CATALUNYA, per Núria Añó Catalunya ha viscut des dels seus inicis una cruïlla de cultures i influències. Antigament, en aquesta part de la península ibèrica s’escrivia en llatí, en àrab o en hebreu. També actualment, els catalans tenim la particularitat de ser bilingües, doncs una part de la població som catalans natius, altres, catalans d’adopció, i parlar dues llengües ens aporta com a poble una bellesa estranya.
Translated by Joannes W. M. Groenewege
Since its beginnings, Catalonia has lived at the crossroads of cultures and influences. In the past, in this part of the Iberian Peninsula, people used to write in Latin, Arabic and Hebrew. Today, we Catalans also have the peculiarity of being bilingual, because part of the population are native Catalans, others are adopted Catalans, and the fact that we speak two languages gives us, as a people, a strange beauty. Proof of this is that this territory has been the birthplace of great internationally renowned writers, both in Catalan and Spanish.
Catalonia has been a land of intense inspiration in the work of artists such as the painter from Malaga, Pablo Picasso, during his youth. Similarly, the Catalan painters Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró displayed their most surrealist talent and put Catalonia on the map. In the field of music, so did the cellist Pau Casals when, during exile under Franco, he spoke in Catalan before the United Nations Assembly and played the peace hymn El cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds). Not to forget Antoni Gaudí’s modernist architecture, which today coexists with more modern trends and, far from clashing with each other, embellish Barcelona’s emblematic spaces and attract the attention of passers-by and tourists alike.
Maybe you should ask one of those tourists who eat tapas at the Boqueria market and have the feeling that Catalonia became independent in 2017. Then, depending on the political side of the Catalan sitting next to them, he or she may agree with you and even invite you to a pa amb tomàquet while he or she tells you that “Catalonia is not Spain, and never was, never!” By the way, the Iberian ham and Manchego cheese on top of the bread should be paid for by the tourist, as this is not a Catalan product and everything that is Spanish should be boycotted. Well, the Catalan voter of a different political persuasion can also invite the tourist to a glass of cava while he or she explains in detail that no, this region did not become independent because the referendum was illegal and went against Catalonia’s own Statute of Autonomy. That “Catalonia is Spain, today and forever”. At the same time, he or she may lament the fact that Spaniards do not want Catalan cava now… “Really?” the wide-eyed tourist might say. Well, with both the former and the latter, the foreigner will draw the same conclusion. That of a national issue with no apparent solution, but as a piece of advice: perhaps you need to invite each other to cava and bread with tomato; as for the ham and cheese, let us pay for it.
It would probably be easier in this way. If instead of the politicians, the media and the institutions, it were the ordinary citizens. No, I repeat, only the citizens, those who, before October 1, joined hands and bodies in the traditional castells (human castles), regardless of whether you were a Barça, Español or Real Madrid supporter. It didn’t even matter whether one was a supporter of independence or not. Nor with the traditional ball de bastons (baton dance) has there been a clear union between associations of only pro-independence supporters, as more than one would hit the other with the baton. Yes, when those at the top, those in Belgium, speak and fan the flames even more.
One of the most intriguing questions of recent years is how the world saw us from the outside? With those big separatist demonstrations, crowded streets and plenty of independent flags, we put Catalonia back on the map. However, during that time, they forgot about the inner space, about Catalonia’s real problems. For here, life goes on with the passing of the calendar, from one month to the next, from one year to the next. Some long for a promised independence that never came to pass, frozen they say, like Walt Disney. While some citizens barely have enough food to put in the freezer. In truth, Catalans do not only feed on nationalism.
And all of us, all of us Catalans, with a feeling of having been loved and then loathed. Even the statue of Columbus has had its ups and downs in recent times. And the tourists, they have been valued for their money, which they leave in the territory and, thanks to this, the economy grows considerably. However, don’t come all at once, they fill all our terraces and the most beautiful streets, and then they don’t even stay overnight in our hotels, how inconsiderate, nor do they come to block out our sun that bathes the beautiful Mediterranean with their huge cruise ships. Please, please, they don’t need to leave now, even though the Catalan Countries include the Valencian Country and the Balearic Islands, it is not the same for us that one eats and shops here rather than there.
Some of those tourists who were first frightened by the police’s truncheons’ violence, why were they then scared by the demonstrations of young people carrying “roses of fire”, the result of containers piled up and set on fire? For even if those tourists were already fleeing Catalonia, it is possible that from afar those sunsets on the ship showed the flames more vividly than in the kitcken of Ferran Adrià.
In reality, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence was very brief, suspended by the president of the Generalitat himself eight seconds after declaring it. However, this did not prevent the flight of companies and banks such as La Caixa from quickly changing their tax headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia or Madrid. And this has continued unabated until, in 2021, a total of more than 3,000 companies have left due to the political uncertainty in our territory.
With the arrival of the pandemic, one can stroll calmly along La Rambla and suddenly stop in front of the Liceu opera house, in front of theatres that remain closed due to confinement restrictions, also the hotel and catering business, a great source of the economy. One suddenly longs for tourists and locals’ intermittent passage because Catalonia has been a land of hospitality. However, a seed of hatred has skillfully confronted its inhabitants and has done so throughout its more than 30,000 square kilometres. You can find yourself in the Ebro Delta, in the Pyrenees, on the Costa Brava, on the Costa Daurada, the Montsec Range, in the Prades Mountains, or in Barcelona Lleida, Girona or Tarragona. In any part of the territory, you will find families whose relationships have been seriously damaged due to the secessionist policy that one half of the population wants and the other half does not.
If the Catalan authorities could come together in the 11th century to talk peace, why can’t we Catalans make peace with each other today? One can be a patriot but not at any price, and one can be a nationalist without ideological deformations. But in the last decade, some secessionist politicians and media have shown our nation’s history with magnifying glasses, which has made us minuscule. This has increased the supremacism that our people are now better than others. Yet in our popular Catalan culture, we have a word that has vividly characterised us as a people: “seny” or the healthy capacity for fair perception. This “seny” probably has its origin in the Latin sensus, that is, in a sensibility and a shared sense of understanding.
Of course, when we speak of Catalonia, we speak of Catalans without distinction, but there are many Catalans and of very different kinds. Even among the “independentistes” there are the unilateralists, then those who would agree with Spain on a referendum for independence, and also those who would help to have a legal referendum so that the people could freely vote “yes” or “no”. In truth, this “no” was rarely discussed, and why all constitutionalist parties in Catalonia advised their voters not to go to the polls on October 1. On that side of the balance is the so-called “silent Catalonia”, that is, those Catalans who can no longer express their opinion freely without being branded fascists after five seconds. And they have opted to stop talking about politics with colleagues, friends, family or neighbours with whom they used to have a good relationship. This range of people includes a majority of the Catalan socialist, communist, centre and right-wing left, whose political representation is relatively broad but at the same time disunited among themselves.
Catalonia is split into two halves. Among the population, there is a feeling of loss and lack of freedom of opinion that causes irreparable damage to both sides. And not only between opposing parties but also between allied parties, who regularly call each other traitors. Because whoever one votes for, whether pro-independence or pro-constitutionalist, in the end, no one is happy with the current situation.
In order to find harmony between the two sides, it may take a long political dialogue to bring this conflict to an end. In my opinion, it will take years before one side will listen to the other, and both sides will respect the rules.