TERRORISM IN BARCELONA: La Bella Ciutat de dol The beautiful city in mourning

In a previous article, I commented on the pleasure of being in the balmy city of Barcelona, located in the north-eastern coast of Spain.  Through its enduring sunny climate with ambient temperature all year round, this place is, for sure, the real getaway for millions of tourists from all over the world.  I have that vivid memory of being in the Placa Catalunya that drives all people down the Las Ramblas, a long walkway leading to the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.  Back in May this year, I observed Catalan policemen, roaming around that place with automatic rifles, checking any suspected behaviour from some people trying to cause harm and casualties at any time. During my stay, I remained peaceful with the thought that Spain might be spared terrorism although its capital, Madrid, was attacked back in 2004 causing a heavy death toll of more than 190 people.  I thought that Spain’s slight retreat in the war against terrorism could make it a safe haven.  By the way, brochures including the valuable ‘Trip Advisor’ considered Barcelona as the safest city in Europe with some petty theft, low rate of criminality but it understated the threat of terrorism.
A cosmopolitan place
For any traveller, Barcelona remains a cosmopolitan place with various ethnic groups living in the different quarters. There is a Chinese community residing in the vicinity of the Barcelona metro station, Indians and Pakistanis residing in the Gothic quarter of the city, and numerous people from Eastern Europe living in the city centre while richer people from the mainland prefer the outskirts of the city.  Recently, with the wave of immigrants flocking Europe, one might see Eritreans or Somalians strolling around the seaport undertaking the hard task of being porters and handlers of goods disembarked in the busy port.  Recently, the Catalonian government decided to better embrace diversity by moving around neighbourhoods and see how to better integrate foreigners in their new milieu.  Seen from a television report from TF1 broadcast not later than last Sunday, it could be seen that there were prospects for integrating foreigners in the Catalonian culture with people learning and speaking their new language without difficulty.  So far, cultural blending was overt implying that Barcelona was just a mile away from terrorism.
Las Ramblas, the Chaussée Street of Barcelona
Anybody visiting Barcelona cannot miss its fantastic attractions like the Sagrada Familia Church that looks magnificent even if work is still in progress, the Gaudi Park, numerous museums and particularly the Placa Catalunya that could be similar to the Cathedral Square in Mauritius.  This place overlooks the Mediterranean Sea in the southern direction which is a mile or so long. It is similar in appearance to the Chaussée Street in Port Louis with pedestrian spaces in the centre.  This is a place of call for any tourist with a changing background over the hours.  In the morning, a few Somalians stand for some time to sell souvenirs for a mere Euro before the police patrols in.  When the sun rises, local sellers arrange their stands to sell the morning newspapers.  At noon, when the crowd strolls in Las Ramblas, souvenirs and effigies of the famous Barcelona team in its blaugrana stripes are bargained.  The spirit of Catalonia revives through the glowing colours of their famous star-studded team.  As time passes, artists display their talent in that place and later, evening strollers, working people and even the upper classes use the Las Ramblas to go to theatres and operas offering the evening Flamenco.
Peace and terror
In the hurly burly of Las Ramblas, one could breathe in the spirit of a city that could be several centuries old and be the hearth of great artists like Gaudi, Picasso, Salvador Dali along with the discoverer of the New World, Christopher Columbus who left that place in 1492.  The eighty-metre tall tower with the statue of Columbus pointing to the sea testifies a rich past of enlightenment.  If culture seeps in the beautiful city and its thriving Placa Catalunya, peace seems to forever espousing its spirit.
With so many people moving incessantly in either direction in Las Ramblas, could one ever imagine of the threat of terrorism?  This question might be asked from anybody outside the town but the flavour of blissful living in a warm place seen from the one visiting it could never imagine such a dreary scenario.  With policemen patrolling the place and keeping themselves cool with the people around, it would be difficult to think, on the spot, that the city might be imperilled at any time.
This happened on the fateful 17th of August when a van rammed through Las Ramblas and claimed the lives of some 34 innocent people causing hundreds of casualties.  The image of despair changed the face of the wonderful city all of a sudden.  Terrorism hit again Spain and sometime later, Les Cambrils, another hot tourist spot.
The war on terror is not over
This attack puts again to test the degree of security of citizens in Europe.  Great places like London, Munich, Nice, etc. have not been spared terrorism as they are places of attraction and gather lots of people around.  Europe’s security is under criticism although efforts to control terror are noticeable. Tight security at airports remain useful but terror from within is difficult to gauge.  This does not necessarily come from migrants willing to have better life in the Old Continent but rather people who were born in Europe that might have become radicalised.
The surge of violence and mass killing in Europe, and very lately in Barcelona, explains how the livelihood of innocent beings could be compromised through vile attacks that remain unsuspected. Seeing people fleeing the streets of the different European cities with children screaming changes the look of the rich and bountiful cities.  
The war on terror should be a societal one not only a State enforcement. From what happens after the attacks, it is usually the denial of peace and good living in the neighbourhood, the creeping of hate and xenophobia among innocent minds, the constant questioning of confidence in face of the neighbour.  In Barcelona, one hears ‘Hola’ at all moments of the day as the uttering of good day and ‘Gracias’ when one just parts or leaves a place as signs of goodness. Might this be different after the attacks despite it is always stated that such ‘wounded’ locations rise up more strengthened and united after the ill fate?  Let’s hope and see that Las Ramblas recoils after the attacks, welcomes back its aficionados and revives through a revamped spirit.  But then, in times of desolation, let Barcelona mourn respectfully and piously. ‘La Bella Ciutat de dol, plora a la nostra molt estimada Barcelona’. (The beautiful city mourns, our beloved Barcelona sobs).