I go out on my bike. The streets and squares of my neighborhood in Barcelona are full, teeming with people.
It’s noon, time for grocery shopping, Sunday prose and collecting the kids at school.
The collision of micro-events vibrates at 440 Hz and, suddenly, I realize in a retinal flash a Great Truth: the rue de midi belongs to the elderly.
On this sunny winter day, it is above all they who occupy the many benches along the way.
These are the “iaios”, who gently push their shopping carts, greet each other, some with hats or berets, elegant, standing.
These are the “notices” (grandparents in Catalan), slow and painful gestures, which pick up their grandchildren at the school gate. The elderly here are an active and important part of the family structure, it is very common that they take care of the little ones. Bunito to see.
On this sunny winter day in Barcelona, we all wear a mask, with a few exceptions a few boludo cabrones, which are still around.
“Susanaaaaa! I am stopped by a masked girl. I was bad in appearance, I am even worse on eye exams. “How did you recognize me ?!” “Aaahh, your look is unmistakable”. Brigade, I’ll take that as a compliment. I say goodbye with no idea who it was, both in a hurry from Thursday.
This social buzz in the streets of Barcelona can give the false impression that King Momo is on the loose and the carnival is taking place in the land of the monseñor.
No no no.
Here, as in Portugal and elsewhere, they canceled everything.
Correfoc, fireworks race, pyrotechnic festival typical of Catalonia (Pepe Soriano / Reproduction)
The Barcelona carnival is not as expressive as the feast of Santa Eulàlia, the patron saint of the city, at the same time.
This year, instead of some street events, we have sardanas (typical dances) transmitted by iutubi, virtual tours, an exhibition of costumes and dolls from years past and a video retrospective of castellers and correfocs (fire of artifice, medieval pyrotechnic witchcraft which is one of the things I love the most in this country). Anyway, these boring digitized absurd things.
I understand. This is what we have.
Sardana, dance and music typical of Catalonia (José Luís Navarro / Reproduction) “Castellers”, human castles typical of Catalonia (Reproduction)
Coronavirus infections in Spain have been gradually decreasing over the past two weeks. We now have a rate of just under 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 886 per 100,000 at the end of January.
But that doesn’t mean, at least until March or April, an easing of restrictions (link to).
In a press conference, epidemiologist and government representative Fernando Simón warned, in his already classic vague-cautious style: “We have to be very clear that this is not over; we still don’t have enough vaccines or low enough transmission rates to start relaxing as quickly as possible. “
Official caution is to be expected, given last year’s harsh post-summer lesson, when dropping the guard quickly led to a second wave, then a third, and now a fourth, in which nearly half of the country’s ICU beds are occupied by critical Covid patients.
To complete the cherry pie, Sunday (14) isn’t just San Valentín (the local Valentine’s Day); it is also election Sunday in Catalonia.
This year, the independence debate has left its usual colors to form a large bloc whose only motto is: “all against Illa”.
Salvador Illa, then Spanish Minister of Health, in April 2020 (Sebastián Mariscal / POOL / AFP)
Salvador Illa, a former health minister, left office just under a month ago to enter the race as a local candidate for the Socialists.
Catalan, a native and former mayor of La Roca del Vallès, a mountain pueblecito of 10,000 inhabitants, Illa led the entire 2020 pandemic amid a barrage of criticism over vaccination policies, restrictive measures and the (lack of) sector support during the crisis.
Supported by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (PSOE), candidate Illa has a thankless job ahead of him. Isolated, without the support of local independent parties, all at war with the socialist unionist discourse, it can only cultivate nerves of steel: coming to power would only be the beginning of the trials.
As for old people at first, I remembered a conversation I had recently with an English friend who also lives here.
“The elderly here are happier,” he says. “They take the sun, participate in social life. I see them everywhere; it’s not like in England, where they are all “stuck”. There, she comments, solidarity is lacking. Even the supermarket cashier in the remote town, who knows the last chance for a brief social interaction, has already become a machine …