Saturday, December 13, 2008

The big C

I am tired, really tired of hearing people qualify Catalan nationalism as Nazi. I do not have a big issue with people calling us misguided, provincial, old-fashioned, narrow minded, selfish and things like that. but Nazis, no way.
Three weeks ago I spent the Jewish weekend in Jerusalem, one of the rare times when, while traveling for business, I could do some sightseeing. I visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum. There I could witness the horrors of Nazism, I could see pictures and videos with piles of famine-stricken bodies (pure bone ans skin) bulldozed away by Nazi officers, people forced to remove their clothes and jewelry in front of a ditch and immediately shot in their heads in front of those waiting their turn and German doctors experimenting with a crying nude10 year old girl (I do not know exactly what they were doing, since I could not watch the video for more that 5 seconds).
Not long ago, I read the comment of an alleged Catalan woman, Anna Sevillé, equating the Catalan C levels requirement to the number that the concentration camp inmates had tattooed on their arms. I feel disgusted when those comments come from non Catalans, but when they come from Catalans, I feel deeply saddened.
Even if I do not agree with some of the rules established by the Catalan government and despite my critical views on the Catalan education system, I understand that the key objectives of the Catalan government are genuinely positive:
  • Integrating everyone in Catalonia and not having a split society
  • Preserving the Catalan culture and language
That is the diametral opposite of NaZism.

I despise all those who use the N word linked to Catalonia in any form. I think that all of you who link Catalonia and Nazism are "fills de puta".

The reality is that Catalan naCionalism, with a big C, C as in Catalonia, as in Caring, as in Civilized, as in Calm, as in Charming, as in Clean, as in Clear, as in Colorful, as in Conscious, as in Correct, as in Confident, is integrating and welcoming. If we had a solid border around us, we would be called patriotic, but the lack of borders turns us into a nuisance.

At the end, I think that the person who described better Catalan nationalism, was one of the ones who despised it the most, Sabino de Arana, the father of Basque nationalism.
While trying to belittle Catalan nationalism, this is the way he described it:
"En Cataluña todo elemento procedente del resto de España lo catalanizan, y les place a sus naturales que hasta los municipales aragoneses y castellanos de Barcelona hablen en catalán; aquí padecemos muy mucho cuando vemos la firma de un Pérez al pie de unos versos eusquéricos, u oímos hablar nuestra lengua a un cochero riojano, a un liencero pasiego o a un gitano".

[In Catalonia, they"catalanize" every person coming from the rest of Spain, and the locals love the fact that even those from Aragon or Castile in Barcelona speak Catalan. Here (in the Basque country) we suffer a lot when we see some Basque verses signed by someone call Pérez or we hear a carriage driver, a Catabrian fabric merchant or a gypsy speak our language (Basque)].

  1. I also read the book "The boy in the striped pyjamas" I liked it but I would have preferred a slight different end. I would have preferred that the kids swap.
  2. Even though I admire the Jewish people and I think that catalans have a lot to learn from them, I do not agree with the way Palestinians are treated. I hope that Obama will settle the issue with a 2 state solution based, as much as possible, on the 1967 borders. It is also clear that not only Catalonia and Spain have stupid politicians, Israel and Palestine suffer from the same disease.
  3. Yesterday I attended the Boston Catalans Xmas dinner for the first time. I had a real good time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama, my president

I landed in Ohio two hours ago and I rushed to the hotel. I arrived in my room and tuned one of the networks. It was 10.50 and Obama was leading. At 11pm, 5 minutes ago, the networks have called for Obama winning the presidential race. I have tears in my eyes. This was my first presidential election as a US citizen. When this morning I was driving to my town high school to cast my vote, I could not stop thinking about the old "La trinca" song "For the first time" (Me la busco i valga'm Deu, no me la trobo).
I voted Obama, even though I am a Republican. I would have gladly voted for McCain, had George W Bush not existed and would have he not chosen Sarah Palin to appease the far right. I am financially conservative, I support small government, low taxes, policies which support growth and limit protectionism.
But I am socially quasi-liberal (very liberal in USA): I am pro-choice, I am pro-gay marriage (though I oppose gay adoptions for two reasons, if they choose same sex relationships they should live with the anatomic consequences of that, and I think that a child has the right to be raised by a standard family) and I am pro universal healthcare (privately managed and privately funded, except for low income people who should still have the same type of coverage, but subsidized by government).
Clearly McCain was a better fit for me, but I gladly voted for Obama and experimented a special pleasure when I introduced the ballot in the voting machine, much more pleasure than in the previous 20 over years voting for Convergencia i Unio.
I was voting for the first black president (mixed race for me), I was combating the Bradley effect, I was contributing to stopping the war in Iraq, I was sending a message to the world that we finally understood that having an IDIOT as president cannot be tolerated. I hope that the two other IDIOTS, Zapatero and Montilla, will follow soon Bush's trail.
I have tears in my eyes (I just listened to McCain conceding speech and Obama's victory speech. I am really happy for Obama, for USA and for the world. I love Michelle Obama, she is great, she is as talented as Barack or more. The Bradley effect has been defeated.

Unfortunately, the Roca-Junyent effect, a theory that proposes that some voters tend to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a Catalan candidate, and yet, on election day, vote for non-Catalan opponent, is still there.
I have seen a Black president in USA. I will never see a Catalan president in Spain.

La Trinca - Per primer cop (For the first time)
És avui quan ho faré,
per primer cop
perquè un dia és un dia
o ara o mai
que en tingui necessitats
és llei de vida i també el cos m'ho demana,
què carai!
quan arribo ja m'ho han dit,
hi ha gent fent cua,
acotat demano tanda
per entrar a la cua
n'hi veig molts que dissimulen
però hi ha alguns que ja la tenen a la mà
després d'esperar-megairebé mitja hora
em diuen que passi
a un apartament
i allà es troba ella
tota seductora
que sembla esperar-me temptadorament
me la busco...i valga'm déu!
no me la trobu...
ja la tinc! ja me le tret
quina emoció...
serà cosa de posar-la a l'orifici
i em preparo a efectuar la introducció
tota a dins li faig entrar!
no toco vores i així l'acte finalment
ja he consumat
dins de l'urna ja he papereta
ja he votat per primer cop... ja he votat!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Noiseless vibration

I am tired. Since I took up new responsibilities, my traveling has gone from 60% to about 90%. I love traveling, even for business, but being gone almost all the time is hard for the kids and for my wife. Sometimes I try to compensate my absence by buying to my kids all kind of useless stuff and later I regret it, they are somewhat spoiled. I had such a strict upbringing, no presents outside the standard festivities (birthday, day of my Saint and Epiphany).
Last week I landed at Schiphol in the evening. My flight home was in the morning and, even though my hotel was at the airport, I decided to go to downtown Amsterdam. I dropped my things at the hotel, I took a train and I went to Amsterdam Station. I was hungry and I was looking for a restaurant where I could eat "mosselen witte wijn met fritjes" (mussels cooked with white wine with fries) or Japanese food.
After wandering for 20 minutes, I ended up in a Japanese restaurant someone had mentioned to me. It is a sophisticated "all you can eat" restaurant, but quality is pretty good. You can order 5 rounds of anything you want (during happy hour there is no limit on how many dishes you can order every round). I ordered maguro, hamachi and sake sashimi, all kind of rolls and makis, miso soup, edamame, shrimp tempura, and several other dishes accompanied by a bottle of cold sake. My third round was just dessert, lychees. Service was a bit slow, but food was fresh and I would have paid double anywhere else. The name of the restaurant is Genroku.

I finished at about 10 pm and I decided to go for a stroll to the red district. I always find it a very interesting tourist attraction, though, amazingly, there's guys who actually go inside the rooms. How can anyone have sex behind a shopwindow?
I decided, however, to enter a sexshop and buy a present to my wife. Most probably I was feeling guilty about my prolonged absences and my lack of stamina. I had never ever bought a vibrator in my life. The shop attendant was extremely helpful and gave me all kind of explanations, a real lecture on comforting devices. I did not know, for instance, that women's main complaint is the noise they produce. Good to know. Finally a bought a neutrally shaped pink and silent device for €35.00.

However, the raw reality is that, at the end, a good pair of glasses is more important than a dildo if you want to have a satisfying sex life.

I forgot this was a political blog. OK, I am a republican, but I will vote Obama.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Barcelona: the movies

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk about Woody Allen's new movie 'Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona'. Last Saturday I decided to go to the movies with my wife and watch it. I felt a little bit nervous, because I was not totally sure how my city and my country Catalonia would be portrayed. I was hoping that Woody Allen would, at least, reflect a little bit the Catalan culture and language.

The movie was OK, no masterpiece, but, in a way, entertaining. However the way Barcelona was portrayed was a total disappointment. Barcelona was only used as a postcard, as a beautiful setting and that was all. At the beginning of the film, there were a few references to Catalonia as a result of the one million Euro subsidy by the Barcelona mayor (by the way, and excellent investment, since I am sure that American tourists will pour into the city), but the plot was more suited for Madrid, Seville, Oviedo or Albacete. The non American protagonists, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz had nothing that I would qualify as Catalan, not even the name, Bardem's character, the Catalan painter, was called Juan Antonio Gonzalo and was born in Oviedo. In addition to that, I found Penelope Cruz's character vulgar and uninspiring (and she even had a line with a very racist comment against Chinese that embarrassed me and my wife, not her fault but the Director's, but really unacceptable)
I think that "Vicky, Cristina, Oviedo" would have been a much better choice for title. It is funny that in the Catalan version of the movie the Americans speak Catalan and the "alleged" Catalans speak Spanish to each other (though the trailer tries to hide this fact). Not even the signage was in Catalan.
The only good news for Catalan Don Juans is that if the approach a pair of American girls having dinner in a Barcelona restaurant and they propose to them a one night stand, there is a 50/50 chance that they will not be rejected flat out, and the probability improves if they sport a 3-day beard.

The best thing of the night, however, was dinner. We went to Legal Seafood in Peabody (MA). We had Cape Cod oysters, pan seared tuna (almost raw) with soya sauce and wasabe, crab cakes and Sam Adams summer ale. After two minutes, my irritation was gone.

On the flip side, a few weeks ago, while trying to Netflix Woody Allen's movie to put it in my cue, I discovered a 1994 movie called Barcelona. Though that movie was no masterpiece either and actually had some remote similarities with Woody Allen's one, I found that it reflected Barcelona's character much better and avoided the stereotypes in many occasions. The main female characters are called Montserrat Raventos and Marta Ferrer, they have fair hair and there is clear evidence that the movie Director Whit Stillman understood the differences between the Catalan and the Spanish culture and was sensitive enough to have Catalan actors playing the secondary roles (Pep Munné and Núria Badia).
Despite all this, he succumbed to the pressures of the producer and had to add a flamenco scene (you know, the usual flamenco dance that Catalan girls rehearse after the daily nap*).

* Note for the "guiris": I am kidding

Saturday, September 6, 2008


In the last couple of posts, I have managed to draw criticism (to say it mildly) from all parts of the spectrum: Catalan nationalists, Spanish nationalists, the Anglo world, generally amused by the irrelevant fights between Catalans and Spaniards, taking sides as though this were a soccer match being watched sitting in the couch, drinking beer and eating popcorn, but jumping as grasshoppers when someone dares to criticize them a little bit.
So far, the only ones who did not call me names have been the Swedish, let’s see for how long.

I do not know whether you read an article in the Financial Times called PIGS in the muck. The pejorative acronym PIGS used by the Financial Times refers to the countries Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. The article has some merit, but, once again shows the total lack of respect of the Anglo world for those countries and territories below the virtual Pyrenees (with the exception of Gibraltar).
Despite the cheap shots, I agree with the substance of the article, the fact that the economies of those 4 countries have grown out of speculation: “wages rose, debt levels ballooned, as did house prices and consumption”. The foundations of those economies are weak and a recession would hit those countries much harder, especially Spain, as the FT points out. Let’s not forget that unemployment in Spain will very soon reach the 11% mark.

When attacked, I normally side with Spain, but I would like to do it out of juxtaposition and friendship, not out of inclusion and submission. The truth is that I do not want my country, Catalonia, to be part of the PIGS. I want Catalonia to be one of the CANDIES (Catalonia, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Euskadi and Sweden), small countries with strong economic fundamentals, with diversified economies, with real added value activities, with outstanding education systems and international focus.
Catalonia has all the ingredients to be one of the CANDIES, but the fact that Catalonia is part of Spain and has limited control of its policies and resources makes it impossible (together with the fact that the Catalan politicians are totally inept).

In one of my next posts, however, I plan to theorize about those grandiose countries which, for a variety of reasons, believe that they are the center of the universe, France, UK, China, Korea and USA, also known as, FUCK-U (as first described in the LT, the Llorens Times).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Anglo hypocrisy

Me: PingPing, come here, I want to show you a picture and tell me what you feel!
PP: I feel nothing. What’s the problem?
Me: Look well, this is the Spanish basketball team. The British and the American press say that the picture is racist.
PP: Racist? Is it because they are stepping on the dragon? I do not think they did it on purpose.
Me: No, it is not because of the dragon. Look at their eyes. They pretend they have slit eyes like Chinese
PP: They look cute.
Me: So, you do not find it offensive.
PP: No, it’s funny. Maybe, they should have stepped back a little bit in order not to step on the dragon.

This is the conversation I had yesterday with my wife, a mainland Chinese. I wanted to acid test whether Chinese felt offended with the picture or not. Clearly she did not feel offended at all. Her only remark was related to the Dragon, something that was not even noticed by the British and American press.

It is clear that Spaniards in general, and I have to include Catalans in the bucket too, lack cultural awareness. Someone in the advertising company should have realized that, in some countries, the picture would not be appreciated and it would be misinterpreted, but unfortunately, most Spaniards have a very simplistic and monocultural view of the world. But the level of racism in Spain is lower than in the anglo world. There is a lot of interest in Spain for China, its people and its culture. After USA, Spain the country with more adoptions in China. In Catalonia, I know many families with Chinese kids, the families adore them, they are great.

It is unfair for the British press to attack Spain for this ad. If the reaction had come from the Chinese, we should have apologized, but coming from the British, what the heck, aren't British notorious for their racism? Wherever they went, they either eliminated the local population (America) or segregated it (India, Africa). If by “accident” a mixed child was born, the child would no longer be Anglo, he/she will be the other race, even today, Obama is black, even if he is 50% Anglo-white.

Obviously, the objective of the Anglo press is to hurt Madrid candidacy for the Olympic games. If you want to know, I support Madrid’s candidacy full heartedly. I just hope that Catalonia will participate as an independent state.

The slit-eyed gesture is innocuous. How many times in China I have been called "gao bizi" (high nose – big nose), how many times people have hinted to me that the size of my nose most probably mimics the size of other appendices south of my belly button. I always smiled and I never sent a complaint to a British tabloid.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mr Suñé, please godfather a Catalan kid

This week, we have been able to witness, once again, some more examples of stupid and unacceptable behavior of our politicians. I will start with the one, which in my opinion, was the less serious, but which attracted front page coverage in most of the Spanish online media. Mr. Lluís Suñé i Morales, a councilman of the town of Torredembara, south of Barcelona. decided to publish a post to call the attention about the unfairness of the current financing systems and the fact that even though the 8.7% of the Catalan GDP goes to support other regions, we are called unsolidary. Up to here, nothing serious. Many of us have written similar things and we have not made it to the front pages. The problem came when in order to illustrate his point, he added a picture that you can find here in which he urged Catalans to godfather an Extemaduran child with €1000, because the 8.7% was not enough. The picture was offensive, tasteless and most probably illegal since it portrayed a boy and a girl playing in the mud, the boy naked waist down, showing what the Catalan politicians do not have, with the logos of UNICEF, the Spanish government and the Extremadura flag.
This childish approach put Mr Suñé on the spotlight and as a good Catalan "cojonesless" politician, he removed the post and wrote an apology in Spanish language.
I would like to show to Mr. Suñé a video clip taken about 30 minutes away from downtown Barcelona, an area, where he, a member of the communist party, has probably never put a foot on, and invite him to start a real campaign in Extremadura to godfather a Catalan kid, since there are more kids in Catalonia below the poverty line that total number of kids in Extremadura. Maybe this video is a better justification to try to retain some of the 14 billion euros that leave Catalonia to support "less favored" territories. Please take a minute to watch the videoclip published by la Vanguardia.

One of the other two awful behaviors that I wanted to comment briefly today, much more serious that the childish behavior of Mr. Lluís Suñé, is the act of pure nepotism displayed by Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira, who, without any parliamentary control, appointed his brother Apel•les Carod-Rovira as representative of the Catalan government in France. Even if he were the best candidate, what he is not, I would find the appointment disgusting and criminal, and yes I would prefer that this money would go to buy computers for the Extremadura children, or even better, to support the kids in the videoclip, but neither to the Carods nor to Mr. Ybarra and his friends like the "businessman" Gallardo.
The last one for the week has been the fact that CiU's Artur Mas has started to break the Catalan unity approach to financing, by coming up with a different alternative. He sold the Estatut for a picture with Zapatero. He will do it once again. Mr Mas, you are the botifler of the decade.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stand and deliver

A couple of years ago, I came across a 1852 map from Torres Villegas splitting Spain in 4 different groupings:

· Uniform or Purely Constitutional Spain which comprises these thirty-four Provinces of the Crowns of Castile and Leon, equal in all economic, judicial, military, and civil branches. Former kingdoms of Castile, León and Granada.

· Incorporated or Assimilated Spain which comprises the eleven provinces of the Crown of Aragon, still different in the manner of contribution and in some points of private law. Crown of Aragon

· "Spain of the Fueros", or approximately "Statutory Spain".Kingdom of Navarre (actual Basque country was part of Kingdom of Navarre)

· Colonial Spain

I saved the picture in my “pictures to be used file”. I was convinced that if one day, the inter-regional fiscal balances were published, mapping the net balances to the map would be very revealing. And you can now check the result by yourself. The incorporated Spain has a revenue outflow of 23,100 billion Euro, the Statutory Spain is basically neutral and all the Uniform Spain gets a subsidy of 12,500 million Euro, not taking into consideration the additional inflow from the European Union. I think that voluntary solidarity is a good thing, but this is a ROBBERY, and if at least, there were any signs of thankfulness, if when we travel to the rest of Spain people would come and hug or kiss us, I would maybe feel that it is worth the while, even if this unconditional transfer is perpetuating some habits that will make the situation permanent, but the reality is that, when traveling in Spain, we get insulted (called polacos or catalufos) and our cars get vandalized, our products get boycotted and our language treated with no respect.

In the meantime, Catalonia's infrastructure is crumpling, the Mediterranean corridor high speed train is still years from completion (but you can go take it now to go from Valladolid to Bollullos del Condado), we need to pay toll in most of the highways, we still continue to pay inheritance tax and even worse, the Barcelona industrial belt, which requires heavy investment in infrastructures, education, healthcare and neighborhood amenity upgrades, is totally underfunded, unable to absorb the old and the new immigration and turning into a potential social disaster. In addition to that one Extremaduran Euro is only worth 62 cents in Barcelona due to the cost of living differential and let’s not forget that in Extremadura 25% of the workforce are public servants, versus only 8% in Catalonia (too many in my opinion).

The result would be even more skewed if we corrected Madrid's capitality effect (if Madrid were not the capital, it would have the same economy as Guadalajara). Despite the fact that Madrid is a net contributor, mainly because of its status of capital of Spain, it cannot offset the huge deficit that its surrounding provinces generate.

Finally, the analysis of the inter-regional fiscal balances shows that the idea of the Catalan Countries, that I like to call Valeària to avoid unnecessary sensitivities, makes a lot of sense, not only from the linguistic or cultural side, but also from the economical point of view.

Note: I have taken one of the methodologies proposed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy. All the methods yield to the same conclusion, although this methodology is one of the most extreme ones. Click here to see the full report.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anachronic manifesto

A lot has been said during the last week about the manifesto that a group of self-proclaimed intellectuals have published with the objective to give support to what they call the common language, Castilian, known in English as Spanish.
When reading the article, my appetite for Spanish was drastically reduced. I have always defended trilingual education in Catalonia, but after reading this manifesto, I start to think that we, Catalans, could obviate Spanish and massively switch to English as a second language.
The manifesto reminded me of those societies where if someone rapes a woman, he is exonerated if he marries the victim. It totally forgets that Castilian was imposed on Catalonia with a series of Royal decrees, the first of which was the Decree of New Foundation in 1715, and that for 300 years, Catalan was set aside, isolated, relegated, bullied, downgraded, expelled, ostracized, removed and shunned. No one asked Catalans whether they wanted another language. the Bourbon kings and queens religiously applied the Machiavelli principles to make sure that Catalonia would not continue to rebel and search independence.
We cannot simply forget that and pretend nothing happened. We have the right now to make restitution for what was taken from us and this is only possible through positive discrimination. The Catalan language needs 100 years of positive discrimination to go back to a plain field and the best way to carry out this positive discrimination is through immersion and favoring those activities which promote Catalan language and Catalan culture. Positive discrimination is nothing new. African Americans and Hispanics enjoy positive discrimination policies in USA to try to compensate the burdens that British and Spanish (I should say Castilians) inflicted on their ancestors.

You may tell me that 300 years is a long time and that we have to forget what happened in the past, that, as per today, Spanish is spoken by 450 million people and Catalan by barely 10 millions, that past is past. If this is your position, then, after 20 years living, traveling non-stop and working in 5 continents, I have to tell you that the common language, the language that brings together European, Americans, Asians, Africans and people from Oceania is not Spanish, but English. The manifesto is pathetically anachronic, they are just trying to cling to the Spain of Phillip II, but all that grandeur is gone. The common language is English and I feel really ashamed when in the last paragraph, the self-proclaimed intellectuals demand from the Spanish politicians that they only use Spanish when they speak in public in Spain and overseas. I am afraid, they do not need to ask for it, since most of them cannot speak anything else.
Finally I would like to mention some related facts:
• Having a small language does not mean underdevelopment. Many countries with minority languages (the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, etc) have some of the highest per capita incomes
• When Spain was at its peak, in the 15th and 16th centuries, only Catalan was spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and most of Valencia. This fact did not seem to stop Spain’s success.

I also recommend that you read Erik Wirdheim's related post. It is simply beautiful.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I am not a Catalan Prussian Pig, Mr. Hunold!

Some of those who landed in my blog recently may think that I would want to have Catalan as the only language spoken in Catalonia, and I would like it to become second language of choice in USA and China. Nothing further from reality, my approach to language is a very pragmatic one, based on trilingualism for all residents in Catalonia. I am not for segregated schools based on language or any other reason, a single trilingual education system for everyone. You can read a 2 year old summary on my position on language if you click here.
I am a businessman and know that localization is a real pain in the lower back. The ideal situation for businesses is “one size fits all”, global market, single language: English. This reduces costs, accelerates the product roll-out and maximizes the profits. However, there are three reasons why at the end, many companies localize their products: competition, regulation and in some cases, a genuine desire for customer satisfaction.
Languages without a state have it very difficult to reinforce their customer requirements through regulation. For example, Kosovo, that was recognized by Germany and USA as a sovereign nation, three days after their independence proclamation, can now regulate that all products and services rendered in its territory need to be in Albanese, that if products are not labeled in Albanese, they cannot be sold locally, and companies need either to comply or go.
With Catalan, there are several reasons that make the adoption rate of companies much lower than that of other languages with only a fraction of its speakers:
· The fact that all Catalan speakers are bilingual
· The fact that Catalonia is not a sovereign state
· The lack of central government support (unlike other bilingual countries like Malta or Ireland)
· The lack of self-respect of a big portion of the Catalan speakers (around 50%), who would rather go for the cheapest option, instead of paying more for a product where their language is taken into consideration
· The cartels among companies to avoid that if one uses Catalan, the other ones will need to follow to maintain the market share , since the 50% who do care about language, would massively switch to the company which uses their language.

The conclusion is that if you want products or services in your language, you need an own state and ever better, to have a substantial portion of monolingual people. It sounds crazy, but this is the pure reality.
The alternative to that is, on one side, use the market mechanisms to favor those products and companies which use our language, and second have some institutional support to lobby and educate the companies in our territory plus provide legal protection to whistleblowers who expose cartels.
That’s what happened when the Balearic government sent a letter to Air Berlin politely encouraging them to use Catalan in their interaction with its Catalan speaking customers.
Air Berlin could have reacted in many different ways. As for example:
· Saying that they were a low cost carrier and they could not afford it
· Saying that they already have 38 Catalan speaking employees in their offices and that customers could always refer to them
· That they are willing to install pre-recorded announcements in the flights if the Balearian government is prepared to foot the bill
· That the Catalan speaking customers are so smart that they always have a good command of one or several of the languages offered on board
All those would have been acceptable answers, respectful, logical.

However Air Berlin’s CEO, Joachim Hunold decided to make a political statement in the editorial of his inflight magazine, a statement full or inaccuracies, lies and errors, mocking at the Catalan culture, ridiculing its pronunciation (does platja sound so much worst than Achtung?) and inferring that the Balearic islands are where they are today thanks to the European Community and that the Catalans would have never been able to make it happen.
Rajoy, the leader of the conservative Popular Party, could have not done it better, with the only glitch of the implicit pan-Catalan assumptions that Hunold made in his article.

As a Catalan customer of Air Berlin, I did not take the editorial well and I decided that when next time I want to hop from Germany to Barcelona (as I do a couple of times a year), I will use other airlines.
However, what got me furious, was the little cartoon that illustrated the editorial. I got really upset of being called Catalan Prussian Pig, that even though there is not yet consensus whether the Bavarian expression means either Catalan scumbag or Catalan fascist (a euphemistic way of saying the German N word), it is clearly not the way I like to be addressed by a service provider (and Catalonia had, at that point, nothing to do with the whole thing!).

Mr. Hunold showed lack of tact, disrespect, defiance, conceit and vanity, but this did not stop the non Catalan speaking part of Spain, and especially the far right, to applaud and cheer Hunold’s wanton attack.

Today, I just want to say to Mr. Hunold that despite the fact that I love my language with all my heart, no matter how it sounds, and I would have cried of joy if in just one of your flights, one stewardess would have addressed me in Catalan for 5 seconds (in my February flight from Shanghai to Munich with Lufthansa there was a Catalan speaking steward and they announced it), Mr Hunold, I am not a Catalan Prussian Pig. Herr Hunold, ich bin kein Saupreissische Katalaner.

Since last Thursdays, the shares of Air Berlin are down by 30%, what has shaved more than 125M Euro in market capitalization. Today the president of the Air Berlin’s Iberian branch has vaguely committed to implementing Catalan somewhere in the future.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Politicians without "cojones"

Some of you still remember that I described Catalonia as a country without "cojones". And the question is where did we lose them? My conclusion is that we never had them, or, at least, our politicians never had them.
When I left Catalonia, 16 years ago, I thought that Catalonia was part of Spain and I never challenged that reality. After 16 years overseas, I have become a Catalan nationalist who would like to see Catalonia as an independent country. Why? I have realized that I do not feel Spanish, I have little to do with the image Spain portrays in the world, I do not want to be identified with that country, I do not feel proud of being from Spain, I try to hide it or euphemistically say, I am from Barcelona (since I positively know that if I say I am from Catalonia, 99% people will think I am from Caledonia). My personal values are different from those who people associate with Spain or the Hispanic people and, in addition to that, I am against bullfighting in Catalonia, I dislike "flamenco", and I feel like vomiting when someone uses one of these symbols to refer to me. You can tell me that what I am saying it is an attack to Spain. I do not think so. You foreigners tell me the truth, which symbols do you associate with Spain. Go ahead. Tell me the truth. Do no be shy. Isn't it flamenco, siesta, bullfighting, conquistador? (I still remember when a group of Swedish customers visited my factory in Barcelona and during the factory tour they asked me where we took the naps. I swear). And now, tell me whether you think of the same symbols when you think about Andorra. You see. And I am much more like Andorra, even if that means that your mind is blank.
The Spanish government has done NOTHING to reverse this. Go to any embassy and you be immersed in a Castilian atmosphere. I feel like a man trapped in a woman's body, I want to be a man, but my ID says I am a woman. I want to be a Catalan, but I am a Spaniard (I have to say that since I became American, I feel much better, but it is impossible to erase decades of mental stress).
If someone wants to understand what a Catalan is (or was, I should say) and which the fundamental differences with the perceived Spanish culture are, I invite you to read Jaume Vicens i Vives's "Noticia de Catalunya" (Catalonia news), a very unbiased and subdued book about us Catalans filtered by the Franco's dictatorship, but deeply Catalan if you read between the lines.
All my internal suffering could have been avoided if years ago, decades ago, centuries ago, a millenium ago, Catalan politicians had had "cojones", but they had NOT. Starting with Ramon Berenguer IV who got engaged to a one year old Petronilla, was appointed regent of Aragon and who never took the title of King, never dared to change his title of count of Barcelona to king of Barcelona or king of Catalonia, and took the cojonessless title of "Count of Barcelona and Prince of Aragon". His son, Ramon Berenguer, the first king of the emerging XII century European power, the combination of the Catalan counties and Aragon, who was only 11 years old when he became count of Barcelona and 13 when his mother renounced her rights in Aragon in his favor and became king, ruled under the name of Alfonso II to PLEASE the Aragonese. Give me a break, he was not called Josep-Lluis, Ramon Berenguer was not so difficult to pronounce, he was the son, grandson, great grandson of Ramon Berenguers, he was born in the outskirts of Barcelona (something I have to change periodically in the Spanish wikipedia, since they always make him a native of Huesca) and he had to change his name to please the Aragonese.
And his grandson, Jaume I, another big disappointment, even though I truely admire him. Despite he has nothing but praise for Catalonia and the Catalans ("And by the faith that we owe to God, since those of Catalonia, which is the best kingdom of Spain, the most honoured, the most noble,...", Llibre dels Feyts), he goes to Majorca and makes them a kingdom, he goes to Valencia and makes them a kingdom, he does not annex them to Catalonia, let it be, but he does not even change the rank of Catalonia to a kingdom, the most noble, the most honoured, the most "gilipollas", that's the truth.

After such a brilliant start, what can we expect now? The worst. On one side, our politicians have adopted all the negative characteristics of our Catalan ancestors, making compromises too quickly, not having "cojones", being low profile, betraying their own (botiflerisme), etc, plus many other new ones that they have quickly absorbed like being corrupt, practicing nepotism, red tape, etc.
The Mas, Carod-Roviras, Puigcercos, Chacons, Corbachos, Vendrells and Montillas of this world will sink Catalonia and will actually erase the few remaining characteristics of our culture, characteristics which survived in its genuine form for more than 1000 years till 1939 and which first through Franco's application of Machiavelli's guidelines that can be concisely found in The Prince ('if you want to dominate a country that has a different language, it is much more effective to send colonies of your own people than big armies' wrote Machiavelli) and later through the even more effective methodology of self-destruction that consists of giving the power to a moron and ask him to represent an "honoured and noble" people.

And I know what you are thinking and you are right. I have to admit it. I do not have "cojones" either.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Carles Rius Çafó and Ildefons Falcons (I)

In the last two months I have been flying a lot, those very long flights that give me the opportunity to finish long and interesting books. Two of those books were written by Barcelona authors. The originals were written in Spanish (not in Catalan), although I decided to read one of them, The Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefolso Falcones in its wonderful translation to Catalan, since I thought it would allow me to get immersed much more easily in the medieval Catalonia. In general, I always try to read books in their original versions, but this time, reading The Cathedral of the Sea in Catalan was really a plus.

I never wrote in the past about the Frankfurt book fair. Now with the perspective that time provides, I have to admit that, in my opinion, it was a blunder, no surprise if we take into consideration that Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira was behind the whole thing.

As a purist, I went back to check how the invitation to Catalonia was phrased in the Frankfurt book fair website. There, they clearly stated that the Catalonia culture was invited, not the Catalonia literature, not the Catalan literature, not the literature in Catalan, but the Catalan culture. For me this is Culture generated by Catalans in any language. Not inviting Catalan authors writing in Spanish was, in my opinion, a big error. They should have positioned the Catalan culture as an open culture with excellent contributions in our mother tongue and also in other languages like Spanish. They could have even tried to find Catalans who write in other languages like English, French, German or Swedish (actually, there is afew of us) and give us a booth too. What about me?, I write in English, am I not considered Catalan culture?, apparently not, at least, for Carod-Rovira.

Frankly speaking, I think that the Catalan politicians do not portray the openness of the Catalan society. They should have taken credit for the contributions of all Catalans, independently of the language they use for their artistic creations, while highlighting the strength of the Catalan language which, in theory and due to its size, should be in the list of endangered languages, but which is still alive, kicking and growing.

Going back to Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Ildefonso Falcones, I think that there is a clear reason why they did not write their books in Catalan and the answer is that I think that they do not have a good enough command of the language to produce works of similar quality. They are both my age and at that time, it was forbidden to learn Catalan at school, and we spent years and years learning Spanish grammar and literature (from the "jarchas" to the Archpriest of Hita, from Cervantes to Pio Baroja, but never ever a single author who wrote in Catalan or a single piece of work written in Catalan). Therefore, I assume that they would have struggled (the same as I do, although I do not give up) to write something good in Catalan and they took the easy way out and it paid, since they are now famous and hopefully wealthy.

In one of my future posts, I will explain why, despite being written in Spanish, there is a thick Catalan subtract in those pieces of work, even in Ruiz Zafon's one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Woman, Catalan and Pregnant

One of the most powerful Spanish military unions has described the appointment of Carme Chacon as a provocation. They literally declared that the appointment of a woman, who in addition to that is Catalan and pregnant, is an insult to the Army institution.

I remind you that the military have the constitutional duty to guarantee the unity of Spain. So they are tasked with the important duty of keeping Spain as a united country and shoot to kill anyone who may threaten a united Spain even if they come from inside. I may be at risk.
As you can imagine my respect for the Spanish military is zero. They are a bunch of fascists who would like to see the dictator Francisco Franco rise from his ashes like the Phoenix avis.

On the other side, I have to agree with them on something. The new Spanish government is a joke. A random selection of macaques at the Madrid zoo would have yielded an higher average IQ than the one of the new cabinet.
I also have to openly say that it is hard for me to see a Catalan as the head of an Spanish army, which has been openly anti-Catalan and that would not hesitate to shoot anyone who would challenge the unity of Spain, in Barcelona, in Girona or in Maçanet de Cabrenys. I felt like crying when she said that "the Spanish Army, never before, has been better prepared to defend Spain's sovereignity and independence" during yesterday's march-past.

Mr Zapatero's cabinet is pathetic. I thought that after 20 years global experience in executive positions in 4 continents, I may not be yet ready for a cabinet position in the Catalan government. Today I think that I may be overqualified.

I am today in Hong Hong and I wanted to talk about trilingual countries (Cantonese, Mandarin anf English here). I will leave this for my next posting.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I didn't do it !!!

Since my vacation, I have not been in the mood of writing anything. The result of the last Spanish elections was so disappointing that I felt like giving up my political blogging endeavor. After a couple of years of chaos in our infrastructures, a trimmed down "Estatut", the deployment of which never starts, continuous threats of boycott, captive airports, etc, etc. etc. and we go and vote for the Socialists. Unbelievable!. It's obvious that personally I have no future in the Catalan political landscape.

The last straw was the additional House representative that the Popular Party got in Barcelona thanks to the votes of overseas Catalans. I promise, I was not the one, I would not vote for the Popular Party in any circumstance because they are simply anti-Catalan, whereas the Socialist party is merely sloppy and incompetent.

You may want to know whom I voted for. I voted for CiU, just because it is the least of all evils. You know I lean towards the right, and that I am a Catalan nationalist, so despite the fact that I believe that CiU lead politicians and especially Duran-i-Lleida and Mas are a bunch of "botiflers" (traitors) and that the former is, in addition to that, corrupt, I decided to vote for the idealistic concept of a competent center-right Catalan nationalistic party, rather than giving my vote away to the enemies of my nation.

The debacle of ERC is also remarkable and shows two things, that the current leaders of ERC (Carod-Rovira, Puigcercos, etc.) are literally morons, not bad people, simply they have not been blessed with an IQ that would allow them to conduct a normal job, and therefore they had no option but to become politicians where no credentials are required and that people do not forgive their slave-like submission to the Socialist party.

If Catalonia does not get a solid, mainstream, serious left wing party, we will continue to be a scoff, an object of mockery and derision. When the PSC becomes the equivalent of the Catalan Popular Party, the party from the Spanish nationalist left wing minority in Catalonia and left wing Catalans vote massively for ERC, then we have a chance of success. But this will only be possible if ERC distances itself from anti-system positions, recruit high level politicians and becomes something similar to the British labor party.

Unfortunately the chances of that happening are slim, and I foresee a decade of flat ECG politicians in the Catalan landscape that will sink our country and make us the benchmark of mediocrity and idiocy.

I am suggesting to the Catalan political leaders to adopt other methods to, at least, keep the people awake until I return in 2017.
I enclose videoclips with the methods used by politicians in other geographies, some of those politicians as dull as ours. The first one is a debate between the Japanese politicians of the autonomous region of Hokkaido (*) (Kalod-Lovila, Puigzelkos and at, the end of the clip, Dulan-i-Yeida) and the other one is an Obama supporter trying to make us forget about his controversial priest (*).

- The most popular videos are here

(*) Totally invented statements

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bahama mama

These couple of weeks have been tough on me. Since I decided to keep my personal and business lives totally separated, I will not elaborate on it, maybe I will do so in 2017, but not now.
However I decided, impromptu, to take a vacation with my family and go to the Bahamas. Someone had recommended me a resort in Paradise Island, near Nassau, called Atlantis and so far, it has been no disappointment, despite the $600 a night. It is the right place to relax, you do not have to leave the compound for an entire week, it's a hotel, aquarium, waterpark and tropical beach in a single location.
The Bahamas is a funny place. This former Spanish territory discovered by Colombus in his first trip is now a predominantly black nation. The Spaniards eradicated the local tribes, the Lucayans, through slavery and disease, and left the islands practically uninhabited. As usual, about 150 later, the British took them over. I have been in many countries in 5 continents (I should say 6, since the Americans consider North and South America as two different continents), but I never went thorough Immigration and Customs with a live Reggae band playing in the background.
As I said, my kids loved the place, the water slides ending through the sting ray and shark filled pools are a real hit and the half and hour rapids are a lot of fun. To tell you the truth, personally I prefer the Costa Brava, where the food is 100 times better or a 10 dollar a night Kampung type of hotel in the Riau archipelago (Indonesian islands in the Malaka strait), but an upscale vacation from time to time is not bad either if you can afford it. I will consider it, a birthday present, because, yes, today February 22nd 2008, is my birthday (same birth date as George Washington) and I am celebrating it drinking a Bahama Mama at the pool while listening to, of course, a live reggae band and typing on my laptop. And what about Catalonia, OK, OK, my Bahama Mama had a good shot of Bacardí rum, a real good one, and the founder of the Bacardí dynasty was born in Sitges (Barcelona). Unfortunately, no one knows about it (but me) and they all make him Italian and pronounce it as Bacàrdi. Again, no pride, no "cojones"!!!

Note: the pictures are not catalog pics, I took them.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dos fills de puta

Today I would like to teach you a little bit of Catalan. I will start with the expression "fill de puta" or its plural "fills de puta". The translation is son(s) of a bitch, or as DJ Salinger would write, sonuvabitch. It is used as synonim of idiot, moron or asshole and not in reference to its literal meaning. In general, son of a bitch's mothers are nice women who do not deserve the kind of kids they raised.
As you all know, there are sons of a bitch everywhere, but the percentage seems to be much higher among Catalan journalists. The biggest dickheads are Enric Vila and Salvador Sostres.
With the false pretext to defend the Catalan language, these misguided individuals have developed a strategy to continuously insult immigrants who do not speak Catalan using a xenofobic and racist language which I find unacceptable.
As an example, Enric Vila recently recommended to those people (immigrants who do not speak Catalan) "to go back to their shitty countries with their shitty people, who have not been able to create or defend a minimum level of harmony". Three of four years ago, Salvador Sostres said in an article published in Avui referring to those who spoke Spanish: "only poor people, rednecks and analphabets speak a language which sounds so horrendously when pronouncing the letter j".
However, this kind of language is not exclusive of Catalonia. I have heard similar things in USA and Germany, and actually I once left a meeting when I suggested to hire some Spanish speaking people to deal with Mexican customers and someone said, Spanish is only useful to talk to my cleaning woman and my gardener.
Maybe I am too sensitive, because I am also an immigrant. When I went to Singapore, I only spoke English, but not Mandarin, Malay or Tamil (I learnt Malay while there) and in China, I did not speak Mandarin or Suzhouese when I arrived (while there, I learnt Mandarin and I was able to understand Suzhouese when I left), but I can assure you that I would have not lasted much as a waiter if I had had to wait in any of those languages. Despite this, I made great contributions to those countries and I continuously promote them and their culture. And no one ever told me to go back to my shitty country with my shitty people, much to the contrary.

However, I also want to promote my language, but with respect and education. Only Catalans are to blame for the decline in our language and we could turn things around if we wanted. These are the reasons why Catalan does not make progress:

  • Catalan business owners do not want to spend a cent to satisfy customers. They should make sure that there is always Catalan speaking personnel to attend to customers who want to be waited in Catalan. However, the only thing they want is to make money and they hire those who are willing to work for less and in addition to that, they do not provide them with training to improve their language and job skills

  • We, Catalan consumers are lazy and do not fight for our rights. If we want service in Catalan and it is not available, we should demand it to the manager or the owner and leave the restaurant if it is not available. But we should always treat the staff with education, they were hired as they are, and it is not their responsibility if they cannot meet the customer needs. If Catalans would only patronize stores or restaurants where service is offered in Catalan, very soon, all businesses would offer it, but we are, in general and including myself, a bunch of sheep. Remember my post “zom una nazió”

  • Many Catalan people do not want to work hard. In USA, many waiters and waitresses in restaurants or hotels are college or high school students who work part time to pay for school, car, or vacation. In Catalonia, there are hardly any students who work, they prefer to get allowance from their parents until they are 30 years old. If all university students would work evenings, weekends or summers, the need of foreign labor for service activities would decline and most of the businesses would be able to offer service in Catalan.

But let me tell you that people like Vila and Sostres are a minority. There's sons of bitch everywhere and Catalonia is no exception. Unfortunately people like them cause a lot of damage to the Catalan national cause. We should not blame the weak and the needy. We should only blame ourselves for where we are.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year full of deceit

Last year I thought that global warming was around the corner. We had little snow in New England and in January temperatures reached 70 plus degrees. I remember playing basketball with my daughter on the front yard in mid January. But global warming is making things pretty cold this year. Today the temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 Celsius) and we had a lot of snow in a beautiful white Christmas and white New Year (almost 2 feet of snow, as you can see on this picture of my house backyard).

The good news for those who want a change in the Catalan politics is that in only 9 years, I will come back to Catalonia to revolutionize the Catalan politics. My preference is not to come back on the front lines, but become a key strategist that will bring one bright but inexperienced candidate to success, a Karl Rove type of person, but nicer. However, if the raw material in Catalan politics continues to be as crappy as it is today, I will have to step up and take the lead.
2008 is going to be a memorable year. In the upcoming Spanish national elections you will be able to witness all kind of deceitful practises, multiple lies, unfulfilled promises turned into attacks to others, public money funneled to individuals with close links to the political leaders, politicians selling Catalonia for power or using Catalonia to get power, principles flushed down the toilet, etc., etc. and the reality is that Catalonia will continue to lose influence, will become more and more mediocre, our language will lose ground while being told that Spanish is being suppressed and the education system will produce individuals who will not be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
I hope that not all will be lost. I am a specialist in crisis management and business turn-arounds, but I need something to build on. Nine years is not that long.

Happy New Year.
Ian Llorens