Yes, we all have been there. We all have been that person with a map in hand, desperately clinging to that one building by Gaudí left on our list of must-sees. We are the man with the ridiculous tan line, the woman photographing every inch of La Sagrada Familia and the couple looking for a postcard with the word “Spain” on it at Las Ramblas. But what happens when we have visited every place imaginable and find ourselves with nothing left to fill our afternoon schedules? Then, my friends, we do what the locals do and learn to marvel at the curious ways of the city.
Barcelona is a place for the Spanish Avant-garde. It is inquisitive, creative and full of innovation in every aspect of its daily life. From the flawless performance of its subway system to the unspoken agreement between musicians working on the streets of the same block, Barcelona operates in strategic elegance. Sometimes it comes in the form of taxi drivers letting students cross the street past the red light. Others, it comes in the shape of compost bins, magazine bending machines and clothing recycling centers. In the city, the Spanish Avant-garde proves its talent by transforming an ice-cream shopping experience into a visit to a luxurious museum or by decorating high-class restaurants with lanterns made with popsicle sticks and straws. In apartment buildings, people use retractable wires as clothing lines to make up for the lack of space and have learned to hold conversations with their neighbors through closed doors and kitchen windows.
These are the people who discuss literature in bathroom stalls and take the bus to the end of the line to share passionate, political statements. They ride fold-able bikes to the nearest subway station and bring their groceries home in fashionable carts. They use acronyms not even two languages can begin to understand and make their own clothes out of finds four sizes too large. They are activists and trendsetters, and yes, we too can become extraordinary like these people. Why be the person admiring a knotted piece of cloth someone has labeled as art or the one scared to dislike the gargoyles at a Gothic cathedral? Art is everywhere, art is in people and we do not have to become experts to be able to admire the beauty of the human condition. So next time you find yourself a tourist in Spain, do not settle for what millions before you have thought of as art. Observe the people around you, infuse yourself with the local culture and learn to admire the beauty of the Spanish Avant-garde.