Saturday, August 23, 2014

Talking to tourists

We started giving out electronic copies of What's up with Catalonia? to tourists at Gaudí's spectacular Sagrada Família tourist magnet on Thursday. It's harder than it sounds.

First, you have to get up the nerve to speak to total strangers when the only thing they've heard about people from Barcelona is that we're all pickpockets. We started at the line of people waiting to go in. "Hi, do you speak English?" I tried. Yes, said an older couple. "I've edited a book of essays about Catalan politics," I said, as I showed them the "What's up Card". "No, we're not interested." Oh dear.

My second try was similarly unsuccessful. "Catalan politics" was definitely not the right way to go about it.

My third try was with three women with dredlocks and noserings. I noted an Irish accent. "Hey, do you speak English?" I ventured. They nodded. "We're giving away a book about the Catalan independence process," and I handed her a card. "Oh, you mean like Scotland?" Now, I was getting somewhere.

From there it got steadily easier, and more fun. I got braver, and instead of trying to guess nationalities, I talked to everyone. I explained that we were offering a free copy of the book, pointed up at the Catalan independence flags hanging from balconies on the street, and explained that Catalans just want their voices heard.

"I'm curious," a Dutch woman told me, taking the card. "Thanks." "You used to be part of Spain too," I told her. Her friend laughed.

An older Danish woman warned against violence. I promised her that Catalans are determined to win back their country peacefully, by voting.

Another couple lost no time, telling me pointedly, "We're not interested."

I saw a German couple talking and pointing at the card for several minutes after I left them.

An Ethiopian man told me he lived in Barcelona but didn't know very much about the process. "But they should be able to vote, right?" he told me.

A young couple with English accents said, "you mean like the Scottish?", and somehow it didn't sound quite as positive. I asked them where they were from. Birmingham. What do you think about the Scottish referendum?" I asked. "They can do whatever they want," the man answered with an annoyed expression. I congratulated them on their democracy, and explained that in Spain, Catalans are not allowed to vote on their own future.

When I got home that afternoon, I saw that people had already started to download the book: the first from Cambridge (not sure if it was Massachusetts or England), Seville, Atlanta, GA, Madrid, and Belgium. If you'd like to share Catalonia's story, feel free to come down to the ANC who are helping me distribute the cards (Marina, 315 in Barcelona), print out the cards yourself, or just send the link around. Thanks!

(You can also read this post in Catalan.)

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