I felt a great sense of achievement being able to screw my Spanish registration back on to my bike, something that not only means that I can ride legally here, since I pay road tax and insurance in Spain, but also makes my bike blend better with local bikes and therefore is less of a target for thieves. (I had three break-ins in my top case within two weeks when I first came in January – then I started bringing it in with me.)
Now I’m pondering another conundrum, that of racism and the fact that we live in a region of Spain with very strong nationalism. We also happen to live in Gracia, a part of Barcelona which used to be its own town, before Barcelona grew and swallowed it up. It’s now a district within the city. The locals here don’t like foreigners, they think we destroy their Gracia and the signs of this are evident on banners, stickers, signs and loud protests. When we first came to Gracia we knew nothing about this, we simply fell in love with the quirky streets, cosy bars and lovely squares. Then it started to dawn on us, along with the multitude of local festivities celebrated within districts we also noticed the signs saying that foreigners we’re not welcome, and the stickers stating “Tourists go home”.
Because summer is so hot and I want my bike to be parked in the shade as much as possible, I’ve parked it outside the building where we live. It is a narrow street and there the bike only gets a couple of hours scorching sun per day. This is how locals park as well, in Barcelona there are plenty of designated motorbike parking but still there are more bikes than parking spaces so people park their scooters and motorbikes on the side of the streets as well and it’s legal to do so. Next to where my bike is parked is a bar, it is called L’Amistat – which means friendship in Catalan – I find this ironic considering how I was met when approaching them.
It was San Juan, one of many celebrations that involve firecrackers and rowdy partying on the streets. The owners of L’Amistat were preparing a communal dinner, setting up a table on the street outside the bar, and I kindly approached them intending to ask if my bike was in their way and if so I would move it for them. Before even opening my mouth, I was told that the bar was closed, this was followed by the clear message that they didn’t want me or my bike in their neighbourhood and in fact if I left it where it was parked it would be burnt by their fire crackers and they wouldn’t care.
This was shocking, I’ve never personally been exposed to racism and their hostility made me rather upset. This is the street where I live, I pay tax and I contribute to the society just as much as everyone else. I moved my bike for safety – we’ve seen a car burn during another festivity so wasn’t willing to risk it and judging from the loud bangs during the night and the debris on the street the following morning it was fortunate that I had.
Please note that I’m not writing this for people to take pity on me, this is merely a reflection on everyday racism and people who think they have a greater right than others to be somewhere. This was one racist incident and I can only imagine what it does do to people who gets exposed to it every day.