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El hecho diferencial

So, today I’m finally going to speak about the Catalan people. It’s one of those things I kinda promised for this blog. I have many promises to fullfill, but give me time. As you have all probably noticed, I didn’t write too much lately. Life got in the way.

Anyway, I don’t really know where to start speaking about the Catalans, so let’s have a little historical overview.

It all started with Charlemagne.

By the VIII century, Charlemagne was the ruler of most of Europe, whereas the Iberian peninsula had been conquered by the Ummayad Caliphate. Actually, conquered is not the word. The Goth kingdom, which comprised modern Spain and Portugal, had been completely pwned by the Ummayads. The entire peninsula was conquered in 15 years, which is quite a record, for the VIII century.

And yes, I just said the Goth kingdom. I could make a joke or two about the people of that kingdom crying on corners instead of fighting the invadares, but it would not be cool.

Just one note: Rest assured that, in Spanish, we use different words for historical Goths and for whiny fuckers with hot girlfriends.

Anyway.

So yeah, the Arabs have conquered Spain and are sitting right beside Frank kingdom, with Charlemage as its king.
So Charlemagne decides to take a cue from George Bush, and does quite the landgrab for Spain, citing as justification that he wants to “Build a buffer zone, for the security of his kingdom”.

He conquered the northeast corner or the country, and thus that area received a strong Frank influence. That set it apart from the other two main cultures of the peninsula, the Castilians and the Portuguese. As those three kingdoms took the peninsula back from the Muslims, they constituted the three big kingdoms, and the three nations, of the Iberian peninsula.

So, some of you may ask, where the Catalans independent in the past or not? Well, yes they were. Now, if you ask my history teacher back in the South of Spain, he’ll tell you that they stopped being independeint in 1495 (and he never calls it “The Catalan Kingdom, BTW”, but that’s another long story). If you ask the Catalans, they will say 1714. So, brace yourself, this is the only place in the internet where you will hear the truth, the absolute truth and nothing but the truth:

In 1495 the Kingdom of Aragon (for that was the official name, but hencefort I’ll just say “The Catalans”) Signed an alliance with Castille. An alliance. Peers. Equals.

Around the middle of the XVII century, the Aragonese king died without a heir, and his crown went to Castille. That said, the Catalans still had wide autonomy.

In the XVIII century they sided against the French pretender to the throne of Spain. (Succession wars and stuff). In 1712 they were let down by the Germans, and resisted for 2 years, all by themselves, the entire Castilian army.
In 1714, the city of Barcelona surrendered, and that was the end of the Catalan state.
By the way, that’s one of the things I like about the Catalans. Their national day is the day Barcelona surrendered. They celebrate a defeat. I mean, if that’s not a gesture of defiance, what is?

The problem?
Well… they surrendered on the 11th of September, 1714. So their national holiday became a little awkward in 1973, and quite awkward in 2001.

So yeah, it’s a nation. Let me say it clearly: Spain is one country, but many nations. A fact that should be recognized and respected. So far, we fail both the “recognition” and the “Respect” part, in Spain.

But I’ll save the rant about politics for later.

Yeah, the Catalans have their own institutions, their own culture (literature, traditions) and their own language.
Let me insist on that: Language.
I say that because many goodwilled foreigners ask me: But Catalan is a dialect, right?
And many ill-willed Spanish claim: Catalan is a dialect!

Well, no, it’s not. From all points of view, it’s singificantly different from Spanish.
-Gramatically
-Lexically
-Sintactically
-They have a literature of their own, heavily differenciated.

To illustrate the point, in case you’ve never been exposed to it, it’s a middle step between Spanish and French, but with a pronunciation that’s different from both. (If you paid attention during the history part, you’ll guess why).

Anyway, let’s now move on to modern day Cataluña.
I went there when I was 18, to study. Before I went there, everyone down south told me these horrible stories about how the Catalans despise the Spanish, about how I would have to learn the language, and about how I would always be an outcast.
Unfortunately, that’s how many people think in the rest of the country. How shameful is that?

What did I find when I went there? People were nice to me. It’s an advanced society, well more open and tolerant than my own neck of the woods. They are politically active, socially engaged. Cultivated. Diverse.

No one even asked me to learn the language. But you know what? I did, before giving them time to react. And they were so grateful that I had, that I got drunk for free soooooo many times.

Now, let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s imagine you come from, say, Italy, and you go to live in, say Finland. I guess… you will learn the language, right? Because… you know, it’s what people do. You’d also kind of adapt to local mores. Right?

Well, if that’s obvious for an Italian who goes to Finland, and if we scoff at silly tourists who around the world like elephants on a hardware store, then why is it a point of pride for many Spanish to go to Cataluña and say “I am not learning the fucking langauge, speak to me in Spanish!”. I mean, seriously. What kind of stupid attitude is that?
Why do I have to take that stupid attitude from other Spanish?

The reason is simple, the right wing parties in Spain use the subject as a way to score cheap, emotional shots. Think of it as identity politics.
Of course, the rabbit hole is deeper than that, but I’m just summing up.

So yeah, I make an statement by loving the Catalans and generally supporting them, and arguing for them when people talk about politics. Because, honestly, it’s about time we start doing things differently in Spain. It’s about time we become a republic, it’s about time we embrace our cultural diversity and the fact that there are different nations, it’s about time the slackers down south start moving their assess, and that the rich industrialists stop using identity politics to advance their narrow-minded economical interests, don’t you think?

Oh, crap, this turned into a rant.

Actually what I wanted to post is how much I love the Catalans, how amazing they were with me, how lucky I was that I got to listen to their side of the argument and learn how they do things over there.

Also, they have an amazing anthem. And they contribute to the national budget of Spain more than anyone else.

Seriously, I would go back to living in Barcelona without blinking. 🙂

Love guys.

Now, and to go back to the political rant for a second… I am a stupid idealist who defends balkanization of the word, and the right to self determination above the right to territorial integrity. (It’s my way towards internationalism).

The problem being, Realpolitik then comes and points out that my little theory has a catch: Big states CAN oppose big companies (not that they do), whereas smaller ones have a harder time.
And we are back to class warfare… 😦

Anyway, I’m going to end up saying that you might thing my last cinema review was too short.
But really, that’s most of what I have to say about a film whose main interest is that it’s named after a Doors song and the main character kinda resembles Jim Morrison…… and that’s about. Big cocktease. Promises The Doors, doesn’t deliver.

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5 comentarios to “El hecho diferencial”

  1. Thanks for that piece of Spanish history and culture 🙂 I definitely must go to Spain one day…

    You gave me an idea. Maybe I’ll write some post about Mauritius. That would be fun !

  2. That would be really interesting 🙂

  3. Cariño, si me voy a vivir a Barcelona… a que cuento contigo para compartir piso?? 🙂

    Un besito muy fuerte!!

  4. 🙂 Quin post mes bonic sobre catalunya, i per una vegada que no es un catala que ho diu.
    Amb personas com tu, els catalans no passaran mes per fanatics independens.
    Moltes gracies per el reconeixament t’estimo!!! 🙂

  5. really enjoyed your redneck reference and your mini rant :).


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