An Open Letter To Barcelona

An Open Letter To Barcelona

I pray that one day, we will come together to celebrate differences.
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Dear Barcelona, and the rest of Spain as well,

This past summer, I visited you.

I stayed in Barcelona for three and a half days, the first place I ever walked that was outside of my country, and I lived in southern Spain for two additional weeks. You are my home away from home, a country that opened its arms to me and welcomed me in as a visitor, a student and a lover of all things Spanish.

This past summer, I stood in La Plaza de Catalunya. We fed the pigeons and laughed at the sheer numbers of them, walked through the center and down around the surrounding streets, admiring the statues and architecture around us.

This past summer, we walked down Las Ramblas, gaping at the beautiful buildings and smiling at the curbside cafes. We drank zumos in la Boqueria, the huge market on this street, and our guide told us stories about the musuems and theatres on this road.

This past summer, we explored Barcelona on our own and met Spain here as we slowly learned to understand Spanish as quickly as we understand English, squinting at maps to find ATMs, waiting for the walk signals on the crosswalks and cheering on Spain in the U21 soccer championships as we shared tapas for dinner.

This past summer, we stayed five blocks over from where, on August 17th, 2017, a huge terrorist attack occurred. We passed through this Plaza twice a day. And today, at least thirteen people died and almost a hundred were injured in this exact place.

My heart is broken for everyone in Barcelona, in Spain and everywhere. Perhaps it is selfish of me, since I do see the headlines daily of people dying from terrorism globally. Daily, I stop and say a prayer for them and their families and for my world in general, ending it with my usual words: "God, please give us the peace to celebrate our differences instead of killing each other over them."

But today, selfish though it may be, I actually have been to the place that was attacked. I have seen it. It was welcomed me, and I have called this country home, and I have international friends who live in this city and this country, and I have sat and walked around the place where the attack happened. I am so lucky that my country is not often hit with such massive attacks, such devastating violence. And so, this is the attack that hurts - that which occurred seven thousand miles away, in Barcelona.

I still believe, though. I still believe that people will one day live in peace, where the only frustrations are over the fact that there aren't enough seats on your bus for you and your heavy briefcase, that everyone will walk together down Las Ramblas and drink an avocado-coconut milk zumo together and listen to understand each other. I still believe that people will visit each other's countries not to destroy and to wreck havoc but to experience other cultures, to try other foods and to walk along other shores.

I still believe that one day we can have peace. One day we will come together in love and harmony, that we can work together to better our world and to appreciate the differences between each other. That one day we will all be welcoming of our brothers and sisters in humanity, that we will be free of terrorism and the hateful mindsets that lead us to kill each other.

I pray for you, Barcelona. I pray for the rest of Spain. And I pray for the entire world, and for every individual within it.

Con amor.

Cover Image Credit: Myself

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There's a huge difference between being modest while breastfeeding and just being straight up careless, trashy and disrespectful to those around you. Why don't you try popping out a boob without a baby attached to it and see how long it takes for you to get arrested for public indecency? Strange how that works, right?

So many people talking about it bring up the point of how we shouldn't "sexualize" breastfeeding and seeing a woman's breasts while doing so. Actually, all of these people are missing the point. It's not sexual, it's just purely immodest and disrespectful.

If you see a girl in a shirt cut too low, you call her a slut. If you see a celebrity post a nude photo, you call them immodest and a terrible role model. What makes you think that pulling out a breast in the middle of public is different, regardless of what you're doing with it?

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Nobody asked you to put a blanket over your kid's head to feed them. Nobody asked you to go feed them in a dirty bathroom. But you don't need to basically be topless to feed your kid. Growing up, I watched my mom feed my younger siblings in public. She never shied away from it, but the way she did it was always tasteful and never drew attention. She would cover herself up while doing it. She would make sure that nothing inappropriate could be seen. She was lowkey about it.

Mindblowing, right? Wait, you can actually breastfeed in public and not have to show everyone what you're doing? What a revolutionary idea!

There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby. It's something you need to do, it's a part of life. But there is definitely something wrong with thinking it's fine to expose yourself to the entire world while doing it. Nobody wants to see it. Nobody cares if you're feeding your kid. Nobody cares if you're trying to make some sort of weird "feminist" statement by showing them your boobs.

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My Hometown Just Experienced A Mass Shooting, If We Don't Do Something, Yours Could Be Next

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I was on my way out the door to work when I got a panicked call from my mother.

"Can you look at the news online?" she said quickly. "There is a mass shooting somewhere nearby."

My heart stopped. For me, Aurora, Illinois is home. I was born there, I grew up around the area and I attended high school there. My siblings go to school close by and my boyfriend works for a neighboring fire department.

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After calling my boyfriend, who was at the fire station getting ready to deploy ambulances to the scene, I discovered that it had taken place at a factory nearby. My anxiety hit an all-time high as I watched the updates on all of the local city Facebook pages and groups. Officers down. Gunman at large. Mass casualties.

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While this situation doesn't change my mind, it does change my view of the world.

Why would somebody decide that shooting former coworkers was the way to go? Why would anyone want to hurt others? These are the questions that flooded my mind in the hours after the mass shooting. I don't necessarily think we have a gun issue in America, but issues with mental health and valuing life.

We pass bills to kill unborn children. We repeal bills that take away healthcare from million. We devalue life in its most basic form and respect those around us to still have enough respect for each other's lives. We stigmatize those who need psychiatric care and expect things to still be alright.

This is not alright.

Our country, our system, our values, and morals, they are all broken and backward. We have let mass shootings become normal and violence becomes accepted. It needs to be stopped. There needs to be a change.

One of the people killed was an intern from a local college during his first day on the job. Being a college student applying to internships myself, this hit far too close to home. Nobody deserves to die, least of all in their place of work while trying to further their career.

Five people lost their lives due to someone's disrespect of them. Yes, a gun was the weapon, but a mind was the actor. I pray that someday, our country will return to valuing life and respecting others enough to help them instead of pushing them away. This is not the first mass shooting, but it can be the last. If, and only if, we make sure of it.

If you want to help the victim's families in any way, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral expenses

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