Thursday, May 04, 2006

Riot on the Ramblas

Last night, Andrew and I went down to the Barri Gotic to an Irish bar to watch a soccer game. Barcelona (FC Barcelona--there are two Barcelona teams; I'm still trying to figure out the whole thing) was playing against Celta, another Spanish team from, we believe, somewhere in the north. It was my first-ever soccer game, and I liked it quite a bit. I found it much more interesting (don't tell Andrew) than baseball or football. And the players all looked really fun and happy. Barcelona won the game, which meant that they'd clinched a championship of some kind--the Spanish championship. They were now the "campiones."

This was a big, big deal. When we left the bar, masses of people wrapped in FC Barcelona scarves and flags were parading down the narrow Calle Ferran, singing soccer songs (there are a surprising number of them), chanting, and cheering. Huge bottles of beer were being waved around (no public drinking laws here). Sometimes one group would start a song and it would be picked up by other groups further down the street, or one group would start a chant and another would finish it.

When we exited Calle Ferran onto the Ramblas, we entered a growing riot. More and more people were streaming onto the Ramblas, all of us heading toward Placa Catalunya. As we got closer, we could see smoke and the bright pink light from flares. There were blasts from fireworks and other explosions. At the end of the Ramblas was an enormous group of revelers--growing larger every second as more people arrived. Men had scaled lampposts and newspaper kiosks. More flares were lit. Other things may have been burning, but we're not sure what they were.

In all of this madness, there wasn't one policeman--not one. Well before Placa Catalunya, we'd seen one or two police vans, but they seemed idle and unconcerned. In New York, the NYPD would have been out in full force, setting up their blue barricades and blocking the subway. Not here. This was a happy riot. Even small children and dogs were joining in.

Andrew and I stood on a bench outside the fray and looked on. We had watched the game and cheered for the win, but we were very obviously not part of the riot. Andrew was wearing a corduroy blazer and carrying an umbrella. I was wearing my glasses and boots with heels. We eventually got on the metro to go home. When the train arrived, more hordes of people got off to join the riot. The whole way home, songs and chants would occasionally break out. Even at home, in quiet Montjuic, cars were honking, and someone here and there would begin a song.

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