Barcelona Letter: Many Catalans are less than enthusiastic for a divorce from Madrid
Barcelona was the first city in Spain I ever visited, back in 1973.
The great Catalan capital was then resisting the dying clutches of the Franco dictatorship. I remember the menace of soldiers in coal-scuttle helmets, goose-stepping at the bottom of the Ramblas, rain pelting down, the streets barely lit.
But I also remember, much more vividly, the rich odour of history and culture that oozed from every worn stone of the adjacent medieval Gòtic Barri. I would, of course, have had to call it the Barrio Gótico in those days – had I been rash enough to ask a policeman for directions.
The Catalan language was no longer illegal, but its public use, especially by a foreigner, was still regarded with intense hostility by the regime.
Coming back four decades later, after a complete absence of nearly 20 years, it is good to find that the Gòtic Barri can still exercise its old magic.
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