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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Barcelona, Barça, Barcelonés

Pictures can be found on my picture page to the left. I have had problems taking pictures here because the computer I brought along can't download my photos. I have to go to an internet cafe and do it there which is a bit of a hassle and I don't have time to monkey with them.

You will often see Barcelona abbreviated as Barça, which is from Catalan which uses a “ç” like an “s.” They don’t lisp this sound as is done in Castilian Spanish. Someone from Barcelona is called a Barcelonés or Barcelonesa. Just in case you were wondering.

Along La Rambla, the main pedestrian path in Barcelona, the street performers are as numerous as they are mediocre: not much to see and little reason to stop and watch. In the Ciutat Vella, or the old city, the street musicians seem to be of the highest caliber. Maybe they are the only ones who get permits to play in this part of the city. I don’t know how it works; I just know that it sounds better. There are a couple of Brazilian guitarists that are very good and their music echoes well along these narrow streets. They are definitely worth at least a few minutes of you time as you wander around. As long as you are just lost anyway you may as well listen to some great music.

There was a group of Cuban musicians playing just of the square in front of the cathedral off of the Avenue Portal de L’Angel. This busy shopping thoroughfare funnels thousands of people into the old city and many were stopping to check out the great Cuban music coming from a couple of guitars and vocalist. I think they had a couple of ringers in the audience who were trying to get people to dance, guys who really knew how to dance to this stuff. They weren’t having much luck inducing the crowd to mambo. If musicians this talented were playing anywhere in Latin America or Miami, everyone in the square would have been dancing, even the dorky white folks, even the Scandinavians—the dorkiest of the white folks, or at least the whitest.

La Vanguardia is the name of one of the main Barcelona daily newspapers; a cool name for a newspaper. I’ve never read it before so I picked one up on the bar top as I was having a coffee. I came across quite a few articles that I wanted to read later so I asked the bartender if I could buy the paper from him. It was about 8:30 in the evening and a lot of kiosks would be closed. He told me I could have it so I carried it with me to the Plaza Diamant near my apartment. I found an empty park bench and began a more careful reading of La Vanguardia.

I came across an interesting article by Albert Manent lamenting the loss of the formal usted form of the personal pronoun for “you.” I have always found this an interesting topic since I first learned about formal and informal address when I started learning French in the 10th grade. The author says that with the loss of the formal pronoun and young people addressing their elders with the informal “tú” form it means a loss of gradations in the language and imposes a forced egalitarianism. I’m all for treating elder with respect but I think there is a better way to do that than with this awkward split in the use of the personal pronoun, and I’m all for egalitarianism—forced or otherwise.

One thing about reading a newspaper on a park bench in Spain that you have to remember is that it’s like being at a baseball game: Fans must be aware that balls and bats may enter the seating area. As I read the pages of La Vanguardia with one eye, I kept the other on the ball being bounced around the square by four young hoodlums. On two occasions I had to raise a foot to fend off an errant attempt on the goal, which for the sake of this makeshift pitch was the door of an underground parking garage. A woman took a seat next to me and she also had to block a ball. She used her hands and I had to remind her that as we were midfielders (being equidistant from the two goals), we were only allowed to use our feet and head.

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