Uncertain Times in Barcelona (16 October 2019)

Regardless of which side you’re on: “Independence or no independence,” the bottom line is that the current situation is negatively affecting the quality of life, as well as the general psyche of the people in Barcelona; and this is occurring in a large scale and impactful way. If you just take into account the time, energy and money being spent on protests and counter-protests, including additional police, security details, and so on, you can appreciate the investment being made in something that is destructive in so many ways. Those funds, efforts, work, and energy being used could easily and best be applied to improving infrastructure, helping the homeless, improving education and so on.

Uncertain Times in Barcelona

Though I still love this city and enjoy walking around, it is very disconcerting to see cops everywhere, hearing wailing sirens, seeing police helicopters hovering overhead, and watching protesters everywhere; even when it is done in a peaceful way. And even though I do not wish to state my personal political views here, what is lacking at this time is a dialogue among all parties, which makes the possibility of a quick and lasting solution untenable. Therefore, at least in the meantime, we have to live with road closures, the airport and train lines being blocked, and, in general, interruptions and/or significant traffic and transit delays.

In general, there are three possible scenarios, plus countless variations for each:

  1. The pro-independence movement simply retreats and is silenced forever, which does not seem likely. Public opinion might change, and the movement might lose or attract followers, but it will certainly not vanish; not since it has been around for hundreds of years.
  2. The central government agrees to hold a referendum, thereby allowing Catalonia’s citizenry to decide whether to stay in Spain or leave it. This is also not so feasible since the risk of Spain losing Catalonia is too great and they need the region. Since 20% of GDP originates in this region, it would be like a drowning person throwing away their life vest.
  3. All parties sit down and have a dialogue. This would make the most sense, but the central government has already said that “independence” is not something that they will discuss. This stand is effectively nullifying any advantage that dialogue might bring.

At present, we are awaiting strikes in two days, which are just the beginning. These strikes are not just for public sector employees or unions, but rather also within the private sector; for anyone who opposes the court’s recent sentences and/or favors independence.  As I was writing this article, the vet office called to say they needed to reschedule our rabbit’s appointment for this Friday, since the vet is participating in the strike. Of course, this is a minor inconvenience, but it is difficult to say how long this will continue and to what extent. The fact that national elections will be held on November 10 does not help the situation.

What could this mean? That is the question that many are asking. It is a given that, at least for the near future, there will be at a minimum some inconveniences; they will range from minor to somewhat complicated. At our daughter’s school, for example, they are canceling bus service during the strikes, since they cannot guarantee to adhere to the drop off schedules for the kids, since the roads may be closed, and/or the drivers may not show up.

Personally, we are invested in this city socially, personally and professionally. Additionally, as I wrote earlier, we love being here. Therefore, we are hopeful this situation will be resolved quickly and in a positive manner. We have no plans to leave, nor would we recommend anyone to do so or, as the case might be, to stop thinking of moving here. It is best at this stage to take things one day at a time and see what the future might hold.

A potential opportunity, which may arise from this situation, is that, at least for the time being, rentals and home prices might drop, since there will likely be less demand. Uncertainty can do that to any market anywhere. Therefore, it might be viable to take the plunge now to buy or rent a home in Barcelona. That said, you would need to tolerate some of the inconveniences I mentioned earlier in this article. It is a risk at least worth visiting; something similar to investing in the stock market. However, such as in the stock market, the investment might pay off handsomely.

All in all, regardless of the current social-political strife, the area offers, and will always offer – barring severe climate change – great weather, attractive geography and friendly, dynamic people. I myself am hopeful that this crisis will make the city stronger in the long run, but that will depend almost entirely on how the situation is handled and how one maintains one’s humanity, empathy, and mutual respect.

Uncertain Times in Barcelona

An Insider’s Guide to Barcelona


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