Barcelona: Where are you headed?

I remember that in the 1980s they published a collection of books titled "Barcelona: Where are you headed?" The books, conversations about the city and its future, presented the problems that were confronting a city in a crisis of low self-esteem, and possible ways to find the silver chalice. These problems, in part, persist thirty years later, in spite of the lights and shadows of the Olympic Games, which positioned Barcelona on the world stage and gave it a modern sheen that is highly valued from an aesthetic point of view.

Barcelona is a fashionable city, and fashions have the danger of suffering from the imperfections of their prêt à porter garments, if they are not well stitched. Barcelona's imperative need to survive in a world with a surplus of large cities has led the Catalan capital to choose the easy road of low-cost tourism as a quick way to produce numbers in the black at the end of the political year. An Instagram city that leaves tourists in ecstasy when seeing picture postcard views, yet, like a "belle noiseausse", leaves some Barcelona residents saturated, fed up that Gaudí, Barça, the Rambla de les Flors, and the cuisine remain the only cards in a fixed sleight of hand. That's very little to a city that wants to become one of the leading capitals of southern Europe.

All cities have structural and existential deficiencies, and Barcelona suffers from a certain case of cultural rickets, in contrast with the opulent storefronts of the Passeig de Gràcia. The lack of an offering that would make Barcelona a worldwide cultural reference is difficult to solve with money controlled by too-centralized mentalities, but impossible to resolve without being a real capital, a capital with decision-making powers-- not subject to the old-fashioned courtly traditions of the Spanish government. I agree that creators are culture's driving force, but without real, not secondary, political and economic power, Barcelona is doomed to be the star in a low-budget movie.

This complex situation has meant that many nostalgic people take advantage of the situation and define Barcelona as a provincial city. Nostalgic in that they confuse cosmopolitanism with the language used to express culture, thus showing a very low regard for creators. These nostalgic people are usually the cultivated children of a middle class that was friendly with Franco-ism, that accepted the Catalan language as an endearing, almost archeological, curiosity, but which ended up confusing language with cosmopolitanism when it saw itself cut off from a metropolitan power of which it thought itself lord and master. A city is no more or less relevant because of the language it speaks. Barcelona is and will be more or less cosmopolitan based on the desires of its citizens, whether they speak Catalan or Spanish, English or Occitan, French or Lapao. And the quality of those desires is intrinsically related to the willingness of politicians to serve the people.

You don't need to be a megalopolis to be cosmopolitan. And in no way do we have to lose our roots to have a universal identity. Quite the opposite. Barcelona, a fantastic example of integration, fusion, capacity for absorption, and inventive creation, is a city in danger of seeing these expansive desires put on the shelf unless it takes advantage of the political context in which it finds itself today. Investments are lacking, the dirty game that the central government is playing in favor of Madrid is insulting, and the politicians who have never governed beyond an increasingly emaciated autonomy lack a grand State-level vision.

Despite the endemic problems of Spain and Catalonia, anything is possible with a 9 November on the horizon that is more paradoxical than paradigmatic. Fortunately, since the ruling against the Catalan Statute, Barcelona has managed to place itself at the head of a political movement that has united cities, towns, and villages of an entire territory without significant mistrust of centralization. With its specific influence, Barcelona must assume this leadership unapologetically.

It's not a tragedy to ask "Barcelona: Where are you headed?" from time to time, if there are effective answers. Whoever imagines a future Barcelona, capital of a supposed independent Catalonia, free of sins and without structural or existential deficiencies, is fooling themselves. Constant doubts are a part of cyclothymia --a mild form of bipolar disorder--, and Barcelona, the capital of sense and outburst, is profoundly cyclothymic. This is a quality that can bring about depression, if it is not channeled in the right direction.