In 1870, Café Suizo opened its iconic revolving doors to Spaniards in the heart of Granada; it soon became a cultural hub frequented by intellectuals, poets, and university students.

 

The café’s white marble arches and columns, as well as its waiters clad in white jackets and bowties lent the space air of elegance. Café Suizo was a cultural artery that breathed life and passion into the city.

 

The marble beauty, however, was condemned in 1980. The coffee shop that inspired artists for over 100 years suffered a quick, tactless death. Today, a Burger King towers over the café’s ruins.

 

Unfortunately, this sort of coffee shop death is not at all uncommon.

 

Coffee shops sprung up across Europe through the 17th century and become a tool that fostered cultural inspiration and intellectual exchange. If Europeans wanted to catch up with current events or hear an outside opinion on literature or theater, they turned to coffee shops.

 

Café Suizo opened in Granada, Spain in 1870 and served coffee for over one hundred years. (cafenocturno.com)

Café Suizo opened in Granada, Spain in 1870 and served coffee for over one hundred years. (cafenocturno.com)

Coffee shops soon became lubricants for subversive thought. Nourished by the scents of espresso and tobacco, likeminded intellectuals and artists exchanged thoughts that developed into ideologies.

 

In fact, the French Revolution started among radical coffeehouse-dwellers in Paris’ Café Foy after Camille Desmoulins delivered an impassioned speech. The uproar that he generated inspired the storming of the Bastille.

 

So what happened to coffee shops? For the most part, they’ve lost their charm to capitalistic cookie cutter giants, like Starbucks, where baristas tragically attempt to provoke radical thought by writing “#RaceTogether” on customers’ cups. Coffee shops have become rebranded by capitalistic greed and have developed into hipster clubhouses, far from the temples of culture and thought that they once were.

 

However, it is important to note the radical essence of 17th century European coffee shops hasn’t disappeared altogether. Such radicalism simply permeates a new medium: the Internet.

 

Think about it: where do you now turn for news and cultural reviews? The Internet.

 

Where do you spend much of your free time each day? The Internet.

 

Just as coffee shops paved the way for the French Revolution, what sparked the Arab Spring? The Internet.

 

The parallels between the Internet and coffee shops are uncanny. Though the Internet cannot be housed within a space as charming as Granada’s Café Suizo, it can be accessed from anywhere — even Burger King. The Internet’s power lies in its ability to defy physical boundaries, as well as space and time. However, its downfall is the ability that governments have to limit its reach.

 

To sustain free thought and continue the legacy of 17th century coffee shops, it’s more important than ever to fight Internet censorship. Though capitalism crushed Café Suizo with a Burger King, we cannot allow our governments to crush our precious Internet. Its important to remember that the Internet can crumble just as easily as Café Suizo’s marble — our generation’s obligation is to prevent this from happening.

 

What would the French Revolution have been without coffee shops? What will we be without the Internet?

 

What do you think about the relationships between coffee shops of seventeenth century Europe and today’s Internet culture? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness