Art is everywhere in Barcelona-in museums and galleries, and in the streets where it proliferates as wall art, or graffiti. Often loaded with serious political commentary, the wall art of Barcelona is a barometer of the social concerns that permeate everyday life in this region. It often explodes with visual energy-unpredictable and anarchic. As in many other cities around the world, the wall art in Barcelona reads much like a codebook that is there for one to translate.

The fast and spontaneous nature of Barcelona's wall art blends perfectly with the city's remarkable architecture, which blossomed during the Art Nouveau period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Barcelona is located in Catalonia, an autonomous region in Spain. The official government language is Catalan, and all streets signs are written in both Catalan and Spanish. Graffiti text, too, appears in both languages, as well as French and sometimes Latin. Whatever the medium, the message is usually powerful and direct: Catalonia and the neighboring Basque region have a long history of political resistance and self-expression.

The roots of Basque resistance date to before Franco's Spanish invasion of Catalonia. However, when Generalisimo Franco's massive military forces invaded the region during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), it sparked a popular separatist movement that persists to this day. Since 1959, a group called ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, Basque for "Basque Homeland and Freedom") has led violent efforts to create a socialist state for the Basque people and to separate from Spain and France. In March 2006 the organization declared a permanent ceasefire, saying ETA will commit itself "to promote a democratic process." Whether in favor of violent or peaceful means, supporters of ETA continue to broadcast their messages through graffiti. .

Today graffiti offers a medium for people on all sides of the political spectrum to broadcast their discontents. It also provides an outlet for the otherwise marginalized to share their ideas, their visions and their dreams. Graffiti artists in Barcelona use their spray cans and templates to create vibrant murals of women giving birth, to sound off about the evils of imperialism, to condemn the political leaders of the Iraq war. "More love," one artist pleads. "I consume, therefore, I am," posits another.

Although no formal assurances are made by the government, wall art in Barcelona is mostly left untouched. Pervasive throughout the public places and city landscape, graffiti is seldom seen encroaching on established historic landmarks.

These photographs were taken in Barcelona in October 2005.

jorge vera