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Snapshot of Spain – Spanish is the official language of Spain, though Basque, Catalan, Galician, and Occitan are all recognized co-official languages in certain regions (mostly border areas). Catalan is the most widely spoken of these, especially in the eastern regions of the country like Barcelona. About 70% of Spain’s population is Roman Catholic, with another 25% being unaffiliated with religious organizations. The remaining population is mostly split between Protestant and Muslim (from remaining Moor influence). Spain has a rich history in art, literature, and architecture, of which the Roman Catholic church has influenced much of Spain’s past and current culture. Semana Santa, or “Holy Week,” is celebrated with parades and other festivities in the country the week before Easter, and many regional holidays are held in honor of local patron saints. Probably the most famous of these festivals is that of San Fermín, which features the running of the bulls.
While Spain is typically associated with flamenco music and dance, today, Spanish pop music, as well as rock, electronica, and hip-hop have all gained popularity. Different regions of Spain also have their unique traditional styles of folk music and dance. Soccer is the most popular sport in Spain, though basketball and tennis are also favorites. Each region of Spain has its own unique dishes, though pork is typical throughout the country and a variety of seafood dishes are enjoyed, especially in coastal areas. Rice, potatoes, and beans are common sides. Bread is served with most meals, and salads are especially prominent during the summer months. Churros are often served as a snack, particularly common with hot chocolate at churrerías. Tapas (several varieties of snacks or appetizers) are also popular.
Snapshot of Andorra (part of the Spain Barcelona Mission) – Catalan is the official language of the small country Andorra, though Spanish is widely spoken as well as Portuguese, Castilian, and French. About 90% of Andorra’s population is Roman Catholic, though other Christian denominations are present. Andorra’s culture is mostly Catalan, but is somewhat influenced by France and Spain as well (Andorra was co-governed by its two larger neighbors for over 700 years). Several native folk dances are still practiced, especially at feasts celebrating patron saints. Modern pop music is common, and the town Escalades-Engordany holds an annual jazz festival. Soccer and cricket are both popular sports in the country. Lamb and pork meat, pasta, and a variety vegetables are common in Andorran dishes. Some popular local dishes include trinxat (a dish made with bacon, cabbage, and potatoes), cunillo (rabbit stewed in tomato sauce), and truites de carreroles (omelet with mushrooms).
The Church is progressing steadily in Spain. Each year the baptismal numbers are increasing. (Several years back, the mission had an unusually low number of missionaries, yet the number of baptisms was still increasing!) Now the number of missionaries is taking a huge upswing and the numbers are expected to increase proportionally. Over the past few years, new branches have been formed, a few branches grew into wards, and a new stake was created in the mission in 2012. One branch more than doubled in size over a matter of months because so many members who had been less active before were reactivated and helped strengthen the Church. Miraculous growth is happening all over the mission. To quote President Clark Hinckley (mission president from 2009 to 2012), “There has never been a better time to be a Spain Barcelona missionary.”
There is no temple within the Barcelona mission boundaries yet, but you may attend the Madrid temple once a week while you are in the MTC there.
In many areas, the members are thrilled to feed you. Most Catalans/Spaniards you build friendships with will also be happy to feed you if you show an interest in their traditional dishes (but they’ll want to keep you in their homes for hours if you consent to a meal, so be careful to let them know you have time restraints). Natives will make you things like paella (flavored rice with a bit of seafood mixed in), seafood (mostly of the shellfish variety), tortilla de patata (potato omelet), and tomato bread. There are loads of immigrants in Spain who are also happy to share the food of their culture. You’ll get chicken with rice from Latinos (make sure you eat ALL the meat off the bones or they’ll think you’re wasteful), and a crazy variety of other foods from any Africans you teach.
Missionaries in the Barcelona mission generally use public transportation or walk. No one has bikes, and only the office missionaries have cars. Every city has a bus system, and in the big cities there is a metro (subway) system that generally isn’t too complicated to navigate.
In general, Spain is a very safe place. Sister missionaries should avoid the poorer neighborhoods at night, but that is the only real safety concern.
The natives (Spaniards and Catalans) love to talk, especially about their culture. They’re perfectly happy to carry on a conversation as long as you don’t bring up religion. They especially love to give directions, and they’ll sometimes follow to make sure you find what you’re looking for. The older generation are stalwart Catholics, though most don’t practice and don’t really approve of the Catholic church. The younger generation generally call themselves Catholic but don’t really care or know much about religion. Natives will expect you to be on time for appointments. On the other hand, most Latino immigrants are a lot more lax and see many time schedules as a loose guideline but are often more open to hearing about new religious messages.
You’ll meet immigrants from about 30-40 different countries throughout your mission. Each has their own language and culture. As far as natives go, Spanish is an official language throughout the mission but it isn’t the only one. Most of the mission is in Catalunya (the area surrounding Barcelona–called “Catalonia” in English, “Cataluña” in Spanish). Catalans and Spaniards don’t like each other very much. Catalans speak Catalan and it is also an official language in that part of the country so you’ll see street signs in Catalan and you’ll hear it on the streets more often than Spanish (unless you’re in the lower-income parts of the city which are populated by immigrants). If you serve in Catalunya, the natives love it if you learn even just a little bit of Catalan—and they’ll be more receptive. It’s super close to Spanish, so it isn’t too difficult to pick up some basic phrases. Throughout Catalunya you can find three different dialects of Catalan, depending on if you serve around Barcelona itself, around Valencia, or on the island of Mallorca. If you serve up north in Basque country, you’ll encounter another group of natives who also don’t consider themselves part of Spain. The Basque language (called “Euskara” in Basque, “Vasco” in Spanish) is one of the most complex in the world and is unrelated to Spanish or any other Romance language; however, there aren’t as many Basque people as there are Catalans.
It gets fairly hot in some areas and fairly cold in others. Bring the full array of clothing and other equipment that the mission recommends in your call packet.
You can have mail sent to the mission home and you’ll get it anytime there’s a zone conference (or whenever your district or zone leader visits the office). Or you can give your apartment address to family members and friends and receive mail directly there.
There really has never been a better time to be a Spain Barcelona missionary. It is “El faro,” the lighthouse to the rest of Europe. The Barcelona mission has proven for years that a European mission can baptize just as much as a South American mission. It is obedient, faithful, hard-working, and happy—and the Lord blesses missionaries for it. As you get to the mission you’ll hear things about the “Second Harvest.” That was a prophecy recently given in the mission from general authorities that the harvest ahead will be even greater than the first harvest, when Spain was opened and thousands were baptized. It is a mission of miracles. Expect them!
Calle Calatrava Nº 10-12, 1º
Straight from the Spain Barcelona Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Soft bread (like Subway); American candies like Reeses, Snickers, Starburst, Skittles, etc.”
“We had everything we could afford. Barcelona Mission area covered the entire eastern coast of the Kingdom of Spain and the variety of food, toiletries and everything you could long for in a developed country was simply unbelievable.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Chicken, Seafood, Hard European bread, Potatoes, Eggs.”
“Mostly rice and pasta (missionary budget came up short), but we used to receive a lot of dinner appointments from church members, and fish, seafood, meat, vegetables and very often “paella” were very common.”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“We were once invited by our ward bishop to dinner and the whole family was vegetarian and I cannot remember exactly what they gave us, but everything tasted weird.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“Most everyone smokes. The architecture is amazing! Very proud of their Catholic religion and their country.”
“Something that really hit me was the strong separatist feeling Catalonian people have against the rest of Spain. There were lots of graffiti messages claiming to be an independent country. Those messages were full of hatred and violence against the Spaniards. You couldn’t even wave a Spanish flag in public without harmful consequences.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Spain Barcelona Mission?
“You will deal with rejections everyday and will have to overcome barriers… so forget yourself, serve the Lord, and go to work!”
“Obey the mission rules, even if some of them don’t seem very important or serious.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“It goes by so fast that you don’t want to leave with any regrets so go out and work hard every day!”
“I wish I had been more mature to face the most simple, everyday situations with my companion. Living together can be a challenge if you don’t know how to deal with somebody you hardly know, even when you share a burning desire to preach the gospel.”
“Those two years were not the best years in my life, as they were supposed to, according with everybody told me before leaving on my mission, but they certainly a time of growing and enduring. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”
**Did you serve in the Spain Barcelona Mission? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.**