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Digital Culture

Barcelona terror attacks draw diverse reactions online

In Catalan, Spanish and English, responses flooded social networks in the aftermath of the Catalan attacks. Voices from music, arts, and culture expressed condolences and sympathy, often through touching images.

As has been the case in the aftermath of other recent terrorist attacks in European cities, reactions to the terror attacks in the Barcelona area on Thursday, in which 14 people were killed and over 100 were injured, came quickly in the digital realm from all quarters of society.

The internet was filled with Tweets, Facebook posts, and statements expressing condolences for the victims and their families, solidarity with Barcelona and its inhabitants, and resolution to remain firm and united in the face of terror and barbarism. The messages of sympathy came from celebrities, sports stars, and institutions alike.

Read more: Angela Merkel: Barcelona terrorists demonstrated 'contempt for humanity

Multilingual messages

Some chose to put their sentiments into Spanish, also known as Castillian, which is the official language throughout Spain. Spanish actor Dani Rovira, who starred in the domestic comedy movie "Spanish Affair Two" about the differences between Spanish and Catalan culture, announced on Twitter that he had been filming a new movie on the outskirts of Barcelona at the time of the attacks. On Friday he tweeted his "Thanks to the everyday heroes who heal, donate, protect, investigate, hug, help, empathize and fight so that the bad guys never win." 

Others chose to use Catalan, the co-official language of the highly autonomous region, in expressing their condolences. The Casa Batllo, a house designed by Antoni Gaudi that is a city landmark as well as a UNESCO world heritage site, shared messages in Catalan, as well as in Castillian and English, reflecting the diverse cultural composition of the international metropolis. The drawing shows the Batllo house on the left and the iconic Sagrada Familia cathedral, also a Gaudi design, on the right.

Spanish celebrity chef and US resident Jose Andres expressed his gratitude to both Spanish domestic security forces (Guardia Civil) and Catalan police (Mossos) in English. 

Across social networks, the trending hashtags displaying solidarity with Barcelona included #BarcelonaSomTots (We are Barcelona) and #BarcelonaAmbTu (With you Barcelona) in Catalan and #BarcelonaContigo (With you Barcelona) in Castillian. Many placed the tags side-by-side while others chose to use one or the other. Some people also incorporated the red-and-yellow stripes of the Estelada - Catalan's unofficial flag that is used by independence supporters - into their digital images.

Musical voices

Reactions from the musical realm were also present online, with many coming from Barcelona's famous music institutions that have helped make the city a magnet for the arts and tourism.

The Liceu Theater, one of the world's top opera houses, is located on Las Ramblas, and the building happened to be right near where the terrorists, who drove over pedestrians on the broad boulevard, abandoned their vehicle.

The house shared an image that was circulating online depicting a multi-colored digital watercolor image of the Barcelona skyline, created by Michael Tompsett, overlaid with a black ribbon of morning.

The Orfeo Catala, a choral society based in Barcelona's Palace of Catalan Music, were in London the day after the Barcelona attacks preparing for their appearance at the BBC Proms, a classical music festival. The chorus shared an image of the moment of silence that preceded its rehearsal with the London Symphony Orchestra under newly installed conductor Simon Rattle.

Urban landmarks

Images of landmarks around the world that used light to honor the Barcelona victims spread across the internet as well.  These included the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which went dark, the city hall in Tel Aviv, which displayed an image of the Spanish flag, and the spire of the One World Trade Center, which New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo tweeted was lit up in red and yellow in solidarity with Spaniards.

And in Barcelona itself, the Torres Glories - a skyline-defining skyscraper that marks the entrance to the city's tech district - lit its windows to display the symbol of the Red Cross aid service.

No to terror, yes to cats?

One of the odder internet trends to emerge in the aftermath of the attacks in Barcelona has been posts of cats. Though cat memes have long proliferated the digital realm, the feline photos labeled with Barcelona-related hashtags expressed condolences and sympathy rather than trying to earn a laugh. Many users stated they were sharing the cat images in order to respect the police's call for sensitivity to victims and their families. 

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