A few years ago when Scott and I were traveling around Europe, we had the extreme delight of spending a week in and around Barcelona, an area known as Catalunya. On our last evening in the city, just before dusk, Scott and I were wandering the streets. We were taking in the last few sites and just savoring every last moment of the city (similar to what we did in London). As what frequently happens in a foreign city, my instincts – and nose – led me right to a patisserie, which just happened to be right in the middle of a church square. Apparently, church-goers love their pastries because patisseries can often be found near churches, similar to pubs in Ireland.
I stopped in the shop to sample a few treats, with Scott perched outside waiting for his surprise and, all the while, taking pictures of my pastry-excursion. A few minutes later, we saw a band beginning to set up in the middle of the square. Oooh, live entertainment! We stood anxiously waiting for the music to begin while eating our new Spanish sweets. The music filled the medium-size square like a breeze on a cool summer night, immediately grabbing the attention of the 100 or so people milling about nearby.
We stood, captivated by the music, and seemed content to stay there all night, listening into the wee hours. But to our surprise, the entertainment had just begun. Right before our very eyes, groups of people gathered and started to form circles in the square. Some circles were small, while others were large. Some of the people seemed to know each other while others were meeting for the first time. As the tempo of the music began the change, the people in the circles threw their belongings in the middle of the circle and clasped hands. Then, the circles began to dance! Each circle of newfound friends danced in a similar fashion, kicking their feet and lifting their arms in a choreographed routine. For more than 20 minutes, the music kept playing and the people continued to dance.
As I watched the many groups dancing, I felt like an outsider looking in. I wanted so much to be a part of a circle, to be a part of a culture with so much history and one with so little inhibition that it can just spontaneously dance in a town square. But something told me it wasn’t right to intrude; it wasn’t right to assume I would be welcomed into their circle. Although Barcelena could easily feel like home to me, it wasn’t my home, it wasn’t my culture. It was their culture and I needed to respect their traditions. I realize now, that was the wise thing to do.
We later learned that the community dance we witnessed is the Sardana, a traditional and very patriotic dance among the Spanish Catalan culture. Years ago, when Franco was dictator of Spain, he saw the Catalans as a threat. He imposed many laws that stifled the language, traditions, and cultural practices of the Catalan people. After his reign, the Sardana began to symbolize pride and unity among the Catalan people and a break from Fraco’s rule.
I remember and love so many things about Barcelona – the architecture, tapas restaurants, and the famous Las Ramblas. But one thing I will never forget is the dancing!