Grand avenues and bisecting streets cut through Barcelona like a birthday cake. Long, even slices running parallel or perpendicular to the Balearic Sea. From the water's edge, the city rolls lightly over the coast like sea foam. It's L.A., not New York. A sprawling mass, not a towering steel totem.
Due west from city center, atop Rovira's Hill, sits remnants of Spain's grotesque Civil War. Anti-aircraft bunkers and battlements, refashioned later as barracks. Reopened to the public in 2011, tourists and locals alike now climb the steps and walls for arguably the best views of the city. For 2€, a man will sell you a 25 cent beer while you watch sheets of sunlight blanket Barcelona's treetops and roofs. The smell of hash smoke comes free.
The blood hadn't completely dried on Spain's hands, when the world was thrown into a second World War. So dominating a force, and figure, were Hitler and the Nazis, one might forget the devastation General Franco left in Spain. When we speak of war, we often reference numbers, like death tolls, and visualize the destruction in photos of bloodied soldiers or destroyed buildings. Franco's forces supplied all that, indeed, and in some instances (Guernica) he provided a training ground for German and Italian military tactics. But when I think of the Spanish Civil War, I recall the death of poet Federico Garcia Lorca...and the dissolution of one of Spain's greatest literary movements, the Generation of '27. I see the loss of art.
"The Bunkers" viewpoint feels like one of the last brittle pages turned in the delicate, complex, history of modern Spain. When you peer down from its height, towards the nearly completed Sagrada Familia, you sense a culture's maturation. A new identity, a free space from which creation is born without the pain of their grandparents wounds. It's that freedom that's attracted me, and thousands of other immigrants and internationals. In this spirit, Barcelona has become like New York...a city that belongs to the world, not the country in which it resides.