When I see the protests in Catalunya, I instantly flash back to the bullfights I observed in Blanca. Here, the Mossos vans are the bulls, and the Catalan protestors are the wily matadores. Are the police too brutal? Yes. Should an old woman be beaten for casting a ballot in the Catalan referendum? No. But still, the protestors carry an air of cocky recklessness that reminds me of the costumed fighters I saw a few months ago. It is a ceremonious, macho energy that I don’t fully comprehend.
Just as a bullfight is confined to an arena, the Catalan protests are confined to the night. It almost seems as though the protestors and police have made a pact to only fight between the hours of 9:00 PM and 12:00 AM. The days here are normal, save for the occasional peaceful march through the streets. At night, all hell breaks loose. It is a controlled chaos, a collective yearning for something to do. A need to fight, to provoke, to feel adrenaline surging through the veins. An excuse to wear black from head to toe, and handkerchiefs over the lower halves of their faces. To wear the costume of a collective purpose…
From the outside, it seems to be a game of chicken. The protestors set fires in the streets, just as matadores wave the muleta. The vans come, and the adolescent boys wait, wait, wait…..then AAAAAAHHHHHHH! exchanging exhilarated smiles are they run away, panting and gasping and searching for the next trash bin to ignite.
Bullfights are never without risk. However, this risk is negligible to the matador. Spain will never fully oppress the Catalans – hell, when I was in Barcelona the protestors were drinking and smoking and chatting around their trash fires – and the Catalans know this…so they experience the aliveness of the game while it lasts.