Barcelona and Madrid: A Tale of Two Dueling Cities with Mark Planellas Witzsch

Barcelona and Madrid: A Tale of Two Dueling Cities with Mark Planellas Witzsch


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Two out of three of the European Union's largest metropolitan regions are both within Spanish borders–the cities of Madrid and Barcelona. The bicephalic reality of Spain is based on the historical fact that it contains two capital cities of two distinct national realities, the Castilian-based one and the Catalan one. Our seminar will contextualize this plurinational reality of Spain. We will learn how both capitals evolved, how they interact with each other, their main differences, and their bilateral future. 

Why is the World Heritage in Barcelona based exclusively on private or philanthropic endeavors (Sagrada Familia, Hospital of Saint Paul, Casa Mila, Park Güell), while most of the National Heritage in Madrid is based on public intervention–especially by monarchs– such as palaces, museums, opera houses or even its main basilicas? Why are there two official languages in Barcelona, rather than just Spanish? Our conversation will reveal these answers and more.

After several historical events, the Catalan nation was incorporated into Spain, but never fully assimilated.  To this day, Catalonia has its own national identity that dates back centuries ago when it became independent from the Carolingian Empire. This is why most Catalans consider their capital, not Madrid, but Barcelona. And the impressive maritime trading past and present of Catalonia, along with its unique industrialization process, has forged an extraordinarily large metropolitan region around Barcelona. 

Led by a local expert based in Spain, we will explore these dueling cities from a historian's vantage point. Designed to inspire future travel and spark curiosity, this interactive seminar aims to teach us to appreciate the contrasting strengths and weaknesses of these two remarkable cultural capitals in Spain. 

Mark Planellas Witzsch is active in several areas in the cultural field and taught philosophy of art and avant-gardes of the twentieth century at university, focusing on universally well-known Catalan artists such as Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. Catalonia being a part of Spain that has historically defended democracy and the ideals of the republic, the vast majority of its artists were committed to those Civil values and reflected it in their art. This led Mark Planellas to dive into some related topics, such as propaganda in the twentieth century, thus publishing books on the subject, such as “Jaume Miravitlles. El somriure de Catalunya”, which explains the history of the first modern propaganda ministry ever created, in the context of the Spanish Civil War.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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