By Craig Davis, Craigslegztravels.com
We were as ignorant as many Americans when we arrived at Barcelona–El Prat Airport.
This was our first visit to Spain. Or so we thought.
We’d studied the guidebooks to learn about the must-see attractions. We’d read about Gaudi and the modernist movement, and were eager to see the creative architecture that it inspired and made Barcelona like no other city.
It became evident on the way to baggage claim, in May 2015, that there was much more to learn. Such as, what was the other language on the airport signs?
Curiously, Spanish was third, below English. But what were the words and phrases on top, Spanish-like but distinctly different?
While waiting in the processing line, a woman returning home set us straight.
As we learned, it’s not a derivative of Spanish, but a language all its own.
That led to ready about Catalonia and understanding it as a separate entity within Spain. Still, it wasn’t until this week that I grasped the strong feelings of many in the region to separate from Spain.
As the conflict regarding the referendum for Catalan independence unfolded over the past week, I grasped the significance of the signs in the airport: not only that the words in Catalan were on top, but that Spanish was relegated to the bottom, below English.
It also brought the realization that the soccer match I was recently involved in covering between BC Barcelona and Real Madrid was much more than the sort of sports rivalry we know of between Yankees and Red Sox or the universities of Michigan and Ohio State.
Amid the tension surrounding the referendum for Catalan independence, FC Barcelona played a match that was closed to fans against fellow Spanish La Liga club Las Palmas.
Even as the world becomes smaller through modern travel and communication, differences have become magnified in so many places. You see it between Russia and Chechnya, as well as in Great Britain’s Brexit and in differences within our own country more vaguely defined between urban and rural.
It was interesting to read comments by visitors from Northern Ireland relating Catalan nationalism to their situation in the UK and expressing support.
As the Catalonian crisis grows, I feel more and more drawn to return to Barcelona, to learn more of its passion and culture rather than to simply view it as a conglomerate of tourist attractions.