Catalan identity is a complex subject that offers a different conclusion depending on who’s speaking. While exploring Barcelona, you’re likely to see signs with slogans claiming “Catalunya is not Spain” plastered across the walls, and it’s certainly no secret that Catalunya and the rest of Spain have harbored a tricky and tense relationship. It’s thought that the subject of Catalan independence came about in the 19th century as a political philosophy to explain why a federal state had never been established in Spain.
Today, Catalans want independence for a number of different reasons: because of economic reasons; they pay more into the state than other regions of Spain but get less back, they want out for cultural reasons and to preserve Catalan as the main language of education, and they want out for sentimental reasons — some of them simply do not consider themselves Spanish. Learning the ins and outs of the dispute between Spain and Catalunya is not an easy task, but it’s a pretty open point of discussion in Barcelona.
Museu d’Historia de Barcelona
As the capital of Catalunya, Barcelona has taken the brunt of the fight for independence. All through the city you’ll see signs of the battle, but head to the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona for an in-depth look into Barcelona’s past – a past that doesn’t just include its nationalism. Step inside the museum and step back in time. Covering centuries of stories and histories, the museum harks back to the very foundations of Roman Barcinno. Ruins of old streets almost come back to life, whilst sewers, laundry shops, and dye stalls remind people of a simpler past. The building itself is pretty spectacular, too, forming part of the Palau Reial Major on Plaza del Rei. In the surrounding square the personality and cultural charm of modern day Barcelona comes to light in the form of impromptu concerts and lively gigs.
Museu d’Historia de Catalunya
Dig deeper into the past of Catalunya at this dedicated bastion of history inside the Palau de Mar. Spanning thousands of years, from the Stone Age right up until the 1980s, it brings together the nuances of Catalunya’s past that’s made it who it is today. Dioramas, artefacts, documents, and interactive displays create an entertaining experience, allowing visitors to delve into the 2000 years that have defined Catalunya. As well as models of the Roman lifestyle, and a house reminiscent of the Dark Ages in the Pyrenees, there is a video highlighting what life was life pre-Franco and a selection of temporary exhibitions that touch on contemporary issues, like nationalism and the struggle for independence.
Barcelona’s history has been anything but easy. Despite its accolade as one of the best places in the world, it still harbors ill feelings from the past in its fight for identity.