Blue skies. It seems as if I have been tailgating them my whole life. I remember it well. I was just a child growing up in Barcelona, and whenever I was outdoors, my eyes would always go up, chasing airplane white fluffy combustion tracks across the immensity of a blue sky. There were trillions of butterflies in my stomach whenever I did that - and freedom, and possibility, and indescribable hope. I never knew where those unexpected moments of utter yearning came from, and they always came accompanied by an inexplicable void. The words “you need to go places” often resonated with me as I watched those metal gigantic birds follow their invisible paths. As if they knew I was watching them, and they needed to lead me home. I can still recreate that same feeling today, at forty one. All it takes is a gentle and unexpected morning cool summer breeze, and a sky that has nothing to hide. It is the one thing that activates memories for me faster than any scent, any photograph, any sound, or any song.
I was born and raised in the capital city of Catalonia, in Spain. Barcelona is a magical place - the language, the culture, the people, the beauty of its architecture, the culinary traditions, the legends, the historical pride. My family was mainly a family of migrants that moved to the city a few years before I was born, straight out of the magnificent South of the country. I am what they call a “charnega”: born in Barcelona, but not from Catalan descent. That’s how I got my first dosage of involuntary inadequacy, and the feeling of not belonging anywhere that perhaps activated my connection with the blue skies - because I didn’t make the cut in Andalusia either , where my parents came from. When I spoke Spanish to them, I had the wrong accent, because I spoke with a Catalan tongue. Discrimination doesn’t always relate to the color of one’s skin; sometimes it is far more subtle, and just as damaging to the spirit. Regardless, I called - and call - myself a Catalan, born and raised, and refused to let anybody tell me where I was supposed to belong - including my parents. They too felt I shouldn’t consider myself a Catalan. And what do you do when everything and everybody seem to want to place you in an impossible limbo for the rest of your life? You develop a sense situational urgency, and blue skies came in handy - and were necessary.
I lived in Barcelona for over thirteen years, until my parents decided to take a leap of faith and return to their origins. Imagine my horror. My sister was almost sixteen, my brother was fourteen, and I was thirteen. That decision shaped my whole life afterwards. I was now discouraged to speak in Catalan by my own care takers, and the environment I lived in from that moment on rejected my individuality exclusively based on my place of birth. I remember very few moments in my life where I felt sadder, more misplaced, and more incredibly hopeless. I think that these events possibly affected my emotional configuration deeper than I could imagine. Perhaps my need of feeling loved and being accepted find their fair share of activation in all of this rejection. I possibly never felt quite adequate after that.
But let’s slow down a little bit.
© Esther Berlanga - Blue Skies [Chapter 1. Excerpt - July 13th 2017]