So, yes, it shall be so: Barcelona's Plaça Sant Jaume will be closed to the public for a few hours this Thursday, except for those who have a ticket with its corresponding seat, for the opening of the La Mercè festivities, which will take place with all the solemnity appropriate to the Barcelona city council and will include the traditional opening address.
I have heard, in the last 24 hours, all kinds of explanations for the reasons that mayor Ada Colau gives for closing off the square. Among them, the Covid restrictions, which, however, were equally present for the Diada march that attracted, according to the organizers, 400,000 people, and that, naturally, at times was close to completely filling both the area round Plaça Urquinaona - where it started - and the surroundings of the Estació de França - its end.
The way the issue has been managed, the announcements on social media calling for protest against the palpable deterioration of the Catalan capital, and the precedents of the opening ceremonies for the the neighbourhood festes in Gràcia and Sants, where Colau was whistled heavily, suggest that behind the closure of Sant Jaume there are more personal and political reasons than health-related ones. They serve to confuse people, but what it all boils down to in the end is that whistles and boos are very uncomfortable and if you can do something to prevent them, then you do. After all, that is the reason she holds the position that she does.
It's a bad idea to try to confuse people with arguments that have no credibility and, who knows, may end up having a boomerang effect. The reading of the opening proclamation has always been an indicator of the level of satisfaction of the people of Barcelona with their city and, it must be said, more than one mayor in the past has had problems. Of course, none of Colau's predecessors in recent years had had so many sectors that were so critical of the municipal management. It's not the entrepreneurs, the small businesses, the associations, the restaurants and hoteliers. It's all of them and many other groups who repeatedly denounce the degradation of the city, its impoverishment and paralysis. To the point that it is hard to believe that the city which Colau inherited from mayor Xavier Trias in 2015, after an election campaign of false accusations, has undergone such a major regression.
But Colau won re-election in 2019 at the hands of the prodigal son of the Upper Diagonal lobby, Manuel Valls. The same bourgeois grouping that saw in the former French prime minister the candidate to remove her from the mayoralty and then, after his failure, the key to preventing a pro-independence mayor. But as these gambles never go well in the medium term, after a brief honeymoon, the criticisms of the mayor have returned. Even the Catalan Socialists, the governing partners of Colau's Barcelona en Comú, are looking for the right moment before the May 2023 elections to jump ship and escape. The vessel is adrift.
But let's go back to Plaça Sant Jaume and the La Mercè festivities with a recommendation. Let's make the most of the city's festa major, enjoying ourselves with the necessary civility, so that the streets and squares are spaces of alegria and don't make the news for botellons and illegal parties.