June 18, 2019 | 72° F

Catalonia's beauty can't be silenced, even after a troubled fight for independence: OverKnight Voyager


Hola! As I travel through the Strait of Gibraltar, I bring news of my sights and experiences in Spain. Though I wasn’t there long enough to get a complete picture of what the country is like, Spain is a physically and culturally beautiful country that can't help but leave an impact, even in the midst of political turmoil. 

As I walked around Barcelona, our first port in Spain, I noticed signs hanging from buildings and balconies displaying the word “Si,” the Spanish and Catalonian word for "yes," promoting the desired response to the referendum vote that took place on Oct. 1. Barcelona is the capital city of the region known as Catalonia, a part of the country that has been fighting for independence from Spain for years. 

The Catalonian people have a cultural identity and language that they consider separate from the rest of Spanish culture and want to be recognized as a self-sustaining country. Independently, Catalonia would have an economy the size of Portugal, a large portion of the Spanish tourism industry and the region bailed out poorer parts of the country with their higher tax revenue in Spain's last financial crisis, according to The New York Times.

Catalonia voted for independence in 2014, but the Spanish courts and officials in Madrid have long been against this move. There was another vote for independence on last Sunday of this year, but Madrid continues to say that the vote is illegal. The future of Catalonia's autonomy has implications not only for Spain but for the entire European Union.

Located on the mountainside is the religious location of the Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine abbey. The entrance to the basilica is a set of small and unassuming black doors, but the interior houses a large and beautiful church, home to the Virgin of Montserrat. The statue of the Virgin Mary can be seen from the church pews, but people can go up to the statue and kiss her as well.

Lining the hall were lanterns, pews, statues of various saints and patterned designs inlaid in the walls. Visitors remained in the back of the church as locals and other churchgoers sat in the front for the church service. The basilica had an atmosphere of hushed reverence, well-fitting among the serenity of the mountainside landscape itself.

Another landscape of serenity was found in the Jardínes del Túria in Valencia, a beautiful port city with lots of life, greenery, beaches and architecture. The Jardínes del Túria is a large public park running through the heart of the city. In this park, I saw sports fields, playgrounds and different kinds of trees and flowers, as well as people who were playing games, jogging or just enjoying the sunny weather. Imagine a miles-long version of Voorhees Mall on a warm spring day.

I also went to a Valencian beach near the port, where there was an array of beachfront shops selling local food. When thinking of Spain, one of the main traditional foods that comes to mind is paella, and there’s no place better than Valencia to try it. It’s a traditional rice dish cooked with seafood and vegetables, but I was able to get a vegetarian version, definitely one of the highlights of my trip — not to mention the dulce de leche flavored gelato that followed for dessert.

My time in Spain felt multifaceted in that it was simultaneously familiar and foreign. The cities I visited were in many ways similar to cities in the United States but with their own cultural flare, traditions and expectations. Like most countries, Spain has a lot of deep history that continues to affect its current politics and way of life, and I still have much to learn about the country’s immense amount of heritage and beauty.

Madhu Murali

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