“The cafés were places of relaxation, stock exchanges, and information centers… an entire civilization.”
Throughout the year, Catalan culture thrives in public spaces and emphasizes convivència—living together and making space for difference. In villages, towns, and cities, everyday life in Catalonia revolves paradoxically around a civic calendar marked by the feasts of the patron saints (festes majors). The streets fill with people and vendors hawking food and mementos, and then elaborate masquerades parade through the main plazas and long streets called rambles. Giants decked out in rich fabrics and jewels dance with slow intentionality, while devils wear black capes and set off dramatic fireworks.
At other times of year, people actively inhabit public space, promenading in the plazas of small towns at dusk, filling streets and cafes in cities, performing traditional cultural forms like human towers, playing soccer, and practicing tai chi in parks. These repeated experiences of sharing public space have forged a strong sense of solidarity in much of Catalan social life.
This convivència allows people to share public space, even as they actively express and explore their differences. The civic pageantry of the festes majors allows people of diverse classes and origins to enact a shared social life. For more than a century, a tradition of social protest also unites diverse people in cyclical demonstrations that express competing political agendas.