A stage in Plaça Catalunya, Míriam Hatibi in the spotlight speaking up against terrorism as a spokesperson of the muslim community, talking into a microphone. Big screens playing the scene live for those of us who didn’t fit in the square, lost in the crowd and with no eyes on the stage.
An independentist flag, covering the screen right in front of me.
When I left home the other day to go to the Peace Rally in Barcelona, I didn’t expect to return home disappointed. Actually, I was looking forward to it, because I’d missed the official minute of silence they did the day after the attack, I wanted to show my support for the families of those who were killed and everyone else who was injured or affected by it. There was little I could do in a situation like that, nothing I say or think will reach the victims personally, there’s nothing I can give or offer and nothing I can do to help. I thought going to the Peace Rally, adding myself to the number of people who attended, might mean something to those who need to know they aren’t alone after what happened to them or their families.
A Catalan woman yells to a bunch of Spaniards with the country’s flag: “you have the wrong flag!”, she shakes her head in disgust, waving her estelada around for emphasis. “Why do they give out signs in Spanish if we’re in Catalonia?” says another. Someone in the crowd next to me clicks their tongue, “Catalan! Do the speech in Catalan!”, never mind that people all over the country, who only speak Spanish, will probably also want to know what she says. Every time the king or Rajoy appears on screen, the crowd erupts into whistles, booing and chants of “Fora!” (“go away”). The whistles aren’t positive, it’s a piercing high sound that almost hurts to hear, a way to make more noise and drown out any of the president’s words. It’s common enough to whistle when politicians appear that we even have a name for it: “les xiulades”. The Spanish tourists in the crowd look down, share looks of unease, itch their arm in a gesture of discomfort, seeing the force of Catalan independentists in person is a bit of a shock when coming from other areas of Spain where the anti-government feeling isn’t so strong. The problem is when these attitudes don’t translate as only anti-government, but also as anti-Spanish.
Barcelona on the day of the Peace March wasn’t very welcoming to those who live in our same country, the passive-agression aimed towards other Spaniards made even me uncomfortable. This isn’t an anti-separatism comment specifically, especially considering I am also independentist, but there is a time and place for everything and it wasn’t the day for politics. The point of the march was specifically “we all come together to show our desire for Peace”, a moment of unity and all that. Whether we believe that we should be together as a country or not is a topic that had no relevance, because we weren’t together as one or as two countries, but as people. Bringing flags, either Spanish or Catalan, turned it into the typical and tired political fight instead.
At the same time, the Spanish language is not a bad thing. The point of speaking a language is communication, understanding, talking to one another. Knowing how to speak Spanish is an advantage, a tool, an opportunity; it isn’t words tainted by the tongues of our enemies. I speak Catalan most of the time, I take pride in my language because it’s my home, but there is nothing wrong with Spanish. A speech in Spanish, a book in Spanish, a sign in Spanish… they shouldn’t be refused or criticised for existing, especially in a situation like the Peace Rally where many people present don’t speak Catalan. Most of the victims of the attack weren’t even Catalan.
Barcelona wasn’t a Peace Rally, it was a political rally.
As a side note, they had a person on stage translating the speech into sign language next to Míriam Hatibi, but after a couple minutes they cut her out of the screen. Maybe they forgot she was supposed to be included, so that the deaf in the crowd and at home could also hear the speech, or maybe they figured it didn’t matter enough and focusing on Míriam’s face for dramatic effect was more important.