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Pro-independence protesters in Catalonia block roads and railway line

Pro-independence protesters obstructed major roads and a high-speed railway line in Spain's Catalonia region on Monday, one year after a banned referendum on secession that was marred by police violence.

Pro-independence protesters in Catalonia block roads and railway line
man lights a flare as pro-independence protesters obstruct a street in Barcelona on October 1, 2018 during an action called by a grassroots group calling itself the Committees for the Defence of the

“Everything began on October 1 and everything goes back to October 1st,” the region's separatist president Quim Torra said in a ceremony in Sant Julia de Ramis in northern Catalonia on a stage next to a large black and white banner that read “No forgetting, no forgiving.”


Quim Torra greets members of the CDRs after giving a speech in Sant Julia de Ramis, near Girona. Photo: AFP

Some 10 kilometres (six miles) away in Girona, hundreds of activists, many covering their faces with scarves, occupied high-speed railway tracks for around three hours, blocking services linking Figueres, Girona and Barcelona, Spain's state-owned rail operator Renfe said.

Central streets in Barcelona and Lleida were blocked, as was the AP-7 motorway, south of Barcelona, and A2 linking Barcelona to Madrid, images on Catalan TV showed. 

Activists also got into Catalonia's regional government building in Girona and took away the facade's Spanish flag, replacing it with a red, yellow and blue separatist flag.

In his speech, Torra praised their actions, saying they were “doing well in putting on the pressure.”

'Damaged Spain's reputation'

A year after the contested October 1, 2017 referendum, disagreements over separatism have nevertheless deepened in the wealthy northeastern region of Spain, which is home to some 7.5 million people and has its own distinct language.

Far from uniting the community, it has polarised opinion, leaving deep divisions over the region's fate.

The independence movement itself is divided and rudderless, with the separatist parties that have an absolute majority in the regional parliament split on what strategy to pursue to break from Spain — direct confrontation or moderation.

The protests were called online by a grassroots group calling itself the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs), founded to help stage last year's banned referendum and now demanding a clean break with the Spanish state.

“A year ago we voted for independence… Let's act,” the CDRs tweeted.   

Already on Saturday, Barcelona was the scene of unrest, with 24 people injured and six detainedwhen separatists clashed with police.   

They were taking part in a demonstration called to counter a rally by police paying tribute to colleagues deployed to prevent the 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

The Catalan government, then led by Carles Puigdemont, pushed ahead with the vote on secession despite it having been deemed illegal by the Spanish courts. 

The vote was marred by a violent police crackdown on polling stations that made headlines around the world.   

Even if it was illegal and therefore non-binding, 2.3 million people cast their ballots out of 5.5 million eligible voters, 90 percent of whom voted to break from Spain. Opponents of independence largely boycotted the vote.   

In a radio interview, the spokeswoman for the Socialist government in Madrid, Isabel Celaa, said the referendum had been “illegal” and had no “legal consequence.”

But she said the sometimes violent police intervention to impede the vote — as ordered by Spain's then conservative government — was a mistake.   

She said the footage of police charging at voters — even if some of it was later found to be false — “seriously damaged Spain's reputation” abroad.   

After the Catalan government declared unilateral independence on October 27th, Madrid swiftly sacked the Catalan government, prompting several key figures to flee abroad, including Puigdemont. Others were jailed. 

In total, 13 separatist leaders have been charged with rebellion, nine of whom are in preventative custody in Spain awaiting trial, while four others are in self-exile in Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland.   

In a video broadcast on social media, Puigdemont called on pro-independence Catalans to “not divert from the only path possible to be able to live in a full democracy — achieving the republic and its international recognition.” 

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14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain

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