Updated: Sep 15, 2021

1. Penitent pilgrims pack the width of Las Ramblas, marching headlong down the pedestrian boulevard toward the burgeoning square of Cataluyna, scurrying to find fountains and buses to whisk them away from themselves. The burden of identity weighs heavily in each backpack and bag. I share their plight: the onus of being. 2. The sun brilliantly burnishes the crowd, beaming with a childlike hunger for toys. Nothing changes except the country beneath their feet. Tourism is purgatory to the undirected. No map, no plan, no rescue from impulse. Lacking travel's baptism of fire and freedom, they learn all roads lead home whence they came. 3. Before the closed doors of the cavernous cathedral, Catalans circle, lift arms, hop, twirl and dance. Raised hands signal unbrokenness. Separation plays a different melody, sends an inferno of deconstruction spiraling downward, singeing factions of language and race. Yet a divided Spain paints its face as united, coyly cooing behind a splayed, perfumed fan. 4. I cool my heels at the statue of Columbus, anchored harbor-side, the navigator still ready to sail under mistaken, prevailing winds. The crew still ready to plant Spain's contagion-carrying flag in the shallows of faux India's purifying pool. O America! How far you have drifted from these tapas bars and tainted streets. How far from the graffiti- filled neighborhoods. No space uncovered: The gritty lust for color, figure and form conquers all. 5. All is exotic in Mediterranean Barcelona: the languid light, the briny breeze, the sun radiating like a silver grapefruit in the azure sky, the orange shards of tile piecing together the face of heaven. Gaudi still erects his towers in wavering waves

of nature and faith. Inside Basilica La Sagrada Familia, construction workers hammer his corner of paradise slowly into place. Christ hangs naked on the cross. A blue light filters through modernista stained glass, splatters on the floor, bathes my feet.

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