Home Thoughts From A Broad: Protests, Europe Style

Stepping out one morning, our Virginian visitor happened upon a fair and human rights protest in a small park in Ruzafa. Kealani Nanz could only think, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”…

On Sunday, fighting off sleep I groggily rolled out of bed with plans to explore the city and find something unexpected. I started my morning with my typical cup of café con leche and a single piece of toast with marmalade. I left my roommate to sleep some more and stepped outside. I went for a black tube top, a mostly red patchwork skirt and a beaten scarlet fossil bag and headed out. The plan was to go “uptown”.

After only a couple blocks, I came across a small park on the edge of Ruzafa, Plaza Manuel Granero. I was lured in by the sound of music and the smells coming from food trucks. The park was filled by some rows of small artisanal vendors of jewellery, decoration, pottery and more. Following the sound of drumming and singing led me to a circle of people. In front of them was an array of handmade posters and flags.

In the centre of the event was a community of people protesting for human rights and the liberation of Palestine. I watched a group of student organisers bring audience members out into a circle. They taught each other a stepping dance to a festive Palestinian beat. I was witnessing a form of activism that was wholly new to me.

Artisanal and global

The first vendor I visited was a tall and smiling beautiful woman selling wooden sculptures and jewellery from Tanzania.  She had a large family with her cousins, daughter and niece all helping at their different booths. She and her family were selling all sorts of wooden crafts; sculptures of zebras, giraffes, lions and bold colourful jewellery. Think beaded turquoise-and-amber necklaces, chunky silver and gold bracelets and patterned scarves woven with the most intricate colours. From her, I purchased a wooden mask I hope to gift to someone when I return to the USA. From another vendor I purchased a silver bracelet. It had a miniature mosaic of purple and white flowers made with the shine and different shades of pearlescent seashells.  

The performances finished. The event coordinator came onstage for a final speech on the purpose of the event and their passion for human rights. I reflected on how different this was to the protests in the USA over the past couple of months. Though the love and community were the same I was stuck for a little. I was trying to understand exactly what the difference was between here and there. With what I know and have experienced in my lifetime, I think the first difference was less fear.

USA versus Europe

Where I am from, going out, making signs, and using your voice comes with more of a danger that feels non-existent here. Where I am from, speaking out holds so much risk regarding community and reputation. Even at school where we have seen administrations punish peaceful protests. In this little corner neighbourhood just outside the city centre I witnessed a community. Here, pushing and shouting for how we want the world to be is represented with people of all ages. Whether walking with a cane, or just learning how to walk, holding hands, and dancing and singing together, it was a triumph of community.

Not in Kansas anymore

As the event slowed down as the afternoon passed, I spoke with some of the coordinators about how they put this together. Without taking any money, they spend months of work to organise this singular event. They bring together vendors, foods and merchandise from around the world to celebrate culture. And at the same time they express their demands for human rights around the world. I thought more about freedom and expression as I left the square and headed towards Parque Central across the street.

In a little pocket in the world filled with dreamy tunnels of vines and flowers, little mazes, and pathways I felt like I was walking in the gardens of Claude Monet. While there I wondered if I could ever achieve the boldness and fearlessness that I saw among young people that day. Would I ever be released from the imaginary thoughts of others that hold me within myself? If one day I truly was free in my actions and voice, what would happen to the girl I am right now? Would she dissipate into fading memory? Would she stay with me as a reminder, and guide me to continue hopeful decision-making?

My journey of self-discovery

I concluded that there is simply not a better time or place to explore who I am than here in this summertime fusion of modern apartments, old Catholic cathedrals, mediaeval towers and department stores. Maybe whatever the universe has in store for me will reveal itself in ways unexpected, as it tends to do. I like to think about how I have changed in the past couple of weeks when I lay on the soft sand of La Playa de Malvarrosa. Here, I walked slowly in the turquoise surf, watching as the gentle waves painted tiger stripes in the shoreline. 

Valencia is changing me and helping me to develop into the person I want to become… 

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