Sunday, October 28, 2007

Barcelona: business city or third world?

This year’s Cushman&Wakefield survey ranked Barcelona as the number 4 European city for business, after London, Paris and Frankfurt (Madrid was 7th). The survey has very nice words for Barcelona: "The Catalan capital has been one of the fastest risers in the ranking since ECM was first launched in 1990. This goes to support the view that the more a city is perceived to promote itself, the more it will be perceived as a good business location". However when you study the survey, you immediately realize that there are reasons for concern, Barcelona ranks first in quality of life for expats, but does very poorly in infrastructure, level of English and preparedness of the local workforce. In another words, the expats have a lot of fun (“s’ho passen de conya”), eat well, enjoy our mountains and beaches, but the local workforce does not meet the standard, cannot speak English and the infrastructure sucks.
I would agree to almost everything, except to the lack of preparedness of the workforce. It is true that the English level is poor, but if I see how Catalan expats do overseas, pretty well in general, I have to conclude that our universities are not that bad and, in addition to that, we are fast learners.
As you know, English and infrastructures are my pet peeve. I have been hammering it since I started my first blog Catalonia, Politics and Supply Chain. Catalans pleeeease learn English, do not forget your Catalan and Spanish, but pleeeease learn English. That’s the only way to get multinationals back with real jobs that cannot be outsourced.
But let me tell you my experience with infrastructures. When I left Catalonia, in 1992, I was proud of my city and my nation, Catalonia, the transformation in the 80s had been amazing. This summer I went back as every other year and I had to face a debacle, an airport with absolutely no organization, displays with the wrong information, the luggage took for ever to appear and if you dared to ask, they would look at you, as though you were a criminal. In the security check area, the tables were not connected to the scanner, so you had to carry two or three trays in your arms, in addition to your other personal belongings. When I suggested to the female Guardia Civil to connect the tables and the scanner so that we could push the trays instead of struggling to carry them, she told me: “no nos lo han mandao d'arriba” (we have not been told from “above”). Give me a break. I want to go home to Boston.
From the airport I went to my old neighborhood in Gracia. Most of the district had no electricity and you could hear very loud generators trying to pump up some electricity to the apartment buildings. We avoided the train, because it broke down all the time, leaving commuters stranded a couple of days a week. Then I decided to go to the Costa Brava, to Calella de Palafugell to be exact, and it took us more than three hours. We were moving at an average speed of 10 m/h and we still had to pay 10 bucks at the toll booth. The last straw was my trip to Montserrat. Even though I am not what you would call a devout catholic, I revere the Mother Mary of Montserrat. Whenever I go home I go there to pray and ask for protection for my family and me. But the bridge that leads to Montserrat had collapsed and I had to take a detour. But I got there and it was worth while. I always feel so much peace in that Basilica and this time I went there with my two little ones.
It would be very easy to blame the central government for all these mishaps, but I will not. The only people responsible for this chaotic situation are the Catalan politicians, a bunch of inept and conceited individuals whose only interest is power. They could not care less about the Catalan people. The PSC just follows party lines, even if, in many occasions, those party lines seriously damage the interest of the Catalan people, ERC continues to lick the PSC’s ass with the only objective of being somewhat relevant while Catalonia crumbles, and CiU is the most clear example of “botiflerisme”, betrayers by nature, losers, mediocre and unprepared.
My style is not to blame Madrid for our situation. However, when I read today's Antonio Burgos’s article in ABC, Catalonia, Third World?, I felt like a bitch who has to pay for the bed too. Thanks God I am American. I am flying to Pittsburgh on a Sunday night while my iPOD plays my favorite song Photograph from Def Leppard.
But in 2017, God willing, I will come back to Catalonia as the catalon-IAN politic-IAN. Please leave something left for me to build on.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Catalan American

At the beginning of this year, 2007, I decided to apply for American citizenship. I have lived in the States for almost a decade, I have American children and we like the country and the people. It was then when I created the entry Catalan American at Wikipedia. Periodically I have to go back and re-do it because some people change it, but that's OK. This is the definition as it appeared today at Wikipedia:

"Catalan Americans are residents of the United States who acknowledge Catalan ancestry and self-identify with it. The group is formed by Catalonia born (Spain or France) naturalized citizens, their descendants and, to a lesser extent, citizens of Catalan descent who came from Latin America and still acknowledge Catalan ancestry.
The Catalan or Catalonian ancestry is identified with the code 204 in the 2000 US census, with the name Catalonian. According to the census, the number of Catalan Americans is 1738 individuals. The census also indicates that in USA the Catalan language is spoken by 1660 people older than 5 years old.
In the US census, People of Catalonian ancestry are listed in a group called «Hispanic (Including Spain)», however most of them do not agree with this classification, since they do not consider themselves as Hispanic. Only Catalans of Latin American origin and few of Spanish origin call themselves Hispanic.

2000 US Census ethnicity
2000 US Census Languages "

The vast majority of Catalan Americans I know, do not consider themselves Hispanic. Unfortunately Catalans are cataloged as Hispanic in the US census, unlike the Basques who are Western European. So if you are French Catalan, Andorran, Portuguese, Gibraltarian or Basque, you are Western European, if you are a Spanish Catalan, you are Hispanic. The fact that our mother tongue is Catalan and not Spanish, and that Catalans were not allowed to go to America until the XVIII century, seems to be irrelevant for those who created the categories in the census. It is clear that the Basque shepherds who migrated to Montana were able to lobby their way out of the Hispanic bucket.

It is always good to go back to history to understand our culture. Let me quote a paragraph of Queen Isabel of Castile's testament where she clearly states that only her kingdoms of Castile and Leon will benefit from the newly discovered world, America.

"OTROSÍ, por quanto las Yslas e Tierra Firme del Mar Oçéano, e Yslas de Canaria, fueron descubiertas e conquistadas a costa destos mis reynos e con los naturales dellos, e por esto es rasón quel trato e prouecho dellas se aya e trate e negoçie destos mis reynos de Castilla e León, e en ellos e a ellos venga todo lo que de allá se traxiere."

Anyway, this week I became an America citizen and I am really happy about it. It took place in one of the most historic venues in the United States, most probably the best. Now I am a citizen of a country I chose, a country that treated me well and where people respect me. I am now officially an American of Catalan ancestry, a Catalan American, proud of my American citizenship and proud of my Catalan ancestry.

I was moved by the judge who held the oath ceremony. She said: "many of you come from countries with long history and rich culture. Do not forget it, do not forget your language either and teach it to your children, but embrace wholeheartedly our country, our values and our language, English.