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Greetings from Barcelona,

Here is an update on what’s happened since my last update:

The Declaration of Independence has happened

Just over an hour ago, the Catalan Parliament declared that they want to make Catalonia an independent state, or Republic, separate from Spain. Spain, in return, announced that they will invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which allows them to take control of Catalan institutions. Where the media titles this “Spain will impose direct rule;” that phrase sounds extremely harsh to me.  From what I understand, what essentially will happen is that Spain will remove the Catalan President and many ministers who head up different departments (Education, Health etc…) and those people in Catalonia who worked for the Catalan government as of 2 hours ago, will now have to report to someone in Madrid instead of someone in Catalonia.

How did this vote happen?

The members of the Catalan parliament who were in the room at the time voted overwhelmingly to agree with the declaration of independence however, the opposition members of parliament all walked out of the room and didn’t participate in the “illegal vote” as they called it.

What’s happening in the streets right now?

There are a lot of pro-independence Catalans cheering and dancing and celebrating, while everyone else goes about their normal daily lives.

What happens next?

I know this is the theme of every email, but nobody knows! This is unprecedented territory. Article 155 has never been invoked in the history of this constitution (from 1978) so no one is quite sure what it means (except possibly a handful of constitutional experts – of which, admittedly, I am not one).

Is this a good time for students to be on-site?

The students are living through a historic moment right now. As I’ve said before, they are able to talk about what’s happening with everyone – our staff (all with varying opinions), homestays, in classes and with locals. If this isn’t experiential education, I don’t know what is. As always, we will warn the students to stay away from gatherings and protests because, even though they have been peaceful, there is the chance they could escalate and there could be violence.

Fun, personal anecdote

This Saturday I went with my wife, and two kids, aged 4 and half and 2 and a half, to a beautiful seaside town just 30 minutes by train outside of Barcelona called Sitges. We spent the day on the beach in 78 degree weather, ate a paella looking out on the water, and then about 4:15 pm got the train back to Barcelona. As we were getting closer, we noticed the train was getting way more crowded than it should have been and couldn’t figure it out. When we got out of the train, the station was PACKED with people carrying the Catalan independence flag and we found out that a protest had been called for 5:00pm in the exact spot we had just gotten out! So we took the elevator up to the street – and it’s one of those elevators that literally lifts you up from underground and leaves you on the sidewalk. We were right-smack in the middle of 450,000 protesters! We had to get home so we pushed our way through the crowd. It look us about 40 minutes to walk what should have taken us 5. I was holding one of my kids and my wife was pushing the other one in a stroller. The people on the street could not have been nicer – they were apologizing for being in the way, making sure their friends and families got out of the way for us, and smiling at the kids with the intermittent swearing and shouting at the Spanish police helicopter swarming overhead.

We hope that all the future protests (and there will be more, no doubt) are just as peaceful. I also hope that my story gives you a better sense of what it’s like to be here vs. just what the media portrays.

Have a great weekend,


Rich Kurtzman

Currently based in Barcelona, Rich grew up in the great city of Chicago but has been lucky to call Barcelona his home for over 15 years. His studies in Spanish and Russian Language and Culture led him on a path toward study abroad ever since high school. Starting with a summer in St. Petersburg, Russia then a semester in Madrid, Spain, there is no doubt that his study abroad experiences shaped his future. He later did an internship in Milan, Italy, led student groups through Spain, and volunteered in the Philippines. After earning his M.A. in Spanish Applied Linguistics, Rich taught Spanish History and Culture to study abroad students in Barcelona. Since 2002, Rich has organized and directed all aspects of study abroad in Barcelona. Rich regularly presents at International Education conferences on various topics and also works as an intercultural consultant for multinationals in Spain.