A special series. Living in the (little) Big City — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
Coming from a big-small town such as Duluth, I’m used to seeing housing on a spectrum. The variations are almost limitless: big house, little house, apartment, duplex, big yard, a patch of grass before the sidewalk, etc. I was lucky enough to be raised in a mix of it all: moving from a small house in Duluth’s Central Hillside to a beautiful home in the Woodland neighborhood and again back to the Hillside to a dinky, albeit beloved, apartment with a list of ailments longer than its luxuries. No matter where I’ve lived, I’ve always marveled at the ability to make any space “home”, and that the exterior of any building can be deceiving.
Here in the little-big city of Barcelona space is limited, so for the 1.6 million some people who live here home is an apartment, or “piso”. Apartment buildings are nestled alongside and above businesses so city blocks are a hodge-podge of different colors, shapes, styles and doorways. Buildings are seemingly built up and torn down at will, currently a cafe I had visited only 3 weeks ago is being torn up (quite literally as it seems they’ve even torn up the foundation??) and remodeled, and storefronts are flipped in a matter of days. While the restaurants and storefronts are constantly changing, there is one architectural feature that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Walking down the streets your eyes are drawn up to the sky thanks to balconies decorated with plants, furniture, and of course flags. No matter how cheap (relatively speaking, mind you, rent in Barcelona is exorbitant compared to what I’m used to!) or pricey, every apartment seems to have this one obligatory amenity. Back to the flags: I say “of course” because Catalonia is one autonomous region that wants its independence, and the proof is in the pennants. One of the first days of class, one professor told us to mind the balconies, that there were three kinds; those with the Spanish flag, those with the Catalonian flag, and those with no flags at all. I can tell you now that the balconies bearing the Catalonian flag are the most visible, closely followed by those with no flag at all. Within the next few weeks I’ll be writing at least one post that goes into further detail about the Catalonian Independence movement to give you all a bit more context, but right now as I type it is Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnaval, so I’m off to Sitges to see what it’s all about!
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
We thank The Department of History and Politics for its generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu