Semester at Sea Fall 2006 Voyage banner


Migrants Heed: Barcelona Today, Spain Tommorow

By Rip Ritchie

    While in Spain, I traveled to Barcelona.  It is the most eclectic city that I have been to on this voyage.  There are people there from all over the world.  It embodies the essence of a cosmopolitan city.  Aside from the tourists that are everywhere, there are people from every nationality working in shops and stores.  The most common people to see were people from across Europe.  There would be a Swedish bartender, a French grocer and an English barber all on the same street.  Like any extremely cosmopolitan city, it not onlylas ramblas represents the country of Spain, but all of the areas that it reaches out to across the globe. 

   One of the most interesting examples of migration that I noticed was a Native America bar on a side street in Barcelona.  I was there getting a drink when I started to notice a lot of people pouring in the back door from the patio wearing traditional garb.  They were wearing a myriad of beautiful colors, filling the darkened bar with joyfulness.  When I went to the bathroom, there was a sticker on the front of the door that said “Native American Bathroom.”  This wet my curiosity and I went to ask the bartender if there are Native Americans here.  He smiled and said there were.  “This is a Native American bar!” he proclaimed.  He showed me a flier and there had been a gathering of Native American’s of all types, South, Central and North, earlier that evening.  It was a chance for the Native Americans to gather and play music and dance in their traditional clothes.  I was there during the after party and it was really neat to sit and watch them all socializing.  There were whole families participating and it was almost as if I could have been in Guatemala or Mexico.  As I left the bar and continued down the street I noticed a shop next door that was selling Native American arts and crafts.  It was a whole little enclave of Native Americanism!  I had no idea that indigenous Americans had spread out to other parts of the world in concentrated units.  It was very wonderful and beautiful.
   As I wandered down the street I took notice of all the little souvenir shops lining the road.  I stopped in several, and men from India were running every single one.  There were little Hindu shrines in the shop corners and they were playing Indian music.  As I continued down the street I saw an abundance of African prostitutes soliciting their goods.  I did not stop to talk to them, but mimethey probably came up through Africa into Morocco and onwards to Spain.  The next bar I went into had a Swedish bartender.  She told me that she had been traveling around Europe and decided to stay and work in Barcelona.  She says that it is really easy for a European to move around the European Union and work wherever they please. 
All of these observations of migration related to Philippe Fargues article entitled “Migration and mobility in the Euro-Mediterranean area: A problem for governments, a solution for populations?”  Fargues examines the issue of population decline and the rate of migration to the European area.  There is a strong sense in Europe that migration is bad for many social and political reasons, but it has become evident that economically it is very necessary.  It brings into question certain issues such as identity, but is necessary for economies.  Many European countries try to curb external migration because of these issues of identity and social control.  In Barcelona, migration seems to make up the essence and identity of the city.  The diversity exudes from every corner and there are plenty of people from all over the globe to fill jobs and niches in the economy. 
   After traveling to Barcelona, I feel as if it must be an exception to the rule.  It is a city that understands itself through the cultures and people that make it up.  It depends on migrants to support its thriving economy.  Other places in Europe, and in Spain specifically, do not have the same sort of cultural make-up.  Migrants probably flock to Barcelona where there is opportunity for them.  Barcelona is a very modern, vibrant city, but many other places have older economies and are less accepting of these migrants.  They might need them more, but are less willing to accept them.  It will be interesting to see how migration plays out in Spain in the years to come.  Many places that need migrants might have to become more accepting of them and the cultural make-up of the whole country, as it has in Barcelona, could change.  Instead of Barcelona being the exception to the rest of the country, maybe it will be the model. 

Return to course home Send me your comments: