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Journal 15 - Granollers and Barcelona

March 03, 2006

Gallery 5
gallery 5
On Januray 22, I took a 10 hour train ride across the country to the city of Barcelona. My two host brothers from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Marcos and Miguel, have been living and working there for a number of months, and I thought it would be a good time to visit and catch up with them.

I met Marcos and his future brother-in-law Orlando at the central train station, and we rode together from there around 40 minutes to their town of Granollers. On the train we began to share our stories from the last year and half since we’ve last seen each other. In short, the relationship that he was in while I was in Bolivia ended not too long after I left, and he became interested in Silvia, from Montero, who had lived in their house at one point to study in the city of Santa Cruz. Her brother Orlando, his wife Cilena and children Jonathan, 12, and Jennifer 10, had been living in Granollers for around a year and Marcos and Silvia decided they should take advantage of that connection to travel to Spain. Orlando and Cilena’s goal in Spain is to earn money within a number of years to return and buy a house in Santa Cruz. Similarly, Marcos and Silvia would like to save money for a house in Bolivia, but Marcos also has interest in taking some courses in video production to continue in the work he had been doing before leaving the country.

Silvia left last fall, and in order to do some “tourism,” her brother’s family sent her to the Spanish Mediterranean island of Mallorca, where she spent a week for 300 euros. Marcos came a month or so later, also as a tourist, and within a few months, his brother Miguel followed. Silvia and Cilena have been working with cleaning homes, Marcos and Orlando work construction and Miguel works in a furniture factory. Each have their stories of trying to settle in, finding places to stay and jobs with decent employers and fair pay. When I arrived, Marcos, Silvia, and Miguel were living in an apartment around the block, but they moved in with Orlando’s family at the end of February to keep costs lower.

I stayed in Orlando’s family’s place for the week, and really enjoyed getting to know another Bolivian family. Even in Spain, they showed me that the cruceño motto still applies: Es ley del Cruceño la hospitalidad, The Cruceño’s rule is hospitality. It was refreshing to hear an accent I understood, eat cultural foods I recognized, be with two familiar faces and others who seem like they easily could be old friends too.
My first evening Marcos took me down the street to the locutorio where he makes his calls to his parents for 15 cents a minute. Walking into the store, one recognizes immediately that the neighborhood is full of immigrants. There were half a dozen African faces playing checkers and listening to Bob Marley, and signs all over the wall about phone call and money transfer rates to Latin American and African countries. It was wonderful to make the call to Santa Cruz and hear the voices of Don Tito and Yolanda on the other side. They were really glad to catch up too and also glad to hear from someone they trust that their sons are alright and have enough to eat.

During the days while the others were at work and the children in school, I went into Barcelona by train to visit the downtown and the sites. They say Barcelona is maybe the most southern European city, with lots of similarities with Paris. As the capital of the Catalonia region, the Catalán language symbols represent pride in their nation are ever present. The Catalan nation still is in conversation with Spain, desiring to be an independent state, but it doesn’t appear like that would happen anytime soon.

Barcelona is a tourist city, a port city, an Olympic city. One of its special features is its arts, especially Antoni Gaudí’s famous buildings, including the Sagrada Familia cathedral still under construction. There are museums celebrating the works of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and the National Museum of Art. Around the National Museum of Art is the Fira de Barcelona which holds significant international conferences regularly. On my last day in the city, the Fira’s staff was in gear putting up tents, building temporary display buildings, hanging signs and so on for the Alimentaria conference on foods. They said it should bring in around 150,000 professionals, of which maybe 90,000 are internationals.

While the Barri Gotic has lots of history, and the Rambla has interesting shops, I found the park Montjuïc to be the most enjoyable part of Barcelona. The park sits on a hill in the southeastern part of the city and hosts the primary Olympic buildings and several public gardens. At the top of the mount sits an old castile with a beautiful view of the port, the city, and the surrounding mountains.

In the evenings I would return to Granollers and relax with my friends. On Saturday and Sunday, I helped some as we moved Marcos and Silvia’s things over to Orlando’s apartment. Monday was a day off from school celebrating Carnaval, so I spent some time with the Jonathan and Jennifer. They favorite thing by far is playing video games, and I couldn’t count how many laps our four wheelers made that day.
When I said my goodbyes on Wednesday morning, we all said that the next time we would meet would be in a few years in Bolivia once again. I boarded my train at 11:30 and spent the rest of the day traveling to Cádiz.