My name is Anna He Baker and I am in the class of 2022 with a Government and Philosophy Major and a Spanish Minor. I am from Memphis, TN, but have lived in China for 5 years. The generous travel enrichment grant that I received from the Weaver and Nicolais Family allowed me to conduct my research while studying abroad in Madrid, Spain from Fall 2019 to Spring 2020.
I spent the fall and winter of 2019 in Barcelona, Catalonia, the restless city of art and culture, and Vigo, Galicia, a small seaport surrounded by preserved islands. Since I have been to the autonomous regions of China – Hong Kong and Macau – I have always been fascinated at independence movements and the struggle for a separate identity within the same nation. While China is known for its authoritarian government, Spain is known for its young and representative multiparty democracy. So, in Galicia and Catalonia, two of four historical regions that have previously held their own autonomy, are still grasping their own identity as to what it means to be Spanish or Catalan or Galician.
I went to Barcelona to experience first-hand the attuned modernity of historical sentiments woven with politics, sports, art, and economic development. With limited knowledge about sports and especially soccer, at a FC Barca game, I learned that Catalans wait for the guards to leave and then let down a banner demanding freedom and separation from the Spanish government. Also, at the 17 minute and 34th second of the game, the Catalans chant together their national anthem commemorating the year that the Spanish government took over. Therefore, soccer being a significant part of their culture, shows that clubs are more than clubs, and that sports and politics are inseparable, with sports being a vehicle to reach a wider and global stage to demand their independence. In addition, many museums, art galleries, and exhibits publicly extend their support to their workers to protest for Catalonia’s liberation. Much resentment towards Franco’s era and the recognition of Catalonia’s history as separate and individual from the rest of Spain can be found in their museums. At the Castell of Montjuïc, a historically significant castell set on the seaport of Catalonia, many Catalan political prisoners were imprisoned there under Franco’s regime. Being a seaport, Barcelona provided much economic trade and development for the rest of Spain. However, Catalans hold the sentiment of Franco’s treatment towards Catalans as cruel and unforgettable. They place heavy emphasis on the battles fought against Franco’s Spain and the when the Spaniards first conquered Catalan.
In contrast to Barcelona, Vigo is a small quiet town. Although a seaport too, Galicia has had a significant amount of migration from Galicia to other parts of Spain. They had a whaling industry that boosted their tourism, but after the international band on whaling, Galicia lost its whaling prosperity, leaving many workers and families to move elsewhere for work. The town slowly lost its population, leaving small churches and art galleries to be nothing more but converted to tiny tourist designations that often go unknown without one deliberately searching for them while wandering through the narrow streets. Since they are small, most of the signs and pamphlets are only in Galician, occasionally there is Spanish. Many Galicians that I have met in Galicia, are proud of their heritage and food and fear that their children will slowly stop speaking Galician and only adapt to Spanish. They’re protective of their culture and fear assimilation, therefore, when possible, they prefer to speak in Galician. Many menus, public transportation, and food first label Galician before Spanish. The most convenient method of public transportation is by boat, and off the coast are a series of uninhabited islands called Las Islas Cíes that are limited to the public. Thus, the sand is soft and clean and is regarded as one of the nicest islands in Spain. Galicians are proud to have a beautiful and natural scenery in Spain.