By Regina Winkle-Bryan
So Spain won the World Cup for the first time ever yesterday, on Sunday, July 11th. Many of the players on the Spanish team, are from Catalonia, a part of the peninsula that wishes to separate from Spain and become its own country. The day before the big win, on Saturday July 10th, there was an enormous protest in Barcelona, where an estimated 56,000- 1,100,000 (quite a difference in numbers!) people turned up turned up to support nationalist and separatist politics. Many politicians were present among the masses, including the President of Catalonia, Jose Montilla.
The protest was in support of the Estatut, a sort of bill that would allot Catalonia more freedom from Spain, however it does not grant independence. During the march, which lasted for hours, protesters waved Catalan flags and ‘independencia’ was the most popular protest cry according to El Mundo ( independencia’ meaning independence from Spain for all of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands).
This is all fine and good, but I must admit also shocking considering the huge change in sentiment the very next evening. It is not common in Barcelona to see balconies decorated with Spanish flags. Instead, people fly the Catalan flag, its red and yellow stripes blowing in the Mediterranean wind. Even those who might like to fly a Spanish flag usually don’t, because it would not, for the most part, be well received by the Barcelonese.
However, as soon as Spain looked like a strong contender for taking home the prize in South Africa, there were Spanish flags everywhere. As of yesterday my neighborhood could have easily been mistaken for one in Madrid with all this Spanish patriotism! What the hell is going on?!, I thought to myself. And then I remembered: Everyone likes a winner.
Yesterday evening, the streets of Barcelona were dead. Everyone and his mother were in the bar watching the match. A few of us went to our local spot and while we viewed the game the bar played ‘Viva Espana’ on the iPod mix. Last night, Spanish, Catalans, Basques and Gallegos put politics aside to root for Spain as one strong country. We cheered communally from Bilabo to Barcelona. I love the ‘let’s all get along’ attitude, and at the same time, it seems a bit cheap. How can folks march under a nationalist flag for Catalonia on Saturday and cheer for Spain the next? Am I the only one who feels a bit confused?
Everyone likes a winner.
And let’s face it. Spain, of late, is not a winner. Over 4 million people are unemployed here. At the beginning of the month taxes went up to 18% and all civil servants took at least a 5% pay cut. More tightening of the belt is sure to follow. Spain, sadly, is a bit of a mess. People are broke, people are worried, people pissed off (causing tension to rise and more racist acts), people all over the country are losing. They are losing their homes, their jobs and their hope. This is why yesterday was important. Finally, a win. A win for Spain.
Yesterday, people took their mind off losing, and relished in the joy of being winners. Not just in Spain, not just in Europe, but the World-Wide-Winners. In Barcelona, where I live, there were parties of monumental proportions in the streets and squares. The evening ended with 21 arrests and over 70 injuries. There were no deaths, which is a relief. 75,000 people gathered to celebrate on Av. Maria Cristina alone, which is more than the total number of protesters who came out for the Estatut, depending on whose numbers you go by.
Party-goers burnt trees, obstructed traffic, threw fireworks at police, cheered, drank, and had a great time. The Barcelona police force broke things up about 3am. Walking home last night, people were crazed with happiness. Half the population was waving a Spanish flag, wearing the Spanish flag as a cape, wearing the Spanish team’s jersey or simply screaming, ‘ESPANA!’ at the top of their lungs. All this flag accessorizing impressed me, because at Saturday’s protest, Spanish flags were burnt by the C.U.P. Saturday’s villain is Sunday’s hero.
So I say enjoy the rush Espana, because this great win will not solve the larger issue here, which is that we are screwed.
I wonder: If the good people of Spain put as much energy into fixing the economy as we did into watching and celebrating the World Cup, would we be able to pull ourselves out of the mess we are in? Did this win really help to unite Spain, or will all be forgotten in a week? Will Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Joan Capdevila be chided for wearing the Spanish jersey when they received the World Cup trophy, or will this slight to their homeland be overlooked? And finally, after watching the events of the last three days, how am I suppose to take sports and politics seriously? I am not sure I ever did to begin with.
Photos of man in cape : dbking