I had a post ready to go with a refreshing Gazpacho recipe for today, but in the light of the recent tragic events in Barcelona, I felt I had to do something else. This is in memory of the people who perished in La Rambla and the fishing town of Cambrils after the attacks last August 17, and to let terrorist know that the local community is not afraid and that their attacks will not scare us: our community is peaceful, solidary and ready to thrive no matter what. Terror will never win over LOVE.
First of all, since we’ve been receiving so many emails from past clients, readers and friends, let me say that all our team as well as our families are safe and sound. We also checked on our guests in Barcelona that week, and everyone is OK, too.
Thursday was a tragic day and we all were anxiously checking the news, and a myriad of text messages, emails and calls. But the reaction of the population, as well as the thousands of tourists visiting the city that day, has been exemplary and I can only say there is hope after the storm, and that love is stronger than anything. This is why I don’t want to write a post about the horror of the attack (that’s what terrorists would want me to do), but about the resilience and strength of our society in front of violence. Catalans are getting out in the streets shouting “No tenim por” (we are not scared). And I’m joining them.
Here is why we are not scared and they won’t win:
Our police system is effective. Yes, you might think it can’t be that effective if the attacks were finally performed. But none of the people involved had been previously sized up by the police nor had criminal records, and they don’t seem to have been related to radical movements either: there were no reasons to have them on the radar. Other teams and attack plans have been dismantled in the past, and the Catalan police – Mossos d’Esquadra – are highly considered by international police departments. Another prove of how well they work is how fast they reacted blocking the ground zero as well as the main entrances and exits of the city, and how quickly they connected events and located terrorists and collaborators in small towns over one hour away from Barcelona: one North in Vic, two more in Alcanar (almost 3 hours South) and Cambrils (1.5 hours away). In this last one, a small fishermen village and popular beach town for locals, 5 terrorists were put down by a single patrol. Being such a small town, the action of these policemen speaks highly of how well our local policemen are trained to perform in such dangerous circumstances. BREAKING NEWS: the terrorist that drove the van in La Rambla was finally located and killed by the Catalan police yesterday. The operation continues to be open until they have collected all the evidences and pieces of information they need to ensure the community’s safety.
Our society is solidary. I am a blood donor, and I’ve been so for many years now. Every Summer they call me asking to go donate, because during the holidays there’s always a lack of blood. So I was expecting calls in the news for blood donors after the attacks. Instead, the call was for people to stop flocking to the hospitals the day of the attacks, as everyone wanted to collaborate in any possible way. Donors have been asked to come instead the following days as blood has an expiration date and they’ll need to replenish their stocks. Also, many victims being foreigners, there was a call for translators volunteering in hospitals, but they soon had more people than need. Taxi drivers worked for free to take victims away from the attacks area, and anonymous locals as well as hotels offered free places to sleep to those who couldn’t get back to their hotels or homes. Finally, thousands of people were trapped in the road ring when the exits of the city were quickly blocked with police controls, and it took them sometimes four to five hours to get through: the neighbors came with water and snacks to ease the wait. People is not scared: they didn’t stay home but went out to help.
The local Muslim community is against violence and they are speaking up. I was born in a Spain routinely attacked by the basque ETA terrorists. And I mean pretty much every month there was an attack somewhere in Spain – the bombing in the Hipercor supermarket in 1987 was the worst in the history of Barcelona for many years. But one day things started changing: the Basque society that had first supported the terrorists, then not doing anything out of fear, started to speak up. In 1997 Miguel Angel Blanco, a local politician, was kidnapped and murdered by ETA and that was a turning point. The Basques didn’t see violence as the way to achieve their goals. They didn’t want it anymore. They started saying enough. It was a slow process that took over a decade, but nowadays ETA is gone. They lost their supporters, and this is what’s starting to happen now. After the first Islamic terrorist attacks, many Muslims would refuse to speak up against them, considering terrorists had nothing to do with them. And that’s changing. The local Muslim communities are now quickly issuing announcements rejecting violence and saying Islam is not about this. They are organizing public demonstrations to show they are against violence. They are saying “Not in my name”. This is the beginning of the end of terrorism, the lost of their “natural” supporters. Terrorists use religion as part of their marketing and to justify their thirst for power, but they do not even understand what religion is about. It’s time to stop calling this “Islamic” terrorism and start calling it just “terrorism”, period. We can’t continue helping them “market” themselves.
Ethic behavior wins. The society is aware some things aren’t valid anymore, and they are acting consequently. Morbidity is not OK. And while there were some videos full of bloody images being shared on whatsapp, most people were rejecting to pass them over to their contacts out of respect for the victims (I didn’t get any of them, and I know of close friends who received them and deleted them immediately). What’s more, the next day some local newspapers had images with corpses in their front pages: there were a lot of people who unsubscribed from them, and even a famous local supermarket refused to sell them. Racism is not OK. The day after the attacks la Rambla was full of people walking around again, and a group of 30 or so neo-nazi fascists decided to go there demonstrating against immigrants and Muslims. The people walking down la Rambla wouldn’t tolerate it: they spontaneously started shouting “Fora! Fora!” (out, go away!) to them, until they were pushed back and dissolved the demonstration. Even our local politicians are choosing to give compassionate and inclusive speeches rather than feeding fear and hate (do a search and read the impeccable speech of President Puigdemont). Such small actions help moving towards a better world where more and more people feel comfortable, united and safe.
Something out there protects us. Now let me get a bit woo woo. I believe there is something greater out there. Call it God, call it Universe, call it whatever name you feel comfortable with. But I do believe it’s out there, with its own plans for our growth, and while we might not be able to understand why pain and suffering has to be part of the path, that power is there for us. And that power didn’t want a huge massacre this time. It could have been really much worst than it was. Terrorists could have done it around noon, when the streets are way fuller of people – but they chose the afternoon. Terrorists were trying to produce a very deadly explosive that would have caused tons of victims – but the explosive turned against them and exploded when they were manipulating it hidden in a house in Alcanar, a few of them died and they had to change plans. They had rented 3 vans to use in the attack, but one of them broke – that’s why they used a car in Cambrils. Finally, the van could have killed many more people in la Rambla, but the airbag and safety system of the vehicle forced it to a stop, so the terrorist couldn’t start it anymore and had to run. You might want to think it’s just lucky coincidences, I chose to believe there was something protecting us from a bigger catastrophe. Don’t ask me why then the attack still happened and killed people, or why other bigger killings were permitted: we will never know. The paths to the Lord are inscrutable.
I am still shocked at what happened, but I’m comforted to see how my city and my fellow Barcelonans have reacted. Life goes on, and we want to live in peace. Attacks will just make people position themselves more and more in favor of love. No fear. We are not scared. And we are all Barcelona, like we’ve been Paris, Nice, Brussels, London, Berlin, New York and all those middle Eastern, Asian and African countries (most of them of Muslim majority) who have suffered or are still suffering terrorist attacks. Love will win.