Curfew ends in Barcelona: "Happy New Year!" and beaches full until the early hours of the morning

The Guardia Urbana disperses the largest groups to avoid entering into conflict

Germán Aranda
3 min
Ambient after midnight at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona

BarcelonaIt's a quarter to twelve and some small groups are already gathering in the Plaça del Poeta Boscà in Barceloneta. A couple of young people are even sniffing a line sitting on a bench. Most of them are drinking and chatting. High-pitched conversations, coloured lights, music and the occasional request for silence escape through the balconies. When the vans of the Guardia Urbana approach, the small groups scatter and run away. Then twelve o'clock arrives, it's midnight and there's no need to ring the bells. A unanimous shout comes from the balconies and runs through the streets. "Happy New Year!", "Freedom!" The night of 8 May, the first night of the end of the curfew, was festive.

Golden balloons. "I'm euphoric!" "Now Barcelona looks a bit like the Barcelona I knew". "At last we can talk as late as we want." "I missed the unknown of not knowing what will happen". "It's neither the first nor the last time I go out at night even with a curfew, but today there's more atmosphere and it's special". These are some of the feelings and impressions exchanged by the young people gathered around Barceloneta. Around half past ten, after the last curfew, the Guardia Urbana has cleared the crowds on the beaches and also on the Passeig del Born, which at midnight was empty but with strong traces of bottles and glasses. The risk of contagion remains high, but for many this does not seem to matter.

The night has a free, unpredictable aura that daytime doesn't have. "We've met some Italian women and they've kicked us off the beach, let's see if we can meet up with them in a flat or a square", said a hopeful young student, Alex, 20. Some young people have not had a good year either. "Depressions, my boyfriend has left me, I've lost my job in the hotel business... I've been on the street for hours, the idea was to go home with the curfew, but we got mixed up", Marta said around eleven o'clock on the Rambla del Raval, when she had just met a guy from Arizona and another from Colombia with her friend. "It's been more than a year since I've talked to strangers on the street".

"It's been a horrible year: I infected my little daughter and my mother and her husband, who had a terrible time", explained a nurse in Barceloneta who preferred not to give out his name nor the hospital where he worked. "Today I needed some fresh air and I came alone, with my bike and my loudspeaker, to see what was going on", he said, while he put a reggaeton song on and wore suspenders showing off his muscular arms. As he did so, the Barceloneta beach filled with hundreds of people. Agents of the Guardia Urbana would come onto the sand, wearing helmets, and people would automatically move around and form smaller groups. For once, with the police the party wasn't over, it was just moving around.

This was around one o'clock in the morning, but a while before, in the Fossar de les Moreres, a party with more than two hundred people and several loudspeakers made many young people go crazy, dancing free (or almost) for the first time. "We remind you that agglomerations of more than six people are still forbidden, disperse", said an officer of the Guardia Urbana over the loudspeaker as they approached the party. The participants fled en masse, got lost in the streets of the Born and ended up divided into smaller groups. The thankless job of chasing big parties in the street and between insults was the Guardia Urbana's chore. For thousands of young people -also in Passeig Arc de Triomf or Plaça de la Virreina-, the night was promising, even though it wasn't quite a night of old normality, but a rehearsal of a rehearsal of normality, like almost all the realities we've been experiencing lately. Without bars or clubs, the party was their loudspeakers, their bodies, their desire to dance, to meet people and to get closer to freedom.