelled for their succession. Is it any different?
Taxation without representation was the phrase used then, and once again, is a central issue at hand here. Catalan brings in an enormous amount of revenue from tourism, jobs, and historical attractions, yet they see their tax dollars directed toward corrupt government projects that waste away in incompetence.
Secondly, the language identity lies at the crux of how Catalonians identify themselves. Image if Portugal was apart of Spain, but everyone still spoke Portuguese, considered themselves Portuguese, and had their own distinctive historical cultural evolution. This is exactly the same paradox that can be applied to Catalan.
What I took most from this experience is the mindset to fully appreciate your culture and what values it has instilled on you while respecting the ways that are different. Because they are just that, just different. Imagine how boring it would be if we were all the same? The power of the people to unite together under a cause and express their beliefs is a very powerful thing. It can change the very fabric of society. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.